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Jan 30, 2015

Great Date Restaurants in Southeastern PA!


all opinions expressed in this post are my own.  this post is part of a collaboration between bloggers in the social fabric network.  i was not compensated to promote any of the restaurants listed.

i'm so excited to team up with other bloggers from sofab to talk about some great places to eat out in the southeastern pa area just in time for valentine's day!  aj and i like to try out new restaurants when we're going out to eat, and we have some favorites in reading, philly, and in lancaster!  these are all great date locations, but are pretty family-friendly as well, just in case you have a few little ones in tow with you this valentine's day!

so here you go...some of our favorite spots that you might want to consider next time you're in the area:



READING // 

tomcat cafe // tomcat is hands-down one of the best breakfast spots in town.  i'm actually really torn because we've made it a little valentine's tradition to have breakfast at tomcat and i'll be on day 29 of my whole30 at that point!  you can't alter anything on their menu, but it's so extensive that you're sure to find something that you love!  and the portions are huge.  my favorite thing on the menu is the strawberry swing french toast (one of their 15+ french toast options)....vanilla cookie encrusted french toast stuffed with cheesecake filling and topped with strawberries and a berry drizzle.  you'll fall in love with your breakfast and with your date.

hong thangh // vietnamese food at it's best!  this is actually the restaurant where aj and i had dinner for valentine's day last year.  their vietnamese egg rolls are amazing and i love their lo mein...it's made with really skinny noodles so it's a nice twist on your typical chinese food.  and the atmosphere is great too...really modern with low lighting, so it's a great choice for date night!

the speckled hen // nestled in the heart of reading, this restaurant is located in a tiny old house and serves up great english food like pot pie and fish & chips, among other things.  what i really love about the hen is that every room is tiny, so it feels intimate.  there are only a few tables in each room, which makes it great for a date!




PHILLY // 

fado // you'll find the best fish & chips of your life at fado...authentic irish food in a really cool pub setting!  definitely get their fries with guinness mayo, and have fun exploring their menu.  we love going to lunch here whenever we're in philly, and we love going on double dates here with my aunt and uncle, who introduced us to fado!

max brenner's // ok, so not a local eat, because it's a chain, but max brenner's is just delish!  my favorite thing on their menu is the veggie burger with their waffle fries (dusted in chili and cocoa powder!).  it's also a fantastic spot if you're just doing some dessert for date night!  there's nowhere better to satisfy your chocolate craving!

pat's & geno's // this is about as laid-back date night as it gets, but it's a philly classic!  the dispute between who serves up the best philly cheesesteak has been a long-standing one, so settling the debate yourselves is part of the fun of this date!  it's all outdoor seating, so either plan to grab cheesesteaks and go, or go when its a bit warmer and enjoy the weather.  these two iconic locations are directly across the street from one another on passayunk avenue, so you and your date can pick up one from each establishment and compare to see which is better!




LANCASTER // 

roburritos // i couldn't create a lancaster list without talking about rob's!  it's definitely a quick-service kind of place, and really laid back, but if you're a burrito fan, you don't want to miss it!  aj and i have gone on tons of little dates to rob's, so we highly recommend incorporating it into a laid-back date day filled with wandering around the market, studios, and shops in downtown lancaster!  you can read more about my love for roburritos here.

joe's famous american kitchen // joe's marries gourmet burgers with a really cool atmosphere!  it's laid back enough that you don't have to dress up, but feels fancy because the burgers are just crazy good and inventive!  i made the mistake the first time we went here of just eating a build-your-own burger with my usual ketchup and pickles, and didn't think it was great.  but get one of their featured burgers and you'll never look at the all-american food the same way again!

the fractured prune // i love breakfast, and i love going on breakfast dates.  one of my favorite spots to share a donut is the fractured prune (locations are found scattered all over the us, so check to see if you have one near you!).  the prune boasts some pretty awesome and creative donuts, and they're all hand dipped and served hot!  aj and i love splitting a donut or two while having a date day in lancaster, and they make a great breakfast or dessert!

do you have any favorite date night (or date breakfast, or date day) eats in your area?  what's your favorite meal to share a date over?  tell us on social media with #dinner4valentines!

Jan 29, 2015

The Guys Behind The Blog



if you're stopping by today, you're in for a treat!  it's not too often that i can convince aj to take over the blog, but i asked him if he would do an interview of sorts and he agreed, so we decided to turn it into a link up! so check out the questions and if you want, get your man to answer them and join us!

1 // have you ever had a blog, or have you ever considered starting one?
yes, and like most people i used it for about an hour... so clearly i'm not cut out for the blogging world!

