Friday, March 27, 2015

/ / Coffee Date | Highlights from the week

Alright friends, dance party. Right now. It's Fridayyyy! What do you have going on this weekend? I plan on pretty much doing nothing, except I'm attending The Big Fake Wedding on Sunday with Christina which should be so much fun. I just love weddings, but I've never been to a fake one. This should be interesting and fun! Anyways, I'm so glad you're joining me for coffee today. Grab your latte, hot tea, or kale smoothie and let's chat!

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 on...it'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 highs from the past few weeks. These are the little bits of joy that made my heart go pitter patter. I usually mention my lows from the week, too, but I'm feeling super thankful for the good things that I'll stick with the good for today. Then, I want you to share your highlights, lows, or prayer requests in the comments below.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by some of my sweet photog friends to be their subject as they practiced film photography. They documented the process of putting together an arrangement, and we had such a fun time. They just got their photos back and they are stunning! I can't wait to share them with you!

My mom had a birthday recently, and it was a lot of fun to celebrate her! She is such a hard-working, loving mama, and I am pretty sure she is super woman. I made up a new dessert just for her--Cinnamon Sugar Donut Surprise. It was pretty tasty, and disappeared quickly! 

Last weekend we traveled up to Dahlonega (north GA area) to spend the weekend visiting wineries. We stayed in a cabin with some fun friends, and we were able to visit three really delicious wineries! It was an absolutely beautiful day, which made for such a great and relaxing trip. I'm pretty sure that's my new favorite type of trip. We are already talking about planning another one for the summer. Yay!

I have some really exciting surprises coming up in the next few weeks that have to do with floral design. I am busting at the seams with excitement and can't wait to share them with you! 

Did I mention that my husband surprised me with a brand spankin' new laptop?! I came home from a long day of work and he totally surprised me! It's shiny and new and I love love love it!
Check my instagram for even more highlights! 

This month, my Coffee Date Cohost is Britney of The Quiet Place
Britney is a  girl with a heart for Jesus from Michigan, who's currently in Grad school in Virginia. She loves to bake, cook, and spend time with friends and family. She is also the founder of The Quiet Place--a blog with the mission of encouraging young women to find rest in God. Founded on: Matthew 11:28-30

Some of her favorite posts:
Being Content
Around the Table
Word of the Year: Grace

*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. (I have the right to delete any posts that are inappropriate or don't fit the topic.)
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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

/ / Vanilla Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Frosting | Recipe

Happy Wednesday! I've got something sweet for you today. I've taken a break from baking lately, however a few weeks back I couldn't get enough. I whipped up these Nutella beauties for no reason at all, and it was the best decision ever. I've made this recipe a few times, and it's just so so delicious every time. They are light, fluffy, and perfectly Nutella-y. 

This frosting recipe is by far one of my favorites. It sometimes comes out less fluffy than other times, and I honestly think it might be because of the temperature of my heavy cream. I notice that when I use cold heavy cream, it comes out a bit more fluffy. So try not to let your heavy cream sit on the counter for too long before you add it into the mixture.

These would be adorable for Easter if you add some colorful sprinkles or chocolate candy eggs, wouldn't they? This vanilla cake recipe is one I've used for years. It's not too sweet, which I like. It's absolutely to die for topped with this Nutella Buttercream Frosting. Yum!
Cupcakes
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream together the sugar and room temperature butter. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture. Stir in milk.

Nutella Buttercream Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup Nutella
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (cold)

In a stand mixer (using the paddle attachment), beat together the butter and powdered sugar on low until well-blended. Add the Nutella and increase the speed slightly. Beat for two minutes.
Add the vanilla extract and salt. Whip for an 30 seconds.
Add the whipping cream and beat for about one minute, until the frosting lightens slightly in both color and texture. If the mixture is too runny, add small amounts of powdered sugar until a fluffy consistency is reached.

I love to pipe this buttercream onto cupcakes, in between cookies, or with a spoon (ha, just kidding). But really.

