bittersweet reflections - number three.

remember, a full review on shuana niequist's newest book, bittersweet, will come later, but for now, i'm using some quotes from the book as windows into my own story...

from "join the club" - p. 179:
"find connection and community wherever it already is, even in tiny ways, in your life... sometimes it does work to set out together for intimacy, honesty, truth-telling. but more often, in my experience, you find those things by going through the back door -- serving together, cooking together, reading together."

now, don't get me wrong - i truly love small group ministries and
how the church desires to cultivate community (i am on midtown's community development team, after all).
but i also love the idea of community and connection happening organically, over shared interest and shared experience.
and an interest i have is cooking - followed by the experience of gathering around a table to eat said cooked food. {if you didn't know it, i really like hosting things..especially dinner parties!}
so i started a club.
a cookbook club.

i emailed a group of girls with the idea that we'd take turns, once a month, hosting a meal in our homes. when you host: you cook, you clean, and you provide the recipe to everybody else (creating a "cookbook")
i said i'd do the first one, and of course i did a recipe by my favorite, rachael ray. it's one i had cooked before, but it has been a few years, so i was excited to try it again.
it brings me such joy to open up my home, cook a delicious meal, and then sit around a table together. throw in a bottle of wine, and great conversation, and you have a perfect evening.

creamy chicken with grapes + mustard (serves 4)
{adapted from rachael ray}
- 2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 lbs chicken tenders
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup grainy, stone-ground mustard
- 1 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, halved
- 2 cups couscous (i prefer whole grain)

- heat large skillet medium heat - add oil/butter
- place flour in shallow dish, season chicken w/ s&p, dredge in flour & add to pan
- cook chicken 7-8 min (until browned)
- add wine - bubbles 30 sec
- add stock, cream, mustard
- add grapes - coat & combine w/ sauce
- simmer 5 min over low heat
- meanwhile, boil remaining 2 cups chicken stock, add couscous, cover and remove from heat. fluff with fork after 5 minutes.
- serve chicken + sauce over couscous

so, getting to the good part, here's what we devoured...
{and yes, everything was from trader joe's. duh.}

creamy chicken with mustard + grapes - served over couscous.

mixed greens with heirloom tomatoes + cucumbers + avocado - served with champagne vinaigrette

cookie thins (ginger snap + lemon) with fat free frozen yogurt

"we're not best friends, all of us. we have other best friends, sisters, other worlds. but the hours we spend around the table grow every month, and before and after we talk about food, we talk about our lives..." (p. 176)


tuesday tunes - little big town.

little big town have been making some big noise around town lately. people are seriously loving their new album, the reason why.
most known for the hit single, "boondocks", off their second album (the road to here, 2005) -- this quartet has worked hard to stay true to their love of the music over the years. i love how they take turns singing lead on each song, filling in every moment with incredible harmonies. and i think they've really found a sweet spot that even non-country fans will love with this album.

the reason why has been out for a month, and is still making a buzz. {here's a video all about release week from earlier this month}
and here's the single off that new record... "little white church":



this is a story about a little (non)extreme home makeover i did this weekend...
so we remember about plan b. well, i officially took my place off the market this week. so, to appease my little discontent heart that just wants some change, i decided there were a few things i could do...

first, i painted my kitchen. i knew i wanted to brighten things up, and i was thinking yellow. so when i got to my neighborhood sherwin williams saturday morning, the girl helped me pick out the perfect yellow - #6689: "overjoy".

second, i've always wanted a ceiling fan in my living room, but didn't want to invest in something if i was going to move soon. so, with the decision to stay came the decision to invest. i bought this ball fan, and i'm having a friend help me install it next week!

here's to mini-make-overs-of-joy!


here's what i'm do-ING.

{past participle lists here, here, & here.}

reading // well, besides these and this, i just finished the help and forgotten god (very different but both awesome in their own ways) and i'm about to start my friend anne's new book: permission to speak freely.

planning // my 10 year high school reunion next weekend. and it's kinda been a nightmare. no one tells you at 17 that being a class officer is not as cool in your late twenties.

eating // pumpkin spice hershey kisses. i'm completely responsible for getting my whole office addicted.

missing //

listening // to last.fm. it's my new pandora.

wearing // lots of
lululemon. i just love them. and we're getting a STORE in nashville (insert: excitement!)

watching //
parenthood. my new favorite show.

drowning // in scarves. {see: "anticipating" below.}

anticipating // mocha club's newest venture: fashionABLE. y'all, this is just too exciting. don't worry - you'll be hearing tons more on this soon. but for now, watch this little sneak peek:


tuesday tunes - the daylights.

my friend allie let me borrow her copy of the shift & blur ep from the daylights back when we lived in athens in 2004 - we shared it back and forth for probably a year, because we both loved it so much. then i finally gave it back and didn't hear anything about these guys for years.
fast forward to me living in nashville, and it turns out a bunch of my friends know them well (of course) & i start hearing their name come up randomly. then they come out with another ep in 2008 - sans radio.

and now, finally, they've released their first full-length album (self-titled - the daylights). it came out last week, and i'm playing it in constant rotation. check out the first single, "rogue machine" ...

