29 October 2018
Our sixth annual pumpkins and soup party was on Saturday, and I think we’ve got the schedule down – at least for this season of life:
4:30 | arrivals and pumpkin carving
5:30 | soup is served
6:30 | dessert (warm chocolate chip cookies!)
7:00 | departures for little bedtimes
This year, I tried something new for the first hour: a Halloween “charcuterie board” inspired by my friend Kayte! She makes the most creative themed spreads, and I figured an orange and black rendition plunked in the middle of the table, within easy reach of carving stations, would be a hit. It turned out better than I expected, so I thought I’d share!
For this board, I used:
— carrot sticks
— orange bell pepper slices
— sharp cheddar cheese squares
— pimento cheese
— Skinny Pop
— black pepper crackers
— Smokehouse almonds
— clementine slices
— white chocolate covered pretzels
— Wheat Thins
— red pepper hummus
— Concord grapes
I also added goldfish after I took this photo! The platter is from World Market and the little orange dishes are Target Dollar Spot.
This was seriously so fun and easy, and it really has a wow factor once plated. I’m a bit addicted now and already brainstorming my next theme!! Three of my favorites from Kayte’s repertoire that are inspiring me: end of summer, Fourth of July, and pink for a little girl!
P.S. This would make for a fun spread before trick-or-treating!
24 October 2018
There are a few churches John and I like to keep tabs on — listening to their sermons each week, even getting their email newsletters. They’re doing a lot of things right, and it’s inspiring to watch them chase after God-sized dreams (and to think about how their best ideas might translate to our own home church!).
One of our favorites is Church of the City, a network of neighborhood churches in Nashville. We feel like we’ve been with them since the beginning, and we kind of have — we followed their main pastor when he was on staff at his old church, before he moved to Tennessee and planted the first COTC location. Over their relatively brief lifetime as a church family, they have had a craaaaaazy story, including but not limited to launching six worshipping communities (including a Spanish language and a New York City location); partnering with an established Nashville church who was so drawn to COTC they approached them with the idea of a merger; and retiring millions of dollars of debt carried over with that merger.
Needless to say, it’s been an eventful five years especially as their community has grown from the small founding handful to the thousands attending each weekend. Keeping the flame of passion, purpose, ingenuity, unity, and sincerity alive — casting the vision for who they are as a church body — must be one of the hardest things the leadership is tasked with. Unsurprisingly (if you know how well they have historically led their people!), they have gotten out ahead of this in many ways, but most impactfully with Vision Sunday.
Once a year, they rent a concert hall in Nashville and gather all of their local communities to worship and dream together. They share stories from their people, stories that remind them who they are and why they do what they do. They paint a picture of where they’ll travel in the next year and what they’ll grow together. They worship. I’ve only experienced it online (and not even as a “real” member of the church!) and I leave every year energized and inspired — I can’t imagine what it would be like to attend in person!
All this to say that the fact that this church has been successful in its mission and that it is continually reminding itself of that mission — as well as intentionally evaluating its success and setting new goals to press further into that mission — is no coincidence.
Proverbs 29:18 says where there is no vision, the people perish. Wither. Shrink. Dry up and grow stale. And as it goes for churches, so it goes for relationships. I’ve shared before that one of my favorite nights of the year is our December celebration dinner, where John and I spend a few hours chatting through a series of questions to look back and ahead. It’s a chance for us to cheer our union on as much as it is an opportunity to decide how we’d like to grow together in the year ahead. (Our bimonthly net worth chats are a kind of mini, financial version of this!)
And finally, as for relationships, so it is for individuals. The best way I know to ensure that I’m continually moving toward the person I hope to become is with my PowerSheets. The yearly prep work and monthly Tending Lists keep me motivated, diligent, attentive to my life, and pressing forward.
There is no “there” where it will suddenly be easy to give reflexively, pray continually, adventure mightily, eat mindfully, parent patiently, read voraciously, or anything else we deeply desire. We have to light the flame of all these things, and then we have to tend to it.
I do that with PowerSheets, and I wanted you to know the 2019 sets go on sale today! I think you will love them. And if you’ve never tried them before, maybe this is your year :)
In the meantime, I would love to hear: do you have a routine of vision casting or review in your life? Or in an organization you’re a part of it? It can be so powerful!
