48 hours in the big APPLE.

so i have a list of things i want to do in my lifetime...a virtual "bucket list" if you will. and one of those was seeing the macy's thanksgiving day parade live and in person.

it was thanksgiving 08, watching the parade on tv, when annie and i decided we would go in 09.
and....we did.

we added bronwen to the trip, and the 3 of us booked our flights and headed up to the big apple for 48 hours. {mad props to jamie for letting us stay at her apartment for free -- even though she had just moved out!}

during our time in NYC, we affectionately tagged this trip "the REAL big APPLE" because our iphones were so vital to our success. we were taking each moment as it came, with no real plans besides the parade itself. so the iphone came in mighty handy in multiple ways. for example...

subway map app -- even works underground!

urbanspoon app -- find restaurants based on your location and/or food genre

maps -- whether we were walking or riding the bus...we knew which way to go!

the internet -- while waiting in line at the TKTS booth in times square, we researched which broadway show to see!

my newest obsession -- words with friends scrabble game app -- for when you have a down moment :)

and, of course, what trip would be complete without tweeting every moment?

it's true. there really is nothing like new york during the holidays.


tuesday tunes - leona lewis.

do you know about leona? because this girl. can. sing. like, really sing.
{she won The X Factor in 2006, a british talent show executive-produced by american idol’s simon cowell, who is also a judge}
leona has just released her sophomore album, echo, and the first single is called "happy" -- you can hear the song and see the video here.

but this is one of my favorite videos...it's from last season's so you think you can dance (one of my guilty pleasures), and uses leona's song "bleeding love" off her debut album, spirit....



i'm continually amazed, humbled, and thankful at how God is using me as a connector in a bigger Story.

remember my sweet african neighbors that He placed into my life? we've been taking the 3 families to church and to play soccer and to the grocery store these last 2 months...
but we at midtown wanted to do something more and give our entire community an opportunity to step into their lives... and not to mention there are a bunch more refugee families in nashville that i'm connected to through african leadership. so we decided to host a massive thanksgiving potluck. midtowners signed-up to bring everything from turkeys to winter coats. and not only that -- we stayed and ate together for a couple of hours. it really was beautiful.
i took a moment to step back and look at a room full of my midtown community and over a hundred africans and just said a little "thank you" to God, in amazement that He could use me to connect these two groups...and at the lives that are different because of it.
and i know this is just the beginning.

here's the room full of 2 of my favorite groups - midtowners and africans
(note -- this is not actually our church -- we borrowed it for the night since we meet in a rented warehouse on sunday mornings!)

with my sweet girls janet, gloria, odett, & joyce

these are my little troublemakers, claude, benjamin, & frank


a bag and a beer.

last night i hosted 17 of my closest friends over for our 3rd annual thanksgiving potluck with our community group. (for the mental picture -- keep in mind my condo is 1100 square feet!)
everyone brought something to share -- stuffing, casseroles galore, pumpkin pie, apple cider, wine. and it was the job of my roommate laura and i to provide the turkey. now, in years past, i've gone the route of purchasing some turkey + ham from honey baked ham...because, honestly, cooking a turkey did not sound fun.
but this year we were determined...we would truly tackle a turkey. (say that 5 times fast)

so we picked up a fresh, brined, all natural 13.5 pound turkey from trader joes on sunday, and then i really started to get nervous. as the bird chilled out in my fridge for 2 days, i asked around for some ideas. credit goes to annie's mom for the 2 things that i believe made this turkey a success:
a bag and a beer.

i think i knew oven bags existed, but i had definitely never purchased or used one before. i was told it cut down the cooking time, though, so i was totally willing to try it. (keep in mind i'm cooking this after work and before a 7pm gathering...time is of the essence!) so we put mr. turkey into the bag and placed him in a deep baking tin.

and the beer? that's right. now, an ice-cold beer probably would have helped during the "stick your hand inside the turkey and pull out the neck and gizzards this is so incredibly gross" phase (props to laura for actually doing it -- i just watched and tried not to barf). but no cold beers for us. we poured our michelob ultra into a glass and microwaved that bad boy up til he was good and hot, then poured it all down over the turkey, making sure to get the breast super moist. (side note - i hate the word moist) then we sealed up the bag, cut 6 small slits for steam, and cooked that bird at 350 for 2 1/2 hours.

and seriously, y'all...one of the best turkeys i've tasted! a moist (there's that word again) and delicious turkey that couldn't have been better! not nearly as painful as i anticipated, and even worth the unpleasantness of pulling out the insides.

so stock up on some bags and beer and go make yourself a turkey!

gobble gobble.

brett + aynsley

i had the honor of being a part of my friends aynsley + brett's wedding 2 weeks ago in atlanta. everything about the day was just beautiful and glorious. here's a video to give you a glimpse...
{can you recognize my voice?}


tuesday tunes - regina spektor.

i had the opportunity to go see regina spektor for the first time last night. she played at the ryman (which, by the way, is such an amazing venue) and did not disappoint. what regina lacks in between-song-banter she definitely makes up for in quirky catchy lyrics and melodies. this girl is a music triple-threat -- singer. songwriter. musician. and she's really good at all 3.

you probably recognize her single from a few years back, "fidelity", off her 4th album, begin to hope... or even the song "us" from her 3rd album, soviet kitch (which was also recently on the (500)days of summer soundtrack!)

regina released her 5th album, far, this summer and played a lot of it last night. here's the video for my favorite off this album, "eet"...


mocha club experience.

