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Italy-A Look Back After 5 Years!!

Milan, Italy

The Group in Milan, Italy

Today is exactly 5 years ago that I landed at the Fiumicino airport in Rome, Italy. This was the start of 3 amazing months studying abroad! This post is really just for my benefit to go back through pictures and memories and have it written down somewhere, but I hope you will enjoy it too. This trip really did change my life. I learned so much about how to get along with people, especially ones I had just met! How to travel, how to learn a new language and culture, how to wake up in the morning and not shower and wear no makeup and not care! I grew closer in my relationship with God seeing all his wonderful creations. I really didnt want to come back and I thought about moving there very seriously, I loved it that much!! So, here is a little picture journey of my time there where I learned so much about myself and made some very dear friends! They are the only people I can laugh about all these silly things we did and said and i love seeing them so we can reminisce about the experience we had, it was definitely once in a lifetime!!

Joy Beth was my roommate and she was wonderful! We never got in one fight we had the absolute best time together and are still friends today! I definitely miss laughing with her and our fun trips! There were 9 of us and we all grew so close because you spend so much time together and each other is all you have when you are away from all your family and friends and your comfort zone! During our time there I was able to go to: Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Naples, Sorrento, Tivoli, Milan, Switzerland, Paris, Barcelona, London & Venice and lots of other little places in between!! I really am blessed to have been able to have done all of that! We did take classes :) They were really fun! We learned about cooking, language, history, art, it was wonderful! The Italian people are truly wonderful, so caring and sweet and generous. Our professors were the sweetest people in the world and were always willing to help us with whatever we needed! There are so many memories, stories and pictures I cant share them all! But, I think its good to reflect back on things once and awhile and take it all in. I am truly thankful for everyday that I spent there and I cant wait to go back!

Ciao a tutti!

ariccia italy

This is where we lived Ariccia, Italy

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

The Group at the Colosseum (I am the short one being buried haha)

Hotel Villa Ariccia, Italy

This is where we lived-Hotel Villa Ariccia Home Sweet Home!

spanish steps, Italy, Rome

The Group at the Spanish Steps in Rome Italy-our signature jump pic!

tivoli, Italy

The Group in Tivoli, Italy during a field trip

switzerland, interlaken, fondue, chocolate

We took a weekend trip to Interlaken, Switzerland

vatican, Rome, Italy, St. Peters

The Group at St. Peters Basilica at the Vatican in Rome

Montgomery Bell Labor Day 2011

In Austin’s family they have a tradition of going to Montgomery Bell Park in Burns, TN every year for Labor Day or for special occasions. They have been doing this for over 40 years, which is pretty amazing!! I have been to Montgomery Bell 3 times now since being apart of the family and we always have the best time!

We all get to stay in cabins together, but not scary cabins, these are really nice!! :) There is always LOTS of great food, games, laughter, watching football and singing. Grandpa usually gives us an inspiration talk and we pray for everyone. There were 17 of us this weekend and you can feel the love everywhere! This is a really special family. This is not how most families are, but I wish they were. Everyone loves and cares for everyone else so deeply, we all pray for each other and encourage each other. It is ok to be yourself and everyone loves you just the way you are!

Since being apart of this family and going to gatherings at Montgomery Bell it has taught me that this is how family should be. One of my favorite parts about us all getting together is that before every meal we stand in a circle and Grandpa picks a hymn and we all sing together. Afterwards someone is chosen to bless the food. Hearing everyone sing and lift up praise is just amazing. I had never experianced that before until I became a Lee. The traditions are just so wonderful and I love them!

montgomery bell, smores, cookout, singing, praise, worship

Smores and Singing!

singing, montgomery bell, smores, worship

Singing around the fire!

On the last night we gathered around the fire, made Smores (GF of course!!)  and sang country songs and hymns!! This is definitely my favorite part. It was raining outside and we are in the middle of the woods, it is just so peaceful!! We had a great time together and cant wait to do it again soon!! I hope that whatever you did this Labor Day you had a great time as well!!

