November 28, 2013

Gratitude Beyond Measure

My heart is so full of new love & happiness, it feels like it might burst.  On Tuesday, November 26 at 6:29 pm, my beautiful niece Amelia made her grand entrance into the world.  And just yesterday at 2:15 pm, I got to meet her for the very first time.  Walking into the hospital room, tiptoeing over to her  nursery bed my eyes immediately welled with tears.  I just couldn't believe she was finally here.  This brand new, completely perfect little being - with a head full of brown hair and long eyelashes like my older brother.  So peacefully sleeping, she was completely unaware of all her admirers in the room.

My brother & sister-in-law and our entire family had so much to be thankful for already, but the birth of this healthy & beautiful baby girl has filled our hearts with so much joy and gratitude it's nearly impossible to measure.

This new Auntie is so, so thankful and happy - I hope you all are too.

holding my niece for the very first time


November 16, 2013

Auntie To Be

Exactly one week from today, my little niece Amelia is due to make her grand entrance into the world.  Anxious, excited, curious, overjoyed & proud are just a few words to describe how I feel as I sit here thinking about holding her for the first time.  I know the full gravity of meeting her won't hit me until I'm in that moment, but I tear up just thinking about how wonderful this little baby is going to be, and how incredibly lucky she is to have my brother and sister-in-law as her parents.

Kathy, Ian + baby Amelia | photo by Addison Arp

I can only begin to put into words how much I look up to my big brother, Ian.  He is absolutely the funniest person I know, and his wit is unparalleled.  His antics, silly commentary & hilarious dance moves are always the highlight of any time spent together with our family.  He is crazy intelligent, incredibly thoughtful, a talented lawyer/businessman, an amazing self-taught cook, and he makes a seriously mean old fashioned (among many other cocktails he's perfected).  We love cooking together and we're always the ones helping mom get a food & drink game plan nailed down for family celebrations.  We talk music, movies, hilarious youtube clips & food nearly every day, and he has always been there if I needed him.  Though it may sound a bit cheesy, he totally is one of my best friends.  

I could stop there, but I'd be selling Ian short if I didn't mention what an incredible partner he is to my amazing sister-in-law, Kathy.  I've had the privilege of watching their relationship grow into the unbreakable bond that it is today, and I am so excited to see the next chapter in their lives begin with the addition of Amelia.  Kathy made a seamless transition into our big & crazy family, and she's like another sister to my other siblings and I.  She's the perfect person to support, love & grow with my brother and she is going to be an amazing mother to a very beautiful and loved little girl.  

Not only am I spoiled to be one of Amelia's three aunties, but Ian and Kathy have also asked me to be her godmother!  In true Ian & Kathy form, they didn't just simply ask - they thoughtfully surprised me by having me look at "before & after" photos of their house on Ian's iPad.  About six photos in this one popped up and I immediately burst into tears and yelled "Of course I will!!!"

There is so much love awaiting this little girl, and it will never run out.  I can't wait to see Ian & Kathy as parents, to see my parents in their new role as grandparents, my sisters as aunts, my little brother an uncle, and I cannot wait to be Aunt Ashley.  I also can't think of a better gift arriving just in time for the holidays than this little baby girl.  Amelia - I'm so excited to meet you!!!!!!

photo by Addison Arp

❤ ❤ ❤

November 14, 2013

Stop - Read - Do: 20 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time For Again

Today I stumbled across an article that was posted to one of my favorite websites, Thought Catalog - a lovely, fun & creative little website, Thought Catalog is a collection of the random - or often calculated - thoughts average folks.  Very relatable, often funny, sometimes bizarre, and at times - super inspiring.  This particular piece, written by Brianna Wiest, is one of those that should make you stop in your tracks and say "why haven't I been doing more of these things all along?"  
Wiest's article is titled, "18 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time For Again" - and she's right, about every one of them.  Please take a moment to read her thoughts - you'll notice there are actually 20 total.  Feeling inspired, I took the liberty of adding two of my own at the end.  I was also pleased as punch to learn that in just the last week, I had actually done 10 out of the 18 things!  Pretty awesome, but I know there's room for improvement so I'm going to make a commitment to do more, since I know these things can only have a positive effect on my life.  I challenge you to be inspired too, and to take a little extra time to reconnect to the people and things that are most important to you.