{and to hear a completely different side to the band - check out an old favorite -

i've never seen them live... but i just found out today that they're opening for needtobreathe when i see them at the ryman in november. yay!


music for your monday.

i know, i know. music on this blog comes on tuesdays. but -- this is just too good to wait. i got to see andrew ripp (you remember him) play last night for his cd release here in nashville, and i can't stop listening to his new album today. i mean, seriously, how good is this song?


bittersweet reflections - number two.

a full review on shuana niequist's newest book, bittersweet, will come later, but for now, i'm using some quotes from the book as windows into my own story...

from "twenty five" - p. 90:
"Every year, you will trade a little of your perfect skin and your ability to look great without exercising for wisdom and peace and groundedness, and every year the trade will be worth it. Now is your time. Become, believe, try. Walk closely with people you love, and with other people who believe that God is very good and life is a grand adventure. Don't spend time with people who make you feel like less that you are. Don't get stuck in the past, and don't try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven't yet earned..."
i loved this chapter. advice and insight into being a twenty-something. because at 28, that's exactly where i am. i'm old enough to have figured out some stuff - how to be a responsible adult and pay bills on time, how to get connected into a church and discover the ways i can serve, how to make a balanced meal. but i'm still young enough to not be consumed with retirement plans, the stock market, or if i live in a good school zone.

living in the now is one of the hardest things for me. it's way easier to get stuck in a past that i want to change or re-live... or fast-forward myself into a future i want to plan perfectly.
i'll think about when i was 21, and the freedom of a life without real responsibility. or i'll think about what it will be like to be 55 - all that i will have accomplished and experienced by then.

but today i am 28. today God has a plan for me. it may not be exactly what i thought 28 would look like, but it's where i am... exactly where i'm supposed to be.
now is my time.
to believe, to become, to try.

"don't get stuck. move, travel, take a class, take a risk. walk away, try something new. there is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. this season is about becoming. don't lose yourself at happy hour, but dont lose yourself on the corporate ladder either....for a while in my twenties i felt like i woke up a different person every day, and was constantly confused about which one, if any, was the real me. i feel more and more like myself with each passing year, for better and for worse, and you'll find that, too" (p. 89-90)

keep breathing.

the power of our breath.
i've been in a season where i feel like the Lord continues to stretch me in every area of my life. (well, i say "season" -- but i think it's just life these days... constant. stretching.)
we had a visual we'd use when i was on staff with campus outreach of 3 concentric boxes.. the first box was your capacity - no problem. the next box was the challenge - the stretching. and then the third box was casualty - when it's just too much to handle. it's healthy to live in the challenge box... to not get complacent and comfortable in your normal capacity. but, if you're anything like me (aka an over achiever!) the line between challenge and casualty can get really blurry... sometimes it's so much it literally feels like you just can't go on.

ok, so back to the stretching and the challenge. i was sharing about where i am with my bible study girls this last week, and my friend (and fellow yogi) brooke reminded me about the power of our breath. she acknowledged that yes, it's a yoga analogy - but it's so true. (remember, it's yoga month, after all) when we're in a pose that is super stretching, you have to breathe. that's where all of your power comes from. the sanskrit word in yoga for breath is "prana" - which actually means life force and energy.
and i don't think it's coincidence that the Holy Spirit -- the true source of life & energy - is often called the breath of God. the hebrew word behind spirit is "ruach" - which means "air in motion" - the same word used for breath and life. God literally breathed life in adam in the old testament (genesis 2:7)... and then Jesus breathes life into the disciples, as He gives them the Holy Spirit. (john 20:22).

God's breath gave us life -- and we can continue to breathe in His power and His presence every moment. as He stretches us, and challenges us, He doesn't expect us to do it alone. His Spirit gives us power.
we just have to keep breathing.

