The Perfect Chambray Shirt

I FINALLY found the perfect chambray shirt!

I’ve been on a quest for a few years now. The perfect chambray shirt is a staple, and I hadn’t found the perfect one until just a few days ago, and like many great discoveries, it happened completely on accident.

I was walking by Cato Fashions the other day when the window display caught my eye. Now, I haven’t been in a Cato in YEARS—it just isn’t on the list of places I like to go when looking for clothes. 

Here are a few reasons why this shirt is absolutely the perfect chambray shirt

I FINALLY found the perfect chambray shirt!

1. It’s long enough

At 6 feet tall, I have a hard time finding shirts that are long enough to cover at leas the top half of my booty. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than having to pull your shirt down all day long. 

2. It’s the perfect weight

Light enough to wear in spring and summer with the sleeves rolled up, or layered in fall and winter!

3. The fabric

It’s made of Tencel (also known as lyocell), which is a sustainably raised fiber made of reconstituted cellulose that is  soft, absorbent, and even more breathable than cotton. Again, perfect for wearing all year round. 

4. The Price

One of the things that’s kept me from investing in other chambray shirts has been their price… If I’m going to spend more than a hundred dollars on a shirt it better be PERFECT, and I haven’t found one (even a $100+ one) that checked all the boxes. This one DOES, and would you believe it was only $30?!

Shirt: Cato Fashions $27.99
ants: Counterparts (I got them for $16.99 at TJMaxx, but they’re around $30 on Amazon)
Peep-toe booties: Kenneth Cole Reaction ($45 at Marshalls, around the same price on Amazon)
Necklace: Kendra Scott $90



Only wear comfortable shoes: Your no BS guide to an awesome Italy trip

Piazza de Michelangelo

Your No BS Guide to a Fabulous Italy Trip

In June James and I took an amazing 10 day trip to Italy! We had an absolutely incredible time traveling with another couple, and we can’t wait to go back.

Should I use some more superlatives? 

But seriously, if there’s one thing I can tell you about Italy it’s that it is in no way overhyped. 

Aside from the obvious things like “drink as much cheap delicious house wine as you can” and “the people watching is amazing,” here are a few of the other things we learned in Italia.

1. Only Pack Comfortable Shoes

I really just can’t stress this enough. Only pack and wear really really comfortable shoes. 

There will be bloggers who will tell you to you must be as fashionable as possible to keep up with the locals, and even that some restaurants won’t let you in unless you’re wearing heels. 

These bloggers, to put it delicately, are absolutely full of it. 

I toted a pair of Coach wedges in my pack the entire trip. We went to cheap hole-in-the-wall restaurants, we went to restaurants that would make the nicest ones in Birmingham blush, and everything in between, and I never wore those shoes once. 

You know why? Because in Italy you walk everywhere, and even if you think you’re used to walking quite a bit, you almost certainly aren’t used to walking 7-10 miles a day on cobblestone streets. 

Your No BS Guide to a fabulous Italy Trip
Cinque Terre

Here’s an important corollary: If you think you might be hiking, where appropriate footwear. Ignore this advice at your own peril.

Our first day in the gorgeous seaside area of Cinque Terre we went on a somewhat-impromptu hike after our boat tour ended earlier than we expected. My quite expensive, very comfortable Naot sandals will be just fine, I thought! 

Your No BS Guide to a fabulous Italy Trip

Hear me all you who have eyes to listen: nothing looks less fashionable than having to wear socks with your $155 sandals because of enormous blisters. 

2. Absolutely do the touristy things

Vatican? Check. The Colosseum? You betcha. Il Duomo? OMG. The Pantheon? Don’t you dare miss it. La Piazza de Michelangelo? I’ll write more about that in a minute, but YES!

Your No BS Guide to a Fabulous Italy Trip

Every single  “touristy” thing that you’re “supposed to see” in Italy is 100% worth the lines and crowds. 

Just don’t be a hipster traveler. Yes, there are TONS of hidden treasures to be discovered that we adored, but if something has been drawing tourists for the better part of a millennium (or two!) there’s probably a really good reason for it. 

3. Don’t be afraid

While we were preparing to travel I probably spent as much time trying to find the perfect pickpocket-proof purse and learning all about how to protect myself from everything gypsy swindlers to terrorists. 

And then there was the anxiety of learning exactly how to say several common Italian phrases in the perfect accent that would make me look like less of a typical American tourist. 

