Monday, September 15, 2014

/ / Pinspiring Vol. 5

It's time for another round of Pinspiring, friends! Seriously, what did we do before Pinterest? I don't have much time for it nowadays, but yesterday I spent a good hour in a pinning frenzy. Please tell me I'm not the only one guilty of that. 

Anyways, this is my fifth installment of Pinspiring, and each time it just gets better and better. Especially since I invited some of my favorite blog friends to join me! Make sure you check out which pins of theirs have brought them the most inspiration this week. They are good, y'all!

As for the items that have brought me the most warm fuzzies, here goes:

HOME // Uhm, has anyone ever heard of watercolor walls? It basically works the same way as normal watercolor, and I think it just looks awesome! I am definitely going to try this one day. How pretty is that?!

WORDS // Last night my sister and I were looking through romantic movie quotes (we're such saps!), and this is our favorite. I love me some Mr. Darcy. Mm.

DESIGN // Black cats. Watercolor. Pattern. That is all. 

WEAR // Polka dots and chambray is one of my favorite combinations, and this styled outfit is perfect! I've gotta find me that skirt!

BEAUTY // So, after a year of thinking about it...I'm getting my hair colored for the first time EVER! I'm nervous and a little sad for my precious little virgin hair. But I'm thinking it needs some spice to it, ya know? I really like this look, so we will see how it looks on me! What do you think? 

Like I said, I've invited my regular ad sponsors (AKA besties) to share what is pinspiring them this week. Check 'em out!

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, September 12, 2014

/ / Coffee Date + Highs and Lows Vol. 8

It's Fridayyyyy! It's been a bit of a hard couple of weeks here, so I'm excited for another virtual coffee date with you and Jenna of A Mama Collective! It's so much fun to me. Not only are we sharing our highs and lows, but a community is being built, or so I'd like to think. On our last date, one of my favorite posts was Amanda's hilarious "How to Kill a Basil Plant".  I definitely have an herb/flower graveyard on my back patio, and I so needed the laugh! She's one of my faves.
  Anyways, I hope you'll join us for our 8th coffee date! So grab your big cup of coffee (or juice, or tea, or shake) and let's get to chatting!

I'll start off by sharing my highs and lows from the week. Then, I invite you to link up your favorite post from this last week and leave your highs and lows in the comments below. I can't wait to catch up!

The highlights from my week...

+ Madison came to visit last weekend! We had the best time ever. We saw Oprah, ate tons of good food, blogged (surprise, surprise), had a photo shoot, and drank lots of coffee. That girl. She's so much fun.

+ We went to the Oprah event, where we met Megan of Latte Everyday (the winner of the giveaway) and got filled with bits of inspiration. That Oprah-- she's amazing! I have a new found respect for her. Just wow.

+ Cold brew coffee and white tulips are some of my favorite things, and both of them you can currently find in my kitchen. That makes me so happy. It's the little things, y'all.

+ My class has been so sweet this week. They give me so many hugs, and they have just the sweetest personalities in the world. I wish you could meet them. Yesterday was picture day, and while we were waiting I overheard some of my boys having a discussion about God and Jesus. They were so excited! It filled my heart and I held my breath listening. It's been quite the transition, going from a private Christian school to a public school where the name of God is rarely (if at all) mentioned by anyone.

And the low...

+ Stress from work. There aren't nearly enough hours in the day to get things done. I worked a 13 hour day yesterday and I left knowing there was still so much more to do. Thank God for fall break next week! Perfect timing.