{side note: if you don't have ingrid michaelson's song "keep breathing" -- get it. so. good.}


friday flicks - imogene + willie.

imogene + willie is a wonderful little nashville store that conceives, designs, produces, and sells premium apparel -- known mostly for amazing jeans.
and these branding videos are beautiful pieces of art themselves...


#appstuff - sportacular.

sometime back my friends (namely annie & lyndsay) and i started a little trend on twitter where we use hashtags inappropriately. they're supposed to be used to link together posts on certain subjects - ie: #followfriday is on fridays and people suggest other twitter users you could follow.
but our goal became to make them as long and/or silly as possible, and even better if they involved abreviations. some of my constant favorites from lyndsay include #samediff, #sosueme, and anything ending with "stuff". and our all time fav: #sorryimnotsorry - or #sins for short. it's come to the point where now we even hashtag in texts and in real life
so... all of that to say, that's where the title of this series comes from.
{i wrote this intro the other night and then annie actually wrote a whole post on this yesterday - #greatmindsthinkalike}

ok, now on with it... so we all know that iPhones are taking over the world. and with that comes an abundance of apps (that's short for applications for you not-so-techinical peeps) in every catagory imaginable. so i thought i'd periodically highlight some great apps that i enjoy.. and would love to hear from you on some that you love as well!

first up -- sportacular.
super important during this time called college football season.
check scores, stats, etc. -- all fast, and updated every 30 seconds.
(picture me at the beach, checking the dawgs' score...)
for us sports fans on-the-go, this comes in super handy.*
*face paint & foam fingers not included.
cost: free.
category: sports.


tuesday tunes - the band perry.

you really can't not like the band perry. they're just so....like-able.
these siblings form a precious little trio that even non-country fans will like.

their self-titled debut album comes out next month (october 12) but they've already had a couple of hits. the first one, "hip to my heart" was one of those songs that just pulls you in and invites you to keep listening because it's so dang catchy.
definitely be on the lookout for these guys!

and here's their most recent single "if i die young"... a little morbid, but i bet you won't be able to get it out of your head :) {here's the story behind the song}


bittersweet reflections - number one.

i mentioned reading shuana niequist's newest book, bittersweet, last weekend at the beach. a full review on the book will come later, but for now, i'm using some quotes from the book as windows into my own story...

from "things i don't do" - p. 54:
"...this is what Denise told me: she said it's not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. what's hard, she said, is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about."
i've always been someone who wants to be the best at everything. i don't know if it's my competitive spirit, or my need to seek approval in my accomplishments, or what. so i not only want to do it all, but i want to do it better than you.

i've been learning over the years to more clearly define the things i do. and in reading this chapter, i'm challenged to also define the things i'm willing not to do -- in order to do those things i really believe in.

i know what i really want is meaningful relationships and purpose in my days. i want to feel healthy and alive and rested. i want to love and be loved. and i want to know God more every day.
so i'm making new lists that contribute to those things - focusing on what keeps me sane. like spending more time with God in stillness. having quality conversations with those that know me well. sweating once a day. cooking more, & eating less processed foods. working diligently at my job (while fighting to not find my dignity or worth from it). serving in the areas of church that give me joy - worship, community, missions. keeping a clean, organized, welcoming home. and then there are the things that just make my heart smile - like live music or college football or baked goods or traveling - and i make time for those things, too.

but i'm letting go of the stuff that i just don't do.

i don't have a desire to have a garden or anything else that grows from soil or a pot. it's alright that i'm not in a running club and will never (ever) run a half marathon. i don't watch bravo shows and i could care less about most reality tv. i don't volunteer to help in the nursery, and that's ok. i don't get my car washed...ever. i don't do book clubs because i like to choose my own books and my own schedule. and i've come to grips with the fact that i don't particularly enjoy the lake, and don't need to be on a boat every saturday in the summer (though it sure does feel like the rest of nashville does).
i don't need to do it all. i can't do it all.
and that's ok.

"it's brutal, making the list of things i don't do, especially for someone like me, who refuses most of the time to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a limit to her personal ability to get things done. but i've discovered that the list sets me free." (p. 60)


i know what i read last summer.

