Friday, November 28, 2014

Our Biltmore Inspired Thanksgiving

I mentioned in a previous post that we were planning a multiple course Biltmore inspired dinner. After much planning, decisions, shopping, more planning, and cooking, we pulled off a wonderful Thanksgiving meal!

I'm excited to share all of our courses with you (all 8 of them). I hope that you ate enough at your Thanksgiving that this doesn't make you hungry! Although, if it does, feel free to prepare your own 8 course meal and invite me over. :)

Here was the final menu (drawn on a large chalkboard by my sis-in-law, Jessica):


On Wednesday night, we got together and made everything we could make (or prepare, like cutting up vegetables and pre-wrapping the scallops), and set the table. We also had to have many stacks of plates so that we didn't have to worry about washing any during the meal. It took a good bit of planning and organization to make sure each course had enough of the correct size plates!

Our tablescape consisted of white, silver and gold. I posted a bit about our table inspiration here. What do you think?



  





The other part that took a lot of planning? The timing! Though we made what we could ahead of time, we still had to heat food without overcooking. Crock-pots were a lifesaver, as we used them to keep multiple items warm (and thanks to crock-pot liners, didn't have to wash any afterwards! Bonus points!). We also needed to pop a few items in the oven to warm or roast during other courses so that it was hot and ready to be plated in time. I was pleasantly surprised with how well we did! The quail course took a bit longer to get onto the table, but all in all, we did well.

So without further adieu, here are the drool-worthy photos of each course. Feel free to leave any questions you have about any dishes in the comments!

Course 1: Bacon Wrapped Scallops and Dips (Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper)



Course 2: Butternut Squash Soup (recipe here)



Course 3: Roasted Quail with Lemon Grits and Country Bacon Jus



Course 4: Roasted Asparagus and Parmesan Risotto with Hazelnut Butter



Course 5: Oysters on the Half Shell



Course 6: Nut-Crusted Brie with Cherry Chutney



Course 7: Dessert (Sweet Potato Crunch Pie, Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie, Homemade Pumpkin Ice Cream); Ice Cream Pictured Below



Course 8: Coffee (the Vanderbilts counted it as a course, so we did, too!); Pictured with the Homemade Pumpkin Ice Cream



What do you think?

It was nice having small portions of a lot of different foods. Jessica's dad called it "an adventure of the palette," which describes our meal perfectly!

Hope each of you had a wonderful holiday with your family and friends, and that you took some time to reflect on all you have to be thankful for in your life.

Until next time - - 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Heart of Gratitude

This time of year is one where many of us reflect on the things in our lives that we are grateful for. We all know that we should be mindful of our blessings year-round, we often get caught up in the day to day hustle of life and many of these things aren't noticed or given much thought. It is for this reason that Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday. We celebrate with family, friends, good food, parades, football and games, but we also spend time thinking of the things in our lives for which we tend to take for granted. 
Source

On the day before Thanksgiving last year, I left work and passed the Oliver Gospel Mission (our local shelter and Christian outreach program) on my way home. Outside was an extremely long line of people waiting to get in to spend the night indoors and to get a hot meal. The temperatures were already very cold, and it was still light outside. I spent the rest of my drive home thinking about those people. What happens when the shelter fills to capacity? What happens when they run out of food? Or when they run out of blankets?

I take so many things for granted! When was the last time I had to wait in a line, hoping that I would be able to sleep a night indoors or that I would make it to the front before the food run out, lest I go hungry? Never. I have never had to do that. But did I wake up that morning grateful to be in my own home, warm under the covers, thanking God that I had a job to get up and go to and earn a paycheck? Nope. I woke up that morning thinking just how much I wanted to keep sleeping, how much I didn't want to get into a hot shower, put on clean clothes, and drive my car to the place I go to work every day. I had a 4 day weekend ahead that I was SO ready to start...and 2 of those days I was getting paid vacation!

That reminder has stuck with me this past year. Shamefully, I haven't thought of it every day, but I do try to remember that lesson whenever I start to have a pity party or when I have a hard time getting myself out of bed in the mornings for work. I have little to complain about. My basic needs are taken care of, and I have so many wonderful blessings on top of that. I have a husband who is kind, loving, generous, and patient with me. I have the greatest family and friends. I have good health, a steady job, and a place to call home. Most importantly, I have been blessed with the grace, love, and forgiveness of Christ. It's through His sacrifice that I am saved.

