Morning, babes! I'm back with your weekly inspiration today (better known as 'Weekend Links'). It's been so hectic around here with styled shoots and new and exciting projects that this segment has taken a bit of a backseat lately but, I'm determined to make it a priority again.
Can you guys believe that it's almost August already? I feel like I have so much left to do on my Summer bucket list still. It's going to be another busy month, to say the least. As I mentioned, I have been working on expanding Anna Elizabeth Events in the event styling department. It has been such a fun adventure getting to work with new brands and creatives in this industry and I can't wait to see where this new chapter takes the blog.
Although today I'll be catching up on some work and brainstorming new content for weekly features, tomorrow will be dedicated to my Summer bucket list once again. Sam and I are heading into a town new to us in West Virginia to bike, hike, and brunch around. One of our favorite ways to spend time together on the weekends. Head over to AEE on Instagram (@anna_elizabethevents) to follow along!
As many of you know, Sam and I recently celebrated our five year dating anniversary. Although we met in high school in our hometown and have known each other for the past ten years, it was only until five years ago that we had our first date just down the street from where we live together now, We were always casual friends prior to that night but, once we got to finally sit down and talk just the two of us overlooking the city, we became immediately inseparable. It wasn't long after that, I was moving my things in and we decided to get baby Oliver. Through every high and low of the past five years, we have only grown closer to each other and stronger in our relationship. I can't imagine waking up, sharing my hopes and fears, and goofing around every day with anyone else.
Getting professional photos together had always been a dream of mine because, to be honest, selfies just don't look the same framed on our walls at home. Once I met Nicole, from Nicole Babcock Photography in a mutual bloggers' group, I knew that it was meant to be. I worked with the most incredible and talented group of ladies and brands on this styled shoot, including Wren Bridal, Anchor Point Paper Co., Les Fleurs Floral Design & Events, Jessica Scharff from Benfield Village Salon, and of course, Nicole Babcock Photography. They all played an important role in making my vision for this cliffside anniversary session come to life.
As the sun was setting and Sam and I were standing near the cliffs, the soft sand between our toes, stealing kisses every moment we could, it truly felt like we were the only two people on the beach. It was such a romantic session and I couldn't have imagined a better way to remember and capture five, loving years together.
Photography: Nicole Babcock Photography (Website/Facebook/Instagram)
Gown: Wren Bridal (Website/Facebook/Instagram)
Jewelry: Wren Bridal (Website/Facebook/Instagram)
Florals: Les Fleurs Floral Design & Events (Facebook/Instagram)
Hair and Makeup: Jessica Scharf, Village Hair Salon (Facebook/Instagram)
Calligraphy: Anchor Point Paper Co. (Website/Facebook/Instagram)
Styling: Anna Elizabeth Events (Website/Facebook/Instagram)
xo Anna Elizabeth
PARADISE, HERE I COME! Or... close enough, right? God, have I had the travel bug lately. Ever since Sam and I came home from our Canadian adventure, I've been counting down the days until our next trip away. Not that I don't love Baltimore and all but, you get it: hot beach + frozen drinks with the cute, baby umbrella sticking out at the top = undoubtedly anyone's ideal Summer. Especially on a Monday when I'm standing at my new stand-up desk (that's a thing now) for 9 hours straight and my feet are swelling to the size of large grapefruits and my bra is digging into my side and I'm wondering out loud what I'm doing with my life. Well... that escalated quickly. I get it. But, I kind of had to do something to relieve my recent travel bug (at least until we can get away in 2 weeks again - YAY!)
How adorable are these fruit bowls, anyway? Even if you didn't have a travel bug (or an early mid-life crisis), why wouldn't you want to eat your breakfast out of a fancy, little coconut? If I'm choosing between this and the scratched up Tubberware container hiding in the corner of my pantry, the coconut wins every time.