2 // if you could be a member of any band, which one would it be?
mutemath. easy. :)

3 // valentine's day is on the horizon...are you the date-planner type or do you fly by the seat of your pants?  do you have anything planned for february 14 this year?
i am absolutely the worst at planning dates, but i would have to say the pants one... and all i have planned for the 14th is coming back home to pa for a few days.

4 // tell us about a date-night-gone-wrong for you and your fiancĂ©.
ahh, this is right up my alley! last year, on valentine's day, i tried to plan this awesome fun date night around betsy and i visiting a restaurant she had been talking about wanting to go to. i can't seem to remember the name of the place, but it started with a t, so I'll call it t. anyway, we were in the car and i decided to tell bets the plan before a little while before we left for dinner. lucky for both of us, betsy asked me a few questions about the dinner that i, as a dopey-date-planning boyfriend, had overlooked like; is it a fixed menu? and if so did they list a price? i obviously had no clue so we called t, asked about the menu and we're given a list of some of the most unappetizing sounding "food" that we had heard of. (including something called "tea poached monk fish", the name of which was so horrifying that i both remember it to this day and have nightmares about). to make matters worse, the meal cost 60$ per person. so a wonderful valentine's day/anniversary that started with me planning a date ended with betsy and i watching the lego movie in a theater full of kids and single creepy adults. tea-poached-monk-fish 1, date planning boyfriend 0.

5 // and let's cover all the topics...sports...who are you rooting for in the superbowl and why?
the eagles!!! partially because i hate the patriots and the seahawks, and partially because i'm still in denial over the fact that the eagles didn't make the playoffs .

the linkup will be open all week!  grab the questions and we'd love to have you join us!

and next month, we'll be at it again, starting on february 26!  here are february's questions:
1 // if you could write a book, what topic would you write about and why?
2 // what is one thing on your bucket list, or one thing that you'd like to do or accomplish in your lifetime?
3 // if you could look out your window and only see one view for the rest of your life, what would you want to see?
4 // imagine you're opening a shop.  what are you selling?
5 // if you could have 50lbs of anything other than money, what would it be?
6 // time to brag on your girl...tell us one thing that makes you proud of your girlfriend/fiance/wife!  




Jan 28, 2015

It's Tax Season, Baby!





raise your hand if you're slightly dreading tax season.  if you're anything like me, having to do your taxes is a little bit scary and a whole lot grown up, and maybe it sounds better to stay a kid for a while, right?  i mean, don't get me wrong, i love that refund check, but i turn into a major stress ball trying to figure out exactly what everything means when filing my taxes.  and trust me, with a wedding to plan, i want to make sure i do my taxes as easily and as best as i can to get the biggest return!

filing taxes always seems like a daunting task, even a few years out of college (i know, you're saying, ok betsy, c'mon, it's time to put on your big girl panties and get it done).  i remember facing last tax season with my mom at my side, coaching me through it.  even though i'm an ez filer, i still feel like i need a dictionary to decode all of the tax-ese involved with filing.  can i claim someone?  what does "claiming" even mean?  do i have to pay to file my taxes?  who should i file them through?  how do i know if that's a reputable website?  is that the biggest refund i can get?!?  it seems like there are so many questions and so many variables to filing your taxes!  and because i work part time and also earn some income at other jobs here and there, i'm always worried that i'm going to miss something.

but if you're like me:  good news!  turbotax is on your side.  i personally checked out turbotax's new absolute zero program, and i feel like the burden of tax prep is lifted!  if you're an ez filer, then look no further when it comes time to file your taxes.  turbotax is committed to saving you money by charging you absolutely nothing to file your taxes (state included...woohoo!) from start to finish, as long as you are a first-time filer, a student, or don't have a house or investments.

even though taxes are daunting to me, the thought of taking them to someone (and paying someone part of my precious refund check!) is a little bit less appealing.  plus, i'm a do-it-yourself ind of girl, so i like learning how to do things on my own!  turbotax believes that no one knows your year better than you, and that makes you the best person to do your taxes.  think of it as them believing in you and just helping you to equip yourself with skills that will be a huge benefit down the road!  the website is easy to navigate and walks you through everything, but don't worry...if you run into problems or have a question, their support staff is there to help you every step of the way.






so what is your take on tax season?  do you have someone help you with your taxes (like a professional, or, um...your mom), or do you conquer them yourself?

i was selected for this opportunity as a member of clever girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Jan 27, 2015

