Sunday Blessings – Dates, Weddings, New Restaurants and More

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how productive of a weekend I had. Guess what? It happened again. It’s not that I’m usually a lazy bum on the weekends…okay, sometimes I am…but there really isn’t too much variety. This weekend on the other hand was filled with all kinds of different things.

Remember my list of 6 plans from Friday? I accomplished every single one (except the free coffee part, because that promo is happening tomorrow – Monday – even though I won’t actually be participating).

Gym after work on Friday? Check!

Date night at FED? Check! I have mixed feelings about the new restaurant. It was not busy at all. For a Friday night at 7:00pm, that’s not a good sign. Our waitress…hm. How do I put this nicely? It must have been her first time ever working at a restaurant and seemed to have very minimal training, which made for slightly awkward interactions. HOWEVER. The food was pretty delish.

I had the Garden Burger, an oversize patty consisting mostly of black beans and corn. It was sandwiched between a single slice of grilled sourdough bread which had been slice in half. I found this a little odd, since the patty was way too big to sit on top half a slice of bread. I’d never seen it done this way, but it was tasty nonetheless. I opted for sweet potato fries on the side. I always love sweet potato fries, and while these weren’t the best I’ve had by any means, they were good too. Greg had the Shrimp Tacos with regular fries on the side. He ate his right up without any hesitation. Either he was starving or the food was just that good. I think it was a little of both.

After dinner, we stopped by Barnes and Noble so Greg could get a latte from the Starbucks in the cafe, then headed to TCBY for me. While enjoying our desserts, we started looking up movie showtimes and spontaneously decided to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’d never heard of it, but it was quite an interesting movie. Very different, a little strange and quirky, but entertaining overall. 
Moving right along. Saturday started how it always does, at the gym for Body Pump and then home for a late breakfast, relaxing on the couch, playing with Zoey and doing a few random chores around the house. Then it was time for my haircut. Welp. I said on Friday I was going to keep the length and add some layers. Somehow I talked myself into a bigger change and ended up cutting about 5-6 inches off my long locks. I don’t regret it necessarily, but I do miss the length already. I know this shorter cut is much better for the hot summer months to come, not to mention it makes my hair look and feel so much healthier. I’ll get used to it soon enough. I’m already loving the cute little ponytail I have, compared to my old horse mane!
Our friends’ wedding on Saturday night was so much fun. Congrats to Steve and Amanda!! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me say this already, but I’ll say it again. Now that I am married, wedding ceremonies feel like a free marriage conference. I absolutely love hearing the vows said to one another, the scripture readings and the sermon. I almost always shed some tears and this wedding was no different. The words are powerful and inspiring. They’re reminders of the words Greg and I said to each other (almost one year ago!) and the loving, lifelong journey we are on together. 
Sunday we spent the morning at church, followed by brunch at Cafe Medley on Sullivan’s Island. I went by myself last Sunday while Greg had to work and was glad he was up for trying it out with me this week. The pics below are from last week when I got a sandwich made with edemame pesto, cucumbers, tomatoes and bacon on 10-grain bread. It was perfect. Today I got another sandwich on the 10-grain bread, this time with egg whites, cheese and tomato. With a hot coffee to go along with my breakfast, I was a happy girl. 
My only complaint is that for the lunch sandwiches, you have a choice of chips or a salad on the side. The term “salad” is used very, very loosely here. The “salad” consists of a small handful of spinach leaves and a small container of dressing on the side. I think it needs a little more “umph.” 

We spent the rest of the day running errands, taking a long walk with Zoey, working in the yard (most of the credit goes to Greg on this one) and enjoying dinner together at home. 
I am so blessed for all of these gifts in my life – the date nights, the meals out, the sunshine on our family walks, and the ability to pay for frivolous things like haircuts and new dresses. 
What’s one thing out of the ordinary you did this weekend?

6 Plans for the Weekend – Free Coffee?!

1. Hitting the gym immediately after work since I skipped my workout this morning. I’ve felt extra drained this week and opting to take my morning a little easier than running on the treadmill felt much better. But I know by the end of the day, my legs will be ready to get movin’. 

(via – 20 minute treadmill workout included!)