Sam and I created these bowls last weekend with the most amazing, fresh fruit and ingredients from our local Farmers Market downtown. Sam did the hard work (like literally sawing the coconut open) and I did the pretty stuff (aka organizing the fruit by color and size) and we scarfed down every last bite on the roof while imagining ourselves lounging in sandy, beach chairs and surrounded by palm trees. Bringing paradise to the bustling city the best way we know how: in a snack.
Last weekend, I decided to finally check off another item on my Summer bucket list while the weather was nice. Since my little sister, Samantha, had never been peach picking either, she decided to tag along with Sam and I on Saturday to Baugher's Orchard in Westminster. Naturally, Samantha snap-chatted the whole event while she filled us in on her new love interest and chowed down on freshly plucked peaches and nectarines.
Since she is in high school now, sister time is more important than ever, in my opinion. It's also fewer and further between since she's usually hanging out with friends or I'm busy working throughout the week. It has truly been a wake-up call to see how quickly she has grown up already.
Her plan was to spend the entire Summer away as a counselor at camp in Connecticut. But, being her very first time away from home, it only ended up lasting through the second week. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the first thing that she wanted to do when she got back home was see Sam and I. It was a nice change to spend the day together goofing off, eating peaches and banana splits, and making Sam take Boomerang videos of us jumping around like crazed teenagers in front of a crowd of people.
Checking that item off my Summer bucket list with those two by my side was really the best way I could have imagined. Luckily, I picked up this loose, chambray maxi dress just a few days before and it was perfect for keeping me cool in the strong sun all day. I finished this look with a few simple, gold accessories like my favorite Stella and Dot necklace and a nude colored nail and lip.
Outfit details / Dress: Carla Conti, Bracelet: Alex and Ani, Necklace: Stella and Dot, Shoes: Sam Edelman, Sunglasses: Ray-Ban
Shop this look:
What items have you checked off your Summer bucket list so far? Let me know in the comments below!
xo Anna Elizabeth
Hey, babes! Tonight is our 2nd part discussion for our very first book club on AEE, featuring the book, A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout. I expressed at our first meeting for this book that it might be one of the best that I've read in years and now that I have devoured every last chapter, I know that it's true. I'd even dare to say that this has been my favorite book that I've ever read. I'm a huge sucker for true stories and this one, being as raw and as emotional as it was, tugged at my heart strings every step of the way.
Amanda Lindhout is an incredible story-teller and an inspiring human being. To endure the level of torture that she did in those 15 months and to make it out the other end an even better person because of it is such a profound accomplishment in itself. I think that women (and men) can learn a lot from Amanda's journey and take a few life lessons away from it as well. Bottom line: if you are going to read an autobiography this year, it absolutely must be this book.
I am anxious to hear what you all think about this true story and how you have been able to understand and relate to Amanda's experiences throughout it. So, grab your book, pour an extra large glass of vino (lets face it - it has been a long week), and let's get started!
1. When Amanda overhears a report of their capture on the radio, she writes of the feeling as “crushing. It was confirmation that our troubles were both real and deep” (p. 146). Why do you think this affects her so powerfully?
2. When Amanda is given an English-language Koran, it is the beginning of her “conversion” to Islam. How does Amanda’s relationship with Islam change throughout her time in captivity? As she reads the Koran and begins to understand it, and thus her captors, better, how does her awareness of her situation change?
3. Amanda reflects throughout the book on the strangeness of the relationships with her captors—even though they were imprisoning her, she attempted to feel compassion and understanding for them. Were you surprised that this was possible? Discuss Amanda’s relationships with Jamal, Ali, Adam, and the rest.
4. Nigel and Amanda’s relationship as fellow captives is at times extremely difficult. Discuss their different ways of coping. How did you feel when Nigel told Amanda to “just take this one”? Did you blame Nigel?
5. Throughout the book, and in particular during her captivity, Amanda uses mantras to calm herself. What does she find so effective about repeating simple words and phrases? Why do you think this kind of practice can be soothing?
6. On pages 220-221, Amanda writes about what being alone does to her mind, and refers to a kind of psychic energy that seemed insane before her captivity, but became more believable. What did you make of her account in your reading? Have you ever experienced this kind of psychic energy?
