December 21, 2015

New York State of Mind

Day 1 was nothing short of a massive success for these two West Virginia unleashed in the big city. The first picture we took on day 2 was in front of our hotel. Not because it was some glamorous or fancy hotel but because it was called the pod. See Kasey and I call each other P {:her little girl even calls me Aunt P:} because we say we are 2 peas in a pod. So this picture was a must. 

After what I think was our only non-selfie picture of the weekend it was off for an early morning coffee run and on to Radio City to see the infamous Rockettes Christmas Spectacular. As we walked through the city it was a much different picture at 8 am than it was the night before. It was Santa Con the first day we were there and there were literally thousands of people, girls and guys, dressed up in Santa costumes going on a bar crawl. This meant by 8:30 that night there were just a bunch of drunk Sanatas loose in the city. It was interesting to say the least. So being out in the city at 8am meant that Sanat's were still in bed across the city and the streets were practically empty. 

 Fun fact for the weekend: The weather was amazing the entire time we were there. It was in the 60s the entire weekend. It was so warm that we both opted for ice coffees on our way to the Christmas Spectacular. 

The chandelier in Radio City was in-cred-ible.

SO we did the obvious thing...take yet another selfie. 

The show was one of the top two highlights from the weekend for both of us. It could have gotten even the grouchiest of Scrooges in the Christmas spirit...until they walked out. As we walked out of the theatre the streets were once again jam packed with tourist. 

After the show we did as the locals do, we grabbed some food from the food trucks. Then we did as the tourist do and ate it in Central Park. 

While at lunch, I found my future husband...but apparently he is dating 25 other women? Really Ben?

After lunch we went to Hillsong NYC at the Best Buy Theatre where John Gray spoke. It was perfect and I loved the opportunity to show Kasey what I am a part of on this side of the equator. She loved it too!

Then we did a bit more shopping, because why wouldn't you? 

We made one last stop at Macy's just to see it...all NINE floors of it. It was an incredible sight to see. Every floor was decorated and I am fairly sure they have every piece of clothing, purse, perfume, shoe, and houseware item known to man. NINE floors of a store that is an entire city block. 

We loved every second of the weekend but after a whirlwind 48 hours, we were pooped. 

NYC we will see you next year. 

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December 18, 2015

Meet Me in New York

In September, my bestie turned the big 3-0 and since I was on the other side of the world and couldn't celebrate with her, her husband and I planned a little surprise for her. The surprise - a girls weekend in NYC in December. Just the two of us. We had been counting down the days until this trip for 3 months. 
We had an absolute blast.  Friday night  she came over to my parents house and we discussed the important things like what our outfit options were for the weekend and confirmed each others nail polish choices for the trip {:black and a deep crimson-because I know you were wondering:}

I didn't sleep a wink Friday night. We felt like two kids going on their field trip the next day. Finally it was 5:20 and time for us to get up. 6am Saturday morning, with caffeine in hand, we were out the door. We only live about 4 hours from the city so by the time we got through the Lincoln Tunnel madness, parked, checked into our hotel room, and set out to take on the city it was only 11 and we had almost an entire day to explore and play in the city. 

Day 1: We were total tourist taking pictures the whole day long. We took more pictures in one weekend than we probably have taken in the course of our 10+ year friendship. The main reason being, is you rarely have pictures with your closest friends because it is rare both of you are looking camera ready. That is how you know they are your bestie - you are totally okay being your less than glamorous self around them on the regular.

Day 1 consisted of... shopping, oogling at the city sights, lunch/dinner at Ellen's Stardust Diner, Bryant park, window peeking at Saks 5th Avenue and Macy's, Grand Central Station, St. Mary's Cathedral, and Rockefeller Plaza....and 12 miles of walking in 8 1/2 hours. 

This is a picture of one of the waiters at Ellen's Stardust Diner serenading us at dinner.If you haven't been and are planning a trip to NYC in the near future, I highly recommend it. The entire waitstaff is filled with people trying to make it on Broadway. They are incredible singers and performers and do just that while you enjoy the yummy and reasonably priced diner food. Our waiter just got cast as Shrek in the International Tour for the musical. 

The highlight for both Kase and I, on day 1, was this light show Saks 5th Avenue puts on on the side of their building, to Christmas music. It was stunning.