2. Date night with Greg at a brand new restaurant called FED. I love trying new veggie burgers, so that may be hard to resist, but their shrimp tacos sound great. The salads sound awfully good too – Fresh local Arugula, bacon dust, toasted pistachios, goat cheese fritters, tomato, Fig vinaigrette – woah. Tough decisions! I’ll try not to think about it all day and just see what sounds good when when we get there tonight. 

3. A MUCH needed haircut. I only get my hair cut about twice per year. I’m very low maintenance and only ever get a trim. I’m likely going to go a bit shorter than I normally would in preparation for summer (if summer ever comes that is). I’m sure I’ll be thinking, “Oh my gosh it’s so short and different!” And everyone else will say, “Oh, you got a haircut? I didn’t notice.” But seriously, my ends are awful. I’m about to chop them off myself. I’m thinking of some layers like Kristin’s here, but probably a little bit shorter overall…


4. Wedding time!!! Our friends are getting married here in Charleston on Saturday evening and I can’t waaaaiittt! After a spring and summer packed full of weddings last year (including our own, duh!), I’m excited to celebrate with even more of our friends and getting married this year.

5. Church WITH Greg. While we both go to church pretty much every week, I also teach Sunday School. This means we’ll go to different services pretty often. I have the week off of teaching for the first time in a while, so I’m looking forward to going to our favorite service TOGETHER.

6. I know Monday isn’t the weekend, but to help transition from Sunday to Monday a little better, go to Dunkin’ Donuts for a free iced coffee! (only at participating stores so check your local store first 🙂 )Unfortunately I gave up coffee for lent so I can’t participate on Monday. You can even customize your coffee with their flavors including French Vanilla, Hazelnut, Toasted Almond, Blueberry, Coconut, Cinnamon, Caramel and Raspberry. Mmmm, get a coconut one for me!

What are your weekend plans? Have a great one!

Roasted Italian Potatoes

Tender Roasted Italian Potatoes served over a bed of crispy greens, topped with pine nuts and fresh lemon juice is what I like to call my solution to wanting a hot meal with almost as little effort as possible.

As I’m typing this, my Zo-girl Fresh (that’d be my dog Zoey by the way), is snoring up a storm while flopped on the couch next to me. I swear that girl sleeps more than she’s awake, and snores louder than most humans. And now that I’ve given in to her sneaky ways of climbing on the living room couch and into our bed in the past several days, she’s becoming quite the spoiled princess. Not that she hasn’t always been one, but she acts so distraught when I don’t let her up.

She’s all, “What? You think I’m going to lay on this shaggy rug when I know perfectly well there’s a cushy couch or bed filled with blankets to keep me warm?”

And I’m like, “Zoey, I know you’re fricking adorable and I want to snuggle but you’re too big and it’s just not going to….” (as she nuzzles her head into me)…”Ok, come on. Get up here.”

She’s just a dog. I won’t be so easily persuaded with my children one day, I swear.

Okay so all of that dog talk was just a completely random side note to the main focus of this post. POTATOES! These potatoes are the star of the show today.  Just thinking about the generously seasoned potato chunks has me craving them all over again right this very minute. That’s saying a lot considering I just ate a tiny piece of homemade brownie and trying my best to resist going back for another piece. With the taste of chocolate still lingering in my mouth, it’s not often I would also have a desire for real food. But these potatoes, both crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, are oh so savory and simply perfection.

Roasted Italian Potatoes

Makes 2 servings

10 small red potatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce, for serving
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons pine nuts

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, add potatoes and olive oil. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to coat potatoes evenly with the oil.
3. In a small bowl, combine oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary and salt. Stir well to combine and add to potato bowl. Mix well to evenly coat potatoes with the seasonings. Gently shake potatoes onto the foil-lined baking sheet in an even layer. Cover the entire pan with a sheet of foil and place in oven.
4. Let cook for 30-40 minutes or until fork tender, removing pan from oven about halfway through to gently shake/turn potatoes. Remove from oven and let cool about 5 minutes. Divid potatoes among plates of lettuce, then top with a squeeze of lemon juice and a heaping tablespoon of pine nuts.