Newsflash (to me): You’re a 6 foot tall naturally blonde woman from Alabama. You aren’t fooling anyone. 

But even if you aren’t an amazon from the deep south, chances are you are not going to blend in with the locals after only a few days in a foreign country.

Yes, it is really nice and an appreciated gesture to attempt to speak the language (it’s beautiful, and if you took high school Spanish, it’s was actually really easy to pick up), but in Western Europe nearly everyone in the service industry knows enough  English to bring you delicious food and wine. 

Your No BS Guide to a Fabulous Italy Trip

On the safety and security front. Just don’t be stupid. Wear a crossbody purse, pay attention to your surroundings, and don’t buy the dadgum roses from the dadgum gypsies. But have fun! The cops are there to help you, and the very heavily armed and highly trained military men and women are there to protect you from the bad guys. 

Life is too short and the world is too big and beautiful to stay home out of fear. 

4. The whole country is some kind of entertainment district

Most cities here in the states have what are called entertainment districts where you can openly drink alcohol on the street. 

To the best of my knowledge the entire country of Italy is an entertainment district. 

Drink the wine. Be careful. Have fun.

5. Watch sunset on La Piazza de Michelangelo 

Piazza de Michelangelo

In Florence (my favorite of the cities we visited) looking over the city is the Piazza de Michelangelo, where Michelangelo’s David used to be displayed. My favorite evening of the entire trip was when we climbed up to the top with a few bottles of good wine and sat on the steps for several hours anticipating the sunset. 

We made friends with a world traveler, a group of middle aged women from Brazil (Salute!), and dozens of romantic couples. 




’nuff said.

In all we went to four locations: Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, and Pompeii/Mt. Vesuvius. 

We can’t wait to go back! 

Do you have any questions about what to see and do in Italy? Travel tips of your own? Let’s chat about it in the comments!

All things working together for good — Comfort in grief

Beach in Cancun

Beach in Cancun

And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

There has always been something about that verse that hasn’t sat well with me. It feels like a cop out, something we read when we need to feel like the God we worship isn’t a God we understand, or even particularly like. Ever leaning on it felt like the grownup version of a high school football team choosing Philippians 4:13 as their rallying cry. 

Like, God doesn’t care about high school football, quit co-opting my gospel.

Don’t get me wrong, Romans 8 has always had an incredibly special place in my relationship with James. The story of grace and forgiveness in its verses formed, in many ways, the foundation of our eventual romance and now our marriage. The 28th verse has just never really been my favorite. 

But when your life is shaken to the core with a single phone call, sometimes all you can do is cling to the Good News. 

Hiking on the Beeshland ca. 2014.
Hiking on the Beeshland ca. 2014.

On a hot July morning that phone call came from my beloved husband; a phone call whose quick and heartbreaking conversation I have been unable to erase from my memory in the last month.

“Liz,” James told me shakily, “Brad just called. Dad’s died.”

World. Shaken.

Larry Michael “Mike” BeShears was a helluva man who spent every moment he had helping and loving others.

Whether it was wielding a chainsaw in the great privet battles of 2013-16, making homes in Appalachia warmer, safer, and drier on ASP, or reclining in the basement watching college football and eating pigs in a blanket, he was always the most pleasant and gracious man in the room.

The great Privet Battle of 2015.
The great Privet Battle of 2015.

The number of ways he blessed my life are far too many to count in the last nearly 6 years I knew him, but the way he impacted his family is absolutely innumerable.

There are so many things for which we are thankful in the wake of this tragedy, but perhaps the largest thing from my perspective is that Mike saw James fully into manhood.

I don’t know if he considered himself a feminist, but he sure as hell was one. He loved his wife with reckless abandon, and was an equal partner in all things—two practices whose example James has followed since the first days of our relationship.

Everything he did kept his family in mind; there was never any question where his priorities laid. There is no question that I love and respect my husband as much as I do is in large part because of the illustrations drawn out by his earthly father throughout his life.

So how. HOW. could his unexpected death be any evidence of a good and elaborate plan for good? 

The last month has been a blur. It wasn’t like a bad dream, it was like a black hole. Everything has been dark and stretched out, occurring both in the blink of an eye and in the length of eternity. 

But as we’ve begun going through the stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, little things have been revealed to us, and Romans 8:28 has been spoken to me, first in a whisper, then in a shout like rolling thunder.

“You know Mike wouldn’t have hurt his family in a million years, for a trillion dollars,” I’ve heard God say. “Do you think I would?”