P.S. Aside from the PowerSheets, my absolute favorite product from the new collection is the Joyful Greeting Card Set. I’ve mentioned before that one of my life hacks is to use Black Friday sales to stock up on greeting cards – but with this set (24 cards for $24), you don’t need to wait for a sale. The price and quality is incredible, and this set’s versatility is such that you’ll use every card in the box! (Just think about the price of a single birthday card at Target right now. You’re welcome :)) It is *possible* that these could sell out this week, so I wanted to give you a heads-up if you’re a snail mail lover like me!
18 October 2018
Did anyone else experience the post-pregnancy clothes buying surge? After seemingly wearing the same two dresses, one shirt, and one pair of shorts for my final two months, I was ready for something new!! My buying “spree” resulted in three finds I want to tell you about…
Not me, but I kind of really want those pants :)
First up: these jean shorts from, of all places, American Eagle. My maternity jean shorts (which I LIVED in this summer) had a longer inseam than my normal ones, and when I put back on my normal ones after Shep’s birth, they just felt… short. I remembered my friend Shay sharing that she wore AE ones, and sure enough, with a 4″ inseam, their “midi” style is just longer than the jean options available at most stores. They are quite stretchy and run small, so I’d recommend sizing up a size or two.
Next: this shirt. Also from American Eagle. (What?!) It is soft and cozy, but also looks pulled together. Also, nursing-friendly! And I feel like a character in a Nancy Meyers movie when I wear it, so there’s that. I first bought the white, then when I went to link this post last night, I bought the blue because it’s now on super sale and I love it so much. I sized up to a medium (I usually wear a small or XS) for a looser fit.
Finally: these jeans. I CANNOT say enough good things about them, and am joining the chorus of several friends who also sing their praises. I have previously been a J.Crew and LOFT jeans gal, but these outshine them both. At the risk of sounding rhapsodic, from the minute I stuck my foot inside I could tell they were well made, with the right amount of stretch and a great weight to the denim. I love the wash, I love the high waist, and I love that they look great cuffed or straight. Plus, they’re a great price – $60 on sale right now! And they feel SO GOOD on. Would highly recommend if you’re in the market! (These fit true-to-size for me.)
After reading this post from Young House Love, I realized I’m inching toward my own “uniform”… and it looks like a lot of dusty blue, navy, denim, white/cream, and tan. (That’s why I chose the photo above – it would fit right in in my closet!) There might be a post in the making as I explore this more, if you’re interested! :)
P.S. Early evidence of my uniform here and here.
Affiliate links are used in this post!
16 October 2018
At first glance, it might seem odd that Asheville has a big piece of my heart — and that’s because Asheville is, without a doubt, unabashedly, unapologetically… odd. Quirky. Weird. Yes, it has an elegant and refined side, too, but as a more straight arrow myself, it’s not the first place you’d picture our family returning year after year. But we have (clocking our twelfth or so visit a few weeks ago!), and its magic has never waned. I’m excited to share our guide with you, just in time for a fall visit!
WHEN TO GO
We road trip to Asheville every year in the fall, and it is an absolutely lovely time to visit. If you’re hoping to see colorful foliage, schedule your visit at the end of October or beginning of November. (If you’re a little earlier in the fall, be sure to head to the Blue Ridge Parkway – with the higher elevation, the leaf switchover happens sooner!) A summer trip is also a great way to beat the Southern heat.
WHERE TO EAT
We often joke that our biggest puzzle when planning an Asheville trip is coming up with activities to slot between the zillions of meals we want to eat – ha! With an unusually large number of distinguished chefs for such a small town — being nominated for a James Beard award seems more like permission to play than a differentiator here! — readers who love to eat will not be disappointed. Whichever spot you decide on, you’re almost certainly guaranteed happy animals, locally-grown vegetables, and fair wage workers — that’s the Asheville way.
For a classic Southern meal, head to Tupelo Honey Cafe or Early Girl Eatery. As with most AVL restaurants, both often have a long wait, but that just gives you time to pop into a few of downtown’s charming shops — see below! I love the burger on Early Girl’s menu and the chopped egg and avocado sandwich on Tupelo’s — plus, the latter’s complimentary biscuits and jam are heavenly.
For barbecue, try Buxton Hall (in an old roller skating rink!) for Eastern style or 12 Bones (only open on weekdays).
Asheville has a robust roster of ethnic eateries, all with cheeky twists. Chai Pani dishes up Indian street food – my favorite is the chicken tikka roll, and we love getting the bhel puri to start. Bouchon has decadent French food and a delightful little patio to eat it on, and All Souls slings creative pizza in a humble, string-light-lit yard.
