Friday, November 22, 2013

doings | national bible bee

I'm completely blown away by the National Bible Bee. 

As someone who was raised in church, homeschooled and involved with multiple ministries, I wish I had know about the wonderful people who make the Bible Bee happen and the talented, dedicated parents and children who compete. 

My dear friend, Anna, has been a Bible Bee host in Texas for over five years and while her students (woot woot!) have gone to nationals before, she's never made it herself. Being well connected (this is Anna we're talking about here), the family behind the Shelby Kennedy Foundation heartily encouraged her to attend the National Bee. Good thing we're such great travel buddies!  She invited me along and the timing was good for me so we booked our plane tickets with less than a weeks notice and packed our bags. 

We got in Wednesday afternoon after, ahem, a slight detour. The event organizers met us in the lobby and ushered us to our fantastic room (and goodie basket!) and filled us in on the details for the weekend. We had dinner that evening with other Bible Bee hosts and I was able to meet some of the people who make this thing happen. It's a totally unfamilar group to me and I really enjoyed getting to know some new faces. 
Our name tags said "special guest", but our real intention for the weekend was volunteering as needed. Thursday morning we reported the Little Siblings area to check in kiddos who's parents were accompanying their children to quiz testing. Thank goodness for a hotel that serves Starbucks coffee, because we had to report for duty at 7:30am!
Thursday evening was the opening ceremony and probably my favorite one ever attended. Short, sweet, to the point, but still meaningful. One hundred and fifty kids filled the stage and I was overcome with the amount of time that each one had invested to be here. Over seven thousand students compete nationally in local bees and by the end of the evening only fifteen remained in the running for grand prize. These kids know their bibles!  Truly the creme de la creme. 

More of my trip to Tennessee to come Ono!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

eats | asheville, nc | tupelo honey cafe & early girl eatery

My family was in North Carolina a few weekends ago.  The Chief was speaking at a conference and if there's a good excuse to travel, hey! we're on it.

We don't usually stray too far from where we are staying, unless there's a Starbucks involved.  If that's the case we'll drive clear across the state to find a proper cup of joe.  And by "proper", I mean, in a cardboard cup with mermaid logo on the front.

I digress.
Brooke was dying to go to Early Girl in South Asheville, she's been reading about in magazines and blogs for a while now and needed to see if the cools kid's reviews were all that.  And also, we were talking about going while at our gate at the airport and an Ashevillian (is that what they call the locals?) overheard us and told us that we needed to go, immediately.  How's that for a confirmation?

We hit up Early Girl Eatery first.  The very next morning.  They open at 7:30am, we were there at 7:20am.  And they weren't open yet.  How's that for irony.  Anyway after a minute, the hostess let us in.  The place was pretty hip.  Waitresses in vintage rockabilly hairstyles and outfits, crazy weird artwork on the walls, hand-thrown pottery sugar bowls with llamas on them.  Hip.  The food was awesome!  I ordered grits (because I live in the North and we just don't have the luxury of being able to order GRITS off of a menu), biscuits (because, well HELLO!) and an egg (because to keep this kinda healthy).  It was a plate lacking in color (no worries I probably had salad for lunch...)  The grits were so-so, I'm more of a cheesy grits kinda girl, and they were just a plain grit.  But the biscuit.  OH MY GRACIOUS!!!  It was heavenly.  Overall, we all loved our visit to Early Girl Eatery.  My only regret was that at 8 o'clock in the morning, it was too early to order a slice of the red velvet layer cake that was sitting on the counter when we walked in.

We purchased a few bags of ground grits to take home and some tee shirts.  I now wear that tee shirt whenever I make biscuits, I'm hoping whatever they've got going on over there rubs off on me.
I'm nowhere near responsible for this one, friends of the family had made reservations Sunday after church and invited us along.  I was so pleasantly surprised at this place.  A popular spot that has been since franchised, Tupelo Honey Cafe was fabulous!

I ordered the something-something-something and then, just to be difficult, requested some changes.  Basically, by the time the place was placed in front of me it was a biscuit with eggs and pimento cheese with a side of goat cheese grits.  Perfection!  The addition of goat cheese to the grits was incredible, I need to try that at home.  But the biscuit was only second to the Early Girl.  You can't win them all!  I wish they'd open a location in Chicago, the influence of local food with the southern style is the best.

Now, if only there was a way to get a combo of Early Girl Biscuits and Tupelo's goat cheese grits flown straight to my door for breakfast tomorrow morning...

