Saturday, June 29, 2013

Following Yankee Belle

I am so appreciative of those who take the time to visit my little space on the web; thank you! It occurred to me that maybe some of you faithfuls would like to know a few easy ways to stay connected to Yankee Belle that don't involve me flooding all facets of your social media. 


My favorite way to stay connected to blogs I love! In addition to their website, Bloglovin' has a free app for both iPhones and iPads as well as Android. My husband loves this because I use fun technology, but I love it because it's easy, convenient, and everything syncs! To get started you simply click on the Bloglovin' icon on my blog page and create a free account. Then you search for Yankee Belle and follow-simple as that! There are thousands upon thousands of blogs connected to Bloglovin' so you can search and follow any style, parenting, faith, cooking, DIY blog that tickles your fancy.

Follow through Google

Since blogspot (blogger) is a Google based platform, if you have a Google account following Yankee Belle is super easy. Simply click on the "Join this Site" icon on my blog page and subscribe. In doing so you will receive an email updating you of each brand spankin' new post. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to stay connected!

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Latest Prayer

In my last post you heard me mention a ladies' group I soak up once a month. Well, this past Monday's gathering nudged my soul to pray more for our sweet little girl's heart and wisdom as I learn to mother. As a lover for all reasons to buy a new journal, I thought I need to get my hands on a fresh journal and my Bible and kickstart my time with the Lord and prayer for my babe.  Lo and behold, four our third anniversary Chad got me a brand spankin' new leather journal. Leather, apparently, is the traditional anniversary gift this go around; Chad's obviously much better at sentimental gift giving than me. Needless to say, the Lord was making moves to get my heart with Him. 

I put some worship music on-this sweet voice is a current fav-gathered my Bible, new journal, and (small) cup of coffee and cuddled up on my bed during the early morning hours. As I spent time with the Lord, surrendering control and recommitting to trusting Him, the following verses tugged on my heart.

Psalm 18:30
God's way is perfect. All the Lord's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

Psalm 25:4-5
Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. 

Psalm 25:11-13
For the honor of your name, O Lord, forgive my many, many sins. WHo are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose. They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land.

Psalm 26: 11
Teach me how to love, O Lord. Lead me along the right path...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fresh Strawberry Lemonade

Once a month a group of young women from my church (all moms, sans my expectancy) gather together to glean wisdom from more seasoned mothers. Each month an invited guest shares what she has learned about being a wife who honors and respects her husband and a mom that directs her children to the Lord. The night starts with dinner, usually followed by dessert, and then sweet fellowship. I'm so thankful for the time these women take to pour into my life. As Titus 2:3-5 instructs (ESV):

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 

Monday night I volunteered to bring the beverages. So, true to my new, ambitious spirit I thought I'd try a drink recipe I found on Pinterest. I was skeptical that this recipe, as simple as it seemed, would turn out to be good, but it was quite delicious. Here's what I did:

I took the following and blended it on low for approximately 5 minutes.

1 1/3 pounds of fresh strawberries, halved
2 lemons washed and cut into thin pieces (yes, leave the skin on)
2 cups of water

I paused every so often to make sure the blending was actually occurring. I then poured the mixture into a pitcher and added 4 more cups of water.

The recipe called for a strainer, which I didn't have, so I made some rather silly attempts of my own to "strain" the drink through two different colanders and then by way of searching out the parts needing to be strained. Don't do this. I then called Sarah, our group's host, to see if I could come over early and make use of her strainer. With help from her husband, we ended up using a flour sifter-of all things-but it worked! Hooray for ingenuity!

After "straining" I added some honey, to taste, to sweeten the drink and garnished it with a few sliced lemons. In the end, there were probably 8-10 servings. The second time around I might double the batch to ensure the drink lasts longer. In the end, I thought the lemonade was great! I'm assuming others did as well because there was nothing left to take home. :)

*Next time I promise I'll get better with the photos!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Happy Day!

Today is a very special day for two reasons. Chad and I are celebrating three married years together! I am so grateful to have found a man who loves the Lord and seeks His will, a man who encourages and supports me, and a man who makes me laugh. I love you, Chad.

