Macarons and More

Today should be Style Sunday. Should being the operative word there, because it is not actually Style Sunday. Although I had every intention of dressing someone up in something trendy, doing their makeup, and photographing it, I actually spent most of the weekend doing anything but looking cute. It was a tee shirt and yoga pants weekend as I thrift shopped for plates and cups for my food photography, took my brother too and from a County Fair, and met up with a friend to discuss our upcoming plans for our Disney trip.

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This is the face of an exhausted but happy spoonie who has discovered the perfect place to meet for serious travel discussions. While some people might suggest a library, a coffee shop, or even a Panera, I have a bit of a different idea. In my mind, there’s no better place to get some work done or have a serious discussion than the local chocolatier.

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Yeah, hot chocolate is fantastic. It was finally cold enough to have an actual hot chocolate (with cinnamon and hot peppers, just the way I like it.) Before this, I was having to make do with frozen hot chocolate, which is great but definitely not the same.

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But let’s cut to the chase. There’s a real reason I chose this place, and it has nothing to do with their namesake sweet. I am here for one reason, and one reason only: macarons.

Macarons are the standard by which I judge any bakery or restaurant that has them. The best are from Rice and Noodles Vietnamese restaurant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The worst won’t be named, but if you’re at overpriced French bakeries in St. Louis, Missouri- look out.

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I know I shouldn’t judge too harshly. Macarons are notoriously difficult to make. But if we’re speaking truthfully, while the best macarons taste like slightly crispy pillows around a creamy center, the worst ones taste like styrofoam Oreos. And that’s just not acceptable.

Every restaurant has the traditional flavors, like pistachio and strawberry. I give big points for any restaurant or bakery that goes above and beyond the usual offerings while still providing some quality, adorable desserts.

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So when I stumbled through the door of the chocolatier today and neon purple macarons greeted me, I couldn’t help but get excited. Recently, this chocolatier has had some delicious Earl Grey macarons, so I had high hopes. These turned out to be blackberry goat cheese.

I know what you’re thinking. “Goat cheese? In my macarons? That sounds absurd.” You’re right. It does sound absurd. But this was done right. So right. This was delicious.

So while these aren’t ready to knock Rice and Noodles out of the running just yet, I’m glad I have a solid place to snack on some macarons while I write blog posts like this one. I’ll take all of them, please.

Where’s your favorite place to get macarons?

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My love language

I always joke that my love language is food. Seriously, you know the saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”? The way to my heart is definitely through my stomach. My idea of affection is someone making me cookies, then leaving me alone to eat them. That’s pretty weird for an extrovert, I’ve been told, but it’s the one sure way to woo me.

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That’s an earl grey, three sugars, with milk. The best way to calm me down when I’m stressed. The best way to cheer me up after a long hard month? A fancy dinner.

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So, since my love language is food- whether it’s making it for people or eating it myself- and my husband’s language of affection is doing small things for people or doing activities together. So we’ve figured out a pretty great way to strengthen our relationship, other than our weekly date out.

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Once a week, J and I have a nice steak dinner. He does most of the cooking, because he enjoys it, and I help out by pouring drinks, prepping the broccoli, and setting the table. The time in the kitchen together is an awesome way for us both to unwind and reconnect, and the resulting meal is always one of the things we both look forward to the most each week. In fact, our favorite part of grocery shopping together is looking for new ingredients for our favorite side dishes!

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Since I’m sick and he’s busy, it’s hard for us to plan huge outings or weekend trips. However, that doesn’t give us an excuse to get complacent in our relationship. Our weekly steak dinner is our solution. Shopping at Aldi makes this affordable, especially since there’s only two of us, but the menu isn’t what’s important. It’s the act of cooking together, for each other, and enjoying each other’s company.

It’s really the little things that keep our relationship happy and strong.

Juices: my latest obsession.

I have to drink a lot of liquid every day. I’m pretty good about it, really! I have about two liters of water a day, sometimes more if I’m feeling especially POTSie. The only problem I have is my undying hatred for plain water. I just don’t like it! I drink it, sure, but I’m always looking for some other ways to get my liquid intake up.

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I allow myself one glass of earl grey or green tea a day, because I can’t handle very much caffeine. Sometimes I add in an herbal tea, like Chamomint Moon by Higgins and Burke. It’s a nice change from plain water, and I’ve already talked about how warm beverages make me concentrate better. (It’s a mental thing, I know.)

