Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Bridesmaid Spotlight

It’s here again, Wedding Wednesday, the one and only way to celebrate hump-day!

This week, I’m doing a Bridesmaid Spotlight.



My girls are amazing. Like beyond amazing. And I will never be able to thank them enough for how awesomely supportive they have been throughout this whole process, and in fact throughout each and every one of our entire friendships. So today, I’m turning the attention to them.

Here we go! In no particular order....



Ashten – My Maid of Honor - This girl is incredible. We’ve been friends since our sophomore year of high school, dealt with five years in separate parts of the country, and now, I get to live fifteen minutes down the road from her again. She is my PIC, the Samantha to my Carrie, and my life would be insanely different without her.





Shea – My Longest Friend – I have a picture of Shea and I from our first dance recital. We were three years old. Now, here we are, nearly twenty years later, and she will be there standing next to me on my wedding day. It’s almost unimaginable. One of the kindest people I know, she will always be so dear to me.





Tina – My Twin – Tina and I were clearly separated at Birth. I mean just look at the two of us; we are almost identical. T can brighten any room with her amazingly huge personality, and can hang with my crazy self, which, among other things, makes her entirely irreplaceable.





Heather - My First College Roomate – I stalked this girl on-line for months before we lived together, and because she and our other roommate were both soccer players, I just knew we wouldn’t click because we had nothing in common. Thank goodness I was wrong. Heather is the feather in my cap. (<I don’t really know what that was supposed to mean except that it rhymed, and Heather is amazing, and makes me feel amazing because I’m her friend.)





Lauren – My Real-Life Bones – I am obsessed with the T.V. show Bones, and so I like to pretend Lauren is my real life Temperance Brennen. With degrees in anthropology and psychology, she may as well be. If I ever go on Jeopardy, and I’m allowed a partner, it will be Lauren. The two of us would dominate…. And we would giggle along together the whole time too.



Briana – My Sister from another Mister – My little cousin has grown up right before my eyes, and I couldn’t be more proud. I love this girl with all my heart. She’s gorgeous and smart, and has the sweetest heart I know.

_________________________________________________________________________________

There you have them. The six best friends that anyone could have. (<If you didn’t read that in a sing-song “Hangover” voice, please go back and re-read. Thanks!)

And yes, I stalked their face books to find pictures of them by themselves. I am a great friend! And btw... Facebook really needs some higher res pics. Just Saying.

Happy Hump-Day Everyone!

Monday, February 27, 2012

2012 Oscars Recap

For anyone who lives in a hole or is oblivious to all star happenings, the 2012 Oscars went down last night. I myself am an awards show junkie.

I adore the red-carpet fashions, love the sometimes cheesy-but-always funny hosts, and get way too emotionally involved in who wins and loses.  Last night's Oscars were no different in that they completely epitomized all that is the glamour of Hollywood. In fact, I think the Academy did a great job last night of structuring the show in such a way that it not only moved along quickly enough, but featured great entertainment and felt much more like the upscale event I love than it has in recent years.

Favorite Moments:

1) Octavia Spencer's Acceptance Speech - How amazing is she? I want to be her friend.....like now.

2) Cirque Du Soleil's incredible performance.

3) Emma Stone Presenting - Again, I want to be her friend... liiiike ... now. She is hysterical, and if I were presenting an award I think it would go a little like that.

4) Meryl Streep's Win - I love Meryl Streep, I think she is incredible and versatile and though I've never met the woman, I like to imagine her as sweet too. So, I was beyond thrilled that she took away best actress last night.

5) Rosie Byrne and Melissa McCarthy and their Scorsese drinking game. It made me want to start a game myself. Except I was watching the Oscars alone...on my couch...and taking solo shots would be well, a little pathetic.

My Best Dressed:

I'm going against the majority on several of these. In fact, my best dressed has been featured on several worst dressed lists. But, here we go anyways.



#5) Ellie Kemper - I thought her color choice was perfect to play off of her skin-tone and hail color, and the way she styled this gown somehow made sequins an understated option.



#4) Maria Menounos - A beautifully structured bodice + with an effortless chiffon skirt =  Gorgeous!



#3) Mila Jovovich - I thought she looked off when she presented, but her gorgeous gown all but made up for it.



#2) Stacey Keibler - The one woman in the world who could stand next to George Clooney, and not only make him look better, but steal the focus from him. I'm not a huge fan of the rosette on her hip, but I think the dress was perfect for the occasion, and her loose waves make me think of old hollywood glamour.