7. Discuss Amanda’s “house in the sky” (p. 292). How does this dream help her maintain hope, and survive?
8. Of writing notes to Nigel, Amanda says “…writing helped me to believe it. It staked some claim on the truth (p. 226)”. How does this idea relate to Amanda’s decision to write a book about her experience? How does Amanda’s relationship with writing evolve over her time in captivity (see also p. 364)?
9. How did reading A House in the Sky change your understanding of the role fundamentalist religion can play in a war-torn society? How did it change your perception of Somalia? What surprised you most in your reading?
1. I think that Amanda is affected so greatly by hearing of their capture on the radio because it confirms the depth and realness of her situation. Being in a country like Somalia with the level of terror and crime flooding the streets every day and hearing on a broadcast that your situation is among one of the worst, I can imagine, would be a truly frightening feeling.
2. Throughout Amanda's captivity, I think that the Koran mostly helped her to better understand her captors and also distract her mind from the worsening situation. She uses the Koran to educate herself more about the morals and rules by which her captors abide by. She learns what her captors think of as acceptable behavior and she attempts to mold herself by using it order to make herself more like them and gain compassion.
3. Even during the very last chapters of the book when Amanda's captors were regularly sexually assaulting her, starving her of nutrition, sunlight, and movement, and torturing and beating her continuously, she still managed somehow to have compassion for them. I was extremely surprised that this was possible for her to do given her circumstances. Amanda looked for reasons to explain why her captors acted out in these violent ways rather than directly blaming them for their actions.
4. Nigel and Amanda's relationship throughout the book is, in my opinion, the most compelling and dynamic. The problems that each of them faced within captivity were so different at times that it was difficult to feel as much compassion for Nigel as I did for Amanda. It was emotional to see Nigel not sticking up for Amanda, even mocking her with the boys on a few occasions. At the same time however, I didn't blame Nigel for what happened to Amanda when they were captured again after they had escaped into the mosque. My belief is that the boys would have blamed Amanda for the escape and treated her worse than Nigel anyway simply because she was a woman.
5. Using mantras to calm and relax your mind is a common technique for people, even in normal circumstances. I have tried this before and find it very soothing because it forces you to focus on just those words that you are repeating. I think that throughout Amanda's captivity, it was a way for her to stay strong by reminding herself that she would get through the torture. She used her mantras to block everything else out and just focus on keeping her mind healthy and maintaining control since she no longer had control over her body.
6. I think that what Amanda experienced as "psychic energy" was her body's way of responding to long-term isolation. Without her everyday outlets like talking to people, eating, learning, or exercising, she became more aware of her mind and her every thought. I think that it is possible that she became more mindful of her internal being as a result. I have not personally experienced this level of "psychic energy", even during hour-long yoga or meditation sessions but, I do believe that it is possible in an extraordinary circumstance like Amanda's.
7. The quote on page 291, "I tried to climb away from the shock of what my life had become", I think perfectly describes why Amanda created a "house in the sky" for herself. It was a way to escape from her body while she was being tortured or assaulted. The "house in the sky" that Amanda imagined and drew out in her mind mirrored what her real life was like back home before the kidnapping. Remembering all of the tiny, happy details of Amanda's prior life helped her maintain hope that her mind was the same as it had been before and that someday this "house in the sky" would be her reality again.
8. I've heard before that if you are ever unsure of an idea or you have a thought that you can't get out of your head, you should write it down because it helps you make sense of it in a bigger picture. Sometimes writing our thoughts down helps untangle them from our emotions and put things into perspective. I think that for Amanda going through something so life-altering, writing about her experience is a huge part of her healing process. My belief is that writing down the events of what happened to her probably help her cope with the fact that it truly happened and also help her move past it.
9. The role that fundamentalist religion can play in a war-torn society can be potentially dangerous, violent, and generally is negative for anyone who lives outside of those strict rules that are set. Religion dictates every sphere of their daily lives. A fundamentalist believes that their religion and way of living is beyond any form of criticism and that their rules should be forced onto others.
