Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: year at a glance

It's that time of year again -- the time where we look forward to the coming year. We start our lists of goals, plan for different events, and anticipate the future. I love the freshness of a new planner or journal: the blank space to create new memories, the chance to start anew. One thing I hope to always do at this time is look back. To remember the previous year-- the highs, the lows, the tears, the laughter. The Lord is always good and always faithful. I never want to forget that. Last year, I shared our year at a glance around this time and I thought it would be fun to do that again. As I transfer info from my old planner to the new, it is so neat to see what we were doing and when.

- after months of looking at houses, we found the one we knew we wanted to be our home
-we prepared for Baby C's arrival by attending childbirth classes, celebrating, and some DIY projects

-we closed on and moved into our home!
-we moved just in time to be snowed in for about a week
-Dustin traveled for work (while I prayed Baby C didn't come while he was gone)

-weekly doctor's appointments to monitor Miss C
-we stayed pretty low key anticipating the baby, who was in no rush to join us on her due date!

-April 1st, at 3:24am, Charlotte Lee was born-- all 9lbs 15oz, 21in of her
-we were showered with love through visits and meals from family and friends

-I celebrated my first Mother's Day
-we continued to soak up the newness of being parents to our baby girl

-I went back to work as needed
-we celebrated the beautiful weddings of Micah and Daniel, Katherine and Brent, and some friends
-Dustin celebrated his first Father's Day and traveled for work

-we celebrated 3 years of marriage
-we held a successful yard sale with our Sunday school class
-Charlotte had her first trip to the beach when we went to St. Teresa Florida with the Curtsinger fam
-I celebrated my 26th birthday

-more working for me, finding avenues to serve in our church, playdates, and getting into somewhat of a routine

-Dustin and I took a cooking class together
-Charlotte's baby dedication at church
-more working and traveling
-we attended a lovely wedding

-we attended three more beautiful weddings
-Charlotte started eating solids
-we celebrated Dustin's brother, Jordan, proposing to Shelby
-we celebrated Dustin's 29th birthday
-we had the cutest little piglet for Halloween

-our church hosted Kelly Minter at the women's conference
-more work and traveling
-celebrating and giving thanks for all of our blessings

-we traveled to Branson for a Christmas trip with my brother and family
-Charlotte met Santa and was not a fan
-lots of celebrating the birth of our Savior with family and friends

It is impossible to include every highlight. It also is impossible to share the extent of growth we have experienced through our struggles, all thanks to God's grace and faithfulness. Parenting has been overwhelming for me in every aspect-- physically, emotionally, spiritually. I can't adequately explain the love I have for Charlotte or her daddy. Our bond is so special and brings me so much joy. The healing from the c-section, the sleepless nights, the continual dying to self, the constant wonder of "is this the right choice?" weren't and aren't always easy but they are so worth it.

2015 has been a blast. I'm so thankful that through Christ, the best is always yet to come.

Happy New Year, everyone! 

Monday, November 09, 2015

meal planning monday {2}

So far, so good with the meal planning! In case you missed last week, I'm trying something new by sharing our weekly menus. Last week went really smoothly and every meal but one was completed! Hopefully, I will continue this. I'm thankful for everyone who has offered their tips and ideas for meals, too. Keep 'em coming!

I try to vary our protein source each day. This week we are having more chicken than usual. We recently bought some on sale and it seemed like every inspiration recipe I found included poultry. Next week I'll try to keep things mixed up a bit more. Nothing against chicken, we just like variety.

Here's the line up for this week:

M// leftovers from Sunday's supper
     recipe: One Pot Greek Chicken & Lemon Rice

T// crockpot Italian beef w/ rice + roasted vegetables
    recipe: similar to PW's Drip Beef with pepperocinni's

W// leftovers

Th// chicken + butternut squash casserole (a while ago my MIL introduced us to this & we love it!)
    recipe: similar to this one

F// crockpot hawaiian pork w/ sweet potatoes*
   recipe: follow this link

S// leftovers

S// chicken taco bowls w/ rice + beans*
    recipe for chicken: this one for the crockpot

* = a new recipe

What's on your menu this week?

Saturday, November 07, 2015

7 on the 7th: meal planning must-haves

On Monday, I shared I plan to post our weekly menus to be more organized. I've been struggling in the meal planning department for several reasons despite being well aware of how beneficial it is to be prepared. Hopefully by sharing some of our recipes and tips, and by hearing from y'all, we will all be more prepared! Here's a few must-have tips and tools for meal planning that help me with the process:

1// use your calendar/agenda/planner
Know your schedule for the week. Is one day longer/harder than others? Will anyone be out of town? Do you have plans for people coming over? Are you going out to eat? Another reason to use your planner is to make notes of any prep work needed ahead of time. Write in tasks that can be done days in advance for your meals. For example, we keep quite a bit of frozen meat, which is great but it requires planning ahead to properly thaw. I feel like Mondays are always crazy so I try to plan for us to have leftovers that night just to make it a little easier.