Our Story // The Bridge (The Proposal)



if you missed the beginning of our story, stop reading now and go back and catch up! (oh ok, you can read the proposal story, but then go back and catch up!)

to really tell the proposal story, we need to go back to the saturday before christmas.  aj and i had attended my aunt and uncle's annual ugly sweater party, and somehow we had gotten into the conversation that we had already beaten to death:  when were we finally going to be able to get engaged?  it was a conversation that we had been having seriously for at least a year, but this time was particularly bad.  aj had mentioned having a conversation with his parents, who expressed wishes that he not propose until after he finished college (which, because of transferring, could be as late as december 2015).  

we were driving back to his house to spend time with his cousins, when things just erupted.  i started crying about how long we still had to wait, and aj suggested we go park at our church and continue talking.  sitting in that parking lot, tears streaming down my face, aj tried and tried to end the conversation, but everything he said opened another can of worms.  finally, he convinced me that we should just stop talking about all of it, at least until after christmas, and then they could revisit the whole thing.  i agreed, and we spent the next few days leading up to christmas avoiding the conversation and getting ready for the holiday, including our church's 6 christmas eve services.

my responsibilities at our christmas eve services included cleaning up the building after the last one, so aj's aunt debbie (who is also my boss), assigned me to clean up an area of the church on the other side of the building from the main worship center.  as soon as the last service ended, aj's sister, amanda grabbed me and we headed to our assigned clean up area, where we began taking down lights and extinguishing candles.  meanwhile, our families were back in the worship center creating the perfect proposal spot.  eventually, debbie texted amanda saying that she needed our help with something in the worship center.  we paused what we were doing and headed down to see what she needed, and when we got there, debbie asked me to go into the room and blow out the candles that we had lining the stage.

as soon as i walked into the room, i burst into tears.  our 1,500 seat worship center was dark, except for some soft stage lighting, the candles on the stage, and luminaries lining every aisle.  a song by jeremy larson was playing (an artist that aj and i fell in love with the night we started dating), and rose petals were lining my path to the stage, where aj was standing just in front of a sleigh, waiting for me.  i started walking down the aisle and couldn't help but ask him, "is this really happening?"

aj guided me onto the stage and made me sit in the sleigh, where he began to talk about how much he loved me and how important both of our families were in our lives, because they had played a huge role in making that moment happen.  then, he took a little black box containing the most gorgeous ring ever out of his pocket and asked me to marry him!  there were even more tears (because i'm basically a faucet), and of course i said yes.  we spent a few moments just talking and then emerged from the worship center to a crowd made up of our families, who were all holding sparklers.  it was so special to have everyone that we love there with us on our big night, and we even got to have a mini engagement party at aj's house right afterward.

we've been engaged for just over a month and it still feels a little surreal!  our story is a little unique in the fact that we'll be long distance up until two weeks before the wedding, but so far, being engaged is pretty great....and i'm guessing being married will be even better!

thanks for reading our story!  so sorry you had to wait so long for the proposal...i just wanted to do it all justice by telling the whole thing from the beginning.  if you stuck with me all the way to part 4, then you're a rockstar!

Jan 26, 2015

Grateful on a Snowy Monday



happy monday friends!  i'm not sure where you're reading this from, but if you're in new england, new york, or new jersey, stay warm this week!  winter storm juno is headed right towards aj in boston (where they're predicting two feet of snow!) and it looks like we might get a few inches here (on top of the six that we got on saturday).

i'm kicking off the week with a little list of a few things i'm grateful for today...some are big and some are small, but getting into the habit of gratitude is something that has done wonders for my heart and my attitude!  if you aren't busy, join in on ember grey's weekly grateful heart link-up with me!

here's what i'm grateful for today:
+ that we were able to leave the house for a bit today (as of yesterday, we were hearing predictions ranging from 3-18" of snow!)
+ getting to the gym yesterday (my body is starting to get back to craving working out a little)
+ i've made it through 9 whole days of whole30!  this thing is not easy, and i'm not feeling particularly great today (which they say is normal), but i'm proud of myself!
+ aj and i scheduled our first premarital counseling session...grateful that we go to a church that values premarital counseling, and that we can schedule these sessions for when aj comes home!
+ a productive afternoon meeting
+ evenings spent with good friends
+ a bunch of things to look forward to coming up soon
+ warm tea

what are you grateful for today?

oh, and just to sweeten your monday...here's a giveaway for a few gift cards that would be perfect for date night (ahem, valentine's day!), or a night out with your girls!