Now, it's your turn!
1. What are your highs and lows from this week? Comment below and let's chat.
2. Link up your favorite post from this past week. Make sure it's one that will allow us to get to know you more. Only link up the URL of your blog post, not your blog homepage. Make sure to visit and comment on at least 2 other links! After all, that is what this link up is all about--getting to know one another!
3. Grab our fancy shmancy button to place on your sidebar.
Dearest Love

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

/ / Bread & Wine Project | Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Spicy Sausage

  I'm so excited to be joining Rachel of Oh Simple Thoughts for her monthly Bread & Wine Project linkup! I love that this linkup fosters the love for cooking and sharing recipes, as well as discussions on bringing friends into our homes in fellowship.  It's such an important topic for us to discuss, especially for us bloggers who naturally want to spend hours a week on the computer writing and doing other blogger-like things. If you're like me, I sometimes need to be reminded of what is really important: spending time with friends and family by inviting them into my home to enjoy a good ol' home cooked meal and good conversation.

 One of the most recent meals I made for my family was this pasta with vodka sauce and spicy sausage. Oh heavens me, y'all. It was divine. It is perfectly creamy, spicy, and oh so comforting (which is my favorite kind of meal lately). You'll notice in the photos, there is no fancy plating required. This messy dish (notice the sauce splatters on the plates) reminds me of a pasta dish I had in Paris years ago. It was messy, simple, spicy, and oh so delicious. Do I dare say that my version is better? I think I might!

Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Spicy Sausage
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

1 pound Pasta (whatever you have on hand, but my favorites to use for this recipe are papardelle or this fancy mafalde kind)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 package of spicy breakfast sausage
1 whole Medium Onion, Chopped Finely
2 cloves Garlic, Chopped
3/4 cups (to 1 Cup) Vodka 
1 can (14 Oz.) Tomato Puree or sauce
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 pinch Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and pepper to taste 
1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, but don't overcook! 
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the sausage and cook through completely. Then push the sausage to the side and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add in the chopped onion and garlic. Stir and allow to cook for two minutes. Pour in vodka. Stir and cook for three minutes. Add in tomato puree and stir.
Reduce heat to low and stir in cream. Allow to simmer, being careful not to overheat. Stir in red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta. Add cooked pasta to the sauce, tossing to combine. Stir in Parmesan cheese.
Pour mixture into large serving bowl. Garnish with more Parmesan cheese.

Trust me, your guests will thank you!

How do you slow down when it comes to the food you feed your family, and the time you spend with others in your home?

 If you've never read Shauna Neiquist's Bread & Wine, I highly recommend. I love when she writes, “It’s about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another’s faces, listen to one another’s stories. It happens when we leave the office and get a sitter and skip our workouts every so often to celebrate a birthday or an accomplishment or a wedding or a birth, when we break out of the normal clockwork of daily life and pop the champagne on a cold, gray Wednesday for no other reason than the fact that the faces we love are gathered around our table.”

Lately, life has been rushed. Leaving work late, then rushing home to get chores done, posts written, and dinner on the table. At least once a week, though, I try make a point to put together a slow meal for me and Lamar to enjoy together. A slow meal, to me, is one that gets both of us in the kitchen, chopping, stirring, zesting. Laughing, talking about our day, taste-testing the food. It's my happy place when I'm with him, so it's important to me to take time to slow down with him. Just the two of us, celebrating life on ordinary days. 

1. Follow your host and co host.
2. Link up your recipe, not your blog.
3. Comment on at least two other posts! 
4. Link back to this page. 
Oh Simple Thoughts

Thank you to each one of you that linked up today! Happy hump day friends! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

/ / Scenes From France: Thoughts on Ordering Beef Tartare

So, let me take you back to the time when I ate raw beef. On purpose. We had spent the entire day at the beach, so we were pretty worn out, and we were looking forward to a yummy meal. We wandered around the part of town that is considered Old Town, which is exactly what you would imagine an old town in France to look like-- narrow streets curving between old buildings with red-tile roofs, small restaurants, and open markets. We walked down this tiny alley and stumbled upon a Le Maquis. There were so many yummy items on the menu like pasta, pizza, tapas...

Oh, and beef tartare. Which is raw beef mixed with some spices, herbs, and such.

