Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Live Love

February. Oh February. This month has kinda dragged on and been full of adulting- all the real fun and exciting stuff good, responsible adults just live for; things like taxes, getting the washing machine fixed, going to the dentist (yep, all 3 of us, and oh- let's throw in a visit to the oral surgeon for Allie because apparently her wisdom teeth need to come out (SURPRISE!) and (BONUS!) a situation regarding a neglected baby tooth requires removal and future braces), paperwork for private school re-enrollment, you name it - if it's boring and something most people typically dread, we've done it this February.

But hey, at least no dental work for me! #upside
Now onto more interesting things than dentistry... This month's new recipes! All of these were officially "approved" by the fam so they will be going into regular circulation in my monthly menus.

(Sorry none of these are my photos! When you are a commuting, working mom, it's #winnng when you just get dinner on the table at a decent hour, much less make the time to take professional-quality food photos!)
In case you wanna give them a try: Quinoa veggie "fried" rice (SO GOOD and I served it with grilled chicken), orange chicken stir-fry with asparagus (served with rice), slow cooked tacos al pastor, and cheddar jalapeƱo chicken burgers (my healthy version was just served on a bed of lettuce topped with guac, but Zach said the complete combo was really unique and that the french brioche bun was on point!) All of these recipes and more are also pinned to my "The Stay Alive Eating Plan" board on Pinterest.

Ok ok, I know I have been mostly griping so far, but we did manage to do a handful of fun things this month too. February excitement included:

The super bowl. We got in a little football throwing time prior to the big game.
We were bummed our (old) hometown team didn't bring home a win, but it was nice to see so much Panther pride back in the Queen City!

For some, the super bowl party experience is more fun than watching the game itself. For me, the MVP of the night was not the half time show, or any player in particular, it was the sweet potatoes. Ha! I made them two ways for our super bowl spread:

Baked rounds topped with avocado, onion, bacon and cilantro and grilled wedges topped with cilantro and a sprinkling of salt/lime zest.
Also, since I was saving my cheat meals for Valentine's, I whipped up some gf/df almond butter cups as a sweet treat. 

For Allie, she had a few special events this month including serving at the MPCS Lower School Daddy Daughter Dance. Allie is required to complete a set number of service hours each semester and this was a fun opportunity for her to chip away at her requirement and serve her school family. Here is a pic she got with her serving cohorts...
and one of the whole crew (I snagged from the school newsletter :))
The following weekend, Allie headed off to North Georgia with the student ministry for the Solitude Retreat. No, this was not a silent retreat, but a retreat that really focuses on the students having alone time to reflect, pray, read, journal, etc. Allie had a great time and even snapped these nature pics while on a walk. :)

While Allie was away, the parents did play! Ha! Meaning, we did our annual Valentine's Day dinner a few days in advance of the holiday (to avoid the crowds of course).

Ready for my date!
This year, I had the idea to do a progressive dinner at Ponce City Market so we could enjoy the ambiance (and fare) of multiple establishments. (Bonus: This also saved some bucks instead of just doing an entire meal at a fine dining restaurant.)
I have really been wanting to visit one of the newest restaurants at PCM - the Mercury, mostly because of it's classic Mid-Century Modern charm.

We enjoyed some 60s style cocktails and some crispy lobster fritters to kick off the night!

Next stop: H&F Burger for the best burgers on the planet and hey - they even had some Valentine's decor goin' on.
Seriously. I know it just looks like any ordinary burger, but it's not. Trust me. There is no over-hyping this thang. Its well worth the calories every now and then. :)
Our final stop was Bellina for dessert. I had been here before with a group from work, but really wanted Zach to experience it's charm.
Bellina has the most adorable market filled with gorgeous imported Italian goods as well as fresh, ready-to-eat meats, cheeses, antipasti, and more.
Everything on every shelf is beautiful in every way.
I mean look at this balsamic vinegar. Is it not the cutest bottle you've ever seen?!
There are numerous places to sit in Bellina, but for our night out- we chose the olive green banquettes adjacent to the bar.
Torta al cioccolato (flourless chocolate cake)
Crostata di frutta (strawberry tart)

And a trip to PCM would never be complete without a leisurely stroll through Archer Paper. I absolutely adore paper stores. 

Life is a dream with my forever Valentine!
I mean seriously guys, this card could not be more perfect for the Z man. I am one lucky lady fo sho (and not just because he is a fox)!
So even though Zach and I celebrated at PCM, I always do something fun for the family on Valentine's Day. This year, in an effort to adequately celebrate the end of an era (end of Downton Abbey) I threw a Downton party. I had been saving the last two episodes - not knowing how or when I was going to watch them and relish in all things 1920, but this was the perfect way to end the series!