A Place Of Our Own

The house we are renting

This post is what Andy Stanley would call a RPP=Rich Person Problem. It is. I know that. We are renting a house right now, but I want a house of our own. Im sure that just sounded like a really bratty 5 year old kid “Gimme!!! I want!!” statement. In the picture above is the house we are renting. I know, its cute! Its really not that bad. It’s a 3/2 but it only has one car garage and you can see the really steep driveway. Everyday before work we usually have to play the can-you-move-so-I-can-leave game with our cars which stinks. Everything is on one level and all the rooms are all right next to each other so there really is NO privacy when other people are here. The backyard is just a sad mess too!

I am just kind of tired having someone tell me what I can and cant do ( ie: a landlord). I hate that there are SO many things that could be done to this house to make it better but its not mine, so why waste the money?? I really want to be proud of the place that I live, and I am not at all ashamed of this place but we just aren’t able to put our touches on it. Im obsessed with this blog and the more I read it the more I want my own place so I can do this and be creative!!!

Im complaining because its going to be at least 1-2 years before we have our own place :( First, we are getting out of debt. Our goal is to be out by Christmas, thanks Dave Ramsay! Then we will be onto saving. I have now been informed that it takes a really long time to save for a down payment so now Im hoping we will the lottery or something! So, once we finally have that then we can start looking :( The trouble is that when Im bored I play around on Trulia & Zillow and Ive already found places I would love to move to now!!! I know the real estate market is horrible for sellers at the moment and will probably stay that way for awhile, but I just dont want to miss out on the perfect place! Im pretty patient about most things in life but this I am NOT being patient at all about this! Im just getting tired of giving someone all my money when I would rather be investing it in my own place.

 I also volunteer with Angels Among Us rescuing dogs from high kill shelters. Once the dogs are saved they need a foster home until they are adopted. Well…ive got someone telling me I can only have my own dogs (which we had to pay a hefty fee for) or Ill have to pay more fees. Even though these dogs may only stay  a couple weeks to a month we still cant do it. It just really makes me sad that I cant do as much as I would like, and again im really frustrated.

So, pray that I can be patient for 2 more years and that we find a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end of it! :) If you are friends with us & we never can do anything fun anymore, this is why! :) haha Kidding…kind of. I know that it will happen when we are ready and when it’s right, just wish it was now!

Miss Scarlet!!

scarlet, angels among us, pet rescue, lab mix, puppy, georgia

I found Miss Scarlet! In the living room with a bone :) Ok, sorry cheesy Clue reference. Look at this face people! How cute is she?! Well, im sure by now you’ve seen my facebook and twitter posts about her. I am volunteering through
Angels Among Us Pet Rescue to temporarily foster her while she recovers from her spay surgery. It breaks my heart that 1) I cant keep her forever, I think that Austin will frown upon that :) or at least long term foster 2.) That after we take care of her that she would have to go back to doggie day care because she doesnt have a permanent foster.

So, if you think maybe you can foster her or even better, take her home forever please let me know and I will put you in contact with the right people!! She is 6 months old lab/boxer mix, crate trained & potty trained. She was seperated from her best buddy when she got a foster so since then shes been really shy & scared so it takes her a little while to warm up. She is a little wary of hyper dogs, they kind of scare her a bit. She  just wants to cuddle and be loved, it is defintiely obvious that she is lonely and just hasnt had alot of attention, especially being in doggie daycare. She loves giving kisses and will follow you from room to room. She knows how to sit and shes very smart & im sure she would learn other tricks very quickly!

I really want to cry thinking about sending her back to doggie day care, but I would feel much better if she had a nice home to go to :) This was my first time fostering and it was not hard at all, and we have 3 dogs at the moment. Its such a wonderful feeling knowing that you are helping save a life and helping a dog become such a joy for someone’s family. Please consider :)

Thanks!