Today also marks baby girl's halfway point; 20 weeks! The miracle of life is so overwhelming. Just a couple of weeks ago we watched our baby girl squirm about on the ultrasound and-as I type this-I can feel her movements in my belly. Maybe we're going to be meeting a rising soccer star?! I simply cannot wait to meet her. However, I did recently receive some great advice from a brand new mother of two last night: slow down and enjoy the moment your child is in before it is gone. I'll try so hard not to wish away the next 20 weeks and enjoy being pregnant. Baby girl will arrive soon enough.

Wedding photos by our friend Seth Snider.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tomato Sauce from the Garden

I've long been a fan of Italian cuisine. This love can be traced to growing up in a predominantly Italian New York community full of family-run restaurants with amazing menus. Perhaps inspired by my trip home, today I made homemade tomato sauce with tomatoes from our very own garden!

To be honest, I was not very confident as to how this was going to turn out. 
Here's how it all went down. The ingredients were simple:

6 medium to large tomatoes 
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 one medium onion, diced
4 ounces of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch of crushed red pepper (more to if you like it spicy)
1/3 cup freshly chopped basil
flour to thicken (as you see fit)

To start, and I was a bit excited to try this, hence all the photos: peeling the tomatoes. 

You simply and shallowly score the tomato skins. Then drop the tomatoes into boiling water for approximately 90 seconds.

Remove tomatoes and place into a bowl of ice water. 

I was shocked to find that the recipe didn't lie; the skins fall right off! After this, dicing the tomatoes was a breeze.

The following steps are so easy I moved through them rather quickly and forgot to snap photos. In a saucepan I heated the olive oil until hot. Then I sautéed the garlic and hint of crushed red pepper until the garlic was golden brown. I then added in the onion for approximately 2 minutes. Next, I stirred in the tomatoes with some salt and pepper and allowed the sauce to cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. 

In the meantime, I ran out to the garden for some fresh basil. 

After the sauce cooked for 10 minutes, I combined the basil and let the sauce simmer for another 10 minutes while the pasta cooked. In the end, I added about a handful of flour to help thicken the sauce. 

Chad suggested some Italian bread and olive oil and balsamic vinegar and we had ourselves an amazing meal!

I added just a hint of parmesan cheese to my dish, which I recommend. 

Even the roses were from our garden. :)

In the end, I thought the sauce came out really well. It was very light and fresh and every flavor I added really was detected in each bite. If I try this sauce again I may add a bit more crushed red pepper. 

Chad approved, so another successful food endeavor in the books!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Summer Musings

Summer, for me, has not yet been underway for a whole week. Even in such a short time I've formulated some musings that I want to share.

1. Visiting a neighborhood pool, in the middle of the day, without children places you in one of three scenarios: a) solitude among soccer moms - read, tan, dunk in pool, talk to no one, repeat,  b) a lover of adult swim and, dually, enemy of all under 10 (they will splash you), or  c) just plain creepy.

2. Weighted squats are apparently great preparation for the birthing process, just not such great preparation or walking the next day.

3. Torrential rain is not a good time to drive without functioning windshield wipers. However, 77 is manageable sans wipers, just keep a modest 50 mph and you're fine. 

4. The Today Show is the best way to spend the hours between 7 - 9 AM.

5. Charlotte is slowly being taken over by wildlife. The proof exists in what we've nicknamed "psycho robin" who enjoys dive bombing Koda, the nest of bunnies in our garden who are now exploring our entire backyard, and the herd of field mice (I swear they were rats) that crossed our path during our evening walk last night.

6. Nesting is not only productive, but fun. 

Today is a very special day for our growing family as we find out if this little one is a baby boy or girl! Stay tuned for the news.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

Okay, so I don't know if I can actually put this endeavor under the label of "summer food series" since it didn't really involve cooking anything. Rather, I chopped, and, darn it, I'm one good chopper.

As promised, this idea came from one of my recent pins to my Pinterest "Grub" board. This salad doesn't really have a name other than its descriptors: corn, avocado and tomato salad with honey lime dressing. This was so simple and light, perfect for a hot summer evening. (The hubs approved.)

So this was the process...

I collected my ingredients. The beauty of this recipe is that you probably have most of what you need in your refrigerator or pantry. What you don't have is cheap and any extra is easily used for other items on your menus.  

