Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful Thursdays: Week 3

Three weeks gone already? Slow down, November! Slow down!

Day 14: These Two

They're an endless source of support, encouragement, and love. No matter what the day brings or how crazy I sound, they stay the same. Wouldn't make it through this time without them.

Day 15: Friday Nights In

I love that I'm finally old enough that staying in on a Friday night doesn't make me lame. Old movies, comfort food, and a heater that looks like a fireplace? I'll take that over the late-night-out scene any day.

Day 16: That night out on Dickson 365 days ago

Once upon a time, I had an unexpectedly free Friday night. A friend of mine asked me to join him (and some classmates) for celebratory drinks on Dickson. I went. 365 days later, we shared reminiscent-celebratory drinks on the couch in our new living room.

Day 17: One Year with this Sweet Man

Blessed beyond belief. Can't believe it's been a year. Love you to the moon and back.

Day 18: This ol' Girl

My Millie. She's revolutionized my baking. If you haven't bought into the KitchenAid cult, you're missing out. Cupcakes FOR EVERYONE!

Day 19: Celebrations with fellow Xers

One of my favorite things about Saatchi is that they truly celebrate their people. The celebration to end all celebrations, however, is SSX Thanksgiving. We cater in turkey, ham, dressing, & potatoes, then everyone else provides sides & desserts. It makes for a semi-unproductive day, but it's totally worth it. It's such fun to just enjoy each other and celebrate.

Day 20: Pre-bedtime Cuddles with these two

No matter what mood I'm in, these two snuggle babies can improve it. I love our new bedtime ritual.

What are you thankful for this week?

Enjoy your weekends!

Til next time, friends!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wedding Wednesdays: A Request

Hello friends & family! We're within the 2 month mark! Exciting, right?

As we get closer, we're to the point where I'm mostly working out little details and just trying to soak it all in - to remember this time for what it is (i.e. the happy stuff...not the stressful, icky parts).

One thing that's really helped me do that is, simply, putting down my phone. I've been making a conscious effort when I'm with loved ones to put my phone in my purse, on silent, and leave it there. It frees me from the never-ending barrage of emails, allows me to focus completely on the moment, and reminds me to mentally capture precious time (rather than trying to snap the perfect photos). Sure I still cave occasionally, but I've learned to love the "unplugged" feeling.

It's on that note that I have a favor to ask of all of you: we'd like to have a "mindful ceremony," and we need your cooperation.

I'd ask those of you joining us for the ceremony to kindly turn off any phones, tablets, or cameras you bring with you. Just for the ceremony.

During that time, I'd rather you fully experience the moments with us. Watch with your eyes and hearts - not through a lens or LCD screen. Really be present.

I'm sorry if this makes me sound demanding, difficult, or selfish, but...

( I'm not. If this is the thing that's gonna peg me as "the difficult bride," I'm kinda okay with it. This is my wedding after all, right? I'm allowed to ask for what I want...)

Y'all, we've hired AMAZING photographers, and trust me, they will capture the moments perfectly. Please let them. I promise I'll share afterwards.

I appreciate the idea of y'all wanting to grab a few extra shots, but let's level for a minute:
  • They won't be as good as Dale & Mere's (sorry, guys...they won't)
  • You risk getting in their way during key shots (and robbing Paul & me of that photo - one of which may be of all of your smiling faces...don't make that image one of upheld cell phones)
  • And, most importantly, you miss the moment. Even if you capture a snapshot of it, you weren't really present. 

As guests at my wedding, I'd really rather y'all enjoy the moments in their fullest.

When I turn around to look at everyone who's come to share my day, I want to see:

I want to be able to see the faces of people who loved me enough to brave the January weather to celebrate with me. I want to remember spending time with people who were truly present, not caught up in documenting every moment. I want (official) photos of faces looking at me (accepting the selfish in that statement), not looking at screens. So, please friends, do this for me? Let's be different!