I hope you enjoy! Have you been baking up anything delicious lately?

Monday, March 23, 2015

/ / Ways to Wow | DIY Handpainted Pet Bowl

This post was brought to you by the makers of Fancy Feast. I received compensation to write this post through the Fancy Feast Broths with Chicken program. All opinions expressed are my own. #WaystoWOW

Growing up, I was definitely a dog person. I actually didn't come around to cats until I was in college and I found my precious little Lucy living in a storm drain. I couldn't imagine leaving her there, so I brought her in to live with me. Needless to say, I've completely changed over to being a cat person. Don't get me wrong, I love dogs and I want to get one eventually, but I love our cats so much. Lamar rescued Moose around the same time I rescued Lucy.  If you're anything like me, you're always searching for new ways to show your love and affection to your pet. Homemade treats, new toys, belly rubs...the list goes on. The newest way I've wowed our kitties is with Fancy Feast Broths with Chicken. Fancy Feast has four new, carefully-crafted chicken recipes that completely won over Lucy and Moose. I love that the ingredients are high-quality, so I feel good about feeding this to them.
Real, recognizable ingredients are at the heart of every Fancy Feast Broths recipe. The varieties feature either a classic silky or creamy broth and are crafted without by-products or fillers. Broths come in perfectly portioned, ready-to-pour pouches, which makes it easy to pour into their bowls. When I introduced Lucy and Moose to the broths, I honestly have never seen them more excited about food. They really don't like eating next to each other (they have a very love-hate relationship), but they made an exception this time. They could not get enough!  You can head over here to get more product information and even try a free pouch of broths (while supplies last)!
Another way I love to show my kitties some love is by making them their own personalized food bowls! They are adorable and super easy to make. Even though they can't read, I imagine they feel super special with their names written on their bowl! Call me a crazy cat lady, it's okay.
I found these really nice and heavy food bowls at a craft store and decided to jazz them up a little bit with non-toxic paint. A little bit of personalization goes a long way! Here's what you'll need:
1. Non-toxic paint in various colors
2. Paintbrushes and sponges
3. Non-toxic sealer, such as Mod Podge
4. Ceramic bowls

Here's what you'll do:

Wash each bowl with warm water and soap. Dry completely. Now, you really just want to paint the outside of the bowl. Even though the paint is non-toxic, I want to make sure my kitties are safe. So, only decorate the outside! Paint the names of your pets on each bowl and add some polka dots or other details that represent your cats' personalities. Lucy and Moose love all things polka dots just like their mama, so of course those were going on their bowls. Again, cat lady.
After you paint your design, let dry for an hour, then paint over the design with the sealer. This will prevent chipping, and will make the dish dishwasher safe.

How do you "wow" your pet? 

Friday, March 20, 2015

/ / Pinspiring Vol.11

 Happy Friday! Hooray for the weekend! What do you have planned? I'm going to do some winery hopping in North Georgia with my sister, Lamar, and some friends. I can hardly wait to get out of town for the weekend and sip some good wine. It's going to beautiful weather, thank goodness!

I always love sharing the bits and pieces from my Pinterest boards that inspire me each month. This month, it's all about spring! Florals are definitely a theme, which was not on purpose, actually. I just cant resist floral pretties apparently! Another reason why I love this Pinspiring series? I get to invite my large ad sponsors to join in with me. Yay!

Here are some of the things that have been pinspiring me this month...


SIP |  Now that it's getting warmer out, naturally I am drawn to herb cocktails like this blackberry thyme cocktail. I want to make this at my next girls' night!

BAKE | Two big reasons why I love this pin: It's apple strudel, and it only takes thirty minutes. That's a perfect combination in my book! I'll have to bake this up soon for some friends...or myself.

WEAR| I love everything about this pretty floral sweater. It's cozy, the colors are perfect, and the flowers are so pretty. I want!