Last but in no ways least is White Duck Taco, without which a visit to Asheville is NOT NOT NOT complete. Our favorites include the buffalo chicken and lamb gyro, and their queso is never to be missed. Amen. (They have two Asheville locations; we prefer the River Arts District one because the location by the river is beautiful!)
For all its funk, Asheville of course has options for elegant meals. Katie Button is the queen of class in town, helming two standout tapas options: Nightbell (tapas Appalachian style – we loved the sumac roasted carrots and the smoked duck breast) and Curate (Spanish tapas). We also had a delicious meal around the refined and rugged table of chef John Fleer (formerly of Blackberry Farm) at Rhubarb. Both are perfect for special occasions.
If you’re still hungry after a meal at any of the above (and weren’t enticed by their respective dessert menus!), there are plenty of stand-alone sweet spots. Like any good destination, Asheville has a Kilwins, or there’s the pretty French Broad Chocolate Lounge (don’t miss their menu of drinking chocolates).
Finally, Asheville might shine most brightly in the morning, as evidenced by brunch menus all around town. Our favorites include Biscuit Head (where you can get a gravy flight with your biscuit!), Sunny Point Cafe (with an amazing garden to explore while you wait), and Hole Doughnuts (the cutest little shop that makes crunchy-on-the-outside, airy-on-the-inside donuts to order, an arm’s length in front of you). Warning: expect a wait at all of these spots – but it will be worth it!
WHAT TO DO
Downtown has a number of adorable shops to browse, which comes in handy when you’re waiting for a table. Our favorites include Curio (packed with charm for the littles!) and Asheville Bee Charmer (with a honey tasting bar!). Flora, a coffee/flower shop combo, and Well Played, a board game cafe (!), are on our visit list. I also enjoy poking around in the cavernous stalls of the Antique Tobacco Barn.
I’m probably the last person you should ask for brewery recommendations, but Asheville is well-known as a beer destination and so I’ll give it a shot! :) We loved our visit to New Belgium, which has a beautiful walking trail along the river. Sierra Nevada is supposed to have a great tour, and my sweet tooth would like to visit Urban Orchard, a hard cider tasting room.
The Grove Park Inn is an Asheville institution — the choice of visiting presidents! Even if you’re not staying the night, come to pull up a rocking chair next to the massive fireplaces in the lobby; sip a cocktail and watch the sun set over the mountains from the stone patio; or snag a day pass to the underground, rock-walled spa (only during the week if you’re not a guest!).
Speaking of Asheville institutions… there’s the Biltmore. The basic tour, while not inexpensive, is SO interesting and well done, and the gardens are not to be missed.
We’ve rafted twice with French Broad Adventures and would happily do it again – SUCH a fun activity for a group! The guide banter on the bus ride back is one of my favorite parts :)
Alright – that leaves us with the Blue Ridge Parkway, the spectacular marvel of public works industry and possibly our favorite attraction in Western NC. We’ve traveled it in all sorts of weather, and the view is never less than breathtaking. I hope to write an entire separate guide just for our favorite stops along the Parkway, but here are a few in the meantime: Sliding Rock (a natural water slide!), Craggy Pinnacle (an easy hike through a rhododendron tunnel with a great view at the end), Graveyard Fields, and Linville Falls.
Off the Parkway, we’ve loved visiting Justus Orchard (cider donuts and pick-your-own apples), Catawba Falls (a BEAUTIFUL hike to a lovely waterfall), Black Balsam Knob, Chimney Rock, and the botanical gardens.
WHERE TO STAY
We’ve stayed almost exclusively at Airbnbs on our trips and have been happy with all of them (including this one and this one). A friend has stayed at and loved the Inn on Westwood, and we’ve also stayed at the Aloft once downtown. No matter what you choose, it’s super important to book early for the best selection – we booked our October visit this year in March.
I know this guide only scratches the surface of all that this vibrant, ever-changing city has to offer, so please, if you’re an Asheville fan, leave your favorites in the comments! I’m going to add a few honorable mentions to kick us off. I’d love for the comment section to be a resource for readers just as much as my post! xo!
Previous Asheville posts:
Hiking in Asheville
Antiquing in Asheville
Eating in Asheville
The Blue Ridge Parkway
White Duck Taco photo by Map & Menu. Buxton Hall, Chai Pani, Hole Donuts, and Grove Park Inn photos from respective sources. All other photos personal!