Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Moon River and Me

I have a confession: I buy books, LOTS of books, and rarely ever read them. I don’t know why, but I’ll begin reading, get distracted or become uninterested and never finish. It’s quite disappointing, but I tend to fill my plate with lots of responsibilities and tasks and reading for pleasure isn’t a high priority.
Until a few days ago.
I brought the kids to Barnes and Noble last week and we spent the morning playing with the train table and looking at different books in the children’s section. We tend to do this a few times a month and sometimes we buy things, sometimes we don’t.
On this particular visit we played for a good hour and a half, and then made our way to the adult books. I could literally walk around Barnes and Noble for hours in a complete state of happiness…there’s just something about that place and makes my heart happy. (When I was a kid, I dreamt of having a library like Belle did in the Beast’s castle, so this love of B&N makes complete sense.)
On our way towards the exit, I saw a few book covers that caught my eye, but one in particular stopped me in my tracks. It had a lovely picture and an even lovelier title – Being Audrey HepburnI turned the book over and read that the author was the creator of the wonderful 90’s television show Clarissa Explains It All and I. was. sold.

Normally I buy a book, wait a few days to start, and then never finish.
But this time, I cracked my new book open an hour later. Over the next few days I used every available moment to read this enchanting book.
At night hiding under the covers with my book light?
Yes, yes, and yes. I read this book everywhere.
Time normally spent scrolling through social media was now being spent in NYC, Jersey, and the Hamptons with Lisabeth Dulac. For the first time in a long time, a book has totally transported me to a different world.
In this story, Audrey-obsessed Lisabeth tries on the iconic black Givenchy dress that Miss Hepburn wore herself in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and her life completely changed. She’s thrown into the world of celebrity and wealth, and this young girl from a broken home channels her inner Audrey to survive.
This Cinderella story is one full of fashion, friendship, romance, and the hardships of life, and I loved it all. Facts about Audrey can be found throughout the book, which made it even better. Lisabeth reminds me a little of Victoria from Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters, and honestly a little of myself.
As the author states in his acknowledgments, “The entire book attests to the enduring legacy of Audrey Hepburn, who intuitively and through her own self-design became the first movie star and actress of the poststudio age. Her personal transformation — the Pygmalion Effect, some call it — stands as a model for everyone, especially those young women living in the gray suburbs and forgotten inner cities aspiring to become something better and happier, intent upon the dangerous work of reinventing oneself despite whatever troubled origins they may have” (Kriegman, 2014, p. 325).
This statement very well may explain the charming nature that exuded and still exudes from Audrey Hepburn. I’ve adored her for as long as I can remember, from her beauty and grace to her work with UNICEF, she is exquisite in every sense of the word. I am so grateful for this novel. Over these few hundred pages, I’ve completely fallen in love with reading again, and if it’s possible more in love with Audrey.
Mitchell Kriegman, thank you for this lovely novel. Thank you for making Audrey an adventure, and for bringing her to life again. Your writing is inspiring, and I have much enjoyed getting to know your characters.

Now, can you please write a sequel? 😉

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Biltmore Cooking Project

The first time I saw the Biltmore Estate was through the eyes of Thomas Kinkade. His painting Elegant Evening at Biltmore is a breathtaking depiction of America’s largest residence, and in 2008 I saw it while browsing Mr. Kinkade’s website. At the time I lived in Mandeville, Louisiana and had no idea if I would ever see its beauty in person. I had just begun talking to a blue-eyed Carolina boy who told me that he’d take me there one day, and guess what? He did!
That first visit to Asheville, North Carolina happened on Valentine’s Day in 2013. The blue-eyed boy was now my husband, we had a one-year-old little boy, and I was pregnant with our second child. I was blown away by the beauty of Biltmore, and how the Blue Ridge Mountains perfectly framed the estate.
Our First Trip to Biltmore, February 2013
While we were able to view the grounds, we arrived to the house a little too late and weren’t able to peek inside. Our next trip happened in May 2015 and we not only toured the house, but we also saw the most lovely exhibit called Dressing Downton. This exhibit showcased the beautiful clothing that the actors of Downton Abbey have worn over the years.
Our Second Trip to Biltmore, May 2015