Jan 24, 2015

HTB Happenings



well, we're at the end of another week, and we're just one week away from february!  that's hard to believe, but to be honest, i'm excited about it, because february always flies and then march will be here, with warmer weather and a whole week of having aj home.  this long-distance while being engaged is no joke, friends.

here's what you might have missed this week on heavens to betsy:

happenings:
+ i had the weirdest week in terms of sleep and showers!  this whole30 thing has me feeling exhausted (which apparently is normal), so my routine consisted of hitting the gym after work and then coming home, grabbing a quick shower, and taking a nap.  and because afternoon showers meant not wanting to do my hair twice a day, hats became my friend.
+ i got the naptime diaries lent devotional in the mail this week!  excited to dive into it!
+ just a little doodling and hand lettering as i was reading the bible the other night.  there's so much peace in knowing we have victory through jesus!
+ i spent last night with a few friends, but before i headed out, i took a few minutes to catch up on a little reading!

in case you missed it:
+ have you found your purpose for blogging?
+ part three of the love story was up this week!
+ i'm a week into whole30 and feeling good...here's why i'm doing it and what it all means!
+ as usual, i started the week with a grateful list!

don't miss these:
+ emily's post about choosing your friends wisely was so poignant!
+ megan's lessons learned from leading worship are so great...you definitely should read them!
+ laura's antiqued coffee table looks great!
+ mandy recapped her trip to northern england!  england is definitely on my list of places i'd love to go!
+ this pep talk from natalie! 

Jan 22, 2015

Why We Do What We Do



i was reading this post the other day from the blog maven and found these words that just resonated with my soul:
"a lot of blogs were born this year…and a lot of them died.
people showed up every morning, coffee in hand, to battle the blank screen in front of them and write words that would matter.
they brainstormed post ideas, braved the sea of social media, wrote till their fingers bled (proverbially, of course) –
but they listened to all the voices that said they were only worth as much as their page views.
and so they raced and toiled, churning out three posts per week, neglecting their families and their lives, just so they could bow to the almighty page view in hopes that a big brand would want to sponsor them, or so more of their readers would click on ads, and somehow it would all be worth it.
people started with passion for spreading their message, but ended up frustrated and tired."
if i'm being honest with you, i'm looking at 2015 with a sense of already feeling exhausted.  the holiday season is an intensely busy one at work for me and i struggled to keep up with blogging for the past few weeks.  i'm just finally getting back into the groove of things and feel like i'm hitting my stride again.  

the pace of our culture tells us that we constantly have to be churning out new content, because everyone else is and we need to keep up.  and while i love and am proud of having a consistent blogging schedule, 5-6 days each week, i can so easily fall into the trap of feeling like a "bad blogger" when i miss a day or don't have my post ready to go the night before and scheduled to post the next morning. 

does it feel great to see your page views climbing, or to land a few sponsored posts now and then?  sure.  i would love to see this blog create enough of an income someday that i could give it my full-time attention, and that's not going to happen if my stats stop growing. 

but here's the thing:  if we're just blogging for the page views or for the money (because we all know that the money isn't easy to get and is certainly not guaranteed in this profession), then we're missing the point.  and if our blogs ever take precedence over the life right in front of us, then, girls, let's shut. it. down.  

i heard a podcast from last year's influence conference where one of the speakers talked about how what matters isn't our page views.  what matters is how well we love people and what we did to use our influence to further the kingdom of god.  

and if you ever come to my blog and don't leave with a sense of what i'm all about...that my purpose in everything i do should be to glorify god and to shine his light, then i've missed the point.  is every post on this blog a devotion or even mention god?  no.  but i hope that the love of christ reflects in the way i approach every topic and respond to every comment.  i hope that when you come here, you get a sense that you're welcome to come and stay and enter into conversation.  that your opinion and your story is valued and that i really, truly do desire to connect with you.  

i've been doing this blog thing for five and a half years.  this space has changed and morphed and grown a lot in that time, and i've made mistakes and spent a lot of time trying to find my voice and figure out what my online life should look like.  this world isn't always kind and it isn't always easy or supportive.  but if there's anything i've learned about blogging in the past five years, it's that you need to figure out what your purpose is, and then let that dictate everything you write.  and when you feel discouraged because you had a bad month or lost a few followers and you think you might want to quit, then give yourself grace, but remember that purpose.  because whatever it is for you, that purpose is worth so much more than the statistics.