18 20 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time For Again

NOV. 13, 2013

1. Writing things by hand. Letters to friends, lists for the store, goals for the week, notes for lovers, thank you cards and memos to coworkers. Digital communication is easy and convenient but ask anybody: there’s a huge difference between texting someone to say that you love them and hope they have a great day and writing it on a note and leaving it next to their bed. 
I'm pen pals with my Grandma Betty, and I wrote her a letter to say hello and catch up last week.  I received an "I'm thinking of you" card from her just yesterday.  I cherish our letters back & forth and I keep a shoe box full of them.

Letter from Grandma Betty

2. Savoring time to do nothing. Taking a cue from pre-industrialized society and cultures that enjoy siestas and long, drawn-out, sit-down teas that serve no other purpose than to spend time enjoying the time you have.

3. Thinking before responding. We've become too conditioned to require things immediately. Someone asks a question, and we have to respond that second. Such was not the case before instant messaging and comment threads. A sign of true intelligence and confidence, I think, is someone who takes time to consider the question at hand in a little more depth, and then offers a response.

4. Cooking a nice meal just for the sake of doing so. It really trains you to defy your need for instant gratification and of course puts you in touch with something that’s very human and can be lovely if done right.
This one is often checked off on my list, since I love to try new recipes and post them to the blog.  Last week I made the Thai sauce with sweet potatoes & red peppers over rice.  This week I'm working on tackling spaghetti squash for my first time.  Every recipe I do is from scratch - no short cuts.  It's beyond therapeutic for me, gives me a great sense of accomplishment and totally puts me at ease. 

5. Getting really dressed up for no other reason than just wanting to.

6. Books. Actual hard copy books that you can scribble notes in and mark off sections of and smell ink through and hear the sound of turning pages and bending spines while you read.  
I am someone who does not own a kindle or any other tablet/reading device.  I either read hard copy books, paper newspapers or magazines.  I do also read articles online if I have no other way of accessing them.  Right now I'm reading "Cultivating an Ecological Conscious: Essays From a Farmer Philospher" by Frederick L. Kirschenmann.  I saw him speak last year at the Good Food Festival and it was like seeing a living legend. So many profound nuggets of wisdom.

7. Making phone calls to relatives for no other reason than to just say hi, and to ask how they’re doing.
I had the most lovely conversation with my Aunt Lynn last night - I learned about her road trip plans with my uncle to Colorado for the holidays to see one of their sons and she got to hear about my recent road trip to the South.  I had a big smile on my face when we hung up.

8. Disconnecting from technology frequently enough that we won’t be anxious and feeling like we’re missing something when we try to do so for an extended period of time.  
I have been disconnecting a lot lately; sometimes it's OK, other times I know I can't do it for too long because of certain responsibilities I have.  I will say this: if I haven't "liked" as many of your Facebook or Instagram photos as I sometimes do, it's because I'm not going on those sites.  There are days when I don't check - and I kind of love those days.  But when I get back to it I always end up seeing so much beauty being put out in the world from all those creative folks I know personally, and all the ones I've never even met. So good job, guys - you rock.

9. Celebrating things with long, multiple course dinners that we hold for people as opposed to just drinking ourselves into an oblivion and being belligerent (that has it’s time and place, of course, but having thoughtful, celebratory dinners is a dying art). 
This is kind of a halfsie for me - not one done in the last week, but in the last month.  Back in mid-October I held a dinner party for no reason with some fantastic ladies.  Cider, appetizers, dinner, dessert and after-dinner drinks - everyone came together, brought food, drinks & great attitudes.  A fantastic time had by all and one that will be replicated many times over.