DIY |  I want to make these felt anemones as soon as possible to "springify" our mantle. Who knew that fake flowers could be so cute?!

HOME |  Yep, I'm pretty sure I need this chair. It would be perfect for a living room, but I especially want it in my future office. Every floral designer needs a chair with flowers all over it, right? Right.

Like I mentioned before, I have asked my large ad sponsors to join me this time! Say hello to Lauren of Sincerely Lo, and Anna of Rich as Kings
Lauren of Sincerely Lo 
PINS: Home//Create
"A few months ago, I took a calligraphy class with some blog friends and I fell in love with it. I may not be the best, but there is something about this art that is so relaxing and fun! Plus, who wouldn't want to hang calligraphy creations all in their home? Between Fixer Upper and thinking of ways to design our future, new home, butcher block counters and farm sinks are always on my mind. I adore anything southern, and these two pieces together create such a beautiful kitchen to design in a simple, southern way. Isn't it just beautiful??"

Anna of Rich as Kings
PINS: Words//Inspire
"These pins have the air of ease and light that is so inspiring to me. I love the sweet connection shown in the second one and the stunning photography style. In the first one, I love the simplicity of the lettering and the idea of cultivating kindness is something that I am trying to do both in my blog and in my life as a whole."

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? 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

/ / Cheers to Breakfast & Paypal Cash Giveaway

If your mornings are anything like mine used to be, you're in a mad rush to get out of the door to avoid being late for work. My first priority used to be brewing a cup of coffee, and I'd be lucky if I remembered to grab my lunch. I've really started to change my ways, and make more time for a healthy breakfast to fuel my day.

I'm a teacher, and it's really important to me that my students have a healthy breakfast in the morning. So why have I spent years going without breakfast myself? Not only is breakfast important to me for nutritious reasons, but I also want to set a positive example for my students. When they ask me what I had for breakfast (y'all, they ask me everything!) I want to honestly say I had a nutritious breakfast of Cheerios and Florida Orange Juice. I've tried other breakfast routines, but this one is my favorite.
Two of my breakfast must-haves are Cheerios and Florida Orange Juice.
An 8 oz glass of 100% Florida orange juice gives you 100% vitamin C to help you maintain a healthy immune system. Orange juice is one of the most nutrient-rich fruit juices commonly consumed in the United States – it provides a good source of potassium for heart health, the B vitamins thiamin and folate and is an excellent source of vitamin C. 

Cheerios’ wholesome goodness is made from whole-grain oats and without artificial flavors or colors. It is low in fat and cholesterol free. And these wholesome little “o’s” have only one gram of sugar per serving! I could snack on them throughout the day for a little energy pick-me-up. One of my favorite ways to eat them are with fresh strawberries or blueberries. Yum town.
 After I finish my yummy breakfast, I grab a quick cup of coffee and run out the door for work. I really love starting my day with Cheerios and OJ! I want you to try this delicious breakfast for yourself, so I'm offering a couple of ways to make it even easier for you:

1. Visit your local Publix and save $2.00 when you buy a box of Cheerios (10.9 oz or larger) and any brand of 100% Florida Orange Juice (59 oz or larger). You can find this coupon in the Lucky Saving flyer in store.

2. Cheerios digital coupon that you can print out and use in Publix.

I'm also giving away $15 dollars via PayPal so that one of you sweet readers can enjoy in-store savings and purchase a box of Cheerios and some OJ for your delicious and healthy breakfast!
a Rafflecopter giveaway This giveaway will be run via Rafflecopter and will last until April 4th 12 AM EST. A winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is not conducted by General Mills.

Monday, March 16, 2015

/ / Letters for the Weekend

The weekend has been so incredibly sacred to me this past year. I have tried to make as few weekend plans as possible so that I can use the weekend for what it is made for--rest. However, sometimes there is just no way around staying busy. There are two types of busy, though: fun busy and work busy. This past weekend (and week) have been a fun busy, which makes me super happy. I can finally see how we are being pulled out of winter blues and into all things spring! New beginnings, renewed energy, and warmer weather. Hallelujah!