With each visit I fall more and more in love with this magnificent estate. And while Asheville is only 4.5 hours away from where my family and I live, we don’t get to visit as much as I’d like.
And that got me thinking…
How can I bring a little of the Biltmore home with me?
During our last visit I happened to purchase a cookbook called Biltmore Traditions that is filled with recipes and stories from the Vanderbilt family. Each chapter is unique and focuses on a different theme of delicious dishes, and overall the cookbook is the most charming I’ve seen.
So here’s what I’ve come up with!
With permission from the Biltmore Company, I’ve created The Biltmore Cooking Project! This project consists of myself cooking every recipe from the Biltmore Traditions cookbook, along with sharing tidbits about Biltmore. George and Edith Vanderbilt has a fascinating story, and it is one that should be told.
Here are the rules:
  • All recipes must be attempted regardless of my personal food preferences
  • Must document the results of each recipe, even if the results are disastrous
  • Must be completed by December 31, 2017
  • Must have fun 🙂
Even though my plate is full and my life is busy, I find enjoyment in cooking and in the Biltmore, so why not combine the two? I have to cook for my family anyway, and I might as well make it interesting!
Stay tuned for my first Biltmore meal!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kindness and Encouragement

*Imported from A (Lindsey) Christmas Story*

Last week I registered for the final two classes of my master’s degree program. It’s completely surreal to me that come May 2016 I will have a master’s degree, especially since I never thought I would go to college. In high school I wasn’t interested in academics, and unlike my naturally genius husband, I have to work really hard to make decent/good grades. While most of my friends went straight from high school to college, I was busy figuring things out.
What in the world am I going to do?
That was the resounding thought that played over and over in my mind. I was 20 years old at this point and it had been two years since I graduated high school. All I had to show for it was a few insignificant jobs, a move to Laguna Beach, CA, many mistakes, and some unmentionables. I did enroll at a stenographer school in New Orleans during that two-year span with the hopes of learning the trade and becoming a court reporter, but I quickly decided that wasn’t for me. So, I withdrew and went on my way.
My grades in high school were average, and the thought of college was terrifying. I didn’t think I was smart enough, and certainly couldn’t afford to attend. I was lost and confused, and then I gained employment at Jesse Duplantis Ministries working as a data entry clerk.
And it was a breath of fresh air.
This was my first true office job and the atmosphere was wonderful. I loved the structured 9-5 job and really enjoyed the company of my co-workers. I was content and happy. One day an older co-worker inquired about my future, and I told her that I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Then she said something that would change my life forever.
“Why can’t you go to college? You are smart, and you know that you can do anything…right? You truly can. You just have to believe that.”
Was she serious?
Could I really do anything?
That got me thinking…if this woman believed in me, why didn’t I believe in myself? She stirred up hope and made me believe I could dream big. And not only dream big, but succeed big!
It wasn’t long after that conversation that I began searching for a college to attend. I found Regent University, a Christian school in Virginia, and applied to their distant learning program. My GPA barely made the cut, but I was provisionally accepted and began my college career in January 2007! I started out as a Communications major, but God had other plans, and I ended up graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2012. It took me 6 years, but I finished.
The morning of the commencement ceremony, 8 months pregnant with Arabella.

Now, I’m almost finished with my master’s, and honestly I don’t think I’m stopping there. My desire is to go to law school, and while the timing has yet to work out, I have faith that one day I will be a lawyer. I want to fight injustices and speak up for those who are unable to speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9). I want to protect babies and prosecute criminals and rehabilitate troubled youth. I want all of that and more.
All of this because someone believed in me.
My extended family and friends believed in me, too, but it was my co-worker who got through to me. I don’t even remember her name, but God used her in a BIG way. I am so thankful for this sweet woman who reminded me that I could achieve greatness. Sometimes all it takes is a little kindness and encouragement to change a life. Remember that the next time you’re given the opportunity to lift someone up with your words or actions. You never know what the outcome will be!
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