Sunday Blessings – Blessed with a Powerful Spirit

I wouldn’t label myself as a “timid” person, but I am not the most outgoing, courageous or bold person by any means. In my younger school days, I was always a quiet one. I liked following rules, keeping to myself, and focusing on what I was supposed to do. I usually kept a small group of close girlfriends, but mostly spent a lot of time with my family – immediate family, as well as my 30+ cousins who pretty much all lived in the same city. 
As I’ve grown older, moved far away from home for college and now have a few years of real-world experience under my belt, I know I’ve gained a lot of self-confidence and comfort in my own skin. Not that I didn’t have that before, but I’ve come out of my shell as I’ve grown up and consider myself much more outgoing than I used to be. 
I contribute a lot of this to my closer walk with God in recent years and finding pure joy in living with His presence every single day. How can not have a smile on your face and want to spread the love?! Just a simple, “hello” to someone passing by, or making a point to strike up little conversations with the grocery store cashier, or even a few extra minutes sharing stories with co-workers can go a long way. 
In this verse from 2 Timothy, I don’t think he’s referring to “timid” in terms of how quiet or outgoing you are in school, work or other social situations. I think he’s referring to our relationship with God and how we approach it. We shouldn’t hold back when it comes to God and doing his work on earth. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk to him, tell him our thoughts, wants and hopes for our lives. He is there to listen to every word and help us get through this thing called life! 
He’s blessed us with a spirit of POWER, LOVE and SELF-DISCIPLINE. We have the power to make a difference in the world, no matter how big or little it seems at the beginning. We have the capability to love one another and show others how God loves us too. And, we have been given self-discipline to strengthen/better ourselves every day, one step at a time.
The verse is a great reminder to me of my ability to have a positive impact on those around me. While I may like to keep quiet sometimes, by spirit does not have to be. My sprit is bold and powerful. Who knows…maybe the random “hello” or “have a great day!” will put a smile on a stranger’s face. And maybe taking an extra minute to pick up a piece of trash in a parking lot will encourage someone else watching to do the same. It’s these small acts of kindness that can add up over time into a real, noticeable difference in the world. 

Happiness in 3 Pictures

1. Now that it’s finally been warm and sunny for a couple of days, Zoey has spent a lot of time leashed up walking and jogging along my side. Nothing makes our Zo-monster more proud than finding a big stick (or anything stick-like for that matter). She will carry it as long as she can and holds her head high every step of the way. 

2. Afternoon tea and cookies at my desk. Enough said.

3. While I love the sweet stuff, a big, satisfying salad keeps me pretty happy too. Salads have a bad reputation to some people for not being filling or tasty. I beg to differ. Exhibit A: The salad pictured above consisted of chopped romaine, red bell pepper, grape tomatoes, sliced onion, goat cheese, and deli-sliced chicken breast, dressed with raspberry vinaigrette. Filling AND tasty. Besides just being overall good for my body, filling up on veggies allows me to appreciate the cookies and chocolate later on without feeling guilty. By the way, I’ve been eating a little more meat recently. That’s Boar’s Head Blazin’ Buffalo Chicken Breast on the salad above, and man oh man, it is goooood
What’s made you happy this week?

Two-Bite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes I wonder if my blog should have been named, Counting My Cookies. Of course I loooveeeee cupcakes, but cookies? I love a good cookie just as much. I have my dad to thank for that. He’s a chocolate chip cookie king. 

This is the other cookie recipe I was referring to last week when I posed the Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies. You know, another one of the cookie recipes that didn’t turn out quite like I expected?

Have no fear. While I had a slightly different outcome in my head, these tiny, chewy treats still brought their A-game.

The best part? The recipe contains no added sugars and no butter. That’s a big handful of bonus points if you ask me.

Speaking of handfuls. Making these into two-bite portions will allow you to eat a handful without the guilt.

They almost remind me of chewy Chips Ahoy cookies, but homemade. This calls for even more bonus points! It seems like we’re on par for an A+ in baking class today.

In other news, our vegetable garden is just barely starting to show signs of life. The mixed greens are beginning to sprout leaves above the dirt, but that’s it for now. Hopefully we haven’t killed anything yet. Assuming we haven’t, we should be seeing the rest of the veggies growing above ground this week.

