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Posted by on Jan 1, 2016 in Around Chez Ary | 2 comments

Happy Holidays from Chez Ary!


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Family, Friends, Loved Ones, and Strangers,

2015 has been a pretty good year. We turned the corner on several aspects of our lives as a  family, and it feels good. I’m so thankful for our health, family and friends, great jobs, doggies, home, and life in general. I’m excited about what 2016 will hold, but I’m entering this year a little more chill, taking it easy and honoring what I have and who I am…

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I turned 30 this year…can you tell? Mr. J threw me a fantastic party to celebrate. It was great to be surrounded by friends on this special day! All aspects of the night were perfectly me, and everyone (especially Mr. J) was so thoughtful. This year, I made flowers (mostly peonies from crepe paper) and arranged flowers, spiralized all the things, created veggie sushi at home, and made lots of craft cocktails (a new hobby for Mr. J, including his favorite – bitters). We brunched at Actual Brunch, Homestead Manor, Flipside, and Marche. I fell in love with kale and making juice in the Vitamix. I started doing running intervals in the spring and tracking my sleep and steps (another age thing?). I also did aerial yoga…it was…yeah.

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I have the best group of friends a girl could ask for. Whether it’s weekly, monthly, once in a blue moon, standing dates or fitting it in where we can, I love these ladies. We share our lives and push each other to grow, and it really fills up my cup. I joined a new group of friends in January at a grown-up tea party and continued to love Vegan Supper Clubs. I really enjoy coming up with a vegan, gluten-free dish for these events. It’s always amazingly delicious, and you always feel great when you leave no matter how high you heap your plate. Sneak peek here and here.

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I changed jobs in July, and time has been in warp speed ever since. I’m now a Sr. Business Process Manager for Optum (under the Unitedhealth Group umbrella). I work with clients in program and project management and do internal communications and employee engagement stuff. I miss all of my friends at Journal and all of the special projects I did there (food photography shoots and events, especially). I’m proud of my 4 years there and all that I learned, and I’m excited about the new opportunities and challenges ahead.

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We traveled about quite a bit in 2015. In April, we rented a cabin in the north Georgia mountains and got away in nature for a long weekend. J did some fishing, and we took in Amicalola Falls, which I grew up visiting with family. We hit up the Chattanooga Aquarium on the way back north.


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For our 7th anniversary, we trekked down to New Orleans…such a fun (and warm) city. We stayed at Hotel Mazarin, listened to lots of lovely music, saw the sites on the trolley, took in the Mardi Gras museum, walked through a cemetery, took a driving tour of the city, and enjoyed a celebratory dinner. We left relaxed and pampered.

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In July, J had a work trip in Portland, Maine, and I tagged along. I did two Maine Foodie Tours and ate TONS of lobster. We did a bus and boat tour, saw lots of lighthouses, had a dinner party on an island, shopped at LL Bean’s headquarters, and did a scavenger hunt with J’s coworkers – I haven’t been able to track that many steps since that day!


Rounding out our entertainment segment, we went to the circus again in January with Nana and Poppy. In Murfreesboro, we hit up the farmers market and Adventure Science Center this June. We saw lots of animals at the Tennessee Safari Park on the 4th of July. In September, we rode on Thomas the Tank Engine and went to the Nashville zoo, and we saw Pentatonix again at Bridgestone Arena. Touch a Truck came to town in October, and Everett loved it! We saw Neil De Grasse Tyson at TPAC in November, and the movie Elf at the Franklin Theatre in December. It was a busy year!


Mr J. kept up most of his usual hobbies this year including disc golf and woodworking. He took the latter to the extreme this year with a nice garage build out, and he has a great setup out there now that allows for more efficient projects. He even built us a beautiful farm table for the dining room. In the spring, he and the boy got into building, painting, and shooting off model rockets. His new standout hobby of the year is bartending, which I hinted at above. We’ve imbibed in his tasty creations all year, but he really outdid himself by creating a stellar drink menu for my birthday. Two of his hobbies collided when we refinished a bar cabinet, which houses everything we need for drink making in one place. He still enjoys working remotely for a company out of Maine.


