Friends. My heart is so full this morning I can hardly stand it. It's funny how just a few days ago I was sharing with you all about how discouraged I've felt – completely overwhelmed by guilt and self-condemnation – and today I am beyond joyful. What shifted? Quite a few things, the biggest one being: I reached out. I admitted I was drowning, and I sought community. I spent the past two nights with people I love eating around the table, and intentionally moved my gaze from myself and back onto others. I allowed myself to receive God's grace, and to realize how loved I am, even in all of my messy imperfection. And it feels really really good.

Thank you all for your incredible outpouring of support and encouragement after my last post. It's scary sharing something so vulnerable, but also really freeing because the lies cease to lose their power when exposed to the light. And even though it made me sad to hear that so many of you struggle with the same guilt and condemning inner voices, it's also comforting to know that I'm not alone, and that we're all in this together! I feel blessed to be able to talk about these sort of real issues on this blog, because as much as we want to pretend our lives look as pretty as our Instagram accounts, our hearts often tell a very different story.


One of my favorite authors Shauna Niequist wrote in her book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way something really profound: “The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.” Wow. So so true. Can we all band together and remind each other that doing everything better is not the goal of life? That being present and connected and loving well is far more important?! Thanks.

Actually, what I wanted to write about today is an article I recently read in The Atlantic by Cody Delistraty called The Importance of Eating Together. This piece so eloquently stated everything I believe on a gut level about connecting around the table – only with actual facts and figures to back it up! Check out this excerpt: "Sadly, Americans rarely eat together anymore. In fact, the average American eats one in every five meals in her car, one in four Americans eats at least one fast food meal every single day, and the majority of American families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week. It’s a pity that so many Americans are missing out on what could be meaningful time with their loved ones, but it’s even more than that. Not eating together also has quantifiably negative effects both physically and psychologically."


This is really tragic. Eating in cars, eating fast food, not eating together as a family? The implications aren't just on our health (with heart disease and obesity being major problems), but on our relationships. How can you bond with someone you don't see face to face? How can we learn to hold a conversation – to share about our lives, much less our hearts – when our talking takes place mostly through a screen? The cultural shift in American eating habits over the past 50 years is shocking, and a big motivator for me writing this cookbook is to see a return to the table. Take a minute and read the whole article, it's definitely worth your time.

I've thought a lot about the dinner party road trip I recently went on, and though the dinners on the trip were all gorgeous, what really struck me at each one was watching the magic happen when people stopped to sit, to eat, and to talk. Especially at the smaller dinners, where we could really take time for each person to share a bit about their life, there was a bond that formed that was really remarkable – even between total strangers. If this sort of connection can form amongst strangers, how much more powerful are these sorts of gatherings between good friends and family?! The meal doesn't have to be elaborate – a pot of soup or a salad will suffice – and having flowers or matching plates isn't necessary: the main goal is just to be together.


I hope you all have wonderful weekends! I know some of you are testing recipes for the cookbook - thank you thank you!! I'm loving seeing your pictures. :) Also, here's some fun reading material for the weekend:

-A fascinating photo essay that reveals how people eat in NYC (hint: mostly in front of a screen)

-The Fresh Exchange shares their favorite productivity tools for small business and blogs - for someone like me who struggles with staying organized, this is super helpful.

-I am obsessed with my friend Kelly's blog Volatizing the Esters. Check out her summer to-do list, with recs for what to read, what to drink, and what to make (pinot noir popsicles?! amazing!).

-Mango black bean tacos on Love & Lemons...yes, please!!

-Summer squash pasta with green goddess dressing on Sprouted Kitchen...done and done.

-I just launched a new column for Tasting Table called "Everyday Entertaining!" Check out my first post on how to plan a dinner party menu.

-Lulu the Baker featured me on her blog today! Thanks Melissa!

-Quinciple, another of my favorites, shared some of my easy entertaining tips on their blog.

-My friend Sarah Sherman Samuel just launched an awesome home goods line called A Sunny Afternoon. Perfect for outdoor dinner parties and picnics!

(Photos by Mike Gilger from our Simple Evening in Raleigh.)