If nothing else, the garden is teaching me patience. Most of the plants will be ready to harvest within 60-80 days. That sounds so long to me, but it falls in mid/late May. Saying it that way feels a little better. I can’t wait to have tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and more in my own backyard. My bank account is going to thank me for the decreased grocery bill as well.

Now if only I could grow a two-bite chocolate chip cookie tree…

Two-Bite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes one dozen small cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 large egg
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1/4 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with Silpat mats or coat with non-stick spray. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Whisk and set aside.
3. In a separate medium bowl, combine melted coconut oil, egg, honey, vanilla extract and coconut milk. Whisk well. Slowly add dry ingredient to wet ingredients until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
4. Use a spoon or small scoop to drop about one tablespoon of dough onto cookie sheets. Gently press down with your hand or a spatula (cookies will not spread while baking).
5. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to cooling rack. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday Blessings – God Never Fails

I’m not sure if I’ve ever sung a more powerful and uplifting sentence. I am so obsessed with the song, “Oceans” by Hillsong. Have you heard it? Listen to it now! I first heard it last summer and swear I could still listen to it on repeat without growing tired. 
God reveals himself to us at different times in our lives. He teaches us certain lessons in his own timing and when we need it most. Although I know most of the words by heart, and have for quite awhile now, it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago this particular phrase stuck out to me. God has NEVER failed, and he’s not going to start now. If that doesn’t encourage you, I don’t what would! My life is exactly how he meant it to be and every challenge I encounter has a purpose to make me better. 
I am feeling so blessed for all of the ways God speaks to me. Through song, sermons and blogs, and through witnessing love and kindness in the community despite living in a world that is simultaneously filled with war and hate. God finds us where we are and speaks to us in all different ways. He truly is amazing. 

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies


This past weekend when I was being especially productive, I made a lot of cookies. Baking cookies is the definition of productivity if you didn’t know.

Of the two varieties I made, this being one and the other coming to the blog soon, neither turned out quite the way I expected, but I can’t complain. Expectations are a funny thing. It’s nice to have something to look forward to – a vacation, seeing someone for the first time in awhile, and the important things like eating a homemade cookie… – but when expectations aren’t met, what happens? Disappointment can ensue.

Let me clarify. The cookies were not bad, and I really shouldn’t say I was disappointed, but they were different than what I was originally hoping.

The good: They were full of texture, not overly sweet, and the warm cinnamony flavor (from both ground cinnamon and cinnamon chips) made them perfect to be called a “breakfast cookie” if you so desire.

The bad: What they were lacking were enough Raisinets. I had a box (about 1/2 cup total) of dark chocolate Raisinets and was giddy over the idea of incorporating them into the cookie dough. But I needed MORE! One box was simply not enough to live up to my expectations.

The solution(s): A. From the beginning, expect a cinnamon oatmeal cookie with an occasional dark chocolate raisin surprise or B. Double the amount of Raisinets.

If you chose option B, please let me know how it is.

Once I took a second bite and got over the initial feeling of these not living up to my expectations, I quickly realized what I created was just as good as my original idea.

The moral of the story: let go of expectations and take one step in life (or one bite of cookie) at a time.

…Easier said than done, right?

One day, I’m sure I’ll get around to meeting those Raisinet overload cookies that formed in my head, but until then I have other cookie recipes to tackle. I have a difficult time repeating or trying to re-do a recipe when I have hundreds of others catching my eye.

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies
(Adapted from Annie’s Eats)

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen small, or 1 dozen large, cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup oats
1/2 cup dark chocolate Raisinets, or other chocolate covered raisins
1/4 cup mini cinnamon chips

1. In a medium bowl combine flour, cinnamon and baking soda.
2. In a separate bowl add the butter and beat with a handheld mixer until creamy. Add sugars and beat again until creamy. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, beating on medium-low speed until just incorporated. Add oats and beat again until just combined. Fold in Raisinets and cinnamon chips. Chill in fridge for 20-30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop dough into golf ball size balls and place about two inches apart on a cookie sheet (use silpat mats or spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray).
4. Bake for 16-18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before moving to cooling rack. Enjoy!