Jan 21, 2015

Our Story // Chorus



if you missed part one or part two of our story, you can check them out here:

when we ended part two, aj and i were in the "we like each other, but aren't dating yet" phase, and valentine's day was looming.  going out to dinner on valentine's day wasn't really an option because of aj's school schedule, so i offered to make him dinner.  i got out of work in the early afternoon and texted his mom to ask what his favorite dish was, and then i hit the store to pick up the ingredients for shrimp pesto pasta.  aj came over when he got done with classes for the day (he was commuting to york college of pennsylvania at the time) and brought some chocolate-covered strawberries with him, which was adorable.  (i later learned that he couldn't decide whether or not to bring flowers and he decided against it because he wasn't sure where we stood.)

we ate dinner and chatted about everything but where we were in terms of our relationship.  when one of us finally broke the ice, it was like a sigh of relief.  we ended up having a very practical conversation where we decided to stop dancing around it and that "we should probably just be dating."  and just like that, our single lives ended forever.

the next day was a wednesday, and our youth group had their midweek services that night.  we were both on staff, so we both had responsibilities that night, but we both were in that "we just started dating" bubble.  i remember getting a text from aj that day that said something like "you know when you have a dream that you don't want to wake up from but then you do and it's not real?  well, this is nothing like that"  and of course, i swooned.  (that boy is good with his words, friends.)

it was evident pretty quickly how well we worked together.  we shared a lot of interests and just clicked.  we took day trips to baltimore (where i desperately wanted him to kiss me in the rain but he didn't), and we spent a lot of time with one another's families.  when aj's family went on vacation at disneyworld in may, i flew down and surprised him for a few days.  by june, we were dancing around saying the l-word.  one night, after aj's sister's graduation party, we went for a walk.  i was leaving on a missions trip to the dominican republic the next morning, and we had been saying that we adored each other for well over a month.  after two laps around the course of our walk, aj finally said the words we were both holding back for so long:  i love you.  to say that it was hard to get on a plane and leave him for two weeks after that would be an understatement, especially when we didn't know if we'd be able to communicate at all when i was gone (we didn't really, except for a few brief moments of texting when i had spotty wifi).  but it was the sweetest homecoming, and we spent that summer pretty much inseparable!

sometime in the next year, aj's sister, his mom, and i started encouraging him to consider applying and transferring to berklee college of music in boston.  he hadn't really applied to any reach schools when he graduated from high school, and my cousin, zac (also amanda's boyfriend) was a freshman there.  after months of auditioning and trips north, aj headed to berklee in the fall of 2013.

we adjusted to our new circumstances in a long distance relationship, and we enjoyed spending time traveling back and forth and discovering our favorite date spots in boston!  but the distance also made us grow more impatient.  in the time that we were dating, we attended about a dozen weddings, which, for a couple who knew by four or five months that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, gets tough.  we constantly dreamed about being married and living in the same place, but it still seemed so far away.

and this is where part three ends (and is also the part where you all hate me)....you'll have to come back next week to hear part four...the proposal!

Jan 20, 2015

Whole30 // Getting Started



if you follow me on instagram or twitter, or have stopped by this space in the past few days, then you probably know that i started the whole30 cleanse this weekend.  let me take a quick second to apologize for the food and workout pics that might be dominating those feeds over the next thirty days.  sorry, but there's motivation and accountability in putting your goals out there, and i'm determined to do this thing.  (but i'll still like your pictures of yummy-looking donuts and desserts and bread) 

i started a really bad habit of not working out towards the last few months of 2014, which was a total bummer after i had achieved some major running milestones back in the spring.  and like any habit, the further i got from making the good choice, the easier it was to make the bad one.  the same went for food.  i was busy, and so i'd grab not-so-healthy food on the go when i was out running around.  i convinced myself that "it's not going to hurt just once", but let's be real:  we all know that's a lie.

i'm also not blessed with skinny genes.  most of the members on both sides of my family have struggled here and there with weight issues, and i've watched a lot of the adults in my life go on diet after diet.  so when 2015 hit, and i felt kind of terrible about my body all the time.  i was feeling lazy, bloated, and just plain bleh, and i knew i needed to buckle down and change a few things, because genetics weren't going to be my friend.  plus, i have that new sparkly thing on my finger and call it cliche, but who doesn't want to look amazing in their wedding dress?

the easy choice would probably be to go vegan.  my parents largely stick to a vegan diet, with the exception of fish, and i've done it before.  but here's the thing:  i like meat.  i don't eat meat terribly often, but i like to have a burger from time to time and not feel guilty about it.  so i started looking for other options, and that's where whole30 comes in.  i have seen so many blogger friends go through whole30 and have heard time and again that it is life-changing.