GF Travel Guide-Amelia Island, FL

Brett's Waterway Cafe - Fernandina Beach
As I stated in my previous post, Austin and I just got back from our trip to Amelia Island, FL. Going on vacation is so fun, but when you have some food restrictions there is alot more to plan for and can be a little more stressful. Before we left I researched restaurants and they had ZERO places that had a gluten free menu or anything stating that they would accommodate you. So, I was a little nervous. This is my own personal guide to 1.) What snacks do we bring on trips?/How to be prepared. 2.) Where we ate in Amelia Island that was safe. Hope this helps you if you are planning on traveling down there or anywhere at all!

Whenever we go on trips these are our go-to snacks and things that we have to have:

-GF homemade Chex Mix
-Larabars/Fruit Snacks
-GF homemade cookies (either double chocolate or chocolate chip!)
-GF Chex cereal for breakfast
-GF Potato Chips (Kettle Brand)
-Bananas/Apples
-Nut Thins

I always just try and have enough stuff so we dont have to worry about getting snacks at the gas station or when we have to find a place to get lunch, etc. there is always something we can have! And once you get to your destination just in case there are not alot of things to choose from you wont be stranded without anything to eat!

Eating out no matter if its at home or somewhere else can be a challenge. Explaining allergic to wheat/gluten can sometimes be a process if the person has no idea what you are talking about! For breakfast we just ate fruit & cereal in our room that we brought and thankfully the Ritz Carlton provided us with a mini fridge so we made our own GF PB&J and Salami sandwiches up in our room with Udi’s bread! That also saves you some $$ rather than eating out every meal! We went out to eat for every dinner so here is a little guide of where we went! :

1.) Our first night was actually in Jacksonville and we went to Chipotle so that doesn’t really count :)

2.) Our second night we actually ate with some people in Jacksonville for a work thing Austin had and we went to Ragtime. I ordered the Pear and Gorgonzola salad. Unfortunately it had to be made without the hazelnut crusted chicken so it was grilled chicken, pear & gorgonzola & lettuce. It was ok but a little disappointing! The waiter knew a little about gluten free and he said they could change stuff so it would work, but basically that means you get a salad with only grilled chicken & lettuce on it!

3.) Our third night was actually in Fernandina Beach which is right next to Amelia Island, but where are the restaurants, shops are. We went to the Crab Trap. Now, I don’t like seafood. I have tried probably every possible seafood there is and I just don’t like the taste or texture, way to fishy! So of course we are at the beach so there is ALOT of seafood. So, we go to the Crab Trap and everything is fish pretty much, except chicken tenders. The waitress was very nice and said they would  grill or blacken anything that you wanted so I got grilled chicken and a sweet potato. I was definitely a little nervous because that didn’t sound filling or really that delicious. Thankfully they brought out the chicken with rice but there was no sauce. The sweet potato was good though. So, if you like seafood great place, if not its probably not the place for you. Austin really liked it :)

4.) On our last night we went to Brett’s Waterway Cafe (in the picture above). I would say it was the best place we had been to the whole trip. The waitress was a little clueless about gluten free but was willing to help. I ordered the grilled chicken & mozzarella sandwich sans the bread and Austin got the low country boil. Their french fries are coated in flour before they fry them so that is a no go as a side, so I got green beans. Overall it was great. The chicken was grilled with a pesto sauce, tomato and mozzarella. The green beans were good too!!

5.) Dessert-This is the most important part!! There is a place called Fernandina’s Fantastic Fudge. The sell ice cream but they sell this delicious fudge and candies as well! I got 4 different pieces of candy: praline,chocolate covered raisins, chocolate truffle and a caramel. SO good!! I would highly recommend!!

I hope that if you travel to Jacksonville/Amelia Island/Fernandina that this will be helpful to you in finding places that you can enjoy and not worry about what you are eating!!