The madness to get this picture is ridiculous. We look happy in this picture, but before and directly after this picture our only thought was "get me out of this madness." It was craziness along 49th, 50th, and 51st streets with all of the tourist wanting their picture with the tree. We were so happy to have been able to capture a picture with the iconic tree but we were pretty pumped when we could check this off the list and get out of the way of the crazies too. 

Stay tuned Monday for Day 2 of our girls trip in NYC.

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December 16, 2015

From My College Kitchen: Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of my all time favorite sights and sounds is my mama's kitchen around this time of year. I love seeing the messy kitchen as Christmas cookies and candies are being made, the smell of yummy goodness coming from the oven, and the sound of Christmas music playing in the house with the sound of the mixer in the background. 
Is there anything better than when the smell of cookies fills the house? Especially when you can tell they are your absolute favorite cookies!
Today, I am sharing my families absolute favorite Christmas cookies. It is my Grandma Miller's recipe and it's to die for. 
If you like Milano's Orange Chocolate cookies than you will love these! They stay moist for weeks...if they last that long.

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c. shortening
4 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese
2 eggs
2 T. grated orange peel
1-2 T. freshly squeezed orange juice
2 c. plain sifted flour
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
16 oz. pkg. chocolate chips

  • Cream shortening, sugar and cream cheese. 
  • Add eggs, orange peel, orange juice and vanilla.
  •  Blend in flour and salt. 
  • Stir in chocolate pieces. 
  • Place cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet
  • Bake on 350 for 12 min.
What's your favorite Christmas cookie recipe?

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December 12, 2015

The Single Girl Diaries: When Longer = Stronger (Pt. 2)

Did another Single Saturday pass without a hottie having asked your foxy self out on a date? What can we say? Boys can be idiots. Well, for those of you not preparing for a hot date night, I have prepared something just for you. {In return I accept cash donations, gift cards, and coffees. Please ship to....jk}

A few months ago I wrote part 1 of this post and I talked about being willing to walk the path you are on longer so that your testimony and perseverance will enable others to walk stronger. Today in this post, I want to take the same thought and apply it to ourselves. 
Sometimes God asks us to walk longer so that others may walk stronger.
And sometimes God asks us to walk longer so that we may become stronger. 
In this season of singleness I have found that both statements are profoundly true in my life. I believe that God is allowing this single season in my life to be a source of strength for other single women, but I believe it would be a mistake to believe that the only strength being gained from this journey would be in others. The strength is for me as well.
Countless times along this journey, singleness has been the fire that God has used to purify and strengthen me. 
I took some time to study the refining of silver a few years back and some of the things I found absolutely blew my mind! I found it interesting, that when a piece of silver is put in the fire to be refined, to remove the dross {the impurities of the metal},the fire has to get so hot that even the metal becomes soft.  Even the part that is good and pure, the silver, must be broken down to a soft and pliable state. It is only in this soft and pliable state that the impurities can be removed to create the pure metal.  
There are times when God has turned up the fire of this season so hot that I felt like I couldn't handle it any more. Those nights where I would hit my knees and cry out of the loneliness I felt  and my inability to understand why this season was playing out the way it was.
Now, as I look back and apply what I learned about the refining fire, I realize that God only turns up the heat so that my heart will become soft and pliable.  It is in this soft and pliable state that he can remove the impurities and shape and mold me to who He needs me to become. When I emerge from the fire not only have the impurities been removed making me stronger, I have also been refashioned to better suit my purpose. 
I don't know the exact reason you or I are still single. I just know that he needs you and He needs me to walk this road longer because he needs to make us stronger for whatever lies ahead. He is building and strengthening our faith muscles as we walk. And when the journey becomes overwhelming and the fire becomes too hot, use it as a trigger to send you running back to the comfort and embrace of the Lover of Your Soul.

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November 16, 2015

Even When it Hurts Like Hell

Sometimes my heart simply gets overwhelmed – overwhelmed with tragedy, sadness, loneliness, hurt, longing, insecurity, worry- sometimes all of those at the same time.