Everett turned 3 in September, and he is growing so tall and smart. He started at a new school in May, and he is really thriving there. He moved up to early preschool III in August. He loves Play Doh; building with Magnatiles, legos, and anything that will stack into a tower; firetrucks, trains, trucks, planes, etc. are also a standing favorite. He talks our ears off in a way that is well beyond his years. In 2015, he kicked the crib (moving up to his toddler bed), paci, and diapers and left baby-hood behind! This sweet boy is the center of our universe!


As for extended family, everyone seems to be doing well. It was nice to visit them (or have upcoming plans to visit them) around the holidays. My brother is in Japan for about 6 month, and then, he’ll be back in Hawaii to round out his final year in the Marines. We had two visits with him this year – around the 4th of July and Thanksgiving. Mr. J helped his parents with a building project – raising a garage/shop, nearly by themselves (crazy and cool).

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Tail in action

We added a 7 month old blonde lab named Skyler to the family in September. She’s definitely still a puppy, but she adds lots of energy to the household. She LOVES to chew (mostly on approved rawhides), and there is lots more dog hair to Swiffer up these days. We call her Skyler Weenie (it’s a family name, after all), and after a brief adjustment period, Tucker and Everett consider her a friend. Tucker is an old man these days, but he’s doing great. He’s very spritely and has a distinguished gray scruff forming at the end of his nose.

Things We Love

Google Fi (cell service)
Lenny Letter | Brain Pickings | NPR
Things that are legal that should have been all along
Target and Amazon
Hit Record
Instagram | Facebook | Feedly

I have a new favorite restaurant – Nick’s Italian Deli in Franklin. I make a pilgrimage every weekend that I possibly can. I love their eggplant parmesan and the pizza is to die for. Cannoli and salad and alfredo tortellini and and and everything is superb!

The blog got a facelift thanks to Mr. J and my friend KP, whose beautiful handlettering design graces the top of the page ^). I actually posted more than I realized – this post will make the 10th or so. There’s some good stuff in drafts, but you’ll notice a distinct lacking in the second part of the year when I was adjusting to a new position. I have a few ideas for ye old blog in 2016. We’ll see how it goes, and if I’m sitting here saying the same thing next year, so be it 😉

On behalf of all of us at Chez Ary, I hope that everyone in your household is happy and well. Best of wishes for a wonderful holiday season!


Betty Becca, Mr. J, & E

The tradition lives on: Holiday update from 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.  


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Posted by on Dec 28, 2014 in Around Chez Ary | 0 comments

A Blog Year in Review


me in 1989 🙂

While I was planning for our annual holiday update blog post, I did a little reflection on 2014 on the blog. Upon a quick audit, I discovered I didn’t blog as often this year, but when I did blog, I packed more punch into each post. I accomplished some things I’m proud of in this space. I’m approaching my four year blogiversary (Est. 1/29/11), and that’s just crazy to me.

Here are some of the highlights from for 2014:

Attended my second Food Blog Forum and met some wonderful people. I struggle to find the words to adequately explain the experience in Asheville…it was otherworldly! The food community there rolled out the red carpet for us, and I’ll never forget the amazing experience in the mountains of North Carolina!

Updated the blog and got new business cards

I had so much fun with the Blogsgiving progressive dinner party. Check out my posts and all of the other talented bloggers involved.

#BlogsgivingDinner: Sassy Salmon Dip

#BlogsgivingDinner: Smoked Mushroom Steaks with Herbed Bread Crumbs (Vegan)

#BlogsgivingDinner: Freezer-Friendly Turkey and Rice Casserole (Leftovers!)

Began working with brands this year and discovered some great products. I hope to continue making connections in 2015.