here are the details:
+ 30 days, no excuses, no cheating.
+ yes foods:  meat, seafood, lots of veggies, some fruit, and lots of good fats from nuts and seeds
+ what not to eat:  dairy, added sugar (including sugar substitutes), grains (including corn!), and legumes (including soy)
+ kick the scale to the side for 30 days...whole30 is about really listening to your body and how you feel and not to what the scale is telling you.

it's a commitment, that's for sure.  i was at the grocery store yesterday and read ingredient label after ingredient label, and the word "corn" shows up on practically everything.  but honestly, i feel better already,  i already feel less bloated, and just knowing that i'm putting good, whole foods into my body makes me motivated to keep going.  i'm sure there will be tough moments (there already have been!), but i was so inspired by something i read on the whole30 website as i was researching, and it's becoming my mantra for this month:  you can do anything for thirty days.

so here's to the whole30!  3 days down, 27 to go.

have you done whole30?  got any tips or tricks for me, or just some encouragement?
have you decided to eat healthier this year?

Jan 19, 2015

Starting the Week with a Grateful Heart



happy monday friends!  i hope you're off to a warm start this week...we got a lovely sheet of ice on the ground here, but we're pressing on!  as usual, i'm linking up with ember grey this morning for grateful heart monday!

i'm a few days into my whole30 journey and feeling pretty good so far, so that's at the top of my grateful list this week.  i need a major reset on my diet, so i'm hoping this will do the trick!

here are a few other things that i'm grateful for:
+ a great workout yesterday (feeling sore today, but it feels so good!)
+ we made really great progress on the wedding plans in january!
+ my dad has been feeling really good these days (praise god!)
+ friends on netflix...i've never watched the whole series start to finish before (even though i own it all on dvd)
+ i'll be second shooting a wedding in march!
+ the launch of our team applications happened last week for the peony project...we have had a great response so far!
+ reading the best yes...so much truth in that book!

what are you grateful for today?

if we haven't connected yet on social media, swing by and say hi on facebook, twitter, instagram, or pinterest!

Jan 18, 2015

HTB Happenings



happy sunday friends!  for me, this week was filled with last-minute to-dos and little dates as aj got ready to head back to boston...we're now getting back into the groove of long-distance, but this time is different...there's a light at the end of the tunnel!  and admittedly, the blow of him leaving was softened just a little by the fact that i have to-do list as long as my arm and i can throw myself into completing it!  starting with cleaning my atrocity of a room...

it's raining ice outside today here in pa, so if you're curled up on a couch like i'm planning on being this afternoon, here's what you might have missed on htb this week:

happenings:
+ he's back in boston!  and we're in the home stretch...seven months til we end this long distance thing for good!
+ i basically already have my wedding invitations designed, but i still ordered free samples, because i'm only planning to be a bride once and you know i'm gonna milk it for all it's worth.
+ my aunt and uncle came over for dinner last night and we played scrabble.  i kicked everyone's tush.
+ i started whole30 yesterday!  and hit the gym, ya know #sweatingforthewedding and all...if you've done whole30, i want to hear about your experience!

in case you missed it:
+ i talked about my morning routine and how i'm a total tea-lover!
+ you have to read this hilarious marriage advice from 1913!
+ the second part of our love story was up this week...i promise the proposal is coming!
+ i talked about being grateful for the little things, like parking spaces!

don't miss these:
+ i loved summer's post on learning how to thrive.
+ stephanie's food photography tips are great!  i need to get better at food photography!
+ daisy wrote about what she looks for in an apartment..some great things to keep in mind!
+ madison has some fantastic tips for planning a blogger meet-up!
+ rachel's shop, oh simple joys, is reopen!  and she has a discount code on her blog for you!

have a great sunday!

Jan 16, 2015

Let's Have a Cup of Tea!

this shop has been compensated by collective bias, inc. and its advertiser. all opinions are mine alone. #americastea #collectivebias  thanks to bigelow tea and walmart for support of this post and furthering my love affair with tea!



growing up, i fondly remember waking up from a sleepover at my grandparent's house.  i was pretty young when i spent those mornings sitting in my grandmother's kitchen, drinking tea just the way she always did (and still does):  black bigelow tea with some milk and sugar.  those mornings made me a tea drinker, and though i now have a love affair with coffee, tea will always be my one true love.

as an adult, i don't often get to spend those slow mornings at my kitchen table, sipping a warm cup of tea and chatting with a loved one or reading a book or just looking out the window.  my weekday (and sunday...because that's life when you work at a church) mornings are often spent trying to stay in bed as long as possible and then speeding through my routine to get out the door looking the way i want to without having to speed to work.  but on fridays and saturdays, my mornings are my own and i get to do with them what i please.  and sometimes, i get to flash back to my grandmother's kitchen table with a cup of tea.

