//April//

Wow… April, where did you go?

I think I will remember April as the month that Catherine went from being a little baby to a big baby. It kind up snuck up on me and surprised me. One week her daycare teacher and I said to each other, “She just seems so much bigger all of the sudden, doesn’t she?” And I’m not exactly sure what changed, but its true.

She is so so close to crawling. Backwards motion comes pretty easily to her – either laying on her back and propelling herself with her legs or laying on her belly and pushing herself backwards with her arms – but the forward motion still eludes her for the time being. But it won’t be long now, I’m sure.

You want to be able to go places. And oh, baby girl, you will.

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4/16/16 – Waiting on the stoop for Dad on a Sunny Saturday

Here in My Arms

One of my favorite things to do is to hold Catherine while she sleeps. When I do, I often think, “I consider it the greatest privilege of my life just to hold you while you sleep.” After hearing that phrase over and over again in my head, I started wondering why holding my sweet sleeping babe evokes such a deep feeling.

Is it because when I look down and see her perfect little features, I know I am taking part in a rare moment of innocence? An innocence that will necessarily fade as the months become years and she grows into a beautiful woman. I feel keenly aware that these moments are fleeting and precious and I want to hold on to and cherish them forever.

Is it because when she falls asleep, I know it means she feels safe in my arms? It is so important to me that she knows that our home is always a safe place even when the world isn’t. Whatever the reason, I know I will always cherish the times when you snuggle in close, here in my arms.❤

The Official French Family

Hillbilly Days Food Guide ’16

Well, the long awaited, much anticipated Hillbilly Days Food Guide is back! After the success of last year’s food guide we were excited to get to ‘Billy Days again and bring you a round up of the best food we could find!

An important note before we start: $$$$ 

Either decide how much you are going to spend beforehand and only take that much in cash and stop eating when it is gone OR simply ignore the large amount of money flying out of your hand with each stand you walk by. There is no middle ground.

However, take heart – If you decide on the latter approach, know that your money is going to a good cause. Hillbilly Days was started by the local Shriners as a fundraiser for their children’s hospital. Last year’s Hillbilly Days raised over $83,000 and the past 40 years of Hillbilly Days has raised over $2 million for the kids!

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If you want to go to Hillbilly Days and get a hotdog and a plate of spiral fries, this is not the guide for you. Of course, there is a time and place for a good hotdog and some spiral fries, especially  because a lot of the hotdog stands donate their profits directly to charity. But that’s not why you came to our blog looking for the elite food tour, is it? So without further ado, we proudly present…

The French Family Elite Tour 2016

To say we were excited to bring you the Food Guide this year only scratches the surface of the situation. Andy has only been talking about it every 10 minutes or so for the past few weeks. Initially in our planning we wanted to figure out a way to try everything but we quickly realized that our dreams were bigger than our stomachs (and wallets). So instead we decided to address this dilemma: You only have so much time and money to spend at the festival. What do you get if you are only able to get one Hillbilly meal? Well, here’s our take.

ANDY’S MEAL

The loaded steak tip sandwich washed down with a lemonade followed by a donut chaser.

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Lemonade: There are a lot of places to get fresh squeezed lemonade in Hillbilly Days but Andy has to get his from a truck shaped like a lemon. It just makes it better in his opinion. The lemonade truck vendor he went to is located in front of the parking garage. This year he even splurged for the refillable cup!

Loaded Steak Tip Sandwich: Ok, so this is going to be controversial, but we weren’t wowed by Mr. Beefy’s. Instead get your steak tips at the vendor with the “Sirloin Tip Dinners” banner. All Andy kept saying while he ate it was, “Wow, this is SO good!”

The way Andy likes to eat it: He likes to ask them to sub in potatoes instead of mushrooms and onions on his loaded sandwich.

Pro Tip: This vendor has two locations on Huffman Ave. (the road that runs perpendicular to UPIKE’s 99), one close to the parking garage and one close to the Expo center. Go to the one near the Expo center for the shortest line.

Donuts: Although last on Andy’s meal, these donuts certainly aren’t least. If forced to pick a Hillbilly Day’s favorite, would probably be his. He has been talking about this vendor’s donuts for months, possibly even since the end of last year’s Hillbilly Days. And Andy isn’t the only one who thinks so – I actually heard one person say after taking a few bites of his donut outside of this booth, “I will never eat another donut again.” So we’re talking seriously good. Their booth is on Hambley Blvd. a few booths down from Roasted.

The way Andy likes to eat them: Hot out of the fryer and as often as possible.

SARAH’S MEAL

A macaroni & cheese grilled cheese with a black cherry old fashioned soda rounded out with a cinnamon roll.

 

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Old Fashioned Soda: Normally I just stick with water at Hillbilly Days because I’m not a big lemonade fan, but I decided to try something new yesterday and I’m glad I did. Check out the Chuck Wagon Old-Fashioned Soda on Hambley Blvd. Friendly service and free samples if you’re not sure which flavor you want!

How I like it: Black Cherry is my flavor of choice, but I’ve also heard good things about the Root Beer.  [Note from Andy: I had the birch beer-vanilla cream blend.  Very good]

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese: The first time I did a food scouting lap this year, I saw the sign on this booth and thought, “No way…” because I thought it listed a mac & cheese sandwich. After doing a double take I realized that it really was true, all of my favorite cheesy foods had combined and landed right here in the middle of Hillbilly Days. Well this sandwich did not disappoint. The bread was grilled to just the right level of crispiness. This vendor is located on Main Street just past the Expo Center stage. Make sure to stop by and give these nice people some support, it is their first Hillbilly Days!

