Shrimp & Grits

I haven’t posted in a hot minute (moving, traveling, and crazy work weeks will do that to you). But I finally got the chance to make a real good mess in my new kitchen and wanted to share the recipe and my tabletop accessories with y’all.

I love to cook and set a table, even if it’s a tiny table (like the one I’ve got now). In my last apartment, my kitchen was more like a closet, and I had not made a fun meal in months. I wanted my first dinner in my new place to be extra special. I knew I’d need a little backup from some of my favorite foods from home to achieve that.

One of my most loved chefs and restauranteurs, John Currence, has some incredible spots in Oxford, but Big Bad Breakfast and City Grocery always take the cake for me. It would have been a disservice to him and myself to make his famous Shrimp and Grits recipe without his tasty Tabasco-cured bacon, which was created just for BBB, as we all lovingly call it. Thankfully, they can ship it anywhere in the world within a day or so. It is melt in your mouth good!

I also have a girlfriend that hand-makes and packages her own stone-ground corn grits. She’s available in gourmet stores and restaurants around the nation, but there was something about buying her product at a store at home that felt right! I am still doing keto, but of course I had to sample the Delta Grind grits to make sure they tasted right 😏 Once I started, it was hard to stop… they are that yummy!

If you can’t get your hands on these brands, that’s okay. Use your favorites instead! This recipe is meant to be simple and I think great for weeknight cooking. Its also perfect to make when you are having company, because it doesn’t require a ton of skill. As long as you don’t burn the bacon or the grits (which could technically both be made ahead of time), it’s pretty hard to mess up. The end result is a spicy, warm, and comforting dish that will definitely leave you nice and full.

I went casual with my table because I felt like it matched the meal. Shrimp and grits is certainly not fancy, but it is still pretty, and it’s got everything you need right there in the bowl. In fact, you only really need a pot and a pan to make this entire meal. It makes me love this dish even more 😍 (I HATE cleanup)

A link to the recipe for City Grocery’s Shrimp and Grits is posted below, as well as links to the items I used for my table. Traditionally they serve it with spicy corn muffins and lots of butter (nom nom). If you try out this meal, let me know how it goes!

**To stay in ketosis, I substituted a pre-made (read: microwaveable) cauliflower Parmesan risotto for the spicy cheddar/parm grits for myself. Unfortunately, it was no close second. Next time, I may try to recreate the grits using cauliflower 🙃**

Table is from Pier1, dishes , wine glasses , and small votive holders are from Crate & Barrel, chargers, napkins and napkin rings (now sold out– may be able to find them in-store) are from Pottery Barn, tortoise glasses and ice bucket are Impulse!, and bamboo silverware is vintage.

Link to recipe: http://joelmcneece.com/2016/05/23/city-grocerys-shrimp-grits/

And last but not least, a very special shout out to Liz at BBB for getting this bacon to me on time! XX Hannah

Searching for Something

Today’s post is about the joys of moving, among other things. I should be a pro at it now, because I seem to subject myself to it more often than most. If you didn’t know already, I am a certified gypsy!

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My friends and family know that I’m usually on the move once every year/ couple of years. It’s no secret! Is this ideal? Absolutely not. Would I like to find a place that feels like home? Of course. Does it make for a great excuse to do a closet-clean out? YES! For whatever reason, despite all of the stress it causes, I keep changing it up.

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My mom was recently in town for a girls weekend / pre-packing party and she asked me something that really made me stop and think. She asked me what I was looking for. She said that it seems like I’m always searching for something, but what it is, she isn’t sure. And she didn’t know if I would find it here in Florida.

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I’ve been thinking about that conversation for days now. What am I looking for? I don’t know. Or maybe I do, and I just don’t want to give it life 😐 What I do know is that I’ve always been an extremely curious person, somewhat of a ‘free spirit,’ someone who longs to travel and have experiences in different places, wanting a life that is full of moments both good and bad: perspective, I suppose you could call it.

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I’ve fallen in love with both people and places, had my heart and trust broken, felt abandoned, lonely, and sad. But I’ve also had extreme highs: made irreplaceable memories with friends, seen places that are achingly beautiful, and taken chances that paid off in the end. I can’t say I regret much, even though there are things I’m proud that I did and things I’m not so proud of. You live and you learn.

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Despite the ups and downs (these past couple of years have been the definition of a roller-coaster ride), I try to remain positive. No matter how many times I feel like I could give up on a few things, there’s some sort of hope that makes me hang on to them. At the end of the day, I don’t think I could fully appreciate one without the other. It is sort of a romantic way of looking at life, but for me, it holds true.