A link round-up feature: Eat | Make | Do to share all of the lovely things I find across the blogosphere

Added a new Pinterest board for the blog and an addiction to Instagram

I’m in love with the bento concept, and I’ve been using it to pack E’s lunches this year. I hope to learn more and get some of the nifty bento products to try this year!

Some of my favorite posts of the year:

A great time spent with friends on a Nolensville Road food tour

Brunch Swap and how to host a country breakfast

Series on Sympathy Meals: Part I and Part II

Wishing you and yours a happy New Year!


P.S. I’m in the process of making this cake. Wish I could share a bite with you!

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Posted by on Dec 24, 2014 in Around Chez Ary | 0 comments

Happy Holidays from Chez Ary!


E and me with the Man in Red. It took him longer to warm up to Santa than the picture line allowed, but at least we got a shot this year. 

Family, Friends, Loved Ones, and Strangers,

It’s time for our annual family update! First of all, let’s set the tone with some music:

I can’t believe 2014 is coming to a close. It was a quiet year compared to the last few – not with out a few minor bumps, but no major life happenings like a baby (2012), moving (2013), or tons of travel (2013). It’s been pretty quiet and chill, and I’m so very thankful for that, our health, family, and friends.

I’ve been with my company for three and a half years, and I work with some great people on some great products. I still enjoy doing project management work with our creatives and helping out with our prop sourcing for food photography. My team and I are getting it down to a science. My part to play is to source props (via shopping or our massive prop closet) to fulfill the vision of the creative director. I handle everything from dishes to floral to linens to painting/staining/building different surfaces to shoot our dishes on. We also have a recipe developer/food stylist, an editorial team, a designer, and a food photographer that make it all happen for an end result like this:

Image Credit: (Find recipes there, too!)

Mr. J has a new job. He’s back home now to work remotely full time after traveling for his new gig to Maine and Idaho. He’s keepin’ on with all of his hobbies (smoking meats – including 3 birds for all of our Thanksgiving festivities, cards, refinishing furniture, coffee, guitar, disc golf, electronics – he built a clock!, and even found time to start a blog himself).

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Mr. J highlight: His team won first place at the fall Hack Nashville this year!

Mr. E is growing at lightning speed and communicating like a grown man. We adore him so much. He loves books, trucks, tractors, trains, and animals. He’s moved up through a couple of classrooms this year, and all that he’s learning is astonishing. He did a great job with his baby signs, and now, he can say pretty much anything. He can count to 10, and he’s working on letter recognition. He even got a certificate in Spanish class! We celebrated his 2nd birthday with a small gathering of family and friends with a Llama Llama Red Pajama theme. Having a 2 year old is both trying and amazing all at the same time!


Mr. E highlight: Llama Llama Red Pajama – 2nd birthday party

Tucker is doing well. He’s holding down the fort and living the high life…even with a little bit of distinguished silver on his muzzle. He loves a good game of tug of war or catch. You can usually find him curled up taking a nap, chewing on a raw hide, or scratching to go outside 🙂

(In case you missed the news, we lost our Oscar in January after an autoimmune disease took him quickly. We miss him dearly.)


Tucker Weenie

Mr. J’s parents moved nearby, and it has been so awesome! They stayed with us in between houses, and we had a great time. E loves having them close, and it’s super helpful when he is sick or we’re looking for a date night out.

My parents are doing well. My dad “retired” this year. He’s still got his hobbies like tree trimming and being a Boy Scout leader. I guess Mom will be teaching til the bitter end, but she’s so talented at it. My brother spent some time in Hawaii and Japan and was promoted to Lance Corporal. We’re so happy to have him home for Christmas since his last visit was at Easter.

