Today’s interview is with my dear friend, Michelle. Michelle and I have been actual friends for about 5 years now, but we met maybe a year before we really became good friends. This interview is fitting because the first time we really hung out was at her house and she had a bunch of fellow photography ladies over - so in other words, she’s crazy hospitable and amazing.
Michelle has such a sweet love for Jesus and is an amazing wife to her husband Bryan. I have been so inspired by their love for one another! Michelle also has a super adorable goldendoodle, Jessie (we are still trying to force our dogs to be friends), who loves greeting anyone that comes to their door. Lastly, but certainly not least, Michelle is an amazing wedding photographer (see her work here!) and she is also a crazy talented painter. This lady is a gem, y’all. When I think of the character and talents that Michelle has been blessed with, it truly blows my mind. She is one of the truest and most loyal friends, loves so well, and is a truly inspired artist to boot.
I totally cried reading through her answers to these questions and she would probably giggle about that because we joke that I have become a way more emotional person since I had a baby. But you guys, Michelle gets it. She gets the point of hospitality (putting others needs above your own) and she lives it out so well. In her interview she answers questions on reaching out to neighbors, hosting a brunch, being an introvert while also being hospitable, and she gives some wonderful tips on how she does it so well.
ALSO, I include the recipe to some amazing GF banana almond muffins that Michelle made while I was over and they are delicious. There are even measurements for making a large batch if you want to take some to neighbors/friends/coworkers! Scroll to the very bottom for the full recipe!
How do you define hospitality?
For me, hospitality is showing the love of Jesus to anyone and everyone you meet. While that comes to play in obvious ways in our own home - serving them, creating a comfortable space for relaxing and encouraging genuine conversation - I've found that hospitality extends to every pocket of our lives. It's seeing the other person as more important than you, putting their needs above your own, and using the gifts and blessings you've been given to love that person more than yourself. (And now I'm crying because I feel the importance of this so much, and I hope everyone who comes to our home and walks through life with us feels this!)
What has shaped your view of hospitality?
There are many Biblical stories I could quote where Jesus gives his everything to someone else, and they've all shaped my view of hospitality. However, there are people throughout my life that have vastly demonstrated that so tangibly (all in different ways) that it became such a beautiful picture of Christ's love for me!
- Who has been the best example of hospitality in your life?
First are my parents, Missy and Marcel. I have grown up learning from two of the most generous people I've ever met! Whether it was supporting me and my brother through whatever passion we had (mine was a billion dance classes all over town), or sending us to college and making sure we were taken care of financially, they have always been incredibly generous, giving of themselves so selflessly.
Second is my Grandma Rita. As an incredible gardener, which I hope desperately to be one day, she grew and harvested thousands of pounds of tomatoes every year. The biggest lesson she always taught me was you give the best, juiciest, most perfectly formed tomatoes to your friends, family, and church leaders. The cracked and imperfect tomatoes you keep for yourself... lesson being, always give your very best away.
Lastly, there were two ladies in college that welcomed me into their homes and into their lives without hesitation - Stephanie Lee, and Shauna Maness. They both had an "open door policy," which I didn't quite understand at the time, and it honestly made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Anytime I was in the area, I was welcome to just stop by for a chat or a cup of coffee. Once last year I was back in College Station for a wedding, and Shauna offered us a quick glass of wine and grilled cheese once we were done shooting, before we headed back to Austin. She didn't have to do that, it was late, etc. but she did! (And now I dream about that grilled cheese. YUM.) Now this open door policy is something that I strive to communicate to everyone we know, and nothing makes my heart happier than someone just showing up at my door!
Do you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert? How do you think this affects your hospitality?
I've heard it qualified like this: if being around people is where you have to be to recharge, you're an extrovert, and introverts need time to themselves to feel rested and recharged... I am the textbook version of an introvert! Concerts, theme parks, heck even loud restaurants or just loud noises in general make me cringe just thinking about them! I work from home and during the day, I usually keep the house pretty quiet and peaceful, and occasionally going out and running errands is my least favorite thing to do. BUT like I've said, I do love people, and being around others is also healthy for me.
Since I'm most comfortable in quiet situations, that's effected how I interact with others for sure. I would much rather have someone over to my house for a glass of wine than meet them at a loud bar, partly because I think it leads to more intimate and intentional conversation. So even though I'm an introvert in that sense, we always have an open door policy, and I love having people in our home.
- What are specific ways you like to serve others that come into your home?