Think all of these things aren't great and wonderful blessings? Drive by your local shelter. 

"Gratitude and thanksgiving are so important for your soul. It is not just what God wants from you; it is what God wants for you. Gratitude has been called the 'memory of the heart.' Praise and gratitude bring up pictures in our minds that say, 'Remember.'  Isn't that what Jesus did in the last twelve hours of His life as He broke the bread and passed the cup? 


"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after the supper, he took the cup…” (Luke 22:19-20). 


Remember. Give thanks."
          - Sharon Jaynes


So tomorrow, enjoy Thanksgiving Day with family and friends - enjoy your food, your games, and the time you can spend relaxing. But don't forget to be grateful for all of it.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Tablescape

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is only 3 days away? I can't! But I do feel well prepared. We have our menu planned (I can't wait to share with you!), and have somewhat of a schedule worked out. 

One of the aspects of Thanksgiving I used to overlook was a tablescape. Shame on me! It can really set the stage and tone for a delicious meal. This year, we have a white and metallic theme planned. The only item on this list that we have the exact items of are 2 of the Pier 1 mercury glass pumpkins - they were on clearance! Run over and see if there are any left. I am telling you, they're gorgeous!

The remaining items are acting as inspiration for our table, and luckily we have similar items on hand to use.

As you can see, we are doing both silver and gold for our metallics. Mixing the two can make for a very sophisticated feel! And since we're doing a Biltmore themed dinner, sophistication is definitely in order. 

:)

What are your Thanksgiving tablescape plans?


Friday, November 21, 2014

Two Drifters Designs: Giveaway!

On Monday, I shared that I am getting into the holiday spirit a little early this year. With decor and music, also comes gift planning. And if you've ever been rushed into buying gifts a day or two before Christmas, you know just how stressful finding the perfect gift can be!

In the interest of saving your sanity, and that of your family and friends (read: they want ideas of what you want! Don't be coy.) definitely check out Two Drifters Designs shop! ...and while you're there, please look at that Mint Champagne Lattice Bracelet - um, yes please!

Quick - name a female you know who doesn't wear any jewelry.

Have trouble thinking of one? Yeah, there's a reason for that. Ladies of all ages love jewelry, and it's almost always a safe choice for a gift. Especially when they are as lovely as these! Bonus? Claire makes the bracelets in multiple sizes, so you don't have to worry about it being too large or too small.




Claire was sweet enough to send a Kumihimo Bracelet for me to wear before doing this giveaway, just to make sure it was something I could get behind. Well, it didn't take long until I was complimented! Riding up the elevator at work earlier this week, two ladies asked to take a closer look and just raved about how lovely it was, and how well the neutral colors would match so many things (I received the Mint Champagne Kumihimo Bracelet). Few things make me feel better at 9am than a compliment - unless it's a large coffee AND a compliment!




Claire was kind enough to offer one lucky reader a Kumihimo Bracelet of his or her choice of color and size! Keep it for yourself, or gift it to someone for the holidays. There are multiple entries - the more you complete, the more chances you have to win! 

The winner will be announced on next Friday, November 28th. 

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Guest Post: Mississippi Roast

I think we can all agree that the crock-pot is one of man's greatest creations. Throw in some ingredients, turn it on, leave it all day, come home and dinner is ready? Yes, please!

My sister, Jenn, found a recipe that she wanted to try, and was kind enough to create a guest post for me, complete with pictures. Check it out!

- - - - - - - - - - - - 

As a full-time working Mommy – full-time Mommy, full-time professional, and full-time busy! – I am always looking for super yummy AND super easy meals for my family. Every few months, I will spend a Sunday afternoon preparing 8-10 crock-pot meals to store in the freezer. 

My husband and I are very picky over what crock-pot meals we like, which does tend to make things difficult. He doesn't want any fruit in his crock-pot (there goes the pork and cherry recipe I had so wanted to try!). I can’t stand pot roast. Until I found THIS pot roast. One of my friends posted it on Facebook, which left me licking the screen for days, until I finally made it to the grocery to gather my ingredients. 