(well, i guess it is technically still summer...so this summer..)
credit goes to jamie for introducing me to the writing of emily giffin. i read her post about meeting emily, and how the first book, something borrowed, was being turned into a movie - with kate hudson + ginnifer goodwin by the way - two of my favs! and i knew i had a summer of traveling ahead of me, so i decided i'd give her books a shot. (shout-out to amazon used books!) because summer reading as an adult should be fun, right? i say as an adult, because we all remember that pre-teen summer when our reading list was full of shakespeare, the odyssey, and the scarlet letter -and i know i wanted to do everything but read at that age...
sorry, i digress.

so i started something borrowed right before my trip to LA in may. i was reading it particularly fast, so decided to take along something blue, too... just in case. finished the first one on the plane there, and the second one by the time i got back to nashville. so i bought books # 3 and #4 - baby proof and love the one you're with - to take to europe in june. finished both of them on the trip, too. {each book has also been loaned out to various girlfriends as well - both on the trips and back at home.}
they have been fun little escapes for me - reading as real and as beautiful as if you were watching the movie. (which is why i'm stoked to actually see the movie when it comes out next year!) so if you're looking for a fun, mindless read -- grab these novels. i promise you won't be able to put them down! and this coming from a girl who has 6 half-read books on her bedside table.

there's a 5th book, too - heart of the matter - that came out in may.
but - i don't like to read hardcover books if i can help it (i know, weird marisa thing #5782)... so i'm waiting for paperback next spring. something to look forward to, right?

*disclaimer - these books do have some adult themes - don't get them confused with redeeming love or anything. i'd rate them at a PG-13. so read at your own risk :)

friday flicks - every life has a story.

a beautiful video from chick-fil-a...


tuesday tunes - sara bareilles.

sara bareilles' voice is one of my favorites. (i'm so super stoked to see her at the ryman next month!)

i could not get enough of her first album, little voice, and so this sophomore follow-up, kaleidoscope heart, has been much anticipated.
it came out today, and with just one listen through-- i'm loving it!!

she released the new single, "king of anything" a few weeks ago, so i'm already a huge fan of it -- here's the video...


where i was this weekend.

yup, for the majority of the weekend i sat in that chair.

the september sun warming my arms & legs,
toes wiggling in the snowy white sand,
the clear blue waters of the gulf crashing at my feet,
and with an amazing book in hand...

you guys are no stranger to my love for author shauna niequist. i adored her first book, cold tangerines, and have anxiously anticipated the follow-up, bittersweet.

i'm excited to tell you i'll be blogging more in depth about the book & giving away a signed copy to one of you, my lucky readers, on november 15 (the week shauna also happens to be coming to nashville to speak!) but, until then, i thought i'd periodically post some quotes from my favorite chapters, as little introductions and inspirations into my own story.
stay tuned...


smile, it's september.

my friend madison reminded & inspired me on why i'm stoked for september.
here are some reasons why september makes me smile:

- it's the start of fall. over the years, fall has jumped ahead as my favorite season. it means my favorite fashion items resurface (hello scarves + boots + lots of layers!). it's the reentry of pumpkin spice lattes and everything else pumpkin (i'm a sucker for pumpkin candles!) oh yah, and it means the is-this-summer-or-hell temperatures in nashville are going away. fall for the win!

- labor day weekend. 3 day weekends always equal an excuse to travel. last year i took my nash girls to the beach. this year, mom & i are headed there tomorrow for a relaxing vacation together. (thank you southwest for starting to fly direct from BNA > PCB!!)

- 2 words: college. football. we all know i'm obssessed with georgia football. goooooooo dawgs, sic 'em!
some of my favorite people last fall at the uga vs. vandy game

friday flicks - GLEE at the Emmy's.

the best part of the emmy's this year. duh.


yoga month!

you may or may not know that it's been about a year now since i've started practicing yoga. my friend brooke was a huge instigator in getting me to try it (i always thought it was weird). that, and the fact that my ymca started offering hot yoga classes -- i'm big on if i'm going to workout, i want to sweat!
my normal gym routines have always included cardio (i'm a spin teacher, remember) and some free weights -- but nothing in the realm of flexibility/stretching. so yoga was a whole new world for me. and especially now that i sit at a computer at a desk most of the hours of my day, i really needed something to stretch me out.
in just the year that i've been practicing, i can tell such a difference in my hips & hamstrings. my neck and shoulders are more loose, and i'm seeing improvement in my flexibility all around. and i actually do enjoy the meditation part (i was super skeptical at first) -- at the end of class, you enter a savasana ("corpse pose") for a few minutes, and it forces me to stop, be still, and focus on my breath.

and lululemon entering my life at about the same time hasn't hurt either. (remember they inspired my 2010 manifesto) cute clothes + gear for my yoga practice always makes it more fun!
september is yoga month -- so grab a mat and find a class near you (and if you have a lululemon in your town - they offer a FREE yoga class every week!)