How I like to serve others in my home.... well, it honestly depends on the person! I think the most important thing about showing hospitality is not thinking about what YOU would want that day, but really considering the other person and meeting their needs. I have one friend who is allergic to tea (I know, I would die. I have like 5 cups a day! -and they're mostly herbal, so mom, don't freak out!), so offering her tea would be dumb. So for her, I make sure to have coffee ready. For others, it's tea, or wine, or a schmancy cocktail, or beer. And my sweet husband Bryan is more passionate about this, but we always have really GOOD coffee. He asked me to purchase two bags of rather pricey coffee yesterday, and I asked yet again, "can't we find something cheaper?" And his first response wasn't that it was because it's delicious, instead he said, "Well we'll have people over this weekend and I'll make a few cups, and I want them to have good coffee!" I love that man.
It's also important to us to consider any dietary needs, since lots of our friends are either gluten or dairy free. It's gotten easier over the years to prepare different foods that I know will suit everyone! Bryan and I don't really drink dairy to begin with, so when we have lots of people over I try to remember to buy almond milk coffee creamer, since that's how the majority of our friends enjoy their coffee.
- One thing I love about you is how quickly you become friends with people (you just moved into your house and you already know your neighbors!). What tips do you have for getting to know your neighbors on a deeper level than just the occasional wave hello?
I actually think it's hilarious how fast we've become friends with our neighbors, because I've said to anyone my whole life that it takes me a while to become friends with people! I think, however, that knowing we've put down roots on our street and that our neighbors will be our neighbors for at least a few years has given me a bit of boldness with reaching out. I think staying for that extra moment, that extra question of conversation, is making the world of difference. It's easy to wave hello and retreat into your own little haven, but I want our neighbors to feel loved and know that we're approachable! So I always try to extend the conversation just a little longer... but I can already feel the relationships growing and thriving for the long run. I've been told countless times I have a grandma's soul, and I think it's true- I believe wholeheartedly I would have done really well in "the old days," when neighbors would just pop over for a quick cup of sugar when they needed it. So I always offer when we meet anyone new, and make sure to tell them, "Hey if you ever need anything please don't hesitate to ask... and we mean that! Don't be shy." So I guess that makes me an extrovert in intimate settings!
As long as I've known you, you have always loved people so well and been so intentional in your conversation. Have you always been this way or is it something you have had to learn?
I actually feel most of the time that I'm a terrible wordsmith, but I can say that I've always felt a deep empathy with others. If someone in my family is upset or frustrated, chances are it will rub off on me too! It's something I've had to work on as I've grown older, but I'm learning that it can be a really powerful thing that allows me to connect with and walk alongside someone who is hurting, OR celebrating! I think although it's hard to be vulnerable, most people deep down really do love being known, as I know I do. So without being an interrogator, I just keep trying to ask questions about events and feelings and relationships in someone's life, because I want them to feel loved and cared for and important! I think this comes from having people in my life that have drawn themselves close to me because they've asked me questions about my heart and special events in my life, and sharing my heart with someone else always makes me feel incredibly valued and heard.
- I think one of the main meals I had at your house is brunch (no complaints here!). What is it that you love so much about brunch?
I LOVE BRUNCH!!! Hah. I don't know what it is about breakfast, but I personally can't function if I don't eat something in the morning. I am also pretty sensitive to caffeine, so part of it is when I have people over and drink coffee or strong tea I get HUNGRY. So it may be partly selfish
- What are the essentials for hosting a brunch?
I kind of feel like there are no rules for hosting a brunch. At the root of it, what makes or breaks any gathering are the people. I love bringing my favorite ladies together for any celebration, be it big or small, and whether or not we have a feast or store bought donuts, it's a win in my book. If we want to get technical, I think some kind of beverage + something to munch on = the perfect recipe for any brunch scenario. (You should read Shauna Niquist's Bread & Wine, it rocked my world.)
- What is your favorite brunch recipe?
Favorite brunch recipe.......... probably has to be a frittata. We don't do a lot of gluten or dairy in our home, so I kind of just decided one day to make my favorite quiche recipe as a frittata - no crust, and no milk added to the mixture. And lo and behold, it works! While it doesn't rise, the flavor is absolutely incredible. (And your kitchen will smell like bacon the rest of the day and your husband will love you for it!)