Sunday Blessings – Productivity

I started watching Scandal on Netflix this weekend, but that’s not what I mean by “productive.” Don’t you worry.

Besides succumbing to a total of eight episodes of the dramatic, can’t-stop-watching-I-have-to-know-what-happens-next show, I was able to take a class at the gym, take Zoey for a couple of walks, grocery shop, clean the house, get a wedding picture framed, talk to my grandma on the phone for almost an hour, teach Sunday school, bake cookies, and plant a garden.

Yes, a GARDEN. Who am I?!

I’m not-so-secretly scared of my capability to successfully grow a garden full of vegetables. My past experiences with flowers, herbs and other plants around the house has given me a bad reputation. Greg says our house is “where plants come to die.” It’s true. I have never cared enough about/for the plants to remember to make sure they’re getting the water and sunlight they need. I’m hoping after putting this work into our garden today and slowly…very, very slowly since it turns out asparagus takes TWO YEARS until it’s ready to harvest…seeing some growth, I’ll be inspired to keep it going.

I’m also counting on my organization skills to come in handy so I can create a calendar to keep track of the days I need to water, when things are ready to harvest, etc.

Greg’s dad who is very knowledgable when it comes to gardening has given us plenty of tips and advice through these first steps. We’ve planted asparagus, like I mentioned, as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and a variety of peppers.

Now we wait.

Well, we WATER and we wait.

This pup right here…

Well, let’s just say it was a sad and confusing day for Zoey as we fenced off part of her royal highness’s territory (aka our backyard). 
Oh! And you have to see this. How does one mark off and label where each of the different seeds are planted when one is a complete amateur at this kind of thing? With frozen yogurt spoons to be exact! 
We forgot to buy the appropriate sticks/markers/labels/whatever you call them. Greg awarded me the task of finding something in the house that would work. Maybe I should be embarrassed, but I’m not. In fact I think it’s very fitting for someone like me who lives on vegetables and frozen yogurt alone (okay, not really people…but kind of).  
When this idea takes off and becomes well-known in the gardening world, don’t forget where you saw it first 😉
After a long work week, my weekend was not your traditional “lay around and do nothing” kind of weekend. But in the end, it was almost just as relaxing to be productive. Getting things done around the house, running necessary errands and bonding with my husband over garden-planting does wonders for my soul. Goodness, I sound like such an adult! When did this happen??

5 Random Thoughts for Friday

1. I chose this picture for today’s post for no other reasons than that a. I really like wine, and b. I couldn’t find anything better on my phone. I’ll tie it all into the fact that it’s Friday, I’m off work a little early today, and I can’t wait to celebrate with a glass of red. So it works. 
2. I was eating strawberry fro yo recently. As I savored every last creamy bite, I got to thinking. I wonder if it’d be as good if it wasn’t pink? Sure, I like strawberry flavored things, but it’s not typically my go-to choice. It’s almost as if the color pink is a flavor in itself. It may sound crazy, but seriously. I think the color has some psychological effect on my senses (I apologize if I just completely misused the word psychological. That might not have been the right word). I just love pink so much that pink foods are automatically appealing. 
3. I have a problem where I can’t use coupons or gift certificates right after I receive them. I have to tuck them away for at least a week or two. I think I’m going to save them for just the right moment, as if the free pastry with my coffee will be more appreciated in two weeks rather than the next day. What typically happens, in the case of coupons, is I forget about them and by the time I find them again they’re expired. 
4. The first two blogs I ever read both posted recipes for savory breakfasts yesterday and now I’m dying for the combination of jalapeno cheddar biscuits, eggs, avocado, and…SWEET CORN CAKES! I’m making both of those recipes at once, pouring mimosas and diving in head first. Tell me what you’re going to eat this weekend!
5. If your answer to #4 included Girl Scout Cookies, and you live in Charleston, please tell me where I can find some! Greg and I were in North Carolina last week and saw a booth outside of Belk, but I didn’t have cash on me to buy some. I haven’t seen them being sold around here and Greg, Mr. I Don’t Like Chocolate, can’t stop talking about needing thin mints (I know, it makes NO sense!!). And, okay, I really want some thin mints too. And Samoas for that matter. Help!