{taken from mocha club's website:}

2 Friends, 7 Countries
20 Projects, 90 days

Africa is most commonly known around the world for its tragic headlines. But the global community seems to know little about Africa’s heart: its people. Join Seattle Pacific University recent graduates Daniel Skiffington and Charlie Beck as they visit all 20 of Mocha Club's current projects in 7 countries and take Mocha Club supporters and friends on a three-month virtual adventure to experience real life in Africa. Via weekly video blogs, Twitter updates, and more, the duo will go beyond misconception and stereotype to document real stories of courage and hope. See evidence of Mocha Club’s impact in Africa, and see how “Skiff and Char’s” lives are changed as well. The tour begins November 1st and we hope you will join us on this journey.

seriously, you want to keep up w/ these guys the next couple of months -- they're doing an awesome job documenting our projects and the people and places that we support!

-->follow them on twitter!

here's the most recent webiside...

{shameless plug....like the shirts charlie & daniel are wearing? they're available in the mocha club store!}


tuesday tunes - carrie underwood

so it's no surprise that i love american idol.
and carrie underwood is hands-down my favorite past winner.
and it's CMA week here in nashvile {and she's co-hosting the awards tomorrow night with brad paisley}.
and she just released her third album last week, play on.
so it really just makes sense for her to be the tuesday tune this week.

although i wasn't a huge fan of the early singles from her debut album, some hearts (ie: "inside your heaven" and "jesus take the wheel"), her sophomore album, carnival ride, was one of those that i could listen all the way through over and over.

so i'm excited to see what play on brings. i'm already a fan of the first single, "cowboy casanova".

sure, carrie's albums aren't the most lyrically or instrumentally diverse...but for some fun, catchy tunes that stick in your head, they'll do just fine. and no one can deny this girl can SING. personal fav? this duet with randy travis.

kinda crazy that she's gone from this {american idol audition}...

to this {the video for her most recent single, "cowboy casanova"}...


home sweet home.

i'm a part of a group of bloggers writing about this concept of home today.
to see who else is talkin' about it, go here.

to some, home may mean an address. to others, a memory. or some sort of combination of places, people, and experiences that come together to form the feeling of home in our hearts.

but honestly, for me, it feels very undefined.

sure, i've had some great addresses over the years. hermitage and howell wood trail in duluth. 1111 south milledge and 105 southview drive (still my favorite to say) in athens. i've even had summer homes -- weeks at my camp in the north georgia mountains, summer beach projects in college in clearwater, florida. but those are all just places to me. a place where i got my mail. a place where i had a key.

and then there's the memories. while i do have some sweet memories from childhood, i wouldn't call those years the most warm and fuzzy ever. and as i've moved away and become more independent, home becomes less and less the place i grew up and more and more the places i'm growing.

so that brings me to nashville.
i'm so grateful for the home that God provided for me here -- a place to call my own, to invite others into, to host parties and prayer nights. i love creating a welcoming, warm environment and making people feel "at home". {here's 100 words i wrote last year about my home in nashville}
but then there's this restlessness within me that desires to be nomadic. i don't want to be so comfortable that i can't just get up and leave. there are so many places i want to go and see and experience. i want to be both in the biggest of cities here in the US and then in the furthest parts of the rural areas overseas. i feel just as much at home in a cab in downtown chicago as i do in a hut in uganda.

{ok, so home is still unclear.}

i think something i grasped pretty early on in my walk with the Lord was the idea that this world is not my home. c.s. lewis says it this way -- "if i find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that i was made for another world."

this song by shawn mcdonald (appropriately titled "home") describes my feelings well... that no where on this earth can ever truly be home. and the brokenness and deceit that exist just make me crave better days. and, thankfully, those better days are coming. rescue is coming. and we will eternally be at rest. at peace. at home.

so in the meantime, i will fight to find meaning and a sense of belonging in each moment, each place. because for me, today, home is right where i am.

"home is not where you live, but where they understand you"
christian morgenstern


thursday tunes?

i just couldn't wait til the next tuesday for this. so, sorry 'bout it, but you're getting a little "tuesday tunes" action on a thursday!

ok, so who likes FREE music? {answer: everybody}

matt wertz is giving away his new live album for FREE. all you gotta do is go here and get it! it's from the acoustic tour he did this past summer with justin rosolino and super fun.

what are you waiting for?


tuesday tunes - annie parsons.

meet my friend annie parsons. (just one of a few of my favorite nashville annies) she just released her first ever ep, and it's super exciting. i got to see her play at the famous bluebird cafe a couple months ago and was really blown away with her gift for songwriting.

be sure to check out annie's blog -- she's streaming one song each day this week for your listening pleasure. but don't delay -- once the day is done, the song is gone!

and here's a video of that night at the bluebird...

need more convincing? annie does a great job here.