Monday, November 18, 2013

delightful | new lamplighter theater!

Remember last March when I spent a week in London with Lamplighter Publishing working on two new radio dramas?

Allow me to introduce...

Two brand new Lamplighter Theater projects just out!  I've listened to Titus all the way through and loved every second, all over again.

Here's a behind the scenes shot of the recording room (I was in the soundbooth checking scripts) with the group of gentlemen who played characters in Titus.  You may also recognize the man in the orange shirt... It's John Rhys Davies!

You can buy either the books or the Lamplighter theater or you can even download the audio right now.
Find it all here...

Check out the Lamplighter Blog to read more about our time in London with the cast and crew!
Lamplighter Guild Blog - London

And just for giggles, click over here to watch a video of a very awkward me interviewing Peter Moreton.  He was such a delight to work with, hilarious and a veteran actor.  His stories were the best.  You will quickly see why I'm such a "behind the curtain girl".  I never claimed to be Barbara Walters.
Watch  it here... Abbe interviews actor Peter Moreton

Friday, November 15, 2013

quotable | where are we going to find some Coyotes

Miss Grace:  "Okay, so I have friends called the Wolfs and the Foxes, now all I need is some Coyotes"
Me:  (I have no words)

If you know of any, will you send them our way?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

manicures | "the legend of the one red nail"

Inspired by my dear friend, Esther.  She was wearing this combo over the weekend and I'm couldn't get over how much I loved it...  So I copied her.  It's shameless, I tell you.  Let's change the subject, hey look! a red cup from Starbucks!  The Christmas switch-over is in full effect over here.

Red: Revlon "Fire"
Glitter: Ulta "Highroller"

And speaking of Christmas, this manicure reminds me of a favorite scene in the cheesy, Hallmark movie  "It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year", with the neighbor and the Christmas lights.  Yes, ma'am I do love me some Christmas Angel Movies!  And Henry Winkler (the fonz!) plays the uncle, which pretty much saves the film from the Velveeta category of cheese. You should watch it.  And then you should paint one of your nails red.

P.s.  I'm not sure whats going on my my hair in that photo, but I promise my ends aren't that bad in real life.  Yikes.  I look sort of like one of those lion statues with crazy hair and human hands.  Only they'd be made of stone and not pale skin and nail polish.  And probably wouldn't wear cardigan sweaters.  Or drink coffee.  Sorry about that.  Over and out.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

reads | wsj: work wear

What Cadillac wears to work

The above link is a fabulous feature that Wall Street Journal recently added.  It is such a delight to see well-dressed professional people in their everyday work attire.  Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 11, 2013

delightful | orchard harvest

One of my goals for 2013 was to arrange a styled wedding shoot.  I love all things wedding and one of the best things going on in the wedding industry right now is "styled shoots".  You pick a theme and work with vendors to set up a small mock-wedding and then have a photographer capture all of the details.  I knew I wanted to do this with my dear friend and talented photographer Kathryn Grace, so we met for dinner and started the brainstorming process earlier this summer.
The bridal bouquet & her nails!   
 My goal was to feature as many local vendors as possible.  Our theme was "Orchard Harvest", we dreamed up an elegant theme using beautiful harvest colors (berry red, emerald green, deep purples and mixed metals).  I was stunned to realize that we ended up with over eleven different vendors, only our models had to travel (from South Carolina!).  We were absolutely delighted with every detail of our shoot.  The florist, baker, dress shop, make-up artist, and hairstylist were amazing to work with. 
 Can we talk about this dress?!?  Kathryn's Bridals in McHenry was absolutely incredible to work with, they matched us up with a stunning gown, beaded belt and veil that fit our model perfectly.  And yes, that is a gold ladder that she is standing on (y'all, we have the most glamorous barn accessories).
 Betty at Apple Creek Flowers knocked my socks off!  I've never seen such lovely arrangements, she took the few ideas that we gave her and absolutely nailed the whole theme.  The bouquet stayed on my nightstand for two weeks and made my heart go pitter-pat every time I looked at it.
 The sweetheart table | In the middle of the Orchard | What could be better?
Our models have been married for two years and made the several hour shoot a blast!  Our Bride said this was more fun than her wedding day, isn't that darlin'!  My precious friend Katherine (so many Katherine's were involved with this shoot) drove over four hours to help me arrange things.  She just started a vintage prop rental company, and hauled the velvet couch, chairs, and red steamer trunk all over the orchard for me.  She's never afraid to try something new and she's pretty much the best! 
 Lauren at The Sugar Circle in Woodstock provided our cake.  She hand-painted the gold floral design on the cake.  And the figs are actually made from fondant and hand-painted as well.  Unreal!  We celebrated the end of the shoot by eating the cake, which was delicious!
 I used fresh apples as the name card holder and loved how it turned out.  The pink china is antique and from my mother's stash (thanks mom!).
Action shot | Reapplying lipstick mid-shoot