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I’m hoping that whatever I’m looking for will stop me in my tracks sooner rather than later (if you’re out there, this is your sign!) I’m open to it now, I swear! 🙂 And I think the curious part of me–the part that likes to live in the moment, be present, meet new people, learn new things, see new places, indulge in spontaneity, and live out these so-called ‘life experiences’–will always exist. And that’s not a bad thing.

But in what I’m sure is a relief to my parents (and some of my friends), I am starting to realize those experiences don’t have to define you; you can define your own life, all by considering what YOU really want out of it.

Be honest with yourself; when is the last time you were honest with yourself? It’s a tough one to answer, but I’m finding it more of a necessity now than ever.

As for what I’m looking for, I truthfully am still figuring it out. It’s now a goal of mine this year to answer that question. So let me think on that for a bit (while having a little fun) and I’ll get back with you! 😉

XX Hannah

Jumpsuit: Finders Keepers

Earrings are older, sold-out, but can find the same or similar online: J.Crew 

Bag: Zara, also appears to be sold-out, but can find similar: Cult Gaia

Shoes: Schutz, also appear to be sold-out, but similar style here (and on sale!): Schutz

Date Night Dressing

Let’s get real: dating is complicated (most of the time). Other times, it feels effortless and actually worth getting all dolled up for. Here are some tips that I use to help make my date nights easier and more enjoyable!

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Tip number one: have a go-to dress on hand. I personally love this silky sundress. With slits on every side, it is def date-night ready (and sensible in the Florida heat!). However, I think its perfectly balanced, with a little leg to keep things interesting, and square neck to keep things in check. It is perfect to show off your figure while still being somewhat demure 😉

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This particular dress is tried and true–I actually wore it out recently and never felt over or under-dressed. It is sultry and sleek, yes. But more importantly, it is not so restricting that you can’t concentrate on what is going on around you. And you are there to focus on another person, after all.

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One of the worst things is being on a date and thinking about what you’re wearing instead of the person in front of you (unless they’re boring or rude, in which fashion is naturally more interesting). 🙂 So if you are wearing something new, always make sure to do a trial run before the actual date. That way you know if you are really comfortable in it, or if straps need adjusting, etc.

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A borrowed style tip from our beloved royals–and a trick that gives you lots of options–is to carry a clutch or top-handle bag with you. I almost always do this mainly because I want a fun accessory (like this vintage bamboo bag) that shows a bit of personality. But in reality, it gives you something to do with your hands, whether your nervous or just like something to have and to hold!

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Side note: I’m usually not huge on PDA when just getting to know someone. Of course, this all depends. However, if you happen to have a date that is just not getting the hint, you can take matters into your own hands (literally) with your clutch! 😉 You’re welcome!

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But if you do hit it off and are feeling the love, a smaller bag is easier to manage with one hand. It’s a win-win in my opinion!

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Whether it never stood a chance or it goes really well (lol- let’s hope for the latter), dating is always an interesting experiment experience :’)

Shoes are Steve Madden, earrings are Ettika, necklace is CAM jewelry from Canvas Fashion Gallery in St. Pete.
XX Hannah

Pink & Polka Dots

I have a soft spot for polka dots (pun intended)!

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I noticed that this pattern is slowly creeping its way into my wardrobe. And I’m not mad about it.

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I love the classic black and and white, but I am also obsessing over tan and cream versions. It’s so Pretty Woman chic (Julia Roberts is forever goals).

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This top is frilly and fun, perfect for my girls weekend in Miami!

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One of my best girlfriends from home (Mississippi) is flying in for the weekend. My other BFF and I are scooping her up from the airport and having a little road trip down to the Magic City!

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One of my FAVORITE parts of these weekend getaways is actually the drive. Being trapped in the car with my besties is my fave 😉 We get time to catch up with no distractions (except for maybe some jam sessions). It is priceless!

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Living in Florida certainly has its perks: like being able to run off to some beautiful cities and beaches for 5 star staycations.

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But I do miss my friends and family at home more and more with each passing year, and lately I’ve been a little homesick.

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Thankfully, this trip literally could not have come at a better time. These girls have been in my life for 10 and 20 plus years, so they are friends that have become family. That I can cheers to!