The original recipe can be found here

I read a few of the comments that had been left on BigOven’s site and made my (very few) adjustments. Being the Southerner that I am, I could’ve probably just cooked gravy and butter and would've been happy, but all of the ingredients together were wonderful! It even got raving reviews from the husband!

Ingredients

  • Chuck Roast 
  • 1 packet Ranch Dressing Mix 
  • 1 packet Brown Gravy Mix (The original recipe calls for Au Jus, but I was very happy with the gravy)
  • 6 pepperoncini (recipe calls for 5; we would’ve been happy with 7)
  • 1 stick of butter 
  • 1 carton of whole button mushrooms (next time I will slice them, maybe add another carton)


That’s it! For the most part, it is a fairly inexpensive meal. My chuck roast was large, putting the price of meat just under $20, but I either used grocery store brand on the other items, or they were already in the pantry. There was enough for leftovers, which made the price for the meal well worth it for us. 

My roast was thawed (never having been frozen), when I put it in the crock-pot Wednesday morning. On top of the meat, I emptied both the Ranch mix and the Gravy mix on top of the roast, along with the peppers. I laid out the mushrooms around the roast and finally… one entire stick of butter. NO water, NO stock, NO salt/pepper, NO EVOO, etc. 



Right before I walked out the door, I checked to make sure the crock-pot was plugged in (due to prior “cooking before coffee” experience, this step is a necessity now) and turned the crock-pot on LOW. 

Work…Conference…Work…Spreadsheets…Work…Coffee…

This particular day, I got home a little early (4:30). I set the crock-pot on to WARM and waited 2 hours for the hubby and the daughter to get home *cooked for 8.5 hrs*. (I really should invest in a timer for my crock-pot). 

We ate this over a side of Knorr Chicken Rice (strange and it was not planned, but I thought I had mashed potatoes…I was wrong). The rice, strangely enough, was really good with the roast!

This recipe is definitely one for the casual family meal AND to show off for the in-laws ;) 

PS. I have no idea why this is called Mississippi Roast, but if you know, please enlighten me!

PPS. Sorry for the poor quality of the "finished" picture. With both baby and dog at my feet, I snapped it in a hurry!



- - - - - - - - - - 

Thanks again, sis!

If you have any idea how this roast got its name, please leave it in the comments. Please also let us know if you make this, and what you think!

Until next time - - 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pre-Thanksgiving Decorations?

Ok - I've done the ultimate holiday no-no. 

Today, I put up a mini Christmas tree in our bedroom. GASP. I know, I know.


For years, I've been that person, rolling my eyes when I see Christmas decorations in stores alongside back-to-school sales. And, with some encouragement from Spencer, don't listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving (after that it's game on). But after finding out a few days ago that Spencer would be going out of town the day after Thanksgiving, when we have "traditionally" (the past 2 years) have put up our tree and had a fun, Christmasy weekend, we had to change our plans.


We will be putting up our decorations this weekend, the weekend before Thanksgiving. 


And I'm not even mad about it. For some reason, the holiday spirit is alive and well within me early this year, and I can't wait for all things Christmas. I by no means want to skip over Thanksgiving, but if I can enjoy that holiday with some Christmas decor and holiday songs - why not?


After a stop at Hobby Lobby for the tree (50% off!) and some ornaments, and another stop at Walmart for some extra decorations (thank you gift cards), the tree is up. Also, between you and me, I used a sweater as our tree skirt. #desperatetimes


#SorryImNotSorry


Here are a few ways to get a similar look:

Tree:

I got mine at Hobby Lobby for half off, but here is a similar, even less expensive option.
4' Ft Charlie Pine Premium Holiday Christmas Tree - Unlit

Garland: 
Not the same brand, but very similar.
32 ft / 975 cm Long Holiday Time Garland Shatterproof String of Beads (Gold)

Ribbon for bow:

Here is a beautiful option!
Gold Embellished Wire Ribbon Christmas 1.5" Wide ~ 12 Yards

(Full Disclosure: These are affiliate links. Thanks in advance for any and all support of this blog!)











Friday, November 14, 2014

Thoughts from my Pastor on Same-Sex Marriage

So, this topic is a bit heavier than I ever intended to post on this little blog. But, seeing how it is my blog, I guess I can do that!