Calligrapher | The Constant Scribe
Hair Stylist | Amy at Studio 10 Salon
Make-up | Lisa at Renew Skin Spa
Props | Burlap & Bows

A very special thank you goes out to Kathryn Grace for putting up with my shenanigans (per usual!).  Thank you for being so willing to jump in and then delivering the exact photos that were in my head.  I'm grateful for your friendship and for your hard work on this shoot.

Oh, AND we were featured on Classic Bride Blog!  Check out our feature here and more photos on Kathryn Grace's website.  Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 8, 2013

travels | turkey & greece 2013 | the food!

Vacation is all about the amazing food, right? 

Okay, good, I'm glad we had this talk. 

My family loves Greek food!  We regularly visit Greek restaurants in the city and also do a lot of Greek-style cooking at home.  Ask any of us what we were most looking forward to on our trip, the answer was always "the food!". 

Here are my highlights (or the few things that I remembered to photograph), not the best photos, but the memories are happy.
I try to eat gelato everyday when I'm in Europe.  Its good to have goals.
Word y'all!  This was a chicken gyro from a street vendor in Athens.  Best thing I ate on this trip. 
Greek Salad!  Talk about a hunk 'o feta.  I ate one per day, salad that is. 
I like to think it balanced out the daily serving of gelato.
Our boat had 24/7 room service. 
This was my perfect breakfast of fruit, coffee, lox (no bagel please) and hashbrowns.
Bakery in Mykonos.  The donuts were all that!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

travels | turkey & greece 2013 | diving in kusadasi

Scuba diving is the most terrifying thing I've done in my life.  I didn't think it would be a big deal, that I'd just get certified and it'd be fun to go with friends when we were in Greece.  I was not expecting the intense fear that accompanied every practice dive.

I'd pull up at the dive shop on Saturday mornings, coffee in hand, and calmly put my gear together, laughing with my brother and the other divers.  We'd drive to the quarry and hang out until it was time to go and then as soon as my wetsuit was zipped, the fear would come back, my breathing shallow, lungs tight, sick feeling in my gut.  I'd tell myself to push through, pray that God would help me do this and then go under... The bubbling of your regulator and own breathing are the only sounds you hear.  It's so quiet underwater. Then you start to contemplate things...  Like marine flora and fauna in the Midwest, your life, what you should eat for lunch, how strange people's hair looks underwater, air supply, your love of dry land, the sovereignty of God and man's responsibility. 

It gets intense. 

My final practice dive included having to completely take my mask off underwater, replace it and clear out the water.  Seriously, this was not going to happen.  I couldn't force myself through.  I floated at the surface with the assistant instructor (who I'm pretty sure was an angel) and made a few lame jokes as I tried to remember how to breathe.  Backing out at this point was not an option, I got what my dad would call the "eye of the tiger" and said "LETS GO!" and dropped 25 feet down to the platform where I yanked my mask off like a pro, waited for my instructor to tap me, and mentally recited the 23rd Psalm for thirty seconds (or forever, whatever came first).  Then I slowly pulled my mask onto my face, slipped the band around my ponytail and began to clear out my mask, when I opened my eyes, there was my instructor waiting to give me the high-five and "ok" sign.  We finished several more drills, which, compared to the "mask drill" were a breeze, and then shot up to the top like superman.  Our instructors signed off on our certifications, said they'd mail our cards and told us to have fun on our trip.
I packed my mask and snorkel into my suitcase and jetted off to Turkey several days later.  Our dive wasn't until the mid-point of our trip and I tried to not think about it.  As we got closer I was more and more convinced that I'd just do the little tiny "baby dive", you know, just like 10 minutes under the water.  I'm really good at talking myself out of things.

And clearly all about the safe thrills. 