Hope everyone has a fun weekend! I know I will 🙂

XX Hannah

Accessory breakdown: Sunnies are Le Specs, earrings are Bauble Bar, bracelet is Hermès, bag is Milly, shoes are Target 😉

Pit(ti) Stop

The Enoteca Pitta Gola e Cantina (AKA the worlds most quaint boutique wine bar) was the perfect place for a ‘pit’ stop 😉 before visiting Boboli Gardens.

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This is a spot that I stumbled upon when I was walking around Florence by myself. Later, after speaking with some of our group, I found out it was on many people’s hit lists. They have a cheeky sign reading “No water, only wine” that might have lured me in, but the selection, service, and surroundings made me stay. And rest assured, they have plenty of both beverages.

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Their website reads:

“The shelves of the Enoteca are lined with small production, high-end wines that are hand selected to meet their ridgid standards.

Focusing on small production, handcrafted Tuscan wines, only the best producers make the cut, often little known and family owned wineries.

Many of these wines are offered by the glass and accompanied by the vast knowledge of the owners of the history, culture, traditions and wine making processes in Italy.”

This is spot on and better than anything I could have jotted down!

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The place is SMALL, clearly, part of its charm. Luckily, it wasn’t crowded that day and I wasted no time pulling up to the cool marble bar and enjoying a dry glass of bubbly with the other patrons. Both the customers and staff were far more knowledgeable about the offerings than I was and everyone was happy to share their insight and a few samples or two 😉

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Probably the most unique thing I tried while there was an ‘orange wine,‘ which is neither sweet nor made from oranges. I had never seen wine this color before or tasted anything quite like it. The first sip was strange, but in a way that I would love to try it again. All in all, Enoteca Pitti is a gem of a place and deserves a spot on anyone’s Florence to-do list.

Stopping to Smell the Roses

If you’re ever in Florence, or considering going, do yourself a favor and visit Boboli Gardens.

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I’ll admit, I had NO clue what we were stumbling into. But it was magnificent. We got lucky with the weather again for a bit, and it was a magical, springtime, stop-and-smell the roses moment.

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Everything is some form of pastel: flowers, buildings, art. It felt like Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette meets The Secret Garden, AKA heaven. I had the biggest heart eyes all afternoon.

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It’s not hard to imagine myself spending similar sunny days here, taking leisurely strolls, misidentifying flowers, and chatting about whatever random thoughts come to mind.

Of course, stopping by the Enoteca Pitta Gola e Cantina (wine bar) located across the street from the entrance to Boboli is a must before you go. It made the many stairs and hills more bearable on a warm day.

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One of the most charming and colorful areas on the grounds are the Giardino del Cavaliere. Unbelievable views of the Arcetri (a hillside area full of landmark buildings) and the famous Torre del Gallo–an idyllic, castle-like building that is clearly visible–can be taken in here.

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Inside the charming pink and turquoise home (this color combo–I die) is the porcelain collection belonging to the Pitti Palace. Imagine the daintiest, most detailed plates and platters you can think of. They are situated inside of this building, along with some historic art and painted glass chandeliers that will make you just swoon.

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Be warned, there is no air conditioning or adult beverages nearby, so come prepared and wear smart shoes.

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Some of the staircases are more attractive than others 🙂 and easier to climb. There was definitely some steeper areas and walkways that were simply dirt and rocks. My shoes didn’t have much tread and admittedly were not the best options for the walk.

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But every slip, slide and step was worth each view we saw! Taking in the panorama of the hillsides, the city, and closeups of buildings like the fairytale Kaffehaus made the sweating and swearing all worth it 🤣

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This was one of my favorite days and outfits on the trip. My dress is a Bloomingdale’s exclusive and perfect for days like these…get it before it sells out!

XX Hannah

The Power of Love

Its a quiet, rainy Sunday after the Royal Wedding and a week out of my best friend’s wedding in Siena–which was royal in its own ways–and I’m still adjusting to Florida time (and let’s be honest, the reality of no longer being in Italy). I am struggling to stay up past 9:30 PM and rising unnaturally early, so much so that I didn’t even set an alarm yesterday for the nuptial’s of everyone’s favorite bad boy, Prince Harry. I woke around 5:30 AM ready to go and eventually migrated to my couch as the celebrities started rolling in. I can confidently say that the Clooneys are now giving the Beckhams a run for their money, in more ways that one. Amal, you are my queen!

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Fashion aside (I realize this is a fashion blog, but there are more important themes here, and I really don’t want to get into my critique of our American Princess), I am so glad I woke and was able to watch and really listen to the message that was broadcast to millions of viewers yesterday during the ceremony. Because it was beautiful, it was critical, and it desperately needed to be heard by this world. Reverend Michael Curry was smart enough to realize the platform he had and used it so wisely, albeit a little enthusiastically. Watching the faces of those attending–whether they were shocked, or smirking, or even sleeping–was entertaining to say the least.

