One of my 2015 resolutions is to read 50 books (or more. here's hopin').

The first book I read this year was Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, which I happened to purchase during a kindle sale on Amazon (you gotta love those).

Despite the use of some salty language, and a few um, heated situations, I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to my sister-friends. The main reason for my recommendation is because, while the book is "about " a physical journey in the wild, what stuck out to me was just a woman telling her own unique, messy story with brutal honesty, which I really admire. While I may not agree 100% with the author on some stances, Wild resonated with me and I'm really glad I read it.

I respect that Cheryl opens up to her readers about grief, lost relationships, divorce, and other heaps of problems. Who hasn't experienced or carried those burdens - or aren't currently? Who hasn't been hurt by life's circumstances- whether they were self-inflicted or not? While it was sometimes hard to read about her struggles, her humility encouraged me and stirred something in me to be a better wife, friend, and woman living on planet earth. While she may not have looked for the "answer" I would lovingly point her to (simply put, his name is Jesus.), I found myself rooting for her on her journey full of self-reflection, tragedy, and triumph. 

Plus, hello, she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. BAD-A GIRL POWAAAAAA.

One of my favorite quotes:

"Cheryl Strayed I wrote repeatedly down a whole page of my journal, like a girl with a crush on a boy she hoped to marry. Except the boy didn't exist. I was my own boy, planting a root in the very center of my rootlessness."

So if you're on the fence about this book (or contemplating before going to see the movie), I would recommend it!

Ps- I couldn't help but think of this book that I read in college while listening to this story. A different take on wilderness seasons that I loved so much! One of my favorite books.

Image is from Google Search

Dreamy Chicken Chowder.

We love to gather friends around our table often, and I've found it especially nice to huddle together over a meal when it's this cold and dark outside!

I recently made this soup as an alternate to some of my regulars (chili, vegetable beef, etc) and wanted to share it with you. It's simple and easy, but we all loved it! It's a perfect blend of hearty, creamy, comfort!

Let's call this, "Dreamy Chicken Chowder"

(and this is the best picture I have. Bless.;))
Serves: 6, Prep and cook time: 30 minutes

1 pound of chicken, cooked and diced/shredded in bite-size pieces
 (For the chicken, I used 3 breasts from my crockpot cooking stash (cook in bulk and freeze. thaw when needed), but you can boil, roast, whatever pieces of chicken you like)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
4 strips of bacon, chopped
1 pound of carrots, peeled and diced 
2 jalapenos, cored, seeded and diced (*wash your hands after!)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
1 15oz can of chicken broth (or homemade)
1-15oz bag of frozen whole kernel corn
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
A splash or two of dry white wine, optional

Heat olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot on medium high
Add diced onions, carrots, bacon, jalapeno, and garlic
Stir and cook mixture until bacon is fully cooked and carrots get a little soft, about 3-5 minutes
 Optional: add wine to pot, stirring and scraping any stuck-on "bits" of onion and garlic
Add in cooked chicken, stirring to combine ingredients
In a separate, small pot add milk and flour and turn on medium, stirring constantly until thick
Add milk/flour mixture to the soup pot
Add chicken broth, the frozen corn, and the thyme, then turn up heat to bring to a boil
As soon as starts to boil, turn on low and let simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on

I served it with a big salad and some crusty, wheat bread a friend brought with them.

This recipe couldn't be easier, and I will be adding it to my rotation per AC's (and my) request.

For those following the paleo diet, you could sub unsweetened almond milk/almond flour and even leave out the corn (is it a chowder without corn? laugh. "Chicken soup!")

Enjoy, and stay warm, friends!

This recipe is adapted from this recipe.

New York: Day Two.

So, at the end of our first day in the big city, I squealed with joy as we got to see...


Mike and Rachel were our first neighbors in Mississippi who became wonderful friends, and we hadn't seen them since they moved away last Fall. Their hometown isn't too far away from NY, and we coordinated visiting them while they were home for the holidays. I can't express how amazing it was to spend time with them! And how grateful we are that they and Rachel's family let us stay in their home. So generous and so fun! On Sunday, we stayed "home", where we shared some great meals, visited the church where they grew up and got married, and took in a lot of the Christmas festivities that were still in action.