10. Cleaning because it’s satisfying and doing things like painting walls or getting fresh flowers just because it’s therapeutic.
This is another almost weekly occurrence for me.  Some people think I'm a little Type-A, and they just might be right.  But the truth is - just like cooking - cleaning is also therapeutic for me.  I'm also happier when I can relax in my beautiful, cozy, clean apartment :)

11. Spending time with kids, and doing kid things with them. They just know what’s up.
Although I have not had the chance to hang with kids lately, I'll look forward to doing this much more once my niece arrives in the next week or two.  It'll be a while before she'll be able to carry a conversation, but she'll still know what's up.  Kids rule - if you need more proof watch this.

12. Answering things in a timely fashion, not putting off invitations and requests just because we can.

13. Making sure relationships are actually based on time spent with one another. People seem to be sustaining them through only digital means with increasing frequency and I can understand how that’s important if it’s temporarily long distance but in general, physically being with people is the only thing that will give you that sense of human connectedness.
I had the chance to get a big dose of this last weekend when I took a road trip to Louisville and Nashville with three of my girlfriends (more on that later!).  It was wonderful to reconnect and I wish I could be so connected with others in my life - another "room for improvement" category.

14. Just sitting and listening to music. We’ve made music background noise in our everyday lives, but now and again we should just sit and enjoy it like people used to.
During our trip to Nashville we had many chances to sit and listen to music, and it was awesome.  We even got to see my friend Chris sing a few songs - he's a super talented singer/songwriter who lives in Nashville and is one of the funniest people I know.  Check him out here.  We also got to see one of our favorite bands live in Louisville - The Lone Bellow - AMAZING show!  They made sure to meet, take photos & chat with everyone after the show too. Insane talent & these folks couldn't have been nicer...

My ladies & I with The Lone Bellow!

15. Traveling by train, or if that’s not possible, at least exploring places that you pass every day. Especially if you live in a big city, there are always little hidden gems around that you won’t believe you lived without seeing while they were a block away from you all along.
Though I commute every day on train, I'm taking this one more in the context of a longer train ride to a destination I'd much rather get to - like taking the Amtrak from Chicago to New York, or taking a train in another country.  I took a train once from Venice to Florence in Italy and it was lovely.  I'd like to do it again.

16. Putting personal health and well-being first, as it often falls to the wayside in importance. This means, aside from the obvious, taking those personal days and using them to just relax. We’ve made such a quirky commodity out of enjoying napping and relaxing, as though doing so makes us boring and old. It doesn’t, it’s healthy.

17. Planning something, especially with someone else, as simple as dinner or as grandiose as a long vacation next year. You always need something to look forward to.
Let's face it - I'm a planner.  Always have been, always will be.  I just really enjoy it - but that's not to say I can't just let go & go with the flow at times, because I can (I swear!).  Some great plans were made & executed this weekend while we were in Louisville and Nashville, but for the most part we decided to just wing it - and it turned out great!

18. Stopping to talk to people throughout the day. Connecting with them genuinely, as such interaction is really important but is becoming increasingly less common. Turning our phones off when out to dinner (who even turns them off anymore?) and learning to not spend all of our time documenting whatever we’re doing for social media. It often takes away from the experience itself.
I have been much more aware of this lately, especially because some pretty great people I work with are really good at this - they are totally genuine about it, and I doubt they ever think twice.  There is a real sense of community you have the power to create if you stop to genuinely get to know those around you.  Trust me, it makes for a happier experience for all involved.

19. (from Ashley): Taking the time to plan a surprise for someone you care about.  
I love surprising people.  There is often a lot of thought & planning that goes into a surprise, but sometimes it takes very little to surprise someone - either way, the best part by far is how it makes them feel.  Think about the last time you were (pleasantly) surprised - did your heart jump up and down with happiness and joy?  I bet it did!  Did you feel excited and grateful?  I bet you did!  Whether it's calling someone out of the blue, sending a note or flowers, planning a surprise visit or party - surprises are the BEST!  Now go, SURPRISE SOMEONE!  It really is awesome.