We had a lot of fun activities and a few small adventures this year:

  • I attended a great food and beverage event at the Omni in January.
  • We went to Birmingham/Talladega in May. Mr. J and his dad went to the NASCAR race – Denny Hamlin won (who Mr. J roots for)! Nana, E, and I went shopping and had a great time.
  • Mr. J and I took our first trip away from E to Asheville.
  • We went to Discovery Park of America twice (once with family and once with friends) in Union City, TN. It’s so nice, and crazy that it’s so close to where I grew up. I highly recommend it!
  • We went to the circus, two shows at the Ryman (Pentatonix, have I mentioned how much I love them?, and Lindsey Stirling), Reelfoot Lake, and Random Acts of Science at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.
  • We celebrated our 6th anniversary and my 29th birthday.
  • I also mentioned last year that it would be my 10 year high school reunion. It ended up being a great event, and a nice time to catch up with old friends.
  • I have also enjoyed attending a regular Vegan Supper Club and dining out and about with family and friends.

On behalf of all of us at Chez Ary, I hope that everyone in your household is happy and well. Best of wishes for a wonderful holiday season!


Betty Becca, Mr. J, & E

The tradition lives on: Holiday update from 20132012, and 2011.  

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Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Around Chez Ary, Featured | 4 comments

Getting Fresh Around Here

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Thanks to Mr. J, the blog has a new look. If you keep up with me through a reader, please click through to take a look.

I spent a few (amazing!) days last week in Asheville, NC, at Food Blog Forum. This is my second time to attend this event, and I enjoyed every minute. The itinerary was packed full of incredible food, “money-can’t-buy” experiences, new friends, beautiful vistas, and great tips and tricks for blogging. I hope to share more soon about the trip and event, but in the mean time check out Instagram for all of my pics.




For the conference, I finally got some business cards, and I really loved how they turned out. I just ordered some simple ones and added washi tape. I have lots of customization options, and I’m really excited about them. Here’s a sneak peak:


Finally, we’re gearing up to celebrate birthday #2. I can’t believe it, and I’m not entirely sure I’m ready for what this year will hold (I hear it can be a bit “terrible” 😉 haha). But there’s always a balance of absolutely precious moments in the mix. Here’s a recent pic and a hint at the theme of our party:

Big ELlama Llama Red Pajama

Until next time – Happy Monday, friends!

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Posted by on Dec 30, 2013 in Around Chez Ary | 1 comment

Happy Holidays from Chez Ary!

Family, Friends, Loved Ones, and Strangers,

Happy Holidays (well, Happy New Year now)!!!

We’re a little late on this year’s card and letter, but I was holding out hope that we’d get a Santa picture. E had a major freak out when Santa visited for his Santa Party last week at school, so we’ll be sitting out on Santa this year. This will have to serve as the holiday photo for 2013:

This picture captures “right-now” E perfectly. Busy, busy, busy…into everything and always babbling. He’s probably saying “dis” (this) because he knows he’s not supposed to take ornaments off of the tree. Both of our trees were only decorated at the top with a few plastic ornaments at the bottom. We definitely have a toddler in the house!

2013 has been a full and wonderful. Please read on for a full recap of this year’s events…

January Baby

E is the center of our universe these days, and we are fully embracing this fun new age. In the course of the last twelve months, he has changed a ton. From crawling to walking and budding communication skills, we’re having a ball with our little guy. He’s had a healthy year with minimal sickness and great check ups. He enjoys musical toys and pushing cars all over. He loves to interact with the dogs and say “arf arf.” He attends a great school, and he is constantly learning.

First haircut

Since this is a neglected food blog, I should mention that he’s a great eater. He did great with a combo puree / Baby Led Weaning approach, and now, he’s eating any and everything as long as it’s dairy free. His favorite foods are grapes and frozen blueberries, and he loves spice and flavor (scrambled eggs with dill and curry!?). I hope to blog more about our food journey soon.

We had a lovely party celebrating his first birthday in September. After being in our new house for a few weeks, we hosted a small gathering with family and friends with a colorful dachshund theme. He totally dug his cake…it was hilarious! It was a nice day and a great time for us to reflect on his birth story and first year.

Celebrating my birthday

Not long after in November, I turned 28. It was a low key celebration with my two guys. We ate Mexican food, and I got lots of my favorite goodies as gifts. Mom and I had our annual meet up in Clarksville to celebrate and kick off the Christmas shopping season.