Now, during the reception, y'all go crazy! We'll have flip cams to share, an app for you to upload everything for us, and a super-awesome-neato-cool hashtag (#paulaynapalooza...just admit how awesome it is). Still be mindful not to get in Dale & Mere's way, but if you MUST grab that photo of us making funny faces, just make sure to tag it.

I'd really appreciate it. I think you will, too.

Thanks in advance. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thankful Thursdays: Week 2

Holy cannoli this month is going by quickly! Anyone else feel it?

Also, it's gotten COLD in Fay-town. We went from lovely fall weather (you know, the kind where "all you need is a light jacket") to coat + mittens + seat-warmer weather. I'm not complaining, it just seems like it happened all sorts of quick.

Enough of that, though. Let's get to the thanks!

Day 7: New Family

I love my soon-to-be last name. It's pretty much the cutest. But I love the family that comes with it even more. They've taken me in as their own and love on me as if I've always been there. My sweet Momma-in-Love-to-be got me this little happy the other day. It warms my heart every time I look at it.

Day 8: Cotton Candy Skies

Driving to OKC after work under daylight savings time = blinding sun and light induced migraine. Driving to OKC after work minus daylight savings time = THIS. The photo doesn't do it justice. I was absolutely in awe of the beautiful sky He painted for me on that long drive to see The Boy.

Day 9: Weekends with my Favorites

These faces, y'all. Gah. How can you not love 'em? This is pretty much irrefutable proof that I have the most adorable fiance AND the most adorable puppy on the planet. Don't even try to argue with me (not that you'd win anyway). Weekends with them are better than any other weekends. Can I just have a whole lifetime of them?

Day 10: Home-cooked Sunday Lunches

Since I was in OKC last weekend, I had the chance to join Paul for one of his new weekly appointments: Sunday afternoon at the Dahlem's. I'm tellin' you, as a born-and-bred Southern girl, there is NOTHIN' better than a home-cooked meal. Unless it's a SUNDAY home-cooked meal (or, you know...Thanksgiving...). And this one came with dessert - tiny apple pies and ice cream. I think I'm gonna like Sundays in OKC.

Day 11: The Smell of Fall

I've mentioned (once or twice...) that I'm a fan of apples. I particularly like apples when they're combined with cinnamon...or caramel...or both. There's a scent they give off that's just so very fall-ish. It's really difficult to capture that smell well (many have tried, very few have succeeded). These guys got it. This candle (and anything that smells like it) is good for the soul.

Day 12: Fuzzy Socks & Warm Toes

I've been stubborn thus far - refusing to turn on my heat (despite my above mention of Fayetteville goin' all crazy-cold on us). Instead, I wrap up in snowmen from head to toe - blankets, sweatshirts, and these little guys. They were a Christmas gift from one of my favorite little girls, and they're my go-to stay-warm buddies. They (and my portable heater), make holding out on the heat a bit easier.

Day 13: Movies that Feel Like Old Friends

You know those movies that you can watch over and over again, and they're still good even after three consecutive watches? This movie is that way. I can watch it on loop and still laugh at certain parts, without fail. I turned it on while I was stuffing invitations, and, after I sent The Boy a quote from it ('cause it made me laugh), he responded with, "How many times have you watched it tonight?" (he's learning my tendencies quickly!) No matter, it made hours of invite assembly more enjoyable.

Happy Thursday, friends! Til next time. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wedding Wednesdays: Engagement Photos

A couple weeks ago we had the chance to have our official engagement pictures taken. I’d told our photographer waaay back in June that I wanted to wait til the leaves were changing , ‘cause, well, fall in Fayetteville is breathtaking (really, if you haven’t been here in the fall, you MUST come. I swear it’s prettier than anywhere else I’ve been).

When we got to the shoot, one of the first things Dale said was “Y’all don’t seem nervous at all! That’s awesome!” What he didn’t know was that sure, we might not have been nervous then, but that was only because I’d had like three panic attacks about outfits a month before. That is one nice thing about my tendency to over-think and plan to the last detail – I freak out early!