#1) Missi Pyle - Now, I know that not everyone agrees with me on this one. I've seen Missi Pyle on several worst dressed lists. But I am obsessed with this look. I missed the initial red-carpet preview and only saw this dress at the end of the show when she came up on stage for The Artists's big win, and I could not look away from her. The color is gorgeous, the styling is impeccable, and I think she looks stunning!

I'm not doing a worst dressed. There were some dresses that I didn't love, but let's be honest, if they were offered to me, I would take them in a heartbeat. The one thing I will say is directed to the gentlemen of hollywood (I'm looking at you Bradley Cooper and Brad Pitt) Yes, you are movie stars and can generally do whatever you want. But the whole scraggly, unkempt, I want to let my hair grow out thing is not working for you. You are some of the most attractive men in the world. Let's not hide it behind the caveman look you are going for right now.

What were your thoughts? Who was your favorite last night? What were you loving/hating?

Weekend Update

This past weekend has got to have been one of the best weekends in recent memory. Short and sweet (I had to work on Saturday morning), but jam packed with good times and great friends. A couple of the highlights:

Chance Encounters in Unlikely Places

Friday night, the hubs-to-be, his best friend and I went out for pizza and decided to finish the evening at Barnes and Noble, sipping coffee and reading magazines. (We are clearly very cool people spending our Friday nights reading. Don't Judge :)) We were sitting in the cafe, I was being my usual loud self (I have no volume control), and from what I could gather, were entertaining (or annoying) most of the other patrons.

About 45 minutes into our chat, a woman at a table nearby asked if we were getting married. I said yes, and we started chatting. She mentioned she was a caricature artist and then handed me this.



How great is that? I almost fell out of my seat with excitement. I've been wanting to get a caricature done for the longest time and here was this amazing woman, offering one to me out of the blue. We chatted for a little while more, then I went back to my magazine and she went back to doing what she was doing. (Just wait, it gets even better)

About twenty minutes later, she came back over and handed me this.



A wedding caricature of me and the hubs-to-be. This is definitely getting framed.

If you can't tell in the pictures, her web-site is www.paulalarge.com . She does weddings and all sorts of other events, and if you go to her web-site, you will see a whole list of other fun entertainment options she and the people she works with offer. Definitely check her out if you have an event coming up.

Cruise Crawling

^That right there actually refers to honeymoon shopping but I like alliteration, so I went with it.

I had a little wiggle room in my budget after doing a couple of extra side jobs, so Anthony and I (and our best friends) headed out to the mall this weekend to boost our cruise wardrobe. I haven't been on a cruise since I was fifteen, and unfortunately I am no longer a size 00 which means I am in dire need of cruise-worthy attire.

Something I already knew about myself became incredibly evident this weekend. I am cheap. Like, very very cheap. Like, I hate spending money. At the mall, I just couldn't justify spending the money on the clothes that I found so cute.

Where I found the majority of my items? TJ Maxx. I could spend all day walking between TJ Maxx, Marshall's, and Home Goods, particularly the ones near my house. They always have a good selection of brands stocked, and they are always clean and organized, something that I particularly value in discount stores.

After hours spent in dressing rooms (I am picky and as I mentioned earlier, cheap) we found exactly what we were looking for. Now, I just have to wait for April to get here.



Mofongo Munching

^Mwhaha, see the alliteration? Yesterday, we were treated to dinner at a mofongo food truck in South Orlando. I had never had mofongo before, and was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly delicious it was. For those of you who haven't tried it either, mofongo is similar to mashed potatoes but made with plantains. From there, they top it with all sorts of variations of meats and sauces. It looks something like this.



I had the garlic chicken mofongo, and trust me I will be going back. If you're in Central Florida, you have got to check these guys out. Their truck, "Pinones en Orlando" is parked at a gas station on the corner of Curry Ford and Conway (we ate tailgate style), and despite the immediate impression of the surroundings, this place is amazing. Check out their Facebook page here. (Heads up, it's primarily in Spanish)



Of course, I finished the weekend watching the Oscars, and I'm planning a post on that for later today. There was just so much greatness packed into one awards ceremony, it certainly deserves its own post. Look for that a little later.

Hope your weekends were just as great and your Mondays are off to a good start! Here's to making this week a great one.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Shredded Pork Heaven

Happy Friday Everyone!

On Wednesday, I promised you a great recipe would be coming. And I intended to post that recipe yesterday. After being sick though, I was inundated with things to catch up on at work and so, like a total slacker, I didn't.