I had a major life change this year…Google Reader went away. After much kvetching, I made the switch to Feedly, and I hate to say I like it better (*gasp*). I am still addicted to Instagram and Facebook. I also like Google+ (for photo storage), Slice (for online shopping package tracking), MightyText (for desktop texting), Pandora (for music), and Paperless Post (for greetings and invitations).

I am OB. SESSED. with Italian subs. My favorites are Sammy’s in Martin and Newk’s or Jersey Mike’s around here. Also, I sorta learned how to parallel park (HT, KP)…probably 12 years late, and please don’t test me.

My team at work celebrating our hero-themed United Way campaign.

I celebrated 2 years with Journal Communications in July. I absolutely love it, and I work with the best people! After a few years of turmoil, I truly feel like I have found my professional home. I work in the midst of our creative department helping out with workload, workflow, timing, and cross-department communication.

I am lucky to be involved with a fun project at work…prop styling and sourcing for our food shoots. We shoot food photography for 4 of our quarterly agribusiness projects plus any cookbook or web projects we have going on. We’ve made great strides to make our food shoots go more smoothly and successfully, and I think it’s paying off.

JCI Quality Awards – Mad Men theme

I was part of a photo shoot for one of our middle Tennessee projects (I’m in the background on 48-49). I had two guest posts on Farm Flavor and a feature in this post. I also coordinated our Quality Awards in April (awards for JCI’s creative works) and had a blast. I can’t wait to see what the next year will hold with my wild and crazy team!

Celebrating my first Mothers’ Day

The past year hasn’t been all work for me. I coordinated a wedding in March. It was great to be back in the game for a bit. One of my best friends wrote a book to help couples prepare their marriage for baby. I helped her with a few marketing sessions, and it has been a blast. I also taught a few wreath, bow, and wrapping workshops leading up to the holiday season. I’ve been experimenting with chalk art since E’s birthday party. Of course, cake baking and flower arranging continue as favorite pastimes of mine. We have a great discount section in the floral department of my local grocery store. I delight in bringing home a cheap bunch every week and making beautiful combinations to brighten the countertop.

Due to some unfortunate sickness, we stayed home over Thanksgiving, and I was able to cook my first traditional spread. I was really bummed to miss out on family time, but I had a blast putting it all together. We had crockpot turkey breast, herbed sausage stuffing, gravy with egg, sweet potatoes with pecan crumble (DF and regular), mashed potatoes (DF and regular), corn, mac & cheese, rolls, and roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic reduction. So much fun and so yum!

I have really enjoyed being a part of the mama community this year…paying forward all of the support and knowledge I’ve gained over the past couple of years. It’s so important to surround yourself with like-minded friends on this journey, and I am so thankful for my circle.

We had a few getaways this year. To celebrate our 5 year anniversary, we took a trip down to Destin. We spent part of the week with Mr. J’s folks and part was just the 3 of us. Highlights include a wonderful meal and some pampering at the Hilton for our anniversary, shopping, beaching, lots of eating, fishing, and mini golfing.

We took a weekend trip to the Chattanooga Aquarium. E enjoyed looking at all of the animals, and it was a nice escape for our little family!

We ventured to South Carolina for my brother’s graduation from basic training in September. It was a wonderful experience, and I am so proud of him! He’s currently stationed at Marine Corp Base Hawaii. We are so excited to have him home for Christmas!

At the end of August, we closed on our dream home in Thompson’s Station. We fell in love with it the second we saw the listing, and the feeling got stronger when we got to see it in person. We had a quick sell of our first home and a crazy few weeks of logistics and details, but it all worked out. We are settling in nicely. There will be lots of projects in the future, but we were lucky to get everything on our wishlist. My favorite part is the kitchen, which is good because I spend most of my time there.