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Lately though? I’m loving these fresh juices from Grocery Bar. This week, lemonade with cucumber was on sale for two dollars, as was watermelon juice. That’s a great price for fresh, cold-pressed juices, so I picked a few up. They were awesome, and I might have replaced breakfast with them a few times when my stomach just wasn’t feeling up to real food. After I finished them, my husband and I headed back to pick up a few more while they were still on sale.

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While we were there, I saw the Juice of the Day and knew I had to try it out. It was a mix of carrot, apple, orange, and ginger. I’ve been a fan of carrot-apple juice for years, so this was right up my alley. It was $7, which still fit in my budget, so that was pretty neat.

I love the packaging of these juices. The glass jars and minimalist logo are absolutely adorable, and I’ve repurposed them in my house as flower vases. A single long stem daisy in each of the bottles in a row in the window is a cute look and a great way for me to recycle!

If you’re in the Chattanooga area, and you want fresh juice, check out The Grocery Bar! I’m also looking for the guy who does juice from a bicycle, which seems like a really cool concept even if I can’t remember the name of his business right now.

Since I hate smoothies, juice is the next best thing when it comes to nutrients! I’m loving fresh juice as a water alternative, and just in general. Who’s with me??

Friday Five

Once again, it’s time to share the five things I’m loving this week. I’m really excited to make this post this time because it’s been a great week and I could think of way more than five things to share with you. However, I’ve set precedent with myself, so I’m going to stick with the five best of the best. Without further ado, I present the Friday Five!

1. Wild-caught Georgia Shrimp

When presented the chance to eat some fresh Georgia wild-caught shrimp, your answer should always be yes. It’s not just because I’m a Georgia resident, Georgia wild-caught shrimp really is the best. So when my husband’s store had some in stock, there was only one thing to do! We had a shrimp boil.

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Shrimp boils are one of the best ways to enjoy wild-caught Georgia shrimp, and they’re super easy. Definitely a highlight of the week.

2. Secrets by Mary Lambert

This is my go-to feel good song at the moment. I love Mary’s voice, I love the message, I love the beat… There’s not a thing about this song I’m not into! Plus it’s on spotify so I can listen to it whenever I want!

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3. Heir of Fire

I’ve been waiting for this book for so long. I keep saying I’m going to post a full review on the blog, and I will, but for right now, I’m just going to revel in how great it was. Seriously, I read it in one sitting. If you’re looking for a young adult fantasy novel with a female lead, this series is fantastic. There are a lot of female assassin novels out on the market now, but this is the best. And I would know because I’ve read most of them.

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4. NYX matte lipsticks

It’s getting closer to fall, so I’ve been pulling out darker lipsticks again. Yeah, I know, between my jogger obsession and my willingness to pull out winter makeup, you’d think I was ready for summer to be over! I admit I’m not looking forward to winter, but fall is my favorite season because it doesn’t make me pass out. Plus I can wear my favorite lipstick ever: NYX matte lipstick in Alabama. It’s a quintessential deep red, and looks good on a variety of skin tones. You can use it with a NYX lipliner to make it last longer, or alone if you’re daring.

5. Hammocking

I really need to get an eno. My hammocks are cool but they aren’t portable, and I think taking a hammock with me wherever I go would be just about the coolest thing ever. As it is though, me and Minnie the foster dog like to hang out and read or nap in the two backyard hammocks. If these storms ever blow over, I’m heading back out there so I won’t be pale anymore.

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Okay, okay, I know I said five things. But here’s a bonus “family photo” of my husband, me, and our two youngest cats. Aren’t we adorable? I love that my husband was willing to pose for photos with me and the cats until I got a few I liked!

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Zoodles

I’ve spent the summer wondering just what zoodles are, anyway. I’ve seen them on twitter, on Instagram, and on Pinterest for months now. It turns out zoodles are zucchini used as pasta. It also turns out you can use crookneck squash for noodles as well. I’m an adventurous eater, but zoodles weren’t really on my radar. Well, they weren’t on my radar until Aldi ran a great sale on produce. I went a little zucchini crazy and wound up with more summer squashes than I knew what to do with. There was only one solution to this problem: zoodles.