But never fear. I am posting it today. The absolute best shredded pork you will ever eat (imho). It is Anthony's specialty, and when he goes all out and make his tostones too... mmm...mmm. Heaven

Small Disclaimer: The amounts of garlic you see listed below are accurate. I know you will look at them and think that I am playing a practical joke on you. You will giggle to yourself and think that there is absolutely no way that much garlic should be consumed in one meal. But no, that really is how much garlic you will need, and let me tell you it will be delicious.

Also, you will be making the pork in a pressure cooker. If you don't have a pressure cooker, a slow cooker or crockpot will work just was well, but will take much longer so plan ahead for that.
Shredded Pork with Rice and Beans and Tostones with Garlic Dipping Sauce


What you will need for the Pork:

 1 lb of country style boneless pork ribs

A whole head of garlic PRESSED OR MASHED

2 Tablespoons salt

2 Tablespoons pepper

A pinch of oregano

1/3 cup vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of water

Adobo Seasoning to taste


1) Dust pork with adobo seasoning

2) In a separate bowl, mix your remaining ingredients




3) Add pork to your wet mixture


4) Let rest for 30 mins

5) Heat pressure cooker  to medium high

6) Add pork with marinade and 1/3 cup of water to pressure cooker

7) Cook for one hour

8) After cooking, remove pork to a separate bowl/plate, and shred with a fork



Note: The pressure cooker does a really good job of infusing the marinade into the meat as it cooks due to the high pressure. If you are using a slow cooker, I would recommend marinading the pork for several hours prior to cooking.


What you will need for the Rice and Beans

2 Cups of Rice

4 Cups of Water


One can Pink Beans

One Tablespoon Minced Garlic

A Cap-ful of EVOO

A Heaping Tablespoon of Sofrito (found in the "ethnic foods" section of your frozen foods aisle)

1 Packet of Sazon Seasoning

1 Packet Goya Jamon Seasoning or 4 oz. cured pork

8 oz. Can Tomato Sauce

1 Potato, Diced into Bite Sized Cubes


Salt to taste


 1) Heat oil

2) Add Sofrito, Garlic and cured pork (if you are using the Jamon seasoning, you will add it in step four). Cook on medium high for 3-5 mins.

3) Add undrained beans and bring to a boil

4) Add tomato sauce and sazon ( if using the Jamon, add here too.)

5) Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer

6) Simmer for 20-30 minutes (the actual cooking is done in the first ten minutes, but the longer you cook the beans, the more pronounced flavor you will get and the more the flavors will meld together.



What You Will Need for the Tostones and Sauce

Four Green Plantains

Cooking Oil


A half of a head of garlic PRESSED OR MASHED

1/3 cup vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and Pepper to Taste


For the Tostones:

1) Peel your plantains (To do this, you will want to cut off each end of the plantain, make a defined slit down one side and begin to pull the outer green layer off like a banana)

2) Slice your plantains into slices between 1/2 inch and an inch. (You want them to be thick enough to mash after you fry them to first time)


3) Heat a frying pan filled with cooking oil and add your plantains one by one

4) Fry each side for about one to two minutes or just until they start to turn color

5) Remove plantains to a paper towel

6) Smash each plantain to flatten. (We use the back of a plate for this, you can use anything with a large flat surface really)


7) Drop your smashed plantains back into the frying oil and fry until they are golden brown.

8) Remove to a paper towel lined plate or cooling rack



For the Sauce:

1) Add your garlic, vinegar and olive oil to a bowl, stir well

2) Salt and Pepper to taste

3) Either drizzle over your tostones, or spoon onto each one individually before eating


(I've seen a lot of variations of this sauce, a lot without vinegar, with more or less garlic, etc. Go by your taste. When Anthony makes this, and when his Mom makes this, they both use vinegar and a good amount of garlic, and it is absolutely my favorite version. It has a tangy bite and can also be drizzled over the rice and beans in the end for added pop. Use this more as a guideline, and create something you love)


The end product of all of your efforts:







I know this is a long recipe and seems like a long process, but in all, it takes about an hour and half to create, and is so worth the time and energy. One of my favorite meals!


Enjoy!




Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Pretty Little Things

In my sickness and in my exhaustion, I almost forgot what day it is.

Wedding Wednesday that is!

We are exactly 2 months from the wedding today, 60 days until I get to marry the love of my life. The final countdown is on, and there is so much left to do, but I am beyond thrilled that much sooner than later I will be a wife.

Right now, we're working on all of the little details, those little things that will make our wedding uniquely ours. One of the first things we decided when we started talking about the wedding was that we wanted to remember our loved ones who have passed, but didn't want a memorial ceremony. We wanted something that was for us, to remind us that they were with us. We're opting for memorial charms on my bouquet and on Anthony's boutonniere. We just bought them this week and they will end up looking something along the lines of this...