Butternut Squash, Arugula, and Bacon Frittata (Adapted from www.gimmesomeoven.com)
INGREDIENTS: * 1 pack bacon, diced * 2-3 cups chopped butternut squash * 1 small white onion, chopped * 1 clove garlic, minced * 1 dozen eggs, whisked * 1/2 tsp. salt * 1/8 tsp. black pepper * 3 handfuls fresh arugula or spinach, whole or roughly chopped * 1 large pack goat cheese, crumbled (8 oz)
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook bacon in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until crispy, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon, leaving grease in pan. Add butternut squash and onion and saute for 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the squash is tender. Add garlic and saute for an additional minute. Lower heat to just below medium. Add eggs, arugula, cooked bacon, and goat cheese to the pan, stirring gently and just enough to combine. Season with salt & pepper. Cook on the stovetop just until the frittata sets on the bottom, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer the skillet into the oven, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until you shake the skillet slightly and there’s no wobbly liquid remaining in the center. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes. Slice and serve warm!
- What are a couple of simple things you do to prepare for people coming over?
To prepare, I usually clean up a little bit. A quick vacuum, quickly wiping down the surfaces that I know will be used, etc. I'll heat up our water kettle for coffee / tea, or will stick a bottle of white wine in the fridge.
If it's dinner time, I'll whip up a little something. I would never invite someone over to my house around dinner time and not provide something to eat.... I would feel mortified! Hah! I also LOVE to cook, so for me, it's a joy. I do realize that's not the case for a lot of people, and that is OK!
We moved into our house in January, and now we have a spare room! (Cue happy hands and jumping up and down.) I have always loved when friends and family come to visit, and we finally have a space for them to *comfortably* stay with us. So if it's an overnight or multiple night visit, we make sure their sheets are freshly cleaned on the bed, fresh towels are hanging in the bathroom, and a water carafe is waiting for them on the dresser. I haven't quite gotten to the "mint on a pillow for turndown service" level yet, but I hope to one day. If you think I'm kidding, think again.
And of course, I always light a candle! (Or two.) one in the living room, and one in the guest bathroom. My favorites are, of course, Feast & Dwell candles!
- What's one thing you can't live without in your home?
Two things (because I couldn't choose between the two) I can't live without in my home are 1- lots of tea. I drink a ton of water already, but I love having a little flavor throughout the day as well. 2- cardigans. Lord knows why we ended up in Austin where it's 100+ degrees half the year, but I still love me a cozy cardigan to snuggle in while the AC is blasting inside.
- What is your go-to playlist when you have people over?
I'm a strange lady in that I really don't explore music very often, and our home is quiet 90% of the time. That being said, my life's soundtrack recently (as in, this is CONSTANTLY on repeat), has been Bethel Music's Without Words: Synesthesia album. Other than that, I follow a few gals on Spotify that make really great playlists, and have those on repeat! What can I say? I'm a music moocher.
Y'all, I seriously just absolutely adore this woman! If you couldn't tell by her answers, she is so passionate about loving others through hospitality and does it so well. I have just loved being this lady's friend and feel so blessed that we met all those years ago.
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Below you will find the recipe to the delicious muffins pictured above!
Gluten Free Banana Almond Muffins
Ingredients (for 18 muffins):
- 3 c Almond Meal
- 1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
- 1 Tsp cinnamon
- 3-4 Bananas
- 4 Eggs
- 1/5 c Maple syrup or honey
- 1/4 c Melted Coconut Oil (or butter)
- 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 Honeycrisp Apple, peeled & chopped
- 1/3 lb Chopped Walnuts or Pecans for topping
- 1 c Chopped Candied Ginger
Ingredients (for 48 muffins):
- 4 c Almond Meal
- 5 c Almond Flour
- 3 Tsp Baking Soda
- 1.5 Tsp Baking Powder
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- 10 Bananas
- 12 Eggs
- 1/5 c Maple syrup or honey
- 3/4 c Melted Coconut Oil (or butter)
- 3 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- 2 Large Honeycrisp Apples, peeled & chopped
- 1 lb Chopped Walnuts or Pecans for topping
- 3 c Chopped Candied Ginger
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.
- In a large bowl, mix almond meal, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.
- Peel and smash your bananas with a fork. In a medium bowl add bananas, eggs, syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla.
- Pour the banana mixture into the almond meal mixture. Stir just to combine, then add apples (and ginger, if using).
- Fill muffin cups. Sprinkle with chopped nuts. Bake about 25 min. (tops will be set and spring back when lightly touched)
- Serve with jam and butter and enjoy!