So as a way to show my thanks to the good type of busy, today I'm writing letters to some of my favorite moments/people from the weekend. I am going to cheat a little bit and include some happenings from last week, because I simply can't bear to leave those highlights out. 
Dear Mary Hannah, I'm having so much fun celebrating you and baby J! You are already such a beautiful and loving mama. I'm so proud of you! Can't wait to meet him and kiss his little face!

Dear Flowers (y'all just let me have a hippy moment for a sec, k?), Gosh you're fun to play with. I'm so amazed by your beauty and the detail that God went into when He created you. You really are becoming such a source of comfort and excitement for me, and I'm so thankful!

Dear Sarah, You did such an amazing job with weekend in 13 The Musical. I'm blown away by your singing, and your natural and captivating stage presence. You have so much talent! I'm a proud big sister, for sure.

Dear Coffee Date Friends, Oh, how coffee was much needed this weekend! Bethany, thanks so much for teaching us so much about the different ways to brew coffee and espresso. I honestly can't decide on a favorite way, but I'm going to have to get myself a french press and an espresso maker, for sure. Most of all, though, it was such a blessing to enjoy a few cups of coffee with you girls on such a beautiful Saturday morning. Can't wait to do it again!

Dear Fear, Hi, Hello, you are real. Thanks to the book "Make it Happen", I know now that I need to acknowledge you so that I know how to get over you. I also know that there are good fears and bad fears, and how to distinguish between the two. Most of the fear I'm feeling is the bad type of fear that can keep me from pursuing my dreams. I'm working hard to let that go, and soon I won't be afraid of taking risks at all. 

Dear Rocksbox, I'm diggin' you. I don't usually spend money on jewelry, and I often get tired of the pieces I do buy...so when I heard that there are monthly subscription boxes where I can wear the pieces until I get tired of them, then send then back for a new box, I jumped for joy! Totally loving these earrings! 

Dear Lamar, I'm so blown away by your thoughtfulness this week! I'm in LOVE with you...and my shiny new laptop. You are da best!

Dear Killian, I had so much fun spending the night with you! Just me, you, lots of giggles, and plenty of kisses. Aunt Jenna loves you!


If you wrote letters for the weekend, who would you write them to?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

/ / Cup of Creative | Christina Conrad

This is the first article in a series called Cup of Creative, where Christina and I interview aspiring creative professionals in Atlanta over a cup of coffee (because that's how we roll). We thought it would only be right to interview each other before we asked anyone else to share their creative struggles and insecurities with our readers.

I'm on this incredibly confusing, lovely, challenging, and beautiful journey of finding out exactly what God is calling me to do with my life. I desire to live a more purposeful life, and really enjoying what I do for a living. For me, it's flowers. I just love them and I light up when I create pretty things with them. The challenging part is figuring out how it fits into my life as a teacher. I'm at the beginning of my creative journey, but I've already learned so much about myself in a short amount of time. I recently discovered my strengths I've found that surrounding myself with encouraging women that are going through similar times is so important.
This linkup is all about chasing creative dreams--the struggles, the purpose, the inspiration, and the excitement that goes along with it. So over the next few months, we will be interviewing creatives in many different stages over a cup of coffee in the Atlanta area, asking them the questions we all face daily, the questions that leave us feeling isolated, alone, and defeated. Our goal is for this project to help us feel connected, loved, and supported. We want this project to spark dialog and inspiration throughout our blogging community for those of us who don't know how to quite get started. We will share the interviews on our blog each month. We will provide you with the topic question each month too, and we ask that you respond to the prompt in a blog post and link it up with ours! Each month, the prompt will be different. The linkups will be every second Wednesday of each month! Here is the question for March:


What was the spark that initiated your pursuit of this creative endeavor?