I'm not sure why my pizza and pasta-loving self chose this dish for my meal, but it happened. I guess it just sounded fancy, and I thought, "When in France...". It was actually kind of pretty to look at, and it wasn't terrible to eat. I would make my bites with lots of Parmesan cheese and a french fry. Classy, right?

Here are some thoughts on beef tartare:
1. It's squishy and a tiny bit slimy.
2. Basically, imagine yourself taking a bite out of an uncooked hamburger. There ya go.
3. If you're going to consume it, make sure you have french fries, mustard, and good wine to wash it down.
4. The texture is probably the worst part, you kind of chew it, but you don't really. It's difficult to describe.
5. Go with the pizza.

Really, I recommend trying it once and sharing it with friends. I definitely wouldn't order it as my meal ever again, but I might try another bite from a different restaurant just to compare. To finish our meal, Lamar ordered us some of the best chocolate mousse we've ever had. I was a happy girl, y'all.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

/ / 5 Reasons I'm So Ready for Fall + a Giveaway

I was given this top from Mint Julep Boutique as compensation for this review. As always, all opinions are entirely my own, and genuinely reflect how I feel about the experience and product!

You've heard it before on this little space of mine--Fall is my favorite season everrrr. I could not be more ready for this new season to arrive, especially after the insanely hot couple of months we've had here in Atlanta. Oh, the humidity! Here are some of the reasons why I'm so ready for fall to just get here already:

1. Crisp, cool air
2. Leaves changing to beautiful shades of orange, yellow, and red
3. Weekends in the mountains
4. Baking lots of pumpkin-y treats
5. Fall fashion: boots, flowy tops, scarves. 

This outfit makes me even more excited, y'all! I jumped for joy when The Mint Julep Boutique sent me this top to try. It's my absolute favorite kind of top. It's got some flow, it's light and airy, and I think it fits me in all the right places. Plus, the color is just perfect for fall. Dontcha think?

Madison and I had so much fun taking these photos. You really need to check out her photography blog if you haven't already. She's so talented!
With help from Mint Julep, you can enter to win a $25 gift card to jump start your fall wardrobe! They have so many fun items perfect for college football game days, as well as classic pieces for everyday wear. You're just going to love the quality and uniqueness of the pieces! Also, make sure you sign up for their newsletter. You will be sent a $10 coupon just for signing up!

Enter below for your chance to win the $25 gift card. 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. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway Tell me, why are you looking forward to fall?

Friday, September 5, 2014

/ / Our Wedding: What I Wore

One of my favorite parts of planning our wedding was picking out all of the little things that were just for little ol' me. I saved that shopping for when I was done with the hard stuff (venues, food, flowers), so it really felt like a treat to pick out some pretty things that I would be able to keep forever. I did try to follow the "something borrowed, something blue, something old, something new", but forgot to wear the blue garters...whoops.

THE DRESS: I'm still so in love with my wedding dress! When I put this dress on, I knew it was the one I wanted, but it was a little bit over my budget. I shed some quiet tears when I had to put it back. I loved that it wasn't white or ivory (it was called sand, which is a little darker than ivory), and I thought it fit perfectly with the overall feel of the wedding. My Nana actually ended up surprising me and paid for my dress, which made me cry very happy tears! The dress was designed by Oleg Cassini for David's Bridal. 

THE EARRINGS: I actually bought two pairs of earrings for the wedding because I couldn't decide which pair would look better. So when I was getting ready before the wedding, my bridesmaids voted on which one looked best. They chose well! The ones I wore are from Francescas Collection. 

THE SHOES: One of my mom's closest friends, Carole, offered to do something special for my wedding. She offered to buy me the Badgley Mischka shoes that she saw me pin on Pinterest. I was jumping for joy! I had been eyeing these shoes for a few months, but they were way out of my price range. It was so sweet of her to get those for me. I love how they look in the photos. So sparkly!