 I find myself in this place as I type. I’m sitting in the quietness of my apartment absolutely broken hearted over a valley one of my friends must walk through without the ability to run over to her house, sit on the couch, and just love on her. Yet, in my broken heartedness the song “Here Now” by Hillsong Worship comes on and I immediately reminded of His presence – here now – in every circumstance and in every situation. I’m aware that while I can’t be there, He has never left her side. I am aware that in the depths of sorrow He is fully present.  I know that in brokenness He provides a peace that surpasses understanding. But, then again, I realize that is exactly who Dad is…He is the most beautiful of contradictions.

He is peace in the midst of chaos. He is the comfort that makes no sense in the midst of the loneliest of seasons. He is joy in the depths of our pain…even when it hurts like hell.

This post isn’t meant to be super profound, but just a reminder and hopefully a glimpse of hope, if you find yourself in any of those places now.

He is near. Now. He desires to be your beautiful contradiction. He desires to give you joy for mourning, beauty for ashes, and songs of praise instead of despair.
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November 11, 2015

The Tragedy of Great

I was sitting in a class the other day and our instructor had all of us write down a goal we wanted to achieve. Then he went through and asked us a series of questions we had to write an answer to around that goal. Questions like: How is not doing this a problem for you? What do you need to start doing to make this a reality? What would your life look like if you achieved said goal?

After we went through this our instructor picked out people at random and forced lovingly encouraged them to be vulnerable and share their goal. One girl he picked on in our class is an insane songwriter. She has come out with her own CD and has preformed her songs in front of millions of people. But…she hasn’t written in a long time for the fear that her next song won’t be great. She had such a high level of expectation for herself and the things she wrote that it paralyzed her from writing at all thinking what she wrote next might only be good.

Then and there in that classroom I couldn’t help but wonder how many books have never been written, blog posts have been left in the draft folder, messages have never been preached, opportunities have been turned down because we might not be great?

In all honesty about 90% of what you create will just be good; 20 percent of it might even be down right bad. But if you refuse to create anything you will never uncover the 10% that is great. You will never create the song that sets people free. You will never write the book that caused people to look at the world differently. You will never bring people into the truth with your great message. If you don’t create, 100% percent of your God entrusted gift will not be serving people in the way it was intended to.

What are you not doing, what are you not creating, because you are too afraid it will not be great?

If you're always great, then there is no real reason God needs to show up in it. You clearly already have it under control. But when you are only good and something great comes out of it you know it must have been God. The good is God's playground for greatness.
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November 9, 2015

Melbourne Fall Street Style - The Power of Shoes and Accessories

As the weather changes into Spring here in Australia, all of you back home are pulling out your cozy sweaters, boots, and snuggies winter capes while sipping your Pumpkin Spice Latte's from the glorious red Starbucks cups. I have to admit, fall is my favorite season and I get a bit jealous thinking about those red cups and sweaters...until I remember I am going to the beach today. 

But in honor of my favorite season I thought I would share my favorite fall outfit and also show the difference a change of shoes and accessories can make to the entire outfit.

This wardrobe change wasn't actually planned, but while we were on our short trip to Melbourne the one pair of high heel booties I brought, which are adorable and normally very comfortable, weren't cutting it. We walked 26 miles in 48 hours {:not exaggerating:} and I needed some serious comfort in my life. Converse to the rescue. 

What's your favorite way to change an outfit?  

H&M Scarf & Hat // Converse // Kohl's Sweater {:similar:}
 Meyer Boots {:similar:} // H&M Jacket {:similar:} // AE Black Denim
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November 6, 2015