For the first interview, we of course wanted to interview eachother. Christina is the super talented girl behind Christina Elyse Photography. Her story proves that following after your dreams is tough and challenging, but incredibly rewarding as well. Keep reading, she's an inspiration!
"We had just moved to Atlanta. I didn't have a job, and Matt was in school. I felt this pressure to find work, because we were on a grad school income which was really nothing. I couldn't find work, and I became really unhappy in where I was. I was questioning what I wanted to do with my life and with my degree. Then one day Matt just looked at me and asked, "What is it that you really want to do? What are you really passionate about?" It just came to me that I really just want to take pictures. I want to tell people a story. So, that is where that spark happened. I still have this vivid memory of standing in the living room of our one bedroom apartment, telling him everything. Having Matt ask me what I wanted to do was a really big thing for me, because I don't think anyone had really asked that before. I've always been told what I should focus on or what I should do. I also felt pressure all through high school and college to pick something besides writing and English. From there I started doing whatever I could to learn photography. We had some loan money left over from school, so we used that to buy a camera. I was currently working a temporary position for an insurance company, which was probably the worst experience of my life. I was in tears every day from getting yelled at on the phone, and I just wasn't using any of my strengths. But every Monday night I would go to my little photography class, and I poured myself into that. In the meantime I found odd jobs to support us financially, while I was trying to pursue photography.
Through the courses I would take, I really wanted to get the techniques down instead of just picking up my camera and calling myself a photographer. I think my background in writing throughout college really helped me with that perspective. My major was English, and my concentration was Creative Writing. Journalism and writing non-fiction, and the need to tell someone a story was a huge thing for me. With photography, I felt like that could really work together.
I began taking classes, and Creative Live was a really big help for me because it was free photography courses online. They had pretty big name photographers teaching the skills of photography. At the time I wanted to do weddings, because I had just gotten married which was still really exciting and new to me. I found, quickly, that weddings are really hard and things can go wrong. There's only one chance to get it right. I'm an introvert and I found myself really not thriving in that environment. There are so many wedding photographers in Atlanta, and coming from Florida we didn't know a soul in this city. It's hard to start something where no one can vouch for you. It took a few years before I realized weddings weren't for me. So I though maybe I could do portraits, but the big question was how I could make money off of doing that. Things got tough, I lost my focus, and I began really doubting myself.  So then I went to school for photography at Gwinnett Tech and that is when we lost our dog, which was really difficult to get through. She was really young and cancer spread through her little body quickly. I actually ended up dropping out of school, because we couldn't pay for the vet bills. It was a really traumatic experience.
Through the classes, though, I learned a lot of technique. With my writing background, I had it ingrained in me to learn the rules before I can break the rules. That's what fueled my desire to learn everything I could about the technical side of photography, before I picked up a camera and went out and did my thing. The classes really helped me master the technique, learn the rules, and then break into my own style. So now after all of the wedding and portraits I feel like I'm going back to my roots and telling a story. Photographing creatives and learning about their lives--that's where I'm at. As a side project, I'm working at Blue Sky Papers with the whole product photography thing. Wanting to take photos of the things creatives are creating is where I am right now, and I love it. It's a difficult journey and there are still things we need to figure out, but I'd say it's worth it all."

Isn't she such an inspiration? Here are some of the photos from her journey to becoming a photographer. Some of these are recent works, while others are from the early days. To me, they all look fabulous! I urge you to check out her beautifully written blog!

Share with us!
We would love for you to link up your own Cup of Creative post by responding to this month's prompt! If you join in, we'd love for you to grab this fancy little button to place on your own blog to spread the word!
Cup of Creative - A monthly blog link up for aspiring creative professionals with Christinaelyse.com & Dearest-love.com

We look forward to reading your Cup of Creative prompt response posts! Link up the direct URL to your post. We hope you join in this journey with us! We'd also love to see your current creative pursuits on social media. Include the hashtag #cupofcreative so we can find and follow you!