Safe Travels!!

 

Beach Trip 2011

ritz carlton amelia island We just got back on Thursday night from our vacation for this year. We were so lucky to be able to go to the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island, FL for almost free since Austin was speaking at a conference there! Our trip started out Sunday we actually stayed in Jacksonville for the night because Austin had to do some business there on Monday morning. Monday we made our way to Amelia Island. I had been here when I was in the 7th grade so I didnt remember too much about it. Its a great casual chill place. It was really relaxing!! Here is the view from our room:

ritz carlton amelia island Beautiful, right??! The Ritz Carlton was amazing and I think its going to be hard to go back to staying at Hampton Inns haha :) Tuesday and Wednesday were spent going to the pool and beach, but thunderstorms every afternoon cut that short a little which was sad, but it was still nice. The storms cooled everything off so the weather was perfect! Austin gave his talk on Wednesday and then Wednesday night was our nice dinner kind of celebrating our anniversary from the beginning of June and celebrating being on vacation! Unfortunately we had to leave on Thursday and make our way back but it was a very nice and relaxing trip! I definitely recommend taking a trip there, its about 6 hours from Atlanta and it really is a beautiful place! The Ritz was wonderful, but if you cant stay there, there looks like alot of other wonderful places to stay too!! Vacation is over so its back to reality now! Bummer until vacation 2012! Cant wait!

Alot to Celebrate!

 

1821-celebration

photo courtesy of pitchfork.com

Today we are headed to the beach!! whoo!! Austin is speaking at an Accounting Conference and they are generously paying for our gas and room at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island! YAY! So this is our summer vacation which is awesome because it is practically free! So, that is definitely worth celebrating, but  there will be another post on this when we get home!

Ok, so the real celebrations! Today marks the day one year ago that I was baptized at Buckhead Church! I accepted Christ when I was a junior in high school but I dont think I ever really understood what baptism really meant. I knew that you didnt have to be baptized to go to heaven, but why would you need to go get dunked in water?? When I started attending Buckhead Church almost 3 years I would constantly hear Andy Stanley and the other speakers mention baptism and it started to get me thinking. Alot of my friends had already been baptized and everytime I heard the word baptism I felt convicted and like God was nudging me along. Austin was already a member of Buckhead Church and I knew this is where I wanted my home church to be so I decided I should be a member too! Well, to be a member you have to have been baptized. Ok, God I get it now, I need to get baptized!! Although I needed to be baptized to be a member I knew this was God telling me to finally go out there and share my story with everyone and have accountability to grow even more.That was the final push I needed and I filled out my inquiry online in March. It was a long process but they did an amazing job preparing you! I had to write a little script of what I wanted to say and then go record it at the church. I was SO nervous. I hate public speaking and reading aloud in front of people so this was not exciting to me! I sat in a room with the 5 other people that were going to be baptized that day and we all went around the circle and read our stories. Instead of being nervous I listened as I heard these amazing stories of what God has done in other people’s lives and I realized that this is nothing to be scared of, you need to celebrate this, this is YOUR story and there is only one. Well, it was now my turn to read my story aloud and go film it. Surprisingly I only had to record mine 3 times! The cameramen were great and totally made me laugh and get my mind off being nervous and hoping that I remembered what I wanted to say.

Well, it came time for the day of my baptism. Austin’s parents came into town for it and all my friends were going to be there! I arrived to the church pretty early and the other guy getting baptized and I prayed and read scripture with the pastor baptizing us. Then we were able to worship up in the balcony, and then it was time! We got these awesome blue tops with matching shorts that were HUGE on me haha. I stepped out into the water and it felt like a bath. I watched as my video played on the big screen and then BOOM, light on me! Ok, all I have to do is hold on really tight to his arm so I dont drown, that is pretty simple, right? 1, 2, 3, dipped in the water, and now its done. It was a like a wedding, it was alot of planning and went by in 2 seconds!  That day was kind of a blur, but I think now that it has been a year later I can appreciate it more because now I can continually see what God is doing and how He has been there every step of the way, and will continue to be throughout my journey.