My College Kitchen: Easy, Budget-friendly, Paleo Chicken Casserole

I told you a couple of weeks ago how I am really trying to clean up my diet, not for any desired look {:okay maybe a little bit for how I want to look:} but for my healthy. I want to be healthy. The pace of my life these days seems to be about that of a cheetah on the way to kill its next meal. And I have realized the importance of what I fuel my body with for these marathon days, weeks, and months. This isn't a pity party I invited y'all to; I love my life, but it is full so what I eat matter now more than ever. 
So my dilemma has been - how do I eat these well balanced, full of nourishment, I love my body enough to give it what it needs and not what it wants meals on a college girl's shoestring budget? 
I have done a ton of Pinteresting, reading, and research and it basically comes down to planning and strategizing. {:You were hoping I wasn't going to tell you the same things everyone else has been telling you, weren't you?:} Good news is I have done some of that research for you and can now just share the goodness, yeah?
Today's meal is one I originally found here and I have just adapted it and made it work for me. Oh and by the way I would never share anything that was similar to cardboard or rubber...these recipes are yumm-o and all non-Paleo housemate approved!
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 medium white onion diced
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms
  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth {:homemade if strict Paleo:}
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Cooking Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Cook the chicken over medium heat until no longer pink.
  • Take two forks and shred the chicken.
  • Prepare the casserole dish by using 1 of the 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to grease the dish.
  • Steam the broccoli florets until barely cooked and set to the side.
  • With the other teaspoon of coconut oil sauté the onions and mushrooms in a pan adding salt and pepper to your liking. Remove from heat.
  • Combine the broccoli with the mushrooms and onions and distribute evenly into the casserole dish. Distribute the shredded chicken over the broccoli, mushrooms, and onions evenly.
  • In a separate dish combine the broth, coconut milk, eggs, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt and pepper and whisk.
  • Pour the mixture over the other ingredients in the casserole dish evenly and make sure all the contents are covered.
  • Cook for 35-40 minutes, allow to cool for 5 minutes and Bon- Appetite!

This dish gave me six generous meals. I put three in the fridge for the week and I put the other three servings in the freezer to eat on busy days. It freezes like a dream and was the perfect meal to pull out in the morning when I knew I would get home late and have no desire to cook. 

Hope you all love this dish as much as I do. It is a southern food-lovin girl's Paleo dream. 
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November 4, 2015

Salmon and Tomato Religion

"I don't like salmon." 

I have claimed this for 28 years {:well give or take a few since I didn't talk for at least one of those and probably didn't even know what salmon was for a couple of them as well:}. I also would have told you that I don't like tomatoes. Until I realized I do. I don't even just like salmon and tomatoes. I kinda love them both. 

So where did those statements come from? 

As far back as I can remember I can recall my mom telling people she did not like salmon or tomatoes. Therefore, she never cooked either. So instinctively, without ever really giving either food a fair shot, I  decided and started declaring I didn't like them either. 

Earlier this year, I started thinking about this and laughing a bit. Why didn't it dawn on me that I actually might have different taste buds than my mom? Then I started thinking beyond salmon and tomatoes and more about things that really matter like core values I have, morals I stand on, and even Biblical truths that I hold to be, well, true.

I started asking myself the question of "why do I believe what I believe?" 

This is a tough pill to swallow for the girl who has always just taken things at face value. I realized that just like my mom’s statement about salmon and tomatoes, I had become a parrot of other people’s beliefs as. 

For me, If someone told me your shirt was blue, that was good enough for me. I didn’t need to go read a scholarly peer-reviewed article to investigate if what they said may be true or ten arguments to the contrary. If you said it was blue, that color will hence forth and forever blue. Done. 

Then I came to college, sat in a stinking class called Theology and my life got flipped-turned upside down {:you are welcome all you children of the 90s:}. I was being pushed to ask myself the question ‘why’ constantly: Why do I believe that God is healer? Why do I believe that a person cannot lose their salvation? Why do I believe that marriage is good? Why do I believe you shouldn’t wear pink if your nails are red? Why? Why? Why? 

Just like my opinions on salmon and tomatoes had been passed down from my parents so too had many of my thoughts, beliefs, and truths that I based my entire life around yet hadn’t taken the time to investigate or even just think through what they meant for me.

I've realized I'm not the only one. Many of us grow up with other peoples religion and other peoples experiences and just take them as our own. We believe in Jesus because our Sunday school teacher with the cool felt board Jesus holding the lamb told us he was real. We believe God is a healer because one time we heard a story about some woman in Africa that was deaf and her hearing was restored. We believe that Pentecostals are hooky-spooky and weird and Baptist are strict and women can’t wear pants and don’t dance.  We believe so many things and even believe them with fervor and conviction. Yet when we are asked why we believe these things, if we are honest with ourselves, we would say it is because our parents believed it or someone else had an experience so we simply took what was their truth, their reality and made it our own.

I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for you to live off of other’s revelation and truth. There is, but there is also a time to try the salmon and tomatoes for yourself.

What truth is God stirring your heart to ask ‘why’ about? It could just be the thing he wants to solidify in your life. If you’re brave enough I double dog dare you to comment with what question you are asking ’why’ to today. I'll start...
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