How I like it: With a side of ketchup. Yes you read that right, I like to dip my grilled cheese in ketchup. Don’t judge.

Cinnamon Roll: Mmmm mmm, soooo good. Andy may say the donuts are first place but these Cinnamon Rolls will always be first in my heart. Everything about them is just right. No words really, just all tasty. One local even called them, “The best thing he’s ever had at Hillbilly Days.” You can find this vendor on Main Street right before you get to the old courthouse. This year we found out that they are readers of the blog, so please tell them hello for us!

Tip: They told us that they aim to have fresh cinnamon rolls ready to sell by 8:30 each morning… I think that sounds like something worth getting to Hillbilly Days early for.

Alright, we’ll be back later with some general food advice but I wanted to get the Elite tour out to you as soon as possible. Like our facebook page for more food reviews. Yesterday we did a live head-to-head donut comparison and we expect to do a live BBQ review tonight. You won’t want to miss it!

Honorable Mentions

Mini Donuts: I know, they’re not quite the best donuts, but they were still very tasty (as mentioned in the Dueling Donuts video).  Find these little gems on Huffman, near Roasted.

Roasted Cashews: Very good, and the proprietor offers free samples!  Find them at We R Nuts, on the Huffman side of the parking deck.

Kettle Corn: A fair-food staple, the best kettle corn is located by BB&T.

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Photo Credit: Leslie Colston

KYCOM Mission Trip Booth: Drop by the med school’s booth, on Main, just past the post office.  They’re raising money for a summer mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  I picked up some tasty-looking pistachio baklava.  Also, best prices on drinks you will find – only $1 for bottled water!

Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich: We did a live BBQ sandwich showdown on facebook. Click here to check it out. Short version: Our favorite was Ridge View BBQ on Huffman Ave near Big Sandy Community and Technical College.

 

7 Quick Takes v.5

Woah, 7 Quick Takes twice in a month – unheard of! Just a few links, thoughts, and nerdy excitement for you this week.:)

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She Only Said Yes Once
This post makes me want to keep Catherine at home forever and ever and never let her go anywhere. Knee jerk reaction? Maybe. But she is so innocent that it is easy to never want anyone to take that away. Parenting in the midst of our current culture is a daunting task.

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On Being a Catholic Under Bad Government

This is such a great post and I think many Christians could read this and empathize.

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I went to a work conference on Monday and Tuesday so I was away from Catherine for 2 nights for the first time. I enjoyed the conference and getting to watch TV (woot!) but Catherine has definitely been having some separation anxiety since I’ve been back.

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The Tesla Model X
This is my current dream car and it hasn’t even been released yet. Once upon a time, my dream car was a VW Bug. Well, times have changed. I love the Tesla cars. So much cool technology and they are super safe. It is amazing how much safer a car is when the front doesn’t house the engine and is a crumple zone instead. I love that they are willing to re-imagine things that are normally assumed design wise.

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New Star Wars trailer! So, revoke my nerd card, but I hadn’t heard about Rogue One. I knew that they were planning a Han Solo and Chewbacca origins movie but this one caught me by surprise. Anyway, the trailer looks awesome. I’m totally okay with having a new Marvel and Star Wars movie to watch every 6 months. Thanks, Disney.

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Speaking of Marvel, less than one month until Captain America: Civil War. I’m excited to see the full story unfold. I think it is going to be intense.

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Can’t have 7 whole takes without a picture of this girl. Yesterday she got to stop by Dad’s office and fit some medical textbook reading into her busy schedule. Andy is hoping that this is good sign that she will be just like him. We’ll see about that.😉

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More quick takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum.
Happy Friday!:)

The Magical

Our Plans, God’s Plans

In February, Catherine and I made our first solo long drive to Williamsburg, Va. (a.k.a. the Promised Land). I had 14 hours of drive time with my delightful but non-verbal companion which translated into plenty of time to think and pray.

Right now we are in the phase of Andy’s medical journey where the most commonly asked question is, “Where do you want to go for residency?” A key thing to note here is that although Andy does get to submit a ranked list of programs he would like to be in, the programs are the ones in the driver’s seat doing the choosing. That being said, we still have to submit the list. At this point in the process, Andy is working towards making a list of the places that he would like to get a try-out rotation in anticipation of applying to residency in a year and a half.

Because my husband is nothing if not a thorough man, he is going through the list of 250+ residencies in his chosen specialty as he compiles his first round short list. At the moment, there are a lot of places on that list, from Alaska to Virginia (our home state) and everywhere in between. Andy and I won’t have discussions about actual places and concrete plans until the first round list is done but I know those are coming soon and during this particular drive it was weighing heavy on my heart.

In particular, I was thinking about what I want to say in these conversations and moments as we prepare to take this next big step together. At first, my focus was on location. Where is the residency? How far is it from people and places we love? Do I like the climate, area, etc.?

But I could feel the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart.

Is this really what I want the conversation to be about? My wants, my needs, my desires?

For most of the ride there and back Audrey Assad’s new album Inheritance was the soundtrack to my prayers. I would hear, “Lover of my soul/ Even unto death/ With my every breath I will love you” and I was reminded of my first love. As I was praying and driving, I could feel the Holy Spirit softening my heart and changing my perspective. My goal should be that my preferences and desires should be shaped to conform to God’s will.

How could I do anything less than be willing to lay aside my desires for what God has for us? This next phase of life is still two years away, but as we enter this process of discernment, I want my heart to be in the right place. I don’t know where we’ll end up, but I know that God will be faithful. He always is.

Where have you seen the Holy Spirit working in your life lately?