James and Daddeh working copy

There has been glaring evidence of the hand of God all through the last month, from decisions made years ago, to inconveniences that week in July that ended up being the largest of blessings. 

“See?” God shouted in the details. “This isn’t fun, but I have a plan.”

Still, I would think in a refrain too often repeated by those who suffer evil at the hands of others, why would a loving God allow something so needlessly horrible? 

“Don’t you get it?” God began to lovingly roar, filling my ears and heart. “As much as Mike loved you, don’t you know the Creator loves His creation infinitely more? I love you. I am working for you. Your job is to trust me.”

So while I still can’t possibly comprehend what good could come of losing one of my most loved humans, we’re choosing to listen. We’re choosing to grieve and celebrate. We’re choosing to cry and laugh.

We’re choosing to trust that all things really are working together for good. 

Back on the Bookshelf: Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
All cover art is property of the publisher.


Read all my book reviews HERE!

Short Summary: The beautifully told story of the legendary Pope Joan who fooled a world dominated by men. 
Date Completed: July 9th, 2016
Where I read it: Birmingham, Alabama
Format: Paperback borrowed from the library
Would I read it again: Probably not, but I definitely recommend it!

As I’ve mentioned before, historical fiction is my absolute favorite genre, and this story about the legendary Pope Joan did not disappoint. As Cross goes over in the conclusion of the book, there is actually ample evidence that a female Pope actually existed in the late 9th century.

A lot of church history and a little romance, Pope Joan’s story, whether fictional or not, was a reminder both of how far women have come and how far we have yet to go!

Back on the Bookshelf: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg
Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg
All cover art is the property of the publisher.

Read all my book reviews HERE!

Short Summary: A controversial but very very good memoir from one of tech’s leading minds, Sheryl Sandberg.
Date Completed: June 29th, 2016
Where I read it: Birmingham, Alabama
Format: Audio book borrowed from library
Would I read it again: Probably

In my short summary above I mentioned how Lean In is considered controversial by many feminists and non-feminists alike, but I can’t really wrap my head around why. Perhaps it would have drawn less ire if it have been, instead, titled Lean ON? 

Much of the premise of her book is how Sheryl believes the keys to success lie first in women surrounding themselves (and men in turn surrounding women) with support. Because behind every successful woman is a lifetime of other women and men who lift her up.

“Leaning in” is about is not about asking permission, it’s not about infiltrating the men’s world and trying to make tiny changes to make it more friendly. It’s not about propping yourself up with so many responsibilities you become both irreplaceable and completely paralyzed. And it’s not just applicable to rich white women.  

It’s simply about the fact that we can’t change the rules of the game without freaking changing the rules of the game. Sitting back and waiting on others to do it means it will never get done. 

Claim your place at the table, and instead of being put off by criticism or setbacks by someone else’s game, make it your own. 

But we simply cannot do it by ourselves. As Mrs. Sandberg points out in her book, of all the successful women she knows only one does it without an egalitarian partner. 

Reading this book knowing that within a few short years of its writing Sandberg would lose the loving and supportive husband to whom she dedicated so many words of affectionate praise was just short of heartbreaking. 

So women, we can’t make it without changing the rules of the game, and we can’t make it by ourselves. Whether you lean in, lean on, or do the lean, I don’t care, let’s just stop tearing other women down, shall we?

Read all my book reviews HERE!

Back on the Bookshelf: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
All cover art is property of the publisher.

Read all my book reviews HERE!

Short Summary: A sweet and surprisingly vulnerable memoir by comedienne and actress Amy Poehler.
Date Completed: June 24th, 2016
Where I read it: Birmingham, Alabama
Format: E-book borrowed from library
Would I read it again: Probably not, but I highly recommend! 

As a fan of SNL’s Weekend Update and Parks and Rec, I already liked Amy Poehler, but after reading Yes Please I think I may love her. 

Between her vulnerability over her divorce and her slightly self-deprecating recollections of growing up the funny girl in a suburb of Boston, you see beneath the characters she plays to recognize just how much of herself she puts into each persona. 

As a woman who has inarguably made it in show business, and in comedy in particular, Amy Poehler expertly shows the unique challenges females face in her field while cracking jokes along the way. Also, her womance with Tina Fey is incredibly inspiring :) 

Read all my book reviews HERE!

Back on the Bookshelf: 13 Ways of Looking by Colum McCann

13 Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
13 Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
All cover art is property of the publisher.