I’d gotten so worried, in fact, that I’d planned out our outfits…not just in my head…but on the last detail. Ever heard of Polyvore? It’s this wonderful site that lets you visually layout outfit inspiration. Dale & Mere, rather than think I was insane for sending them Polyvore images of our outfit selections, LOVED it. Glad to have folks on my side that appreciate how my brain works. Here’s what we sent him:

Based on those, we’d chosen three locations in Fayetteville (all of them meaningful to Paul and me in some way): Old Main Lawn (for the leaves and the U of A connection), Dickson Street (where we went that first night almost a year ago), and the Square (which, of all of Fayetteville, probably has my heart the most).

We had a great time – it was really more like spending the afternoon with friends who are super photo obsessed rather than a session. They made it easy to relax and really enjoy the process, rather than obsess over what face we were making or whether our heads were turned just right.

And, of course, the photos turned out BEAUTIFULLY. I’m so glad we picked Dale & Mere – I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter, happier, more fun set of ridiculously talented people to be in charge of capturing these precious moments. Plus, we’re getting some pretty awesome friends out of the deal, too.

Thanks, Dale & Mere. Y’all are a blessing!

Check out their blog here! (unless you hate pretty pictures...)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Caramel Apple Cider Cookies

Caramel + Apple Cider. The person who decided that those should go together deserves a medal. And a hug. They win fall. I'm not sure there's a flavor that more embodies the season (yes, Pumpkin Spice, I'm lookin' at you.) 

And, when you take those two things and put them into a cookie...gah. Thank goodness it's sweater season. 

These little babies are one of my favorite treats to make during the fall. Partly because they make the ENTIRE HOUSE smell like cider (and I challenge you to find someone that would be upset by that), and partly because when enjoyed WITH a warm mug of cider (or tea or coffee or whatever warm beverage you prefer), the insides of these melt and create this creamy, magical, caramel center that complements the cider flavor perfectly. If you make them big enough, they fit nicely on top of a mug, and the steam is what makes the caramel do it's thing. 

It's really difficult to just eat one. 

Or just three.

They make fabulous little happies for all your favorite people, too.

Caramel Apple Cider Cookies

Recipe credit: Scrambled Henfruit

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 box (7.4 oz) Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Instant Original Drink mix (NOT sugar free)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 bag Kraft Caramels (14 oz)

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line cookie sheets with parchment (or wax paper if you’re in a pinch, but you need a liner)
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add salt and then ALL 10 packages of apple cider powder (yes, all 10).
  4. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla and mix well.
  5. Gradually add flour mixture to butter/egg mixture. Mix until just combined (it’ll be sturdy).
  6. Refrigerate for about an hour. (If you're really impatient (like me) you don't have to do this, but it makes it so much easier to work with.)
  7. In the meantime, unwrap your caramels.
  8. Scoop out rounded tablespoon of cookie dough (a ball about the size of your cupped palm).
  9. Flatten the ball of dough slightly in the palm of your hand. Press the unwrapped caramel into the center of your dough and seal the dough around it, covering it completely. Roll in-between your hands to seal then place on parchment covered cookie sheets 2 inches apart.
  10. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until very lightly browned around the edges (they’ll still look puffy…they’ll firm up). Don't over-bake!
  11. Once the cookies are done, slide the parchment off of the baking sheet directly onto the counter. Allow cookies to partially cool on the parchment (about 5 min). When cookies are cool enough to be firm but still slightly warm, carefully twist off of parchment and allow to finish cooling upside down, either on the parchment or on a rack. (The twisting motion really helps the cookie pop off without the caramel falling out of the bottom. I’ve also found that gently peeling the parchment off the back of the cookie helps.)
  12. If you forget about them and they cool too much and stick to your parchment, put them into the freezer for a few minutes and they'll pop right off.
Yield: about 4 dozen, depending on how large you make your cookies (or how many caramels have been snitched out of your bag before you begin.) Store in an airtight container.