My bouquet will have three charms on it, one for my grandpa, my poppy (my grandpa on my mom's side), and my uncle. Anthony will have one charm on his in memory of his grandma. All of these people played such influential roles in our lives and we want their memory to play a part in our special day.

The other thing I've been focused on this week is our guestbook. I want to go non-traditional on this, and I've seen some great ideas floating around the internet.






















So many incredible ideas, but right this moment, I'm leaning towards the last one. It's something that I would totally hang on my wall after the wedding and be able to look at all the time.

What do you think? If you're engaged, what special touches are you adding to your wedding? If you're married, what do you remember most?

Slowing Down

Ever had those days where everyone wants to know how you’re feeling because you look a little like this kid….


And spend most of your time like this?




Yup that’s been me since Monday morning. And let me tell you, I am so attractive when I am sick. Don't judge me.

I'm sure there are a lot of you out there who are the same as me when it comes to being sick. My tendency is to ignore it and assume it will go away on its own. I have too much to do and not enough time to be sick. I can't let feeling poorly get in the way of everything on my to-do list.

And then, inevitably, it gets to a point where I can't ignore it anymore. And I end up where I am now. Working from home, sitting on my couch, wrapped in three blankets, with sudafed, gallons of water, and a bottle of green goodness (all of those fruits and veggies can't hurt, right?) sitting in front of me.

So in this moment, though I plan to get some work done today, my goal is to take this moment to rest. It's not an easy thing for me. I prefer to be productive. But today, I will slow down and just be still.

If you can, I invite you to join me (in the stillness, not the sickness) and just rest because you can.




Tomorrow, it'll be full speed ahead. I've got a great recipe for you so be looking for that. :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hello Friend

If you live in Central Florida, and perhaps elsewhere across the country, you've undoubtedly seen a series of television commercials and billboards with the tagline "hello friend" and not a whole lot more of anything else. The final screen looks something like this...



...minus the "what is" above the logo.

There's been a lot of speculation over the past few weeks as to what these advertisements are even for, who's putting them on, what the intent behind them is, etc. I for one was convinced that they were for amazon.com. Notice the similarities?


I did some research on the on-line forums and found this site, which gives the viewer a little insight into the intent behind the ads. Ok, so now we know whoever is behind this wants to be our friend, but we still don't know who it is.

Then I found this site, which shows that the domain above is registered to BrightHouse Networks, LLC. Then, on my way to work this morning, one the billboards I pass every day has been revamped with the same line it has always had, with an added BrightHouse Networks logo at the bottom.

Ok, I get it. BrightHouse wants to position themselves uniquely as a friendly, caring cable provider. They want to situate themselves above the competition as having far superior customer service (friend service?) and make it clear that we as customers mean so much more to them than that.

I also get the element of surprise. Buzz marketing and word of mouth can be huge, and I've definitely heard people talking about these ads, but most of the feedback I've heard isn't that positive.

Where I think that BrightHouse got it wrong:

1) Designing a logo that is so similar to one that is already so familiar to a huge group of consumers. I am on amazon.com quite often as a kindle owner, and as someone who enjoys saving money. I am a huge fan of amazon, and I know I am not the only one who is familiar with their logo. I think BrightHouse made a major misstep in allowing their ad campaign to be so closely related to another huge brand. I want to be friends with amazon.

2) I really think, and this may just be me, that they let the element of surprise hang in the air for too long. It's been over a month since the first commercials began airing. In that time frame, I've rode the wave of interest, research, and boredom to the point that now I can't see the campaign for the creativity behind it or for what it was intended to be. I'm tired of it, and I don't think I'm alone in this. (though I guess I'm still talking about it, so that's  a win for them.)

Well, either way, whether you think its brilliant or a creative misstep, now you know who these ads are for. I'd love to hear your opinions.

Happy Monday!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fill In the Blank Friday

Today I'm linking up with Lauren at the Little Things We Do for Fill In the Blank Friday.



Her blanks were all about love this week, and I'm such a sucker for all things mushy - gushy, how could I resist. So, here we go.

1.  The love of my life is  of course Anthony, my hubs-to-be!


2.   Falling in love is   scary, and amazing, and the most beautiful feeling in the world all at the same time. It's trusting someone else completely, and being ok with putting your whole self out there for them to see.


3.  Marriage is   the most exciting adventure I can ever hope to take (two months away guys!!) ... knowing that you get to see your best friend every night before bed and every morning when you wake up... self-sacrificing and rewarding all at the same time... what I am looking forward to more than anything right now.