Here's what I gathered for the salad:

1 can of corn (I was making this quickly and didn't want to grill corn on the cob like the recipe detailed)
grape tomatoes (halved)
1 ripe avocado (I bought another for guacamole later)
fresh cilantro (1 tbsp chopped)

Here's what I gathered for the dressing:

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp honey
dashes of salt and pepper to taste
1 garlic clove minced
1 dash of cayenne pepper (which I forgot, but will try in the future)
1 lime's juice

It took me all of five minutes to put together the entire concoction. Here's what the finished, dressed product looked like: 

We paired the salad with Trader Joe's spicy jalapeño chicken sausage and chips and salsa. A summery southwestern inspired meal, yum!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Banana Walnut Bread

The secret has long been out: I am not much of a cook or baker. In fact, when Chad was recently gone for a week on business he called to ask me if I've eaten anything cooked while he'd been away. My only response was a shamefully muttered "Chick-fil-A".  I can follow recipes and do, on occasion, cook or bake something people don't immediately spit out of their mouths in disgust.

Nevertheless, this is an area I wish to change. So I've decided, with some more free time during the summer months, to tackle a few new recipes with the guidance of my Pinterest "grub" board. Every week-if not more frequently when the urge arises-I plan to try a new recipe and share it with readers.

Disclaimer: Be forewarned these attempts may be far from revolutionary. They exist as a simple endeavor to expand my foodie repertoire and build my self-confidence. Seasoned kitchen-goers may not by wowed. 

First in the line-up is banana walnut bread, which happens to be one of my favorite treats. It helps I have some overripe bananas begging to not be wasted. After taking inventory of ingredients I realized that we were out of butter. Mindful not to stifle my ambitions, Chad graciously went to the store. Another minor setback occurred when I discovered we do not own a bread pan, but Chad picked one up for me as well. 

I decided to follow this recipe, but with a few minor changes that I'll let you know about.

The ingredients, although I took this photo before deciding to scratch the chocolate chips.

I used four medium-sized bananas.

I only used half of the sugar the recipe called for and replaced the other half with brown sugar.

After reading a few reviews of the recipe I decided to add a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Rather than chocolate chips I included some chopped walnuts (roughly 1/2 cup).

And my creation heads into the oven (350 degrees) for one hour. 

Voila! Banana walnut bread! 

To Babymoon or Not To Babymoon

The recent trend of babymoons has grown quite popular and has undoubtedly stimulated the travel industry. The lure of such a trip is understandable; a final escape with the hubs before your party of two becomes a party of three. I have to say I'm enticed and have entertained a fair share of Google travel searches. We haven't solidified a decision to babymoon or not to babymoon quite yet as a large part of me screams "save the money!" Nevertheless, here are a few locales that have tickled my pre-baby fancy.

Boston, MA, possibly my favorite city in the States

An enticing deal from Living Social for a stay at a historic Charleston plantation resort.

The Outerbanks

Moms, have you taken a babymoon? To those not yet mothers, would you take a babymoon? Where did/would you go?

Charleston photos from The Inn at Middleton Place website

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pasta Fagioli to the Rescue

I'm going to talk about pregnancy.

Honestly, I didn't intend to let this blog take a pregnancy focus, but as I think about it, I wanted this blog to chronicle my journey through life. So since this is such a large part of my life right now it seems relevant to share every now and then.

Hormones make all things seem larger than life. Last night I lost it over burnt vegetables and, presumably, undercooked chicken. It wasn't about any inefficiency to cook food, but rather I was overwhelmed by all things pregnancy related. Now that school is nearly over I have more time to read and think about preparations for life with a baby. I was fretting over how to establish a schedule, how to negotiate the first few weeks of a newborn present in the house, during flu season, with eager family wanting to visit, and how and with who to schedule child care when I return to work.

Thankfully Chad was there to rescue me with a generous guitar lesson patron's homemade pasta fagioli and a comforting smile. Since I know these hormones aren't calming down anytime soon, here's hoping I can get my hands on that soup recipe.

In other news, as temperatures are rising and pools are opening, I've been reading a lot about the benefits and concerns surrounding sunscreen both here and here.

Are you a faithful sunscreen user? If so, what is your tried and true product of choice?