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courtneyg

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Valentine’s Day at Answer Nashville

We had the absolute best dinner date this past Valentine’s Day! Sam and I don’t do fixed menus on holiday’s so we always look for those restaurants hosting their standard menu. I’m so glad Answer was one of them because it was beyond amazing. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a boutique style restaurant in Sylvan Park. If you blink, you might pass it and I would feel terrible for you because you have to try it out.

First off, our waiter was awesome. He was super attentive and very helpful when we asked for recommendations. The menu had a lot to choose from, which is always nice when you have a meat eater and a vegetarian at the same table. We had 3 courses (4 if you count the drinks) and each one was better than the last. I could go on and on about the flavor and presentation, but I wont. I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. One last thing before I let you drool over the food pics, make sure you save room for dessert!

Appetizer

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crab. avocado, lime, herbs, radish, pickled shallot, spent grain toast

Main Course

duck. confit leg, job’s tears, greens, carrot, brown butter, fig & port demi

duck. confit leg, job’s tears, greens, carrot, brown butter, fig & port demi. I got the garganelli veggie pasta (not pictured here).

Dessert

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Literally the best ice cream ever

 

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Weekend in Asheville

Just a quick drive on I-40 east and we were in Asheville in less than 5 hours! We wanted a little relaxation retreat while we were there, so we ended up booking a cottage in Black Mountain, a small town just outside. It was seriously the most adorable cottage I’ve ever seen. So much room for the 4 of us plus, for our high energy pup, the basement and fenced in yard were just what he needed. I definitely prefer airbnb to a hotel when our four-legged child tags along. It’s way less stressful.

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Oh and I can’t forget, they welcomed us with cupcakes and even a cute valentine dog cookie for Rhett. How sweet is that?!?

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With just a couple days in Asheville, I think we did pretty good making the most of what we went there for. First up was a self-guided tour of the Biltmore. It rained all day, so it was nice to be able to hear all about it’s history as we wandered through the house. The architecture was stunning and I was tempted to sit in front of the many fireplaces with my notebook for a little writing session, so much inspiration.

We braved the downpour once the tour was over for a wine tasting at Antler Hill Village to try some Biltmore Wines. Best part… the wine tasting is free and they have a lot to choose from, including some limited reserved wines.

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Asheville is also quickly becoming a hit for beer lovers, aka my boyfriend. We spent a good amount of both the nights we were there hitting up the breweries while he taste tested. We of course had to check out Wicked Weed, where he gave 2 thumbs up for his flight. Others breweries with Sam’s stamp of approval:

Hillman Beer

Catawba Brewing

Lookout Brewing (Black Mountain)

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All good things must come to an end, so we woke up the morning of our last day to grab a donut from Vortex Donuts and do a little shopping in Biltmore Village. Of course that’s when the sun decided to come out, but it made for a nice drive back to Nashville.

I know there is still so much more to explore, so we will surely be back again!

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Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup

I have always been a fan of the Crock-Pot.  This Is Us hasn’t scared me away from it yet and I’m thankful for that because this slow cooker tortellini soup recipe really hit the spot! It was in the high 20’s this past week in Nashville and it was nice to be able to sit down to something warm after a long day of work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 4 hours on low

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups chopped celery
  2. 2 cups chopped carrots
  3. 2 cups fresh spinach diced
  4. 16oz-22oz pack three cheese tortellini (if you want LOTS of tortellini as seen in photo above, go for 22oz. If you prefer a bit more sparse, go with the 16 oz)
  5. 1 tbsp parsley
  6. 1 tbsp oregano
  7. 1 tbsp rosemary
  8. 1 tbsp basil
  9. 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (I used 4 in this one and I definitely wish I used more. I ended up adding a bit of water, but I think 2 more cups would’ve been perfect)!
  10. Mini mozzarella cheese balls for topping

Directions

Place first 8 ingredients in slow cooker and mix evenly. Slowly add in vegetable broth. Mix and turn on low for about 4 hours. I checked on it about half way through and mixed it then left until dinner time. Tortellini will be soft and celery will be translucent when done. Serve in bowl and top with mini mozzarella balls if desired.