though black tea does have a fair amount of caffeine in it to give you a kick in the pants in the morning, it doesn't always rival coffee for me.  however, tea also features the compound theanine, which can give you an energy boost without leaving you feeling jittery.  when i heard about bigelow's new american breakfast tea, which has 50% more caffeine in it, i knew i wanted to try it out.  it's got a great flavor and definitely helped me to wake up!  and as an added bonus, any purchase of american breakfast tea helps support our troops, so you feel like a good american buying it!

i picked up a few boxes of bigelow american breakfast tea and american breakfast tea with honey at walmart the other day and it's a perfect addition to my morning routine!  whether i'm on the go and making a cup at work or getting to spend a lazy morning reading a book, this tea is a great way to kick off my day.




here's a great way to enjoy it:

heat 12oz of water in a teapot or electric kettle.  pour over a bigelow american breakfast teabag and steep 3-5 min.  heat up some almond milk in a small saucepan over low-medium heat, whisking as it warms (or, if you have a milk frother, froth some milk!).  once the milk is warm and has a nice foam on it, pour it slowly into the tea as you stir.  if you'd like your tea a little bit sweeter, add a teaspoon of raw cane sugar, coconut palm sugar, or local honey!  enjoy!



for more morning inspiration, follow bigelow on facebook and twitter, and check out this pinterest board inspired by bigelow tea!


tell me: what is a part of your laid-back morning routine? do you have a favorite tea tradition?

Jan 14, 2015

Advice from 1913



i posted about these books on instagram a few weeks ago after aj and i first got engaged, and so many of you requested more details, that it seemed a blog post was in order.

the night that he popped the question, we ended up back at his house with both of our families, who threw us a little engagement party.  his mom had seen these books and picked them up, and we all have been cracking up reading them out loud to one another here and there.

whether you're married or single, the "advice" in these books will definitely make you laugh.  thanks, blanche from 1913 london, for giving us 21st century brides some, eh, sound pointers on how to keep our men happy.


dont's for wives:
+ don't be out if you can help it when your husband gets home from his day's work.  don't let him have to search the house for you.  listen for his latch-key and meet him on the threshold.

+ don't think it too much trouble to sing or play in an evening with your husband as the sole audience. you couldn't have a more indulgent or appreciative one, as a general rule.

+ don't object to your husband spending saturday afternoons playing cricket if you can't play too.  you can watch, or you can enjoy some pleasure that is not in his line, and it is advisable for him to have outdoor recreation.

+ don't object to your husband getting a motor-bicycle; merely insist that he shall buy a side car for you at the same time.

+ don't persist on having mushrooms on the table when you know they always make your husband ill.  they may be your favorite dish, but is it worth it?
(side note on this one:  i like mushrooms, aj does not.  however, i will not be omitting them from my diet when we're married.  sorry blanche.)


dont's for husbands:
+ don't forget that you are not immortal.  what chance will she have if you die and leave her with no knowledge of the ways of the wicked world?

+ don't try to be a sultan.  this is the west; and you can't shut your wife away from other men.  don't insult her by trying to.

+ don't encourage her to be hysterical.  you need not be unkind, but you can firmly refuse to pity her.

+ don't try to dress your wife in the fashions of ten years ago.  some men can never like anything newer than that; but a woman does not want to look as if she came out of the ark.

+ don't let your wife feel that your dinner is the be-all and end-all of your existence.  enjoy your food by all means, but don't make a fetish of it.


i should mention that there really is some good advice in these books.  one of my favorites is:  don't forget to be your wife's best friend as well as her husband.  true friendship in marriage does away with all sorts of trouble.

what is the best, or funniest, marriage or relationship advice you've ever received?

Jan 13, 2015

Our Story // Verse One



if you missed part one of our story, you can read that here!

sometime in early january, aj and i started texting regularly.  we were both working our way through how i met your mother and would stay up late texting about what episode we were each on.  those conversations became more and more frequent and soon we were communicating throughout each day.

we spent a lot of time hanging out with a couple of mutual friends, courtney and nick.  courtney and i worked together and nick and aj had been friends since high school.  one day at work, court asked if i had any interest in going out for sushi.  she and nick were planning on heading towards the area where she was from, about an hour and a half away.  i asked if aj was going, and around that same time, he was asking nick if i would be there.  that was probably the first time i admitted to myself, and anyone else, that i maybe sort-of liked this boy.