Friday, November 8, 2013

DIY: Scented Sugar

Ever had scented sugar? It's lovely. It's not flavored, per se, but since we pick up most "flavors" via scent might as well be. I discovered this recipe for lavender-vanilla scented sugar a few years back when I went on a hot tea + lavender kick. It changed the way I drink tea.

Plus, you can put it on SO MANY OTHER THINGS - cookies, pancakes, cupcakes, pies, coffee, iced tea (new discovery thanks to Mom). It's good in pretty much anything.

The magic comes from the light, oh-so-subtle scent. You get the kick of sweet from the sugar that you would normally...but then there's this extra little happy with it.

This blog (Joy the Baker) has a FABULOUS tutorial on how to put it together, but I also threw in a few of my own images below (in case you're into sub-par photography and snowman blankets).

I made these recently to give as hostess gifts for the lovely ladies who threw my shower. I like that they have a personal touch to who doesn't love sugar?

Enough of that, let's get to the good stuff!

Lavender-Vanilla Scented Sugar: How-To

What You'll Need:

1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp lavender

What You'll Do:

1. Pour your sugar into a medium sized bowl (easy enough).

2. Split the vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the teeny, sticky little beans. I like to use a spoon for this because the tip of the spoon helps open the bean (without accidentally poking yourself with a knife). Reserve the empty pod.

3. Add the vanilla beans to the sugar. Slowly integrate the vanilla into the sugar by pressing it into the bowl with the back of your spoon. My photos below don't depict this well...but it works best if you use the side of the bowl to press against and slowly incorporate more and more sugar into the seeds. Then, once you have a fairly uniform mixture, stir well to distribute.

4. Add in the lavender, pressing the petals to release the oil. Combine well.

At this point it should smell pretty darn awesome. Avoid the impulse to immediately go make tea. We're almost done!

5. Pour into a pretty glass jar, adding the reserved vanilla bean pods half way through and covering with remaining sugar. The jars pictured hold about 1.5 batches each. 

6. Top with a couple sprigs of lavender (optional...just makes it look all fancy-pants), then tie with a ribbon or twine and you’re done!

See how easy? And this recipe is super versatile. You could use lemon zest instead of vanilla...or mint leaves...or rose petals...or violets...or just about anything. Mix to your hearts content then just use as you would regular sugar. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thankful Thursdays: Week 1

Happy November, y'all! I'll admit, I was sad to see October go so quickly (did it seem faster this year to everyone else?). On the other hand, I'm glad to see November. Know why? November brings Thanksgiving with her...and everyone knows that's pretty much the best holiday around.

I mean, really. Think about it. Family, friends, food, football. Crisp weather, crisp apples, crisp leaves. Hugs, and laughter, and warm homes. It's a pretty magical time of year.

This year, I've decided I'd like to make it last longer than just a few days. I want that warm, fuzzy thankful feeling to permeate the month. So, in an effort to remind myself to be Thankful for the little things in my everyday life, I'm posting a daily photo to Instagram of what I'm thankful for that day. Each Thursday this month, I'll share the last week's posts with y'all!

And so, I bring to you the first week of my Month of Thankfulness.

Day 1: The Boy

He not only drove with me all the way to Memphis on a Friday night, he did it AFTER teaching two classes that morning and driving from OKC to NWA to pick me up. And all without complaining. Blessed to have such a selfless, giving man by my side.

Day 2: The Ladies Who Threw My Shower

They've loved Momma since they were all kids, and it's amazing to see how that love translates down a generation to each other's kiddos. They threw me a beautiful shower, and I couldn't ask for sweeter ladies to love on both me and Momma.

Day 3: Kait Marie

Best Friend doesn't do her justice. How we survived 22+ years without each other I've yet to figure out. We have a world and language all our own, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. This screengrab may not mean much to y'all, but it speaks volumes in Kait-Layna-ese.

