Lovely city, lovelier friends.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I spent the weekend in Chicago.
And I soaked up every minute.
There are some weekend trips that are fun, but exhausting. But this one, spending time with amazing girlfriends who make me so happy, was incredibly refreshing from start to finish.


Kirra: passionate, tenderhearted, and a true kindred spirit.

She and Taylor were sweet to pick me up from the airport and welcome me into their home on the first night. Kirra has cultivated such an inviting home and I love it a little too much... just ask my three friends who I dragged there just to see it. :) It was such a treat to catch up with her, do a little sewing, and enjoy the morning over yogurt parfaits.
{Sewing practice.}

Kirra and I did a little walking around the [freezing!] city, visiting some old and new favorite spots.

A new favorite: this flower shop.

And of course, an old favorite, our street.

I looked into the windows of our old apartment and wondered how they've decorated since we were there.


We searched for Pops in his usual spot, but he was nowhere to be found. I'm hoping he was enjoying banana bread on another corner that day.
We also visited our alma mater, and had some trouble even getting in (tight security, sheesh!).
But at last, we enjoyed some Joe's coffee and a warm spot to chat.

Anna: intuitive, caring, and wise.
It seems like Anna and I have so much history together in such a short time. We've shared a lot of big life moments, such as our last semester in a dorm, our engagements (I got to hide behind a bush to photograph hers!), our weddings, and now sorting through life as newlyweds. Even though we don't talk every day, I know we can always pick up where we left off and have enriching conversation.
It was so good to see her.

Ilene: artistic, adventurous, and always encouraging.
This girl has been such a blessing in my life. She has been there since the very, very beginning of "Shawn and Whitney" and has been so encouraging along the way. We share a joy for all things related to arts and crafts, though we never quite get around to the "art date" we always plan because we end up talking the night away (which is fine, too)!
We spent the morning at the best coffee shop in Lincoln Park.
We took pictures of our food.
Because we are bloggers. That is what we do.
And we had a mini photo shoot in the park with Ilene and Ryan, her boy.


They could not be cuter.
I love the laughing pics because they capture their relationship so well. :)
Love you, Lenes. (Shawn does too, and was sad he missed seeing you!)
Camille: a bright soul, opinionated (in the best way), and such a faithful friend.
I was so glad to see the "many faces" of Camille. :)

I was amazed by this new and improved Argo sign. This is my favorite Argo, in case anyone wondered. (I was a bit bummed that every seat was taken, but thankful to sip a Charitea and walk around the city.)
Oh, and I stalked our friend Zito (Shawn's former roommate) who I kept bumping into - he was visiting from Detroit. And no, he didn't know I was taking a picture of him.:)

I enjoyed Chipotle. Twice.
And finally, I said "see you later" to my favorite city. Later, meaning May.
Until then, I will miss this lovely city and even more, I'll miss my lovelier friends.

Gluten-free almond butter cookies.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gluten-free baking does not get easier than this.

My grandma gave me this recipe many years ago for peanut butter cookies, and it is amazingly simple and turns out perfectly every time. And because the recipe has no flour, it is naturally gluten-free!

Today, I tried it out with almond butter (because that's what we had) and it turned out much richer in flavor, but equally delicious. Chewy in the center with a slight crunch on the outside. Delightful with a cup of coffee while painting on a rainy day. (I'm a happy girl.)



1 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Mix ingredients together. Form into teaspoon-size balls and mark tops with wet fork into a lattice (optional). Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until slightly golden.


PS - Painting last night was a blast (after the first 3 minutes that my heart was beating out of my chest). It looks like I'll be teaching about 7 or 8 classes in April! If you live near Franklin, take a look at our calendar and come paint with me!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tonight, I'll be teaching 50 eager students to paint this:

{Sunflowers, by Van Gogh}
I'm thrilled and scared to death all at once. (I've been assisting for a couple weeks, but have never taught.) More than anything, I'm thankful that teaching people to paint is my job. Never thought I could be paid to have so much fun. What a gift!

(Any prayers on my behalf would be greatly appreciated.) :)

When life gives you lemons...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

...or when you find a bag of them on sale... 
make lemonade!


Making lemonade from scratch was a first for me, and it was so delicious with dinner last night that I had to post the recipe.

2 cups lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water (for simple syrup)
6 to 8 cups cold water (to dilute)

1. Make simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved.
2. While the sugar is dissolving, use a juicer to extract the juice from 8 to 10 lemons, enough for 2 cups of juice (or in my case, just squeeze really hard). :)
3. Add the juice and the sugar water to a pitcher. Add 6 to 8 cups of cold water, more or less to the desired strength. Refrigerate 30 to 40 minutes. If the lemonade is too sweet, add a little more straight lemon juice to it. 