20. (from Ashley): Take a chance & tell someone you admire them.  No games, no rules, no acting coy.  This could be viewed different ways - are you telling that guy or gal that you think they're pretty swell, and you'd like to see them again?  Maybe you're telling your best friend of 10 years that you think they're a bad ass friend and a great person (don't forget to tell your parents you love them too!).  No matter who it is, you'll feel better after you say it.

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November 6, 2013

Thai Sauce Over Brown Rice, Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Red Peppers

Another day, another Thai craving - this time satiated with hearty, whole food ingredients in the comfort of my own kitchen, rather than the kitchen of my favorite local Thai place.  With fall foods dancing in my head (Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away!) I decided to recipe hunt for something that would combine Thai flavors and some seasonal fall ingredients. Since I had yet to dig my way into any sweet potatoes this season, thoughts of crafting a yam curry made me smile.  Though this dish didn't end up actually as a curry, the bolds flavors of the dish - a twist on a spicy thai peanut sauce - cured my cravings and left me feeling full, satisfied and not one bit guilty.

This dish is loaded with good-for-you ingredients and is super hearty.  Sweet potatoes and red peppers are loaded with Vitamin C - especially good as cold & flu season approaches.  Sweet potatoes also contain calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which converts to Vitamin A in the body.  Their high potassium content also means that sweet potatoes can ease muscle cramps, which are often related to a potassium deficiency.  Brown rice is a whole grain rich in anti-oxidants and high in fiber.  The garnishes (green onions & cilantro) are light but flavorful, and every ingredient in the sauce is a whole food - nothing processed, nothing for you to feel bad about.  I hope you enjoy!

Natural beauties, flaws and all

Ombre onions

Potatoes pre-roast

Peppers post-roast


Lightened Up Thai Sauce Over Brown Rice with Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Red Peppers

*adapted from cookie + kate


Rice & toppings:
- 1 1/4 c brown rice 
- 3 green onions sliced into thin rounds (green & white parts)
- fresh cilantro, washed, patted dry & torn into pieces
- sriracha sauce (for extra spice, if desired)

Roasted vegetables:
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled & diced into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 red bell peppers, deseeded and sliced into thin strips
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, warmed to liquid consistency
- 1/4 tsp cumin powder
- sea salt

Thai Sauce:
- 1/2 c chunky Almond butter (you can use peanut butter too, just make sure it's all-natural or organic. I buy Almond butter instead of peanut butter, which is why I used it in this recipe)
- 1/4 c reduced sodium soy sauce
- 3 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons water


Peel & dice sweet potatoes, add to a large bowl and set aside.  Cut & dice red peppers, add to a medium bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (F) with a rack in the middle and another rack near the top.  Line two cookie sheets with aluminum foil.

Toss sweet potato chunks with a generous tbsp of coconut oil, the cumin and a dash of salt.  Next, toss the peppers with a tbsp of coconut oil and dash of salt.  All vegetables should be lightly coated with oil on all sides.  Arrange the sweet potatoes in a single layer on covered cookie sheet. Arrange the peppers in a single layer on a separate baking sheet.  Roast the sweet potatoes on the middle rack for about 35 minutes, tossing halfway.  Roast the peppers on the top rack for about 20 minutes, tossing halfway.  Veggies will be browned on the edges, softened and appear caramelized when done.

Bring a large pot of water (about 1/2-3/4 full) to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, pour in the rice and stir.  Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 30 mins, stirring about every 5 mins.  Turn off the heat and drain the rice, then return it to the pot and cover with a lid.  Let rice steam for about 5 mins.  Remove the lid and fluff rice with a fork - season salt to taste.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in a little more water.  Add sauce to a small saucepan on the stove and bring to a light boil over medium heat.  Stir, then reduce heat to low once it begins to boil.  You want the sauce hot when drizzled over the rice & veggies.

To serve, top rice with roasted vegetables, a heavy drizzle of sauce, and a sprinkle of chopped green onions and cilantro.  Enjoy!

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