On Saturday I spent most the day baking. Even though I was making small batches, it's pretty much the same amount of steps/work as a full recipe.
Our treats included these mini bundt cakes topped with ganache and fresh berries,
mini chocolate chip cookie cupcakes,
and my Valentine's twist on the traditional, period-style Victoria sponge cake: this chocolate heart cake, filled with whipped raspberry cream, coated with rich chocolate ganache, and finished with a dusting of cocoa powder.
Naturally, we had tea and I had the perfect selection. Haha :)
I also busted out my two turn of the century tea cups (and one from Anthro)

And of course... we had to dress up! It is Downton after all. :)

Allie and my MIL rockin' the gloves.
You can't tell in these pics, but Allie's dress is actually a rich, green velvet.
I wore my grandmother's fur stole (which was a gift from my grandfather many decades ago...)

Family fun night at Kale Manor!
We all had a jolly good time, even though it was bittersweet to say goodbye to such a beloved show.

Allie was off from school the following Monday (President's Day), so she and Zach enjoyed a daddy-daughter date in the A.

First stop for lunch: Highland Bakery.

Next: Octane for some coffee (These two LOVE their snobbish coffee. I do not understand all the hype, but glad they have so much in common. :))

And lastly, a jaunt through Krog Street Market and a sweet treat from Jeni's Ice Cream.
This month I have been preparing for a big annual work event we host right before the annual IIDA "Best of the Best" awards gala. This year was the 10th anniversary and the theme was Diamonds are Forever. In lieu of this, our event (which offers attending designers hair and make up by professional stylists/artists) was branded "Shine Bright Like a Diamond." I made these invites and my talented coworker Sam whipped up this diamond shaped cookies. 
Aren't they cute?
Some pics from the event! Such a fun time with so many folks. Thanks for coming. :)
Speaking of hair, Allie was long overdue for a cut so she had a visit with out longtime family stylist, Lisa. :)
 Lisa has been cutting my hair for 10 years! So crazy, but I am so grateful for her skills and the time we have spent together.
A few, post hair cut photos. :)

And lastly, I just wanna take a few moments and share some things that have had a great impact on me this month.

#1: Lay Aside the Weight of Irritability 
Do your feathers get ruffled easily? Do your kids/coworkers/perfect strangers/etc. leave you flustered (or enraged), over even the smallest thing? A friend of mine recently posted this article and it really took the wind out of my sails, mostly because I get irritated SO easily. Plus, my newfound role as a parent has skyrocketed me to becoming a 10th degree black belt in "being irritated". Ha! Surprisingly, I had never really thought about my irritability as straight up sin, just a bi-product of my Type-Aness or persnickety personality. This article really helped me gain some much needed introspection on my attitude and how I need to #1 - repent, and #2 - nip it in the bud every time it rears it's ugly head.... which letsbereal... is daily. Jesus help me. Ha!

Two Sunday's ago (Pray for the Persecuted Church Sunday), Pastor Sameh Maurice from Egypt spoke at Perimeter and delivered a phenomenal message. I was so encouraged by his words - about the work being done in the Middle East, but also, the implications of his message on us today here in America. These are trying times. I don't have to go into any specific detail regarding the upcoming presidential election to articulate America is changing, and not for the better. HOWEVER - the thing I found so inspiring and hope-filled about Pastor Maurice's message was his perspective. Although we all view the war with ISIS horrible and unbelievably devastating, he saw it as an opportunity for the Church to love - to extend help, hope, and healing to those fleeing Syria and beyond. He saw it as an opportunity for the church to be the visible hands and feet of Christ and LOVE those around us, meet the needs of those around us, and offer "the treatment" (Jesus) that so many are spiritually starving for.

This really convicted me as I, like many of you, have fallen prey to all the political banter and epic mug slinging tug-of war going on right now regarding the disappointing presidential nominees. I know we all have political opinions and fears about the future of our country, but for all my friends that proclaim Jesus as the center of their life - let's actually live it out, even in the middle of this election season. We overcomplicate so much with our pride, our opinions, and our fears. We let love take a back seat behind religious do's and dont's and "being right/ unrighteous anger" when Jesus calls us to extend love above all else. As Pastor Maurice said it so simply - "love is irresistible" and it truly has the power to change lives like nothing else. The right president or political party in power will not significantly change America for the better. The love of Jesus will. We might not have the rights or the respect or the opportunities we want, but no one can take away your ability to love. This is our chance Church - as faith gets extracted from American culture/politics, this is our opportunity to shine in the darkness and extend love to a hurting and hopeless world. We've never had a greater chance to share the TRUTH of Jesus (which has been so battered and misrepresented for SO LONG) so let's not waste it!