Below is a post from my church pastor, Perry Noble. He has a wonderful way with words, and with speaking truth in love. Rather than try to scramble to find the right words, I wanted to share his post - as it perfectly mirrors my own heart.

This topic is, and always has been, very controversial. I hope that this in no way is offensive to anyone, but in fact I hope that it is viewed as quite the opposite. We all have differences - and those differences in no way give us permission to hate, to judge, or to condemn. 

Matthew 7:1-5 says:
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

In short, not one of us is perfect. We need to concentrate on fixing our own flaws, rather than pointing outward at the flaws of others. 

Here is Perry's post. You can also view it on his blog page here.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
What we have seen happen all over the United States is seemingly going to now become a reality as same-sex marriage is on the verge of becoming legal here in the Palmetto State.
Within the past five years or so, I would say that one of the most frequent questions asked of me is what should be a Christian’s response to the issue of same-sex marriage.
While I cannot speak for all Christians, I can speak for NewSpring Church and for our campuses all across South Carolina. And as far as we’re concerned, God clearly defined marriage as a relationship between a male and a female in Scripture.
So, does this ruling mean we should revolt against the government or refuse to accept the court’s decision? No. While it seems that same-sex marriage will eventually become the law of the land it does not mean that it has to become the mindset of those who have clearly expressed a desire to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
Does this ruling mean we should change our beliefs in order to accommodate the shifting beliefs of our culture? No. Our church has clearly spoken on this issue. You’ve heard me say it before and our stance has not changed.
Does this ruling mean we should hate gay people and look down upon them as being morally and spiritually inferior? ABSOLUTELY NOT! (Has anyone ever noticed that “Christians” seem to be the most vocally opposed to the sins in other people’s lives, which makes it easier to ignore their own shortcomings?)
One of the things that amazes me about Jesus is the fact that He valued people way more than their theological stances, and accepted people even when He didn’t approve of their behavior.
The way to win people to Christ is through compassion and conversation, NOT condemnation.
Within the past year I had the privilege to sit down and have conversations with some people who openly identify themselves as gay—and the one thing I clearly remember walking out of that room with was the idea that these people were real people, with real hearts, real souls, real emotions and they all really mattered to God.
While the law of the land is about to change, the call on our hearts does not.
Our Gospel witness must remain the same. We cannot be distracted from our mission, and we must not be distracted from our message: Every single person on the planet desperately needs Jesus...because, everyone’s life would be better if Jesus were at the center.
I strongly believe that how we, as a local church and we as the Church, respond to the changing sexual norms of society will say a lot more about us than it will about anyone else who may believe differently than we do.
Now is the time to speak truth with a compassionate approach that should not cause us to hang our heads because we simply do not believe what culture is saying is not acceptable.
As followers of Christ our call is not to try to somehow legislate morality but rather present Jesus to a world who needs Him more desperately than ever before.
However, it is ok for Christians to have political and moral convictions...and understand that It is completely possible to accept people without approving of their behavior.
NewSpring won’t stop talking about matters of relationships or sexuality—in fact, the biblical voice on these issues is more relevant and critical than ever.
We likewise wouldn’t be faithful if we abandoned the biblical mandate to show love, compassion and understanding to those who are struggling with sin—which would be all of us.
No matter what category you (or others) find yourself in...whether you attend NewSpring Church or not...I want you to know that you matter to me, you matter to our church and, most importantly, you matter to God!!
I really do believe that through Jesus—not courts, not governments or legislation that we find grace, mercy and purpose in life. That’s a TRUTH no judge can ever overturn!
Source: Meraki Inspiration Blog

With love - - 


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I Love Food I Can't Have + Butternut Squash Soup

I decided yesterday, and already shared with Spencer for accountability, that I am giving up bread, fried foods, and soda. I don't drink much soda, but I know it has absolutely zero nutritional value. So that's out. Bread and fried foods, however...we have a love affair. It's sort of a family thing. Or maybe a Southern thing? Either way, it's bad for my waistline, so I'm going to try my best to eliminate them.
 
Of course, because it's basically some kind of scientific law, I get Outback To Go last night (traveling for work) and choose a nice, healthy option of salmon with steamed veggies. I sit down to enjoy it in my hotel room, and discover they also packed me a nice, hot loaf of bread. With butter. AHHH. Is the world out to get me to fail only 12 hours in to my new diet!? Everyone hates me and wants me to fail.
 