THE PERFUME: I bought myself this perfume from Anthro, because I couldn't stop smelling it when I tested it on my wrist. It smells so good, y'all! I'm not normally a perfume wearer, but I thought it would be special to have a bottle that I opened on my wedding day. I feel so fancy when I wear it! 

THE VEIL: This piece is so special to me, because I borrowed it from Mary Hannah. I just love that we both wore it for our weddings! The color is perfect and I loved the style. It definitely makes me more special that I borrowed it from such a good friend of mine. If you're planning your wedding, I encourage you--borrow things from the people that mean the most to you!

What are your favorite wedding accessories? 

Before you go, I want to introduce you to a very sweet blogger friend of mine: Hayley of A Beautiful Exchange. I've loved getting to know her and read her beautifully written blog over the last few months. I'm in LOVE with her recent post Thoughts on Blogging and Why Your Story Matters. She has such a genuine, encouraging heart. I love that about Hayley!

What is the story behind your blog name? When I began writing my blog, I wanted to share my story and encourage others, but mainly I wanted God to shine through the words on my site. I wanted people to find hope and inspiration in my experiences--hope that only Jesus can provide. So, when choosing a name, I wanted something that was unique, but also represented that. I ended up with "A Beautiful Exchange," inspired by the Hillsong United song and by what Jesus did for us on the cross. You can find full post about my blog name here.

What is your favorite part of blogging? There are so many different little parts of blogging that I have grown to love so much, but mainly I just love reading stories and meeting amazing people. I am constantly encouraged by sweet comments or emails and have made some great friends through my presence on the internet!

How do you like your coffee? I love coffee with a bite, so a good dark roast with a tiny bit of cream and a little bit of sugar is the way to my heart, for sure! If we are talking Starbucks coffee, I almost always order an iced caramel macchiato--yum!

Enjoy your weekend, friends! What do you have planned?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

/ / Currently Vol. 5

Happy Wednesday! Isn't this week flying by? Short weeks are my absolute favorite, for obvious reasons. I'm excited that it's time for another Currently linkup. Anne and I enjoy reading through your posts each month, and I think this monthly linkup is going to become even more great since we are getting into a new season. New seasons bring new inspiration, don't ya think?

Writing: I finally picked up the journal I used to write in a couple of years ago and began jotting thoughts, ideas, prayers, and fears. Once again, journaling has become therapeutic to me during a time of immense change, uncertainty, and stress. It feels good to just get things down on paper. Do you journal?

Anticipating: The weekend! It's going to be a busy, but super exciting weekend. Madison is coming to visit me for the weekend! Whoop! We are attending Oprah's The Life You Want weekend in Atlanta, which should be really fun. Other than that, I'm excited to show her around Atlanta and spend some quality time with her. Can't wait!

Wearing: Last night, Mary Hannah came over and brought me the sweetest little surprise: A hot air balloon necklace! How precious is that? In case you didn't know, hot air balloons are near and dear to my heart. :)

Craving: Lamar makes the best Asian barbecue, and it must be the best thing I've ever eaten in my life. We use the meat in tacos, throw on some cilantro, onions, and cheese dip on top... YUM TOWN, all the way.

Missing: My bestie, Lauren. We only get to see each other a few times a year, and I've really been missin' her a lot lately. I've been so wrapped up with my crazy new schedule, that we haven't been able to have much quality phone time the last month or two. Luckily, though, we are planning a girl's trip to Charleston next Spring--just the two of us! I'm not sure if I can wait until Spring. That seems so far away!

Thanks so much for linking up with us!
Head on over to Anne's blog and check out what's going on with her. Next month's Currently prompts are smelling, loving, planning, baking, and celebrating and it will go live October 1st.

What's been going on with you lately?
1. Link up the URL of your Currently post
2. Comment on at least 2 other blogs. Leave encouraging messages!
3. Comment below and let us know what you're currently wishing, celebrating, cooking, wearing, and planning.