 

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Not Your Typical Valentine’s Date Ideas

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! Looking for something to do after dinner? Just want to change it up a little? I’ve listed some of my favorite “off the beaten path ideas” below.

Wine & Paint Night – Channel the inner Picasso in both of you with a paint brush and a glass of wine. Wine & Paint nights aren’t just for girl’s night out. This is a great after dinner activity for couple’s on Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to see who can create the next masterpiece.

Sign up for a cooking class – They always say the way to a man’s heart is through the kitchen, which makes a cooking class the perfect date! Test out your palette while learning how to create new dishes and enjoy a nice meal together in a creative way.

A night under the stars at the Planetarium – A lot of Planetariums hold special events on Valentine’s Day because what is more romantic than spending a night looking up at the stars. Check out your local one and see what they have going on!

Take a scavenger hunt around the city – Plan a whole night of surprises. Trade on and off. Put him in charge of where to eat dinner, you take the dessert and alternate on nightly activities. The best part about the scavenger hunt, is neither of you tell the other what you have planned, you each make up clues and half the fun is in the guessing.

A night at the zoo – What is more romantic than hanging out with cute animals! Stroll past elephants, monkeys and bears hand in hand and hey, if it’s cold, just pull each other closer.

Test out your teamwork skills in an escape room – What better way to work on your communication skills than the escape game! The clock is ticking and the game is on. Will you make it out?

Volunteer – Give back together.

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Weekend Getaways Close to Nashville

We all need a nice long weekend getaway to relax and unwind. That’s why I put together 5 places just a few hours from Nashville that would make the perfect road trip!

ASHEVILLE

Driving time: 4.5 hours

Things to do: Tour the Biltmore -Walk the River Arts District – Check out the many breweries – go for a hike and admire the waterfalls

Where to Stay: Rent a cabin – Omni Grove Park Inn – Grand Bohemian Hotel – The Foundry


 PIGEON FORGE

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Driving time: 4 hours

Things to do: Spend a day at Dollywood – Hiking for amazing views of the Smokies – Titanic Museum – Dinner Shows – Explore Gatlinburg – Rocky Top Wine Trail – Gatlinburg Sky Lift

Where to Stay: Rent a cabin – Dollywood’s Dreammore Resort


CHATTANOOGA - I have not been here yet, so below is basically my list of things I want to do when I finally get there!

Driving time: 2 hours

Things to do: Tour Ruby Falls – Visit the Tennessee Aquarium – Take in the sights of Lookout Mountain – Explore Raccoon Caverns

Where to Stay: Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel – The Chattanoogan


MEMPHIS (Check out my previous blog recap of our trip)

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Driving time: Just over 3 hours

Things to do: Take a tour of Graceland – Hang out on Beale Street – Listen to Live Jazz – Stand where the legends did at Sun Studios

Where to Stay: Guest House at Graceland - Hotel Napoleon


 LOUISVILLE

Driving time – About 3 hours

Things to do: Fourth Street Live! for a night out – Tasting at Jim Beam Stillhouse – Louisville Slugger Museum – Stroll along the waterfront – Make a reservation at Jack Fry’s (you won’t regret it) – Check out Steel City Pops

Where to Stay: 21C Hotel – Marriott Downtown

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More Than a Number

There used to be a time when I worked out 7 days a week. I felt guilty taking a “rest ” day. I stepped on the scale multiple times a day and lived my life based on a number.To the naked eye, I “looked great.” I was “in such good shape.” What the naked eye wouldn’t tell you though, is that I was anything but healthy.

My obsession to “look good” and “be skinny” took over my life. I thought if I could “just be skinny enough” that I would be worthy of love. It has been a very slow and steady process to undo all that I have done to myself. To understand that skinny does not mean healthy and that my worth is not measured by the number on a scale.