Read all my book reviews HERE!

Short Summary: Heartbreaking short stories beautifully written
Date Completed: June 16th, 2016
Where I read it: Birmingham, Akabama
Format: Hardback borrowed from Library
Would I read it again: Maybe

Named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, 13 Ways of Looking is a collection of short stories, each heartbreaking in their own way. This one only took me a few days to read, it was so engaging. 

According to this excellent review from NYT, McCann was randomly attacked while walking down the street in New Haven, CT, in 2014, leaving him both physically and emotionally scarred. 

Between a lovable jewish judge who loses everything and the divorcee who may have lost her son, you’ll cry at their losses and rejoice in their ability to realize that life keeps moving. 

Read all my book reviews HERE!

Back on the Bookshelf: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
All cover art is the property of the publisher.

Read all my book reviews HERE!

Short Summary: The latest book in the Outlander Series
Date Completed: June 14th, 2016
Where I read it: Cinque Terre, Florence, and Rome, Italy,
Format: Hardback borrowed from Library
Would I read it again: Definitely

My memories of this book will always be intertwined of how much of it was read while riding Trenitalia through the Italian countryside during our fabulous Italy trip. We probably spent a total of 12 hours on the train, and I likely spent 10 of theme alternately reading this book and looking wistfully out the window.

The most recent Outlander book (published in 2014), I greatly enjoyed meeting so many historical characters from the Revolutionary War.

In Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, later affectionately known as MOBY by Outlander fans, we really see peeks into the accompanying Lord John Grey novels which run parallel to the Outlander timeline, which was certainly interesting. 

The end of the novel almost wraps everything up quite neatly, in that there aren’t any substantial cliffhangers, and there’s even somewhat of a happy ending for most of the main characters. 

NOT to imply I’m not excited about the series’ conclusion Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone, which will be released… eventually. 

ALL of that being said, if you are into historical fiction (my favorite genre), like some good romance, and enjoy strong female characters you should really check out Outlander. 

Read all my book reviews HERE!

Corn, Black Bean, and Feta Dip for Your Memorial Day BBQ

corn bean and feta dip


Corn, bean, feta dip

With the unofficial start of summer next week, it’s almost barbecue season! In celebration, I’ve teamed up with several fellow bloggers to bring you 50+ recipe ideas for a smashing summer shindig. See all the recipes for our Great Blogger BBQ below!

It’s almost summertime! In addition to the hotter, longer days, and the better traffic (commuters thank you, schools!), it’s picnic season! To kick off the summer deliciously, I’ve teamed up with 64 other bloggers to bring you some tasty recipes to try at your next summer gathering.

This quick and EASY Corn, Black Bean, and Feta Dip is tasty, easily portable (no refrigeration needed!), and did I mention easy?

Now, I have to be straight with you, I did not write this recipe. My amazing pastor Stephanie did, and she was gracious enough to share it with me when I asked. 

Go head and make a batch of this dip to take to your Memorial Day commemoration. 


Corn, Black Bean, and Feta Dip
Write a review
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 2 Cans corn
  2. 2 Cans black beans
  3. 6oz Crumbled feta cheese
  4. 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  5. 3T vegetable oil
  6. 4-6T White vinegar
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. 1 Bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and allow to chill for 2 hours before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.

corn bean and feta dip
50 recipes for the perfect summer get-together! Whether you're planning a barbecue, picnic, or outdoor party, check out everything from appetizer recipes, entree recipes, cocktail recipes, dessert recipes, side dish recipes and more to go with your BBQ! #greatbloggerBBQ

50 recipes for the perfect summer get-together! Whether you're planning a barbecue, picnic, or outdoor party, check out everything from appetizer recipes, entree recipes, cocktail recipes, dessert recipes, side dish recipes and more to go with your BBQ! #greatbloggerBBQ


Korean BBQ Tofu Sliders with Kimchi Slaw by Hello Little Home
Corn, Black Bean, and Feta Dip by Lizzy is Dizzy
Crab, Bacon & Guacamole Crostinis by That Square Plate

Cocktails and Drinks

Blackberry Gin Slush by The Speckled Palate
Homemade Lemonade by Winstead Wandering
Blood Orange Mocktail by Body Rebooted
Fleur Collins Cocktail by Hungry Girl por Vida
Fourth of July Sparkler by Mixplorology
Black Stripe Cold Rum Cocktail by Honey and Birch
Fresh Watermelon Mojito by Twin Stripe
Mint Hibiscus Lemonade by The Little Epicurean
Wine Slushy by Living Well Kitchen
Basil Gin Lemonade by Glisten and Grace