our sushi outing was a hit, and only escalated our constant communication.  shortly after that evening, aj invited me to his aunt and uncle's superbowl party.  i basically knew nothing about football at the time, but i did know that our friends would be there, and that he must have some interest in me too if he was inviting me to a party, so i went.  i spent most of that party hanging out with courtney and a few other girls and not with aj.  and while i was off in another room, the game ended and he left without saying goodbye.

he did, however, ask me to pencil him in on my calendar for lunch later that week.  i obliged and a week later, left work one day and headed over to his house.  he was commuting to college at the time and had rushed home from classes to cook lunch.  he had also recently joined our youth staff and so we were both officially working together, and both had to be in a meeting that afternoon back at church.  i kind of figured that i knew what was coming, but i was super nervous, and so was he, so lunch was just a little bit awkward that day.

before heading back to our meeting, he suggested that we grab starbucks.  and while we were on the way back to church, three minutes before pulling into the parking lot, aj dropped the "i like you" bomb.  he told me later that he wasn't sure how i'd respond, so he figured that telling me right before we walked into a meeting would be a good plan.  that way, if i didn't feel the same, we wouldn't have to talk more about it.  and if i did, well, we could figure that out later.

before walking into our meeting, i told him that i did reciprocate his feelings, but was worried about the fact that we worked together and that he was in a band with my brother, so i wanted to take things slow.  we agreed that we would talk more about it soon.  "soon" didn't happen for a whole week (which basically felt like an eternity), and what was worse was that valentine's day was looming.  and if you've never faced valentine's day with someone who likes you and you like them but you're not dating yet, i don't recommend it.  it's the most awkward thing in the world.

Jan 12, 2015

Grateful for a Parking Space



when i was in college, i decided to make it a habit to live a life of gratitude and to find small things to say "thanks" to god for.  somewhere halfway through those years, i had read a book called here's to hindsight, in which the author wrote about the small graces that god extends to us.  there was one particular quote in the book in which she offered up the notion that god loves to show us how much he lies us in the little things that he does for us everyday.

so, somewhere in my junior year, i started to offer up little prayers about the little things.  if you read my post about defining dreams back in december, you know that i believe in big, bold prayers.  they honor god, and god honors them.  but i also think that god honors our little prayers too.  and sometimes, the little prayers being answered can be really fun.

one of my favorite little prayers to pray is "jesus, give me a good parking space".  it may seem totally insignificant or silly, but i pray that prayer regularly, and regularly, jesus shows me how much he loves me my granting my little request for good parking.  it's almost ridiculous, to the point where others have taken notice.  a few months ago, aj commented on the fact that i always somehow manage to get a good parking space when we go out (like, front-row-at-target-on-black-friday good). i simply answered "its jesus."  and then, after pulling my jetta into that space, i audibly whispered "thanks jesus!" before hopping out of my car.

it's not just about the parking space (or the cup of coffee, or the stranger holding the door for you on a rainy day, or whatever it is in your life), but about the blessing you see in it.  and about recognizing it as a small way in which god is reminding you of his love for you!  because like any dad likes to see his child happy, god delights in giving us the desires of our hearts, even when they're tiny little things like good parking spaces.

so today, i'm thankful for blessings, both big and small, and a god who loves to bestow them on us!

i'm linking up with emily at ember grey for her grateful heart monday link-up, open all week!

Jan 10, 2015

HTB Happenings



well, the first full week of 2015 is behind us!  it's been a good week of getting back into the routine of things...getting back to work and teaching, getting back to the gym.  so if you're still getting back into the groove like me, here's what you might have missed this week!

happenings:
+ i'm in love with this mug that i picked up at anthro right after christmas!  i have a black one but i've always loved the gold ones!
+ reading this book in preparation for bree's book study starting soon!  so good!
+ aj's mom gave us these books when we got engaged.  so funny!
+ it's been chilly frigid in pa this week!  that's meant lots of warm scarves and long sweaters!

in case you missed it:
+ we kicked off the year with the peony project's january link up.  this month's prompt?  renew.
+ now that aj and i are engaged, i've decided to start sharing our story on the blog!
+ i joined in on the golden vlog this month!
+ started the week with a grateful list!

don't miss these:
+ daisy has some great tips for making social media manageable!  
+ meagan's chicken and orzo recipe will have your mouth watering!
+ mandy took a trip to nyc!
+ if you're a bride-to-be, then definitely check out mary's run-down of resources that every bride can use to plan her wedding!
+ rebecca's wedding is in southern bride!

have a fantastic weekend!
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