#dramatic
 
Ok, so if you've followed my blog for any length of time (see above if this is your first post), I really like food. More specifically, I love to cook. If you are searching for a good, fall recipe, I've got just the ticket. This would also be a perfect choice for Thanksgiving! Especially if you're doing like we are and having multiple courses. Because we're fancy like that.
 
Butternut Squash Soup
 
If you've ever had the butternut squash soup from Atlanta Bread Company, you know that it is absolutely delicious. I had this on my brain as I looked up various recipes, and concocted my own - based on what I had on hand (and what I didn't have). Because the last thing anyone wants to do is make a last minute run to the store for bay leaves. #amIright?
 
Ingredients:
  • Non-stick cooking spray or olive oil
  • 1 medium/large butternut squash, cut in half length-wise with seeds removed
  • 1/2 onion, diced (I used red onion, because it's what I had - and it worked fine, but would recommend a sweet onion)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Approximately 3/4 - 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar (light or dark)
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking dish or jelly roll pan with non-stick cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Choose your poison...wait. Wrong context.

Anyway, since you've already halved and deseeded your squash (right?), place it cut-side down on your pan and stab it multiple times with a knife (think Lifetime thriller movie). Like this:
 

I did a poor job scraping out the inards. Don't judge.

Put the squash in the preheated oven, and roast for about 45 minutes or until tender.

While that roasts, saute your onion in 2 tbsp butter until soft. Then add your chopped carrot and a cup of chicken broth. Mix it all together and allow the carrot to soften. You can also go ahead and toss in the thyme.

When the squash is finished roasting, scoop out the flesh (or, what I found to be easier is to remove the skin with tongs and cut up the squash). I was using a blender and didn't have room for it all in one batch, so I put half of the squash in the blender, and added half of the onion and carrot mixture. Blend, blend, blend. Add milk and continue blending until it reaches a consistency you like.

Finally, add in 1 tbsp. brown sugar and a pinch of nutmeg.

If you can resist having a bowl right away, you can blend up the other half. This soup freezes beautifully, so don't worry about having too much.

Top with a dollop of sour cream and enjoy!






Until next time - -


Monday, November 10, 2014

Thankful: My Family

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I have been reflecting on the relationships in my life that I am thankful to have. First and foremost, I am extremely grateful to be blessed with the family I have. My mom's family, my dad's family, my in-law family - I couldn't wish for a more supportive, loving, generous, and fun group of people!

This weekend I got to enjoy a few of these wonderful family members when I traveled to Asheville to celebrate my step-sister, Jenna's, engagement to her fiance Charlie. In the same trip, I got to enjoy my sister, my niece, my brother-in-law, my mom, and my step-dad.

The engagement party was at a really neat taco restaurant in downtown Asheville. The atmosphere was really fun, the band was upbeat, the crowd was friendly, the taco bar was delicious, and the margaritas were amazing!

Oh, and how stunning does Jenna look, y'all? Seriously. That dress.

(I apologize in advance for the rough-looking iPhone pics. I should invest in a good camera at some point...)

Jenna and Charlie!
 
Just gorgeous!
 
Daddy Daughter Dance
 
Um. I want this again. Now.
 
Mike and my Momma
 
Those love birds!
 
Me and my eldest sister
 
Family pic! Minus me, the photographer. And Leslie, who wasn't able to make it.
  
The band, doing their thing
 
I went for the curled hair - unfortunately (but not surprisingly) it didn't stay very long. Tips? Advice?
 
I would hate to disappoint you by not sharing the other part of my weekend - time with my niece, Avia! She had her 1 year photos taken a little earlier, and I got to go help with that. She was so easy because she is just naturally happy and easy going. I won't share the pictures I got from that and spoil the surprise of the real pictures, but here are some others that I snapped from our weekend.
 
Loving the camera
 
Oatmeal breakfast with Daddy
 
Happy baby!
 
Enjoying her scrambled eggs. Well, the ones that got into her mouth.
 
Blowing kisses!

Finally, a video to give you a smile on this Monday (in case the pictures above didn't work).


video