 As for me (J), it’s been quite the year. Nothing has become more special to me than spending time with E. The older he gets, the more his personality develops and shines (not to mention temper…must get that from mom!), and I’m loving every minute.

As for work, I’ve once again set out on a adventure with a new company and new faces. As much as I enjoyed and will miss the knowledgeable team I’ve been building emergency notification systems with the past few years, I was sought out this summer for my specialization in rule engines by a healthcare company called Medhost offering terms I couldn’t refuse.

With healthcare being as large as it is in Nashville, I decided it would be worthwhile to spend some time in the niche and see what good I could do. I’ve only been with them for a few weeks now, but so far, I’m really enjoying it. There are some amazing systems they have in mind to develop in the following years.

Speaking of my work obsession with rules at the end of last winter, I was approached by a publishing company to author a book about the specific rule engine system that I work with. I decided it was worth a go, even if it turned out to sell just a few copies, because who doesn’t want to see their name on the front of a book, amirite?!

Not to mention that if it was possible to help just a few people get started in a space where there’s little documentation to be found (been there, done that), then, it’s worthwhile to me. However, it’s turned out better than expected to say the least. To date, I’ve sold over 375 copies, which is about 350 more than I ever expected.

If you know anything about me, then you know that when I’m not working and enjoying time with my family, then I’m obsessing about whatever happens to be my latest selection of hobbies. This year, I think I’ve found one or two to hang on to (maybe!).

Disc Golf has gotten me outside spending more time with friends and exercising that I usually manage on my own. Add in the challenge of continually improving my game and I’m hooked…the cold weather is driving me crazy, and I can’t wait to get back out banging chains in the spring.

When weather or scheduling prevents heading outdoors, then I’ve fallen back on my other hobby du jour ‘13, PC gaming! Battlefield 4 is probably the first FPS game I’ve picked up since playing Tribes 2 on LAN ‘til all hours of the night in the dorms, and I have to say, I’m thoroughly enjoying getting back into a competitive space. 

The game itself, despite the bugs that have surfaced and growing pains that have come along with launching such a cutting-edge title, is simply amazing. I can’t believe how far gaming systems (and technology in general) have come in my lifetime. It’ll be even more fulfilling to see where it goes in coming years. To wrap up, I highly encourage watching this clip of Louis C.K. giving his take on technology – the visual quality is lacking, but the sentiment is spot on – it’s a great time to be a geek! Happy Holidays!

Is it really going to be 2014? It’s my 10-year high school reunion this year. Oy!

Here are some things I hope to accomplish:

  • Make bread for my new bread board
  • Make homemade tortillas
  • Master the poached eggs (without cheating with the pods)
  • Add a few more herbs to the garden
  • Get back in a farmers’ market habit
  • Blog more here (maybe add a few more categories???) and elsewhere

On behalf of all of us at Chez Ary, I hope that everyone in your household is happy and well. Best of wishes for a wonderful holiday season!


Betty Becca, Mr. J, & E

Blast from the past: Holiday update from 2011 and 2012


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Posted by on Jun 12, 2013 in Around Chez Ary | 0 comments


1. Will someone please tell my son to please stop growing? He’s 8 months old and movin’ and shakin’. He’s crawling everywhere, and starting to do the pull up/cruising thing. Stop. Just stop. 🙂

2. I’ve given in to the dark side, and I think I like it. I bought some organic pouches at Target to make his food easier on vacation last week, and they were very handy. I still believe in the baby led weaning approach, and it’s a little hard to get past the cost/waste ratio. But these are great as a supplement to the things I’m making him.

3. As mentioned above, we went on family vacation last week. It was so nice to get away and relax, shop, beach, and EAT! Mr. J and I ate a ton of seafood, and it was quite delicious!

4. My bro just headed off to South Carolina to further his training with the Marines. I’m gearing up to write him tons of letters. Good luck, T!

5. Mr. J and I celebrated 5 years last week. It was really nice! We got massages and dined on the beach. The meal was absolutely delicious!

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