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Apr 21, 2014

Now Hear This {#1}: The Alabama Shakes



I’ve been working on the blog a lot lately trying to figure out ways to continue improving my content and spice it up a bit around here. I love to write and I find inspiration in the things that tug my heartstrings. So far, I’ve written about family, motherhood, my faith, DIY posts, recipes, lovely home decor, etc. But it dawned on me a few days ago that I haven’t written about the most obvious of my heartstrings: music.

I am a musician. I have a degree that says so. I’ve sung opera in Europe, done my fair share of musical theater, performed in front of thousands, helped lead worship in about forty(?) different churches, taught approximately 1500 students music, I play the piano and the ukulele, and I’ve sung jazz with a big band. I also had a job in college writing as a staff writer (Fine Arts & Music Liaison) for the university paper. So clearly, I’ve missed the boat on how to incorporate my love and experiences with music (and writing) here for quite sometime.

Enter "Now Hear This" my new series that will be all about sharing good music with you all. My aim is to cover multiple genres, different eras, interesting information about artists and their work, as well as different performance styles and events. I’m hoping that it will also give us all a little early week boost every week. 

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce our first artists. Meet Alabama Shakes, the rock & roll band that continues to receive tons of worthy praise in the music world. After their breakthrough in 2011, the music scene is continuing to fall in love with the Alabama Shakes. They’ve been on David Letterman, played the 40 watt Club in Athens, Saturday Night Live, etc. They are continuing to get bigger and bigger and the music world just cannot get enough of their old school retro soul matched with a something just a little new and different.

The band is comprised of lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard, bassist Zac Cockrell, guitarist Heath Fogg, and drummer Steve Johnson. All of them are Athens, Alabama natives who met in high school. Apparently, their first few years were pretty rough because they had to find music they could all agree on and learn to play together. They all have very different tastes in music, and that definitely shows through in their sound.




Howard is indisputably a huge part of the band’s draw to fans. All of the musicians are incredibly talented, but for me it’s Howard’s distinctly soulful  and explosive vocal style that immediately drew me in. She’s been called a mix of Janis Joplin and Otis Redding, a statement that I don’t think does justice to her unique vocal charisma. Her voice moves you from the very instant it registers in your brain. One way or another, she’s in your head and quickly into your heart. 

Alabama Shakes’ first album Boys & Girls is a good mix of rock & roll, soul, and an upbeat bluegrass. The instrumentation on the album makes you feel like you’re rocking out to oldies, while showing incredible innovation and compositional genius at the same time. It’s no wonder this group of high schooler friends have stuck it out together, their sound is unlike anything else and their chemistry is as undeniable as the presence of fireworks lighting up a late summer sky. You just cannot afford to miss them.


Give them a listen, and I’ll bet you’ll still be listening a decade from now. With high-profile admirers like Adele, Booker T. Jones, and Neil Young they’re likely to stick around for much longer. Oh, AND they’re Auburn Fans, so War Eagle!

Stay tuned for more from the Now Hear This series next week! I’ll be serving up something completely different every week, so if this wasn’t your cup of tea, check back in and expect to see something completely unrelated. Because, let’s be honest, music is meant to be enjoyed by all people, of all tastes, in all walks of life, and my mission is to find a little something for everyone.

Love these two gentlemen with all of my heart.
Apr 20, 2014

Love these two gentlemen with all of my heart.

Apr 19, 2014


I’ve decided to do something fun this year to celebrate summer. We all know that I love lists, so I decided to create a summer bucket list for our family by hand. Since I love graphic design I usually just complete every project by creating something digital and printing it out, but this time I wanted to do something a little different. I am always so inspired by things that are handmade. Something about someone giving of their time and efforts to make something without the aid of a machine is so beautiful to me. My right brain rejoices in seeing creative self-sufficiency flourishing in such modern times. It’s hopeful to see people opting to use their own hands to create something which couldn’t have otherwise been digitally produced. It makes me feel like the old arts are not lost. It makes me comforted to know that there are still painters, illustrators, sculptors, chefs, and seamstresses. People who work with their hands are often the happiest, I think. I’m certainly no artist, but I definitely find creating things relaxing and a wonderful outlet and I can see how so many people find joy in doing so.

Below is a photo of the list I came up with for us. As we go through the summer and check things off of our list, I will update and post about them. Even if it’s only a picture or two, my goal is to document these fun times with my family so that we can look back on them one day. I intend on enjoying every last drop of summer this year, and I can’t wait to spend it with my loved ones. I hope that you do the same!


Apr 18, 2014

50 Year Recipes: Lemon Blueberry Bread


Let me start by saying that this is not my recipe, but it is one that we all need in our lives so I decided to share it on here and to do a recipe review of it. My mother-in-law makes a killer lemon blueberry bread that originally clued me into the fact that lemon and blueberry should just get married and stay in love forever. The beautiful combination their flavors make together is just that awesome. With summer quickly approaching and my father-in-law’s garden having over a dozen (possibly two dozen?) blueberry bushes, we are pretty much guaranteed a freezer full of fresh blueberries straight off the bush this year. (And no, that is not something I take for granted.) So I’ve spent the better part of winter in eager anticipation of said blueberries collecting recipes that will allow us to use the berries in different ways all summer long. This is one of those recipes. Make it. Love it. Eat it. Share it. Mourn its absence after the last bite. Repeat the entire process.

It is important to note that I made this for our little Easter shindig and got so busy with preparations that I never glazed it. I am certain that it will be even more magical with the glaze, but let me guarantee you that it was the bomb dot com without it. It’s moist, not to lemon-y, packed with beautiful floating blueberries (still not sure how they stay so gracefully scattered throughout the bread while it bakes), and it looks super fancy without being hard to make. Easy fancy is my favorite, so this recipe will be a regular at our house.

So go grab some lemons and fresh blueberries and pop one of these babies in your oven. You’ll love it. And so will your family. And memories will be made. Warm, sweet, delicious citrusy blueberry memories. And let’s be honest, what more could a gal ask for? 

Lemon Blueberry Bread

YIELD: 1 large loaf

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

COOK TIME: 50 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 3 hours

A scrumptious, moist, flavorful quick bread with a lemon syrup AND a lemon glaze.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

For the Syrup:
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C) and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of flour, the baking powder and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, butter and lemon zest until light-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, beating until well mixed before adding the next. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until well blended. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.

In a small bowl, gently toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon of flour. Carefully fold the blueberries into the batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted near the center of the bread comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven and set on a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Turn the bread out onto the cooling rack.

Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup: in a small saucepan, bring the lemon juice and sugar to a boil. Cook until the sugar has completely dissolved and the syrup has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.

While the bread is still warm, jab it all over with s skewer. Brush with the lemon syrup. Let the bread cool completely, about 2-3 hours.

To make the glaze: in a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Add more juice/sugar to gain desired consistency. Drizzle over the cooled bread.

Store bread in the refrigerator.

Recipe from Portuguese Girl Cooks