Day 4: The Smell of Earl Grey Tea

It's a smell that makes the whole world seem warm, fuzzy, and just right. If your fall & winter season isn't full of this happiness, you're doing something wrong, y'all. Good for the soul, kids. Good for the soul.

Day 5: Puppy Cuddles and Hot Apple Cider

You know those days where the world throws you a series of curve-balls (one right after another so that you feel like the only escape is curling up and hoping it stops?). Those days where you grumble "Ugh...I'm just not gonna be thankful for ANYTHING today!" and  you make yourself a cup of cider cause the house is horribly cold and you still refuse to turn on the heater 'cause're stubborn? In those moments it's good to have a puppy. 'Cause in those moments, they just know you need cuddles. And that combination - warm puppy + warm cider...kinda makes you thankful just to have things to be thankful for.

Nov 6: Cupcakes

The good kind. Made with real flour and sugar and all sorts of rich, slap-yo-momma-yummy buttercream. Raspberry filling helps too. When they're cupcakes that you got 'cause you finally put a deposit down on a cake it took you months to pick out...they're even sweeter.

What are you thankful for today?

Til next time!

PS: Go like my blog page on Facebook - I'm going to start posting updates there to keep from innundating my feed with 'em :) Thanks! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wedding Wednesdays: Memphis Shower Re-Cap

This past weekend, several of my mom’s elementary school friends (yes, elementary school) threw me a LOVELY wedding shower. Despite my nerves and stage/crowd fright, I had a wonderful time and I couldn’t have felt more loved.

It was so sweet to see all the ladies that helped raise me all in one place (and I know Momma had a great time with all her buddies, too). We had a devotional (such a nice touch), played games, ate YUMMY food, and opened waaaaay too many presents (if there is such a thing). The Boy even got to join me for the gift part, which made it much more enjoyable.

I wish I could bottle up all these memories and feelings for the days when wedding planning really gets the best of me. They really do make all the crazy and the stress seem silly and far away.

Now, without further ado, the fun part: pictures!

The Decor

The ladies are aware of my slight obsession with fall and did a BEAUTIFUL job bringing that to life for the shower. Burlap, pumpkins, leaves, lace - all there. Isn't it pretty?!? The gown hanging in the background is an old dress one of the hostesses daughters used to play dress-up in. It was a sweet touch. 

Oh, and those cupcakes! Goodness me were they yummy. Mrs. Lisa made 'em - pumpkin with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. She commented that Mrs. Sheila had given her the toughest jobs: 1) reading in front of people (she did the devotional), and 2) making cupcakes for the "cupcake queen." She had nothing to worry about - they were amazing. 

The Food

I love shower food in just about any form, but this spread tops the list: tea sandwiches, meatballs, sausage balls, cheesy artichoke dip, spinach tarts (thanks, Momma!), some amazing pumpkin dip with apple slices, all sorts of sweet treats, and a coffee-punch concoction that I can't even begin to describe. I mean really, look at this!

The Games

We played two games (neither of which I won...despite The Boy being the For the first one, we had to place a sheet of paper on top of our heads and draw a bride. The photos we got out of that might be more fun than the game itself. 

We also played gift bingo. We all filled out our bingo cards with items we thought I'd get, then checked them off as I opened gifts. Mrs. Karen, who brought an ENTIRE TRASH CAN full of gifts, won...I call shenanigans seeing as she could have filled her whole card with just the stuff in that can ;)

The hostesses also asked all of the guests to bring an apron with a story behind it to share at the shower! Aprons are one of my favorite things, and I loved hearing all the history behind all these. Plus, I got a new one to wear, too! 

It was so much fun - I'm so grateful for the ladies who took the time to put it all together. I had a blast seeing everyone (particularly some old friends from high school and my amazing Maid of Honor who now lives 6 hours away from me). I wish we could do this every weekend! Thanks again, ladies. I'm so blessed.