This was a very busy day because this was the day I also decided that I was going to go to the doctor to be tested for Celiac’s Disease. I got sick the morning of my baptism and I was so angry, thinking this is supposed to be such a wonderful day and now I just feel horrible. Thankfully I felt better before I arrived at church, but it definitely put a little bit of a damper on things. That afternoon I told myself, this has got to stop, I have to figure out what is wrong because this cant ruin the rest of my life. I made an appointment the next day, and now a year later I am gluten free! My life changed alot that day and positively! I think its important to reflect on significant times in your life and see how far you have come. Now I have this blog, I know how to cook gluten free and I dont have to be afraid that Ill get sick anymore, and I have a Savior who loves me.

I think that is worth celebrating don’t you? Do you have something, big or small, that you can celebrate today?

A Matter Close To My Heart: Adopt a Dog!

Jake and Angie rescued dogs!!

My puppies!!

 I know I usually just post recipes on here, but this blog was intended to be about my life as a whole. So, I thought I would write about something that is very near and dear to my heart: animals; specifically dogs. I remember when I was 4 or 5 I asked for a dog for Christmas and my parents ended up getting me a stuffed animal dog. I was devasted, I cried ALOT. I begged for a dog every year after that even though I already had a cat. When I was 10 we finally got a dog! We went to the pet store and picked out a basset hound puppy. She was the cutest! At this point we had one dog, 2 cats, a fish and at one point some rabbits and a guinea pig, and no we did not live on a farm! When I was in middle school we started rescuing Basset Hounds everytime we would pass an adoption at Petsmart so we had 3 Basset Hounds, a cat & a fish. I wanted to be a vet when I was little and thought about doing it and that is one of the reasons I went to Auburn, but ultimately opted out because im not a fan of blood & cutting animals open :( When I went to college I rescued Angie (in the picture above) and my brother rescued a dog as well. So, it was a full house when I came home, we had 5 dogs, 1 cat & a fish!

When Austin and I got married he definitely knew that I loved dogs & wanted more of them so that was good! He grew up a little different than I did, they had a weiner dog for a little while until it chewed up their furniture & they gave him away, so that was Austin’s only dog experiance! About 9 months after we were married we adopted Jake (the lab in the picture above) from the Atlanta Humane Society. Going in there it just breaks your heart with all of the sweet little faces that need homes. I could have taken them all home! So, right now we are renting a house, but we are definitely hoping to purchase our own in the coming year and are talking about getting another dog then, rescued of course! We seriously considered adopting this precious puppy that looks exactly like Jake but we know its just not the right time now, but oh how I wish it was!

My dream would definitely be to foster dogs who need homes and make a place for ones that have been abandoned. I never have had a “mom” instinct and Im not sure if I even want to have kids, but I definitely feel like this is where my heart is and a way that I can do good in this life.  I will now go on a Bob Barker rant and ask if you do have pets please make sure they are fixed and if you are looking to add a pet to your family here are some great places/organizations to check and please seriously think about adopting!!

Links:

Atlanta Humane Society
Angels Among Us
Atlanta Pet Rescue
Atlanta Lab Rescue

Basset Hound Rescue of GA
Forgotten Paws Pet Rescue

How To: Cut Down Costs on Expensive Allergy-Free Foods

Udi's products

photo courtesy of glutenfreegreenie.blogspot.com

So, you first get the news that you have an allergy. Ok, no problem just totally change my diet, easy. Now, step 2: go to the grocery store and try not to spend $200 on just speciality/organic foods. I was shocked the first time I went shopping for gluten free and dairy free foods. Austin and I first started going to Whole Foods because Kroger still didn’t have a great selection. Then we started going to both, and now we just go to Kroger.  My friend Meghan over at Loquacious Lady  just did a series on couponing that everyone should definitely check out! She went through Drug Store and Grocery Coupons and how to double them and when to use. Now, when you have an allergy the unfortunate thing is that there are usually no coupons for the foods you need and they rarely go on sale. I have recently wanted to get better at saving money and I have been trying really hard at this coupon thing! So, these are the things I do to try and save a little money on the foods that are most expensive.