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Now, all of the pretty zoodles you see online are made with a spiralizer. I can’t afford one of those gadgets, so I might have made mine with a cheese grater instead. I used the side with the three big holes. I grated the squash, patted them dry with a paper towel, and dunked them in salty boiling water for two minutes.

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The verdict: delicious, even if they’re not as pretty as I hoped. My husband immediately asked if he could take the leftovers to work with him as a change from his normal junky snacks. (He can still eat gluten, and does very often when he’s away from me.)

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With my homemade tomato sauce, it was a nice healthy change up! I’ve been sick for the past month with a POTS flare, so my diet has mainly consisted of milkshakes, tea, and powerade. This was the first thing I’ve really been able to eat in a while and I’m glad I tried it. I guess the zoodle trend isn’t so weird after all!

Grocery Bar, Chattanooga, TN

Southside in Chattanooga, Tennessee, used to be a food desert. To fight the influx of fast food restaurants and convenience stores moving in to take advantage of the lack of healthy food, Enzo’s Grocery was born. Enzo’s enjoyed moderate success as a neighborhood grocery, but attracted few customers outside of the area. In June, it was announced that my favorite grocery was closing it’s doors. Luckily for Enzo’s- and for me- a group of investors stepped in and Enzo’s rebranded itself as Grocery Bar.

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Grocery Bar is a neighborhood grocery driven and directed by chefs. Although they still have a grocery section, the real focus here is on prepared foods. Between a sushi bar, a sandwich and pizza bar, a juice bar, and cold and hot deli selections, there appears to be something for everyone at this new Southside staple.

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I’ve been to Grocery Bar twice since it opened under the new name, and I’ve been impressed both times.

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My husband and I stopped at Grocery Bar to pick up some food for a date night picnic. We were short on time, so we didn’t order from the kitchen, although I want to check out the juice bar soon. We headed straight for the hot and cold deli foods. Grocery Bar has the ingredients of each dish labeled and indicates if the item is gluten free, vegan, or vegetarian. It also indicates which, if any, of the ingredients are local.

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Food at the Grocery Bar is $8.99/lb from any of the self-serve stands, which is the same as the Whole Foods across town. However, Whole Foods doesn’t source their food locally, which is always a source of contention when the store is surrounded by so many great farms.

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Isn’t that beet salad gorgeous? We left with four pounds of food and devoured all of it.

If you’re into deli style food, or are looking for something to grab for a picnic, check out the Grocery Bar. While you’re there, try the samples of local produce and cheeses that are set up around the store.

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I look forward to seeing where Grocery Bar goes in the future and I wish it continued success. However, wishing is not enough for small groceries like this, so I will be spending my money here as well.

Friday Five!

Is it that time of the week again? The end of the week, and the end of August- time seems to be flying this year!

As with every Friday, it’s time to share the things I loved this week. So here’s the best of the best of the week!

1. My Keurig Mini

I was impressed with my Keurig. I wrote about it before. But then I ordered a variety pack of tea, cider, and other speciality drinks for it. Now? This is the best invention ever!

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I’m really digging herbal teas, as too much caffeine seems to be irritating a bunch of symptoms that aren’t really blog appropriate. However, these hot cocoas and the cappuccino flavors rock!

2. Aviary Photo-editing App

This free app offers in-app purchases to beef up the already impressive editing capabilities. I’ve purchased a few extra sticker packs and borders to play with, just for fun, but even without them, this is the editing app I keep returning to. It’s easy to use and has some cool effects.

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Be careful though, it’s easy to get caught up in what you can do and over edit your photos.

3. Pur Minerals Lip Gloss Sticks

I found one of these in my makeup drawer, completely unused. It was in a pretty coral color that matched what I was wearing, so I figured I would give it a try. The result? Loving it! A touch of color and completely non-drying. Perfect for my summer sunburnt lips!

4. The Sporty Look

So, I finally figured out how to style my Joggers. For a summer-to-fall transition look, I’m loving joggers with fun sneakers and a classic tee. For errands or just to look a little more fancy, I’m pairing peplum with my Joggers for a really neat look. But as much as I love the peplum+joggers? I just keep coming back to the sporty look.

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5. Beets

I thought I hated beets, I really did. But after trying a local best salad from Grocery Bar, I’m a convert. They’re earthy, they’re pretty, and they’re perfect with goat cheese. Plus they’re inexpensive and readily available. Really, what more can you ask for in a root vegetable?

So what are you loving this week?