We pulled up the the dive shop in Turkey, about 25 of us, and met our crew for the afternoon.  The dive shop consisted of 3 bronzed divemasters, 4 wetsuits, 5 tanks of air and a dingy.  Sketchy operation if you ask me.  Mr. Diver Number One started to gather all of the Discover Scuba people around (hello, me!) and began to break down his group, and then he asked if anyone was certified...  My hand kinda when up... Then he yelled at me and told me to get in the other line because I wasn't in his group and he was going to let me drown in the Mediterranean.  Or something like that, I was to scared to hear things properly.  And there was a slight language barrier.  And he also looked like he could snap my neck in a skinny minute if provoked.  So I walked over to the other line and slowly signed my life away to a Turkish dive shop.  And then waited for my group to be called.

Daniel went first with his buddies (and captured these beautiful photos), while I waited with a few other people that I didn't know.  And made some more lame jokes (its a coping thing for me).  At last it was our turn, they recycled the guys' wetsuits (wet wetsuits are not fun), BCD's, regs and weights, I'm so glad we're close friends or I'd be even more grossed out.  Then we walked out to the boat.  BOAT!!!  If you've ever tried to get into a moving boat with over 50 pound of equipment on your back, you know the struggle.  I half walked, half fell into the boat and crashed to the other side.  Someone was there to get a photo.  Thanks, I treasure it forever.  Diving from a boat also meant the dreaded back roll over the side of the boat.  Sister doesn't do back rolls, I like to see what I'm getting into.  Thank you very much.  The divemaster wasn't having any of it and as soon as I was sitting on the edge he pushed me over the side.  As I popped up, I was amazed to find that the technique actually worked, you can roll off, tank first and not hurt yourself.


Now I just had to wait for the descent.  My biggest fear of that moment was unknown.  I didn't know how deep we would be going, my equipment was different than what I was used to, the slight language barrier and I just didn't know what else I should be afraid of.  We began to drop one by one and pure blue water began to cover my mask, I let air out of my BCD and waited for my ears to squeeze... And... they didn't.  I saw blue sky again.  Ahhh!  I was stuck!  I kept dumping air out of my vest and tried my hardest to sink (think heavy thoughts...).  They hadn't put enough weight on my belt, I was unexperienced and didn't think to overcompensate for the super salty water and I was was floating like a rubber ducky in the bay.  I finally got down a few feet and reached my hand out to a fellow diver (in my head it was a slow motion "helppppp meeeeeeeeee"),  he pulled me down to the bottom and I'm pretty sure I could see the divemaster rolling his eyes through his mask.  At that point I was more concerned about keeping up with the group and it took my mind off of my fear.  However the weights were doing nothing for me and floating around.  After, oh, about 2 minutes of that, the dive master linked arms with me and dragged me along the ocean floor for the next half an hour.

We really bonded, I felt.

As we swam, slowly my eyes began to focus on the sights around me.  I saw ruins.  My conspiracy, history, ruin-loving self, had completely forgotten the reason I'd signed up for diving class in the first place.  I actually gasped.  Underwater. With my reg in my mouth.  And then laughed.  Thankfully, only I could hear myself (I wouldn't have wanted the divemaster to think I was crazy, oh wait! He already thought that. Carry on.)  My grandpa would have given me the Ace Award for the day (usually reserved for the biggest dingbat.)  I love that word, dingbat.

I could see the light filtering through thousands of gallons of saltwater, and lines, made from waves, in the sand at the very bottom and was reminded of a verse Mr. Potter had prayed that morning over us.  Psalm 16:6, which says "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places".  And right there, under the Mediterranean, I was overcome with gratitude to a God who has indeed allowed my paths to fall in pleasant places.  His goodness towards me is great.  I thought of the many mercies that He'd given me in the past few days alone.  Bless the Lord, oh my soul for His marvelous works.

For He alone is good.

It seems so silly, but as gratitude began to fill my thoughts, I calmed down, and we finished our dive.  Before I knew it my head was being pushed above water and I was right there at dock looking up at Daniel, Josh and JP.  And more importantly, I was alive!
Finishing that dive was the best feeling in the world.  All of the things they tell you about conquering fear is true.  You have the feeling you are on top of the world.  And the best part was having gone with my brother and friends we compared stories and laughed the whole way back to our beautiful boat.  I feel that I look slightly slap-happy in the above photo with my brother Daniel.      
I'm not sure I've seen anything as beautiful as the sun setting over Kusadasi that evening. 

And that concludes the very long winded story of "Abbe Goes Diving & Doesn't Die or Get Eaten by a Shark".  If you've managed to read this far, thank you.

The end.