Then on Monday, the four of us ventured back in to Manhattan and made a day of it before our crew had to leave. As evidenced above, I was beyond happy to be with my girl. ;)

We started the early morning by DRIVING in to the city. Yes. A real car. In to the city. With the GPS spouting some crazy talk like, "stay in the left lane to turn right." Pssh. I am still impressed with their brave  navigating and driving skills (while A and I sat in the back seat drinking coffee and "cheering them on"). 

First stop: One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

...this is also where we were able to meet up with some other "far away" friends who texted that they were in the city that day as well. Lazir and Claire, what a GREAT surprise to spend the morning with you before we all ventured to our different places in the country world!

We all visited the museum and let me tell you, if you are in New York you NEED to go here!! This place was SO well-done, and was an incredible tribute to the heroes of September 11th. We spent two hours in the exhibits, and I could have stayed longer. 

As the afternoon rolled in, the crowds showed up...and we headed to the village for lunch at the Blind Tiger, per Mike's recommendation. This place had a great atmosphere and delicious food! (oh and some 20-something craft brews on tap. because, vacation). I would love to go back!

And if we hadn't eaten enough by then...MAGNOLIA BAKERY CUPCAKES! Amen.

Lastly, we strolled through more of the village and then on to Chinatown. Soooo much to see!

..and purchase?? ;)

Before long, it was time to head out of the city...

 And to the airport! Wah!

I hated to leave but wow, what an incredible time and trip that I will never forget. 

I'm so thankful to Jesus for amazing friends near and far, His beautiful creations, and the wonderful opportunities He provides. 


New York: Day One.

During the last half of our Christmas break, AC and I took a quick trip to New York City!

We had the best time, and I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures with y'all. 

After a 5am wakeup call and quick flight from Charlotte, we arrived in the city early on a Saturday morning and were greeted by an absolutely gorgeous day. 

Our very nice and helpful taxi driver dropped us off in the Upper West Side where the walking adventure began. The plan was to see as many things as possible without breaking the bank, but we also wanted to take our time and not overwhelm ourselves with a strict schedule of activities. So we made a list spots that we wanted to see, and hit the streets ready.

Our first stop was Zabar's, a famous Jewish bakery and market. We were hungry and wanted to see what all they had to offer. Dairy products are one of Andrew's love languages, so we enjoyed some fancy cheese samples at 9am because, why not?

After more exploring, we each picked out a hot, fresh bagel and cream cheese. YUM.

Obviously, we ended up at the check-out (no line canyabelieveit), where I suddenly put myself in the grocery store scene in You've Got Mail.

"This is a cash only line. Cash only!"
"Geeze lady get in another line."

We walked from Zabar's to Riverside Park where we watched people running and cycling...while we snuggled on a bench and ate fried bread with cheese on it. ;) It was surprisingly peaceful and made for a lovely little waterfront picnic.

We walked through the park, where we both commented how quiet it was for the "big city"-- where we were honestly expecting honking horns and a plethora of curse words.

 Then we made a little coffee stop, once again based on my slight obsession with it's significance..."Tall! Decaf! Cappucino!!!!" (name that movie. ahem), where the baristas were such sweet little things and once again, the atmosphere was so pleasant. Maybe it was because it was a lazy Saturday, but man, everyone was just KIND.

Next stop was the "big park" where the quiet started to fade and the crowds arrived, but it was still so gorgeous and lovely to experience.(if you're noticing the two parks within the first hour of our arrival, it's because I was trying to ease my mountain man in... I think it worked.)

ps- I love this picture because it captures so much- mainly, two little country bumpkins in the big city with a big taste for adventure, a (guarded) pocket of money, and everything they packed nestled on their backs. I love adventures with this guy so stinkin much.

There was so much going on at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park. Dance parties, musicians, artists, a propsal...and even a wedding!