1) For Udi’s Products: Sign up for Udi’s newsletter. They just included a coupon for $1.50 any product in the one they sent out yesterday. There are coupons every couple of weeks for $1.00 off an Udi’s product that you can find on Coupons.com or sign up for Southern Savers, which I talk about on #2. At Kroger sometimes they have managers special and once Udi’s was on sale for $1.50 and I had $1.00 off coupon, $0.50 Udi’s alright!! I usually buy at least 2 bread at a time and freeze one so at least you have some when you need it and you aren’t running to the store every couple of days. Stock up if you have a coupon or they are on sale, that is the time to strike!

2) Sign up for Southern Savers . You will thank me! This is the best coupon site EVER! She emails you almost daily and tells you about deals going on and gives you coupons to print out. This is where I usually find coupons for Udis.

3) Nut Thins: Southern Savers usually has a coupon for Blue Diamond products as well, usually $0.50 off an item. Kroger has them on sale alot, I usually buy 4-6 if they are on sale and Ive got coupons. In the organic section at Kroger they have kind of a discount section where they put random stuff and its like $1.00 or less. They have had NutThins in that section before and Ive got them for $1.00 or less, so watch out for that.

4) Flours/Baking: I use Bob’s Red Mill. Ive never seen a coupon for Bob’s Red Mill but every couple of weeks Kroger has my flour on sale for about a $1.00 less and I usually buy 2.

5) Blue Diamond/Silk Milks: There are coupons for these on Southern Savers as well. There are usually $0.50 off a gallon, there have been $1.00 off as well. If you shop Kroger we usually get alot of catalina coupons (Meghan can explain what these are!) for Silk and Kroger usually has the electronic ones for Blue Diamond right by the milk and I usually take as many as i can, they don’t expire for awhile usually!

6)Larabars: These are my little on the go snacks saviors! Southern Savers had a coupon for these $1.00/4 and Whole Foods usually has a coupon on their website for them too. Kroger will have them for 10/$10 and I usually stock up.

7) Chex cereals: I eat this for breakfast almost everyday! There are 4 gfree kinds so lots to choose from! Kroger almost always has the Rice Chex on sale and there are almost always coupons on Southern Savers for $1.00-$1.50-$2.00 off if you buy 2,3, or 4 boxes. I usually buy either 2 or 4 and that lasts us at least 2 weeks. If they are on sale and you have a coupon you definitely want to stock up on these also.

Here is my little plug for Kroger:
1) If you transfer a prescription to them you get $25 worth of FREE groceries! So, that’s like 5 loaves of Udi’s bread!
2) The more you spend the more gas fuel points you get. For every 100 points you get 10 cents off a gallon so 300 points=$0.30!
So, we all know its easy to spend alot on our allergy free food, but at least you are getting rewarded some way! And for every
prescription refill you get 50 fuel points!

I hope this was helpful. There are ways to eat allergy free and not feel like you are draining the wallet! Please let me know if you have any other suggestions/recommendations to add, I would love to hear them!

Happy Anniversary! Let’s Eat Gfree Wedding Cake! :)

our wedding

Today is our 2nd Wedding Anniversary! I can’t believe that its already been 2 years, it really does go by so fast! Here is a little snapshot of us right after the ceremony :) It was a great day! We definitely had alot of fun! We have had some great times these past 2 years and some really hard times, but it’s those hard times that have brought us here today. We have made it through and we are stronger now because of it. We have God and we have each other and that is what matters! Continue Reading…

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