Salt Plate Shrimp by The Mexitalian
Jamaican Jerk Chicken Burgers by Simple and Savory
Roasted Vegetable Grilled Pizza with Garlic Herb Oil by Ciao Chow Bambina
Memphis Style Pulled Pork by Two Places at Once
Balsamic & Honey Chicken Skewers with Strawberry-Kiwi Salsa by No Spoon Necessary
Amazing Basic Spice Rub for Grilling by An Oregon Cottage
Mediterranean Chicken Kebabs by PasadenaDaisy
Smoked Porchetta Pork Loin by Tasty Ever After
Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork by Appeasing a Food Geek
Peach Barbecue Sauce by The Beach House Kitchen
Tuna Stuffed Sweet Peppers by SugarLoveSpices
Herb Marinated Steak Gyros Plates with Tomato-Onion Salad and Green Tahini Sauce by Feed Me Phoebe
Marinated Skirt Steak with Sweet Corn and Cherry Salad by Domesticate ME!
Sweet & Sour Chicken Kebabs by Tastefully Frugal

Side Dishes

Caprese Pasta Salad by Club Narwhal
Cranberry Almond Broccoli Salad by Two Sisters Kitchens
Coconut Milk Mac & Cheese by A Little Gathering
Cherry Quinoa Salad by Food Lovin Family
Cheddar, Corn and Bacon Potato Salad by Family Food on the Table
Lemon Rocket Pasta Salad by Lauren Caris Cooks
Green Goddess Potato Salad by Love & Flour
Red White & Blue Watergate Salad by A Joyfully Mad Kitchen
Zesty Potato Skewers by Pamela Salzman
Quinoa Tabouli by A Fork’s Tale


Banana Pudding Ice Cream Cake by Feast + West
Strawberry Beer Floats by bethcakes
Cherry Cheesecake Dessert by The Little Blonde Baker
Light Berry Angel Food Cake by The Creative Bite
Lemon Cream Tarts with Berries by Girl Heart Food
Fresh Strawberry Muffins by Spiced
Lemon Pie Sundae by Flavours & Frosting
Strawberry Lemon Shortcakes by Dash of Herbs
Grasshopper Pie by 2 Cookin’ Mamas
Berry Mango Smoothie Pops by HÄLSA Nutrition
Mixed Berry Vanilla Bean Cake by Cake ‘n Knife
No Churn Cookies and Cream Strawberry Ice Cream by The Secret Ingredient Is
Coconut Blueberry & Vodka Ice Pops by Nik Snacks
Strawberry Key Lime Margarita Greek Yogurt Ice Pops by Beer Girl Cooks
Cherry & Rhubarb Tart by Crepes of Wrath

Back on the Bookshelf: In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
All cover art is the property of the publisher.

Read all my book reviews HERE!

Short Summary: A memoir written in both English and Italian about learning to write in a second language.
Date Completed: May 15th, 2016
Where I read it: Birmingham, Alabama
Format: Hardback borrowed from Library
Would I read it again: Probably not, but not because I didn’t enjoy it!

Jhumpa Lahiri shot into stardom by winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for the collection of short stories Interpreter of Maladies. Her first novel, The Namesake, also met great success and was even adapted into a movie. 

I’ve enjoyed everything by Ms. Lahiri I’ve ever read, and In Other Words was no exception. 

After falling in love with Italy as a college exchange student and finding success writing in English, Lahiri decides to learn how to write prose in Italian—her third language. 

In the book, which features the text written in both English and Italian on facing pages, Lahiri explores what it means to make a language your home. 

Mastery of a language means more than knowing how to communicate clearly; so much of what makes a sentence beautiful is the author’s ability to use an extensive vocabulary to paint a picture. Even knowing 95% of a language’s most common words can leave a writer well short of being considered good. 

This was a fantastic book to read while James and I were preparing for our Italy trip… Lahiri’s passion for the country is infectious! I was also aspiring to learn enough working Italian to be able to get around, and being able to read full sentences in the language was quite helpful. 

In writing the book Lahiri and her family moved to Rome for two years to truly immerse themselves in the language and culture—something I would absolutely LOVE to do one day!

Bonus fun fact: Jhumpa Lahiri’s sister was one of my political science professors at the University of Alabama… She was a fantastic teacher!

Read all my book reviews HERE!