We then hit all the "Christmas hot spots"...Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Bryant Park, The Met, the NYC Library, Grand Central Station...

.After that, we found ourselves dipping in to a small, quiet coffee shop to rest our feet (at this point, we had covered over 5 miles on foot) and whhheeeww decompress. I loved the mix of tourist spots, but the "local dives" were the best experiences.

Look at that little Asheville-born, latte-drinking, beard-stubble-sporting coming out...

At this point we decided to defer from our walking list to see the city from a different angle before the surprisingly bright, and ever-present, sun went down...so we grabbed hands and hopped on the subway all the way down to the Staten Island Ferry.

And Y'ALL I am SO GLAD we did.

It was absolutely breathtaking! (and hello...free of charge!)

"The Heavens declare the Glory of God!
the skies proclaim the work of his hands!"
Psalm 19:1

Relaxing on a fun ferry ride surrounded by the most BEAUTIFUL sunset was so wonderful.

AND THAT gorgeous skyline with all the light reflecting. It.was.magnificent.

Finally, we ended up at Three Monkeys, the designated "Clemson Alumni bar" where we ate and drank and reflected on the fun day. We seriously could not have experienced better weather, yummier food, nicer people, or just a more FUN mix of craziness and culture.

New York, you a'ight.

Let Your Presence Go Before Me.

image via Google

Good Morning, Sweet Things.

I'm up at 5:00am because I have a big day at work today. I'm a little nervous, I'm a little cold in my suit (can someone invent comfy, warm, professional clothing? :)) and of course I'm a little TIRED (5am. I mean. Ew), but it's going to be a good day. 

I am obsessed with Elevation Worship's newest album, and I'm sure I will be sharing every single track on this blog at least once before long, but this one was on my heart this morning (and will be on repeat in my car on the drive down to Jackson-town (along with some Johnny Cash of course)) because well, MONDAYS, ya know?

"Let your presence go before me
 into places I can't see
you are everything I need;
Let me weakness show your glory, 
and my scars declare your strength (wow)
You are everything I need.
And when the battle comes, 
I know you're my defender
A mighty fortress is our God
And when the victory's won, 
I know I'll still be standing
A might fortress is our God.
Our hands are lifted up,
the KING of GLORY fights for US!
One word will rise above,
in Jesus' name we overcome."

Night of Worship.

Good Evening and Happy 2015, Loves!

Before we left for vacation, we attended our church's "Night of Worship", where we were invited to participate in traditional Christmas and contemporary songs and listen to a brief message on Advent. As always, the production staff did an incredible job (...and the hottest bass player on the planet/that lives with me was in da house. ahem.) and I walked away feeling refreshed and grateful for our amazing Jesus.

It was such a sweet and powerful hour during which a packed room full of people where able to sing and respond how they needed and as they felt called. I LOVE that about our church. You can clap. You can raise a hand. OR you can sit still and be silent and just listen. Either way, you don't have to fit in to get in, and that does my heart some good, as even this "church goer" has felt pre-ttyyy awkward and out of place in some stiff sanctuaries ifyaknowwhatimsayin.

Anyways, I wanted to share my favorite song from our time the other night here in this little writing space. I hope it encourages you as it has me, especially in this "it's winter but it's no longer Christmas" season that can make ya a little sad sometimes (or maybe that's just me).

The song is, "Come to Me" by BETHEL Music, DUH. cause they're stinkin' amazinggggg. and I just love 'em and hey that one girl ISN'T EVEN WEARING SHOES YESSSSSS.

Different lyrics of this song hit me different times I listen to it. Tonight I am thinking, "what a great song to start the new year", it says

I am the Lord your God
I go before you now
I stand beside you
I'm all around you
Though you feel I'm far away
I'm closer than your breath
I am with you
More than you know
And oh let your faith arise
Lift up your weary head
I am with you
Wherever you go
So come to me, I'm all you need
Come to me, I'm everything


Love y'all and praying your year is off to a great start.
I'm excited for all the things ahead!