Serves 10-12. 

Recipe for fun.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Two rambunctious little boys + plenty of bubble wrap



And the winners are...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stephanie D., allicatrenfro, Jess, Laura Bumbalough, and April!

If you guys would email me your mailing addresses (, I'll go ahead and order the books for you.

I hope and pray you are encouraged and inspired by Crazy Love, in whatever season of life you may find yourself. 

Thanks to everyone who entered! This was fun. :)

Spring has sprung.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

{Orange-almond-flax muffins just out of the oven.}
{Our back yard in bloom.}

Gluten-free banana bread.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

gfbananabread copy

I want to introduce you to a "go-to" gluten-free recipe that is delicious every single time. (I can't say that about many other gluten-free baking recipes.)
This banana bread is not only gluten-free, but dairy-free (therefore vegan) and sugar-free and honestly, you can't tell that it's missing anything at all.
It's from the Babycakes cookbook which I cannot recommend more highly for gluten-free baking. This cookbook has singlehandedly given me hope that I can still bake yummy things even though I can't eat gluten!
It does call for a few ingredients you may not have heard of, but I'll explain those at the end.
2 cups Bob's Red Mill gluten-free, all-purpose baking flour*
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (not needed if you're using regular all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted coconut oil, plus more for the pan**
2/3 cup agave nectar***
2/3 cup rice or almond milk (we use almond milk for everything)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
• Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 7 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pan with oil.
• In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, and cinnamon. Add 1/2 cup oil and the agave nectar, milk, and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is smooth. Using a plastic spatula, gently fold in the bananas until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.
• Fill the prepared pan halfway with batter. Bake banana bread on the center rack for 35 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 20 minutes. The finished loaf will bounce back slightly when pressed, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
• Let the banana bread stand in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting it onto a plate.
*A note about Bob's Red Mill gluten-free, all-purpose baking flour: I love this stuff. I actually buy it in bulk on to save money, and I use it all the time. It really saves time, money, and energy versus making my own flour blend.

**About coconut oil: I also buy this in bulk, from Mountain Rose Herbs. Coconut oil has quite a few proven health benefits (just search "coconut oil" in Google and you'll find plenty) and it is so versatile. I use it in my homemade deodorant and sometimes for moisturizer. I also replace other oils (i.e. canola or olive oil) in baking recipes because it is organic and healthier. (And no, all your food won't come out tasting like coconut, I promise!) You can also add it to smoothies. Lastly, I use it to sauté vegetables or chicken (or I use grapeseed oil) because olive oil shouldn't be used at high temperatures. When olive oil is heated above 260°F, it will cause the oil to transition into a trans fat. It's better to use olive oil in salad dressings or to dip bread, but not to heat.

***About agave nectar: This is a somewhat recent find for us, and we buy it in bulk from Costco. It is a low-glycemic sweetener, meaning that it does not spike your blood sugar like normal sugar does. We love to drizzle it on oatmeal, strawberries, use it in tea and coffee, and in a few recipes that call for it. It is even sweeter than sugar, so less is needed.

Crazy Love giveaway.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I just read this book in two sittings and found myself convicted, encouraged, challenged, inspired, frustrated, and overjoyed. I feel that it is one of those books that every believer should read no matter where they are on their journey with the Lord. I think it has the potential to take your thinking about the Christian life to the next level.

So I am giving away 5 copies of this book. (I wish I could give away one for every person who wanted one!) To enter the giveaway, just comment on this post by Friday, March 19 and I'll have the random number generator pick three winners.

And if you don't win, I urge you to find a copy of this book anyway. It is radical, life-changing, and so worth your time.

Good luck!

Scenes from the weekend, part 1.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My best friend Jessica married the love of her life, Winston, this morning. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Here are some of my favorite moments from the weekend.


{Jess & Tramese}

{Me with the blushing (almost) bride. Isn't she gorgeous?!}


{It was sooo good to catch up with these girls! It had been too long. Love you both!}

{See the family resemblance?}

{The bride, getting ready}

{Favorite pic of the day.}


{Father-daughter dance. This one makes me want to cry.}
{Beautiful Jessica.}
{And Nate too!}
{Sweet girl tuckered out.}

Hope you two have a fabulous honeymoon!
Love you both so much!
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