Today’s post is to simply say … if you are struggling, you are not alone. I have been there. Some days I still am there, but even after 4 steps back follows 2 steps forward, I never give up. In those moments I pause. I breathe and I remind myself:

  1. Do not compare yourself to where you used to be or where you want to. Love who you are now.
  2. Food is fuel that feeds your body. It is not the enemy.
  3.  There is no ideal weight. There is no ideal size. There is just you, waking up every day being the best version of yourself that you can be.
  4.  The person in the mirror is worth of love that is kind, honest and true.
  5. Focus on being healthy and the rest will follow. You do not have to fight alone. Speak out and you will be surprised who will lend their shoulder to lean on.
  6. You have always been enough and you will always be enough
  7. How incredibly boring would it be if you looked like everyone else?
  8.  You are stronger than your eating disorder.
  9. You control your mind, what you tell it, it believes. Continue to remind yourself that you can beat this… and you will.
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No More Knots – DIY Necklace Holder

My love for shower hooks in DIY projects has become an obsession. Is anyone else always losing earrings and having their necklaces get tangled in their jewelry box?

Yup, that’s me over here. So, I finally decided that I’ve had enough. I got creative and bought this cute shelf at none other than Target along with a pack of shower hooks.

It was so easy. All I did was hang this shelf high enough in my closet that my necklaces wouldn’t hit the ground and once it was secure, I placed the shower hooks on it and lined all my earrings and necklaces on each hook. And the shelf even had room for all my bracelets to rest on top.

Now it looks like I’m so organized! The best part though, no more spending time trying to unknot all my necklaces when I pull them out of my jewelry box. Woo hoo!!

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Power of the Mind

I began adding meditation into my nightly routine about a year ago. Back then I didn’t truly understand it and it was incredibly hard for me. “Start with just 30 seconds and go from there,” they said. “Let your mind go blank.”

30 seconds, I thought. I can do anything for 30 seconds. It turns out, 30 seconds of meditation was impossible for me. I tried not to think about anything. I tried to put my mind at complete silence, but failed, so I gave up. Meditation just isn’t for me, I thought.

Then began the panic attacks. They started off maybe once a month and after 6 or 7 months it became weekly. Weekly turned into not sleeping for days at a time. Just as I was about to fall asleep, I would shoot back up again in bed, barely able to catch my breath. My heart was pounding out of my chest and my body shaking.

I went to the doctor and she told me that the panic attacks stem from my mind not being able to succumb to sleep. That I had so much running through my mind at night, it didn’t know how to stop. She put me on anxiety medication. It took about a week, but the panic attacks began to lessen and eventually they disappeared. It took about 3 months to get the dosage just right where I wasn’t falling asleep in my chair during the day or feeling nauseous.

I hated it, taking a pill every day. It wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to make a lifelong commitment to a pill. I didn’t want to rely on a pill to fix me. I wanted to fix myself. My Dr. recommended I introduce some sort of relaxation into my nightly routine using an app, so I downloaded Calm.

First I started out with their adult sleep stories. I focused hard on making sure to follow along instead of being interrupted by my own thoughts. It was hard at first. If I caught myself being distracted, I would quickly refocus. After a few nights, I found myself falling asleep before the stories were even over. Now, I alternate between nightly sleep stories and meditation.

Those 30 minutes before bedtime have become my solace. During that time I wash away the day’s stress. I forget about what I have to do tomorrow and lie still. I check in with myself and what really matters — me. It wasn’t easy. I am always going a hundred miles an hour. Taking time for myself was always on the backburner, but for my well-being and truthfully, the sanity of others, it was time.

We deal with so much pressure on a daily basis. We’re constantly judging ourselves, climbing on our pedestals and falling off them. Who we’re suppose to be and what we’re supposed to do is constantly hanging over our heads. All of that took it’s toll on me. So much was being thrown at me and I didn’t have the right tools to handle it.

Meditation has given me those tools to take control of it all. To reevaluate my priorities and to truly understand the power of the mind and the healing ability of a single breath. We cannot carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. We have to learn to let go. To inhale the positive and exhale the negative.

It’s been 3 months without medication. 3 months with daily meditation. I haven’t had a single panic attack. A direct result, I believe, of slowing down, showing up for myself and saying, I’m here.

 

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