The single event that surprised me the most in my reading was when Amanda and Nigel had escaped to the city center and into the mosque. I could not fathom how this religious place was filled with so many people praying and yet only 1 woman did anything to help the two, obvious prisoners. They allowed Amanda and Nigel to be beaten right in front of them, in their most holy place of worship, and dragged away and back into their captors prison. It made me fully aware of the differences in a place such as Somalia in comparison to the United States.
Now it's your turn to answer the discussion questions! Leave your responses in the comments below and feel free to get the conversation going with your fellow book club babes.
I hope you all enjoyed our very first book club! Although our first book didn't produce the high level of turnout that I was hoping for, we are going to try again and grab those of you that have been on vacation or have been busy with Summer activities this past month. I will be holding a vote later this week on our Facebook page for what our next book will be so, don't forget to stop by and help narrow it down from our top 3 picks!
xo Anna Elizabeth
Hey, ya'll! I know it's been a little quiet around here on the blog this week but, that's because I've been preparing for a month of big projects for AEE and other publications. I got myself involved in 3 different styled shoots with 3 teams, 3 weekends in a row. I was like the "yes man" at the end of last month and I'm not regretting it one bit (yet!) However, I did take a little break during Fourth of July weekend before all of the madness began and I decided to indulge a little in my favorite Summer dessert.
It's no secret that Farmer's Market peaches are the best fruit that has ever existed, right? I swear on Sundays at our local market, the peach stand that we frequent looks more like a post-apocalyptic war zone than a group of upper east side folk grabbing their snack for the week. When we pull up to the market on Sundays after rip roaring through downtown Baltimore on our scooter, my very first stop is the peach stand (Sam loves his blackberries). I load my tribal print basket with freshly picked peaches oozing juice and sweetness until my little arms can't possibly bear any more.
It's one of my Summer traditions that every year on Fourth of July, I make my famous peach cobbler and share it with Sam's parents and our neighbors (even Oli gets a taste!). We wash it down with cold, vanilla bean ice cream and watch the fireworks from the pier near our home. It's our favorite way to celebrate Independence Day together without spending hours sitting in beach traffic or being shoved around in a crowded pool bar in the hopes of getting a warm beer (eventually).
I've labeled this recipe the "easiest peach cobbler" because what could possibly be easier than dumping 4 ingredients on top of each other and baking in the oven? Answer: literally nothing. It is the easiest. Try it out below for the tastiest Summer treat that all of your Instagram followers will think you spent hours making! #win
Recipe adapted from Butter With a Side of Bread.
Let me know how your peach cobbler turned out! If you have any questions, leave me comment below.
xo Anna Elizabeth
Happy Fourth of July weekend, babes! I can't believe it's already here; the Summer is going by too fast already. I just shared my Summer Bucket List earlier this week on the blog and one of the items on it I can positively say that I'll be checking off on Monday: watching fireworks on the pier near our house. Sam and I were thinking of heading to the beach to spend the holiday with friends but, after the longest work week ever, we decided to skip. We're still going to be celebrating the holiday this weekend but, we'll be doing it a little more low-key than originally planned. I picked up a pack of local brew, some sparklers, and have my #babeswhobookclub read by my side ready to be finished.
This week, I finally found the most beautiful, natural wood adirondack chairs for our outdoor city nook (another item on my Summer Bucket List). Sam and I are about to head out the door now to Home Depot to grab a pretty stain to finish them up so we can enjoy relaxing outside the remainder of this 3-day weekend. Aside from that fun project, I plan on taking a few bike rides through the city, making my favorite peach cobbler with fresh ingredients from the market, and spending time with Oli at the park.
For today's edition of Weekend Links, I've rounded up a few special treats for your Fourth of July parties including some festive outfit inspiration, a twist on the traditional ice cream sandwich (I am dying to try), a fun way to decorate your bikes, and more below...
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