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If you grew up in the Deep South–or any church family, for that matter–you’ve probably gone to a few sermons that seemed never ending. Its safe to say that is not the first time I’ve witnessed those facial expressions. We can all relate. But the difference between some of those long sermons I’ve survived and the one that was being preached yesterday was the content. Reverend Curry’s really hit home for me and a lot of other viewers. His words were relevant. They were captivating. They were powerful.

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Yes, his delivery was dramatic, and I do think he could have been more concise/left out the part about cell phones, but that is the struggle for a passionate person. And he was so passionate, it was contagious. Even Posh and Becks were cracking smiles (Victoria Beckham is famous in the fashion world for not smiling).

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I spent this morning re-reading the full the text, allowing the words to really sink in, and trying to find my own understanding of them. His theme, the power of love, is perfectly timed, and something we could all stand to implement a little more in our lives.

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Reverend Curry’s notion of the power of love is not a new one, however. And he openly references to Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “Where Do We Go From Here” sermon, which has spouted other recognizable quotes such as:

“Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that….” 

and

“…I have also decided to stick with love….hate is too great a burden to bear.”

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Many of these sentences have been ‘smushed’ together over the years for creative purposes, but while skimming this lengthy sermon (I’ll admit, the last time I looked at this was probably high school), I realized there are entire paragraphs that have been cut-out. Although they can be painful to read, I am glad I read them. The irony of this speech recognizing events in places that I call home is not lost on me.

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While Reverend Curry hails from Chicago, he has spent much of his life in the South. Without a doubt, he has lived these words. And he took no time to lay out, to the surprise of some of the royal family, the intent of his lesson that morning. The first sentences of his sermon read:

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it out.’ [Song of Solomon]

The late Dr. Martin Luther King once said, and I quote: we must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that we will make of this old world a new world. For love is the only way. 

There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even oversentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. There’s power, power in love.

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He goes onto say:

“We were made by a power of love. And our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.

Ultimately the source of love is God himself, the source of all of our lives. There’s an old medieval poem that says, “where true love is found, God himself is there.”

The New Testament says it this way, “beloved, let us love one another because love is of God and those who love are born of God and know God, those who do not love do not know God. Why? For God is love. There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live. Set me as a seal on your heart. A seal on your arm. For love it’s strong as death.”

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The purity and the potency of those words felt like a punch in the stomach, but the necessary kind. He didn’t stop there. In his live speech, he really emphasized this statement (for good reason):

“Love God, love your neighbors, and while you’re at it, love yourself.”

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How often do we forget the latter, to love ourselves? If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past couple of years, it is the importance of loving yourself first. It doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how good you are at giving love. It takes work, an effort, a real relationship with yourself. Its downright scary, but rewarding. I truly believe it sets the stage for all of your other relationships, including one with God.

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His pause after this statement signified its importance, and to some, that he was finally coming to a close. If Reverend Curry’s goal was to leave his sleepy viewers teary-eyed and slowly re-evaluating the way they approach every aspect of their lives, then he succeeded here. I sat, not so much distracted by images of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but more captivated by the words of this ‘crazy man’ from the Carolinas. He was the real star of this show (or circus) to me.

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Even as I write this a day later, I’m still in awe of (and processing, not a morning person) his performance and his delivery. I now understand why he was so sensational in his style: he was exemplifying power. You can’t deliver a speech on the power of love quietly; you have to show it, show the passion and the purpose. Just like you would in your own life. Because at the end of the day, who really loves quietly? We fight for the things we love tooth and nail, and it is neither a quiet nor painless thing.

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Love is loud, its messy, and it always stings. But its also very powerful. So much so that it often surpasses our own understanding. Yet love has the duality to both school us and to save us, to hurt us and help us through, to end and to create life.  It ultimately shapes and transform our very existence, both emotionally and physically. Clearly this notion is something that Reverend Curry thought important enough to share, because he ended his speech with these hopeful words:

“…we must discover love. The redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.”

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If you haven’t heard this speech, listen to it. If you’ve already read it, read it again. If you thought getting up for this wedding was dumb, if you don’t like going to church, even if you haven’t read anything of substance in a while **guilty**, read this sermon. It is important. It is (or will be) historical. And I promise, it will leave you better than before you came.

XX Hannah