4. The longest relationship I've ever had was  three years (Anthony and I)



5. The key to a good relationship is  putting God at the center.


6. I feel loved when   Anthony pulls me into a big bear-hug and tells me how amazing he thinks I am... when I hear him talking about me to other people... when we're cuddling on the couch... all the time. (Ugh, I know. I'm engaged, of course my answer is super sweet ;))

7.  My favorite quote about love is  




That last quote is seriously one of my favorite quotes of all time, and I think describes our love so perfectly. We are weird, but it's so ok, because we are weird together! Ah, I love love.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fear and Faithfulness

I’ve found in my life that fear can become a huge motivator for my actions. It can motivate me to do something, or not do something, because of fear of the repercussions.

There are things I don’t say for fear of the reaction. There are things I don’t do for fear of failure. There are paths I take in my life that just seem easier, less complicated perhaps. But these decisions are all a part of what I call the “fear reaction.”

It’s an ingrained reaction in our bodies. We physically change when we are fearful. When I become anxious, for example, my whole body becomes splotchy and red. My face turns three shades of pink, my eyes well up, or I get sweaty (gross, I know). My heart may start to palpitate. I have always had a physical reaction to more emotional triggers.

I think if you really take the time to pay attention, you will recognize it too. Where this became important for me, is when I began learning how to judge when I was reacting out of fear or anxiety, and change my actions because of it. It is easy to justify reactions when you are anxious. We are creative people and can create logic where there is none to satisfy our need for comfort. When we learn our “fear reaction” and learn to recognize those physical triggers, we can respond better to the situations in front of us.

We have to learn to be faithful, rather than fearful.

Let me give you a recent example. On my 27 before 27 list, I wrote that I wanted to write a $1000 check to the church. And I’ve been feeling that call really heavily on my heart lately. I’ve been saving to make it happen, and figuring out where the money could come from, and then one day, there it was. I had the money I needed to give.

And as much as I had talked about it, I was finding it so hard to give in the moment I could. I’ve got a wedding coming up. We want to buy a house after that. $1000 is not easy to come by when you’re 22 and working in ministry. I have debt and bills, and things that need to be taken care of.

The excuses kept pouring in. Reason after reason why I shouldn’t tithe. And then finally it hit me.



I’m lucky that my church has an on-line giving system that allows me to tithe the same way I do on-line bill pay. That is huge for me, an added element of comfort in a situation where I felt so uncomfortable. I was scared to give that amount. I could feel the fear. I chose to be faithful in that situation.

I find those moments of fear in a lot of different realms of my life. New endeavours. Here on this blog even. But even though outcomes are far from guaranteed, I have faith that whatever the Lord has in store for me is so much bigger than I can even imagine.


Just some food for thought.

Wedding Wednesday - The Bachelorette Party

It's here again! I know I went kind of wedding themed on Sunday night, but because I promised Bachelorette deets this week, I couldn't not share. (ugh double negative I know. Just don't judge)

Before I delve too deeply into that though, I wanted to give you an update on the rest of my valentine's day. Hubs-to-be felt badly for not having a card for me yesterday morning, so I came home to these beautiful flowers.



Which I proceeded to pose with...

And that dress? Only $10.80 at Forever 21. You can't beat that.



We ate dinner at Dexter's Cafe in Lake Mary, where I had the most incredible seared Ahi Tuna over a lobster risotto, and the HTB had a blackened grouper over a blue crab risotto. Um...yummmmm! Probably the best meal I've ever had. We split a seared sea scallop appetizer, which I will definitely be attempting to re-create so keep an eye out for that one.

OK, now down to business. The reason you're really here. The Bachelorette Party.

Like the Bridal Shower, we had to have the bachelorette party back in December so all of my bridesmaids could attend. What fun would it be if I didn't have them there? My MOH rented us a van to get us to and from downtown. None of us are heavy drinkers, which in my opinion can sometimes make it worse in terms of ability to drive. When my only consumption is a glass of wine every now and then, saying I'm a lightweight is an understatement. So the van was a perfect idea.

We headed to downtown Orlando for a night of celebration and dancing. I know I had an incredible time. I think everyone else did too. We have some amazing pictures and some amazing memories, and so rather than tell you all about it, I'm just going to show you.











Now, I'm just working on a second, very tame party for the bridesmaids and I, the day before the wedding. There will be no drinking involved, I definitely don't want to be hungover on my wedding day (I am seriously such a lightweight). But I do want to celebrate with my girls the night before.

Any suggestions? I'd love to hear them.