2// search for inspiration
Once I know what our week looks like, I look for meal inspiration. I search instagram, pinterest, magazines, and cookbooks for ideas. I aim to try new recipes and sometimes seeing what other people are preparing reminds me of my own recipes I haven't made in a while. I also try to have Dustin provide an idea or two just so I am keeping his preferences in mind. Sometimes inspiration comes from the pantry or fridge. Those random canned goods would make a tasty vegetable soup. The sausage and bacon in the freezer reminds me we haven't had breakfast for supper in a few months. Consider different cuisines or themes when cooking: Mexican Monday, Thai Tuesday, Fish Friday, Soup Sunday, etc.

3// make a list
After I have an idea of what I want to prepare each day, I make a list of the meals and also my grocery list. I try to be sure we actually need what I write down so I'm not buying duplicates. Sometimes I overestimate my memory skills and end up with four containers of sour cream. My Simplified Planner has a nice little box on each day's page where I can write what we are eating. I love it.

4// notepads/printables/etc
I'm a sucker for a cute notepad, especially one that relates to food. I snagged a few at Target a couple years ago in the dollar aisle. I also have seen several printables on pinterest for grocery lists or menus. For me, pretty paper gets me excited to write my list and get organized. Fix a yummy snack, turn on your favorite music, light a candle or do whatever you enjoy to get excited for meal planning.

5// do the prep & find shortcuts
If I know we are having a roast on Sunday, I know to put it in the fridge to thaw on Thursday. Prepping this prevents me from trying to thaw a huge hunk of meat in a short amount of time (aka chaos). If I have spare time, I try to chop any veggies I know I will need in the coming days. I enjoy chopping vegetables; however, some days I just don't have the time. I've become BFF with the frozen chopped onions and bell peppers in the freezer section at Kroger. Find shortcuts that help shorten the time of your meal preparation.

6// consider all the meals/snacks
I only have shared our supper menus because typically for breakfast/lunch are pretty much a routine of any of the following: eggs/salads/leftovers. Snacks are usually nuts/lunch meat roll ups/fruit/avocados/etc. (nutrition tip: always have protein + carbohydrate + fat at your meals/snacks to prevent spikes/drops in blood sugar and to stay full longer). If you have people in your family who like different things each day, be sure that's considered.

7// plan for flexibility
This is one I struggle with at times. I get a plan going and then something comes up. Maybe the day doesn't go as I thought, plans change last minute, or we didn't like the new recipe we tried. Try to have things on hand you can make a quick meal out of: greens for a salad, frozen burritos that your husband loves, condiments for sandwiches, etc.

What helps you with your meal planning process? I'd love to hear your favorite tools, tips and tricks. What do you keep on hand for "emergency" meals?

Monday, November 02, 2015

meal planning monday

I could spend all day in the kitchen. It's my happy place. Sometimes I enjoy it more than I should, which then leads to other areas of our life being neglected-- I'm looking at you, laundry. Lately, I've been struggling in the meal planning department. Exhaustion, poor time management, and laziness have gotten the best of me. Supper time rolls around and I become overwhelmed because I don't have a plan or I didn't prepare ahead of time. Some days, my priorities are out of order. Some days, I have the best of intentions. Thankfully, the Lord and my husband both give more grace.

In an effort to be more organized as well as provide some ideas for meals, I hope to share my week's menus more frequently. I aim to try new recipes, too. I'll mark these with a "*".

M// sunday's leftover roast, carrots, + potatoes with green beans
       -- roast recipe: close to this one by the Pioneer Woman

T// crockpot sausage, peppers + onions with roasted potatoes*
      -- crockpot recipe: this one by fellow RD, Katie Serbinski

W// sausage + mushroom quiche with roasted veggies
      -- quiche recipe: my mom's

Th// meatloaf, mashed potatoes, + roasted veggies
      -- meatloaf recipe: close to this one by PW (if you haven't noticed, she's one of my faves)

F// leftovers from the days before

S// chicken soup
     -- a combination of this recipe and this recipe by PW

S// skillet greek chicken and rice with roasted veggies*
     -- chicken recipe: this one by RecipeTin Eats pinned on my food pinterest board

Friends, hold me accountable and share your own menus! It's so easy to get stuck in a rut. Hopefully, we can help each other out with different meal ideas!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

7 on the 7th: fall favorites

Happy Fall Y'all! I love this time of year. The colors, the smells, the weather, the flavors, all of it. Here are a few of my fall favorites to create an autumn ambience:

1. plush pumpkins
A few weeks ago I snagged these cuties at TJMaxx. I love the jewel tones and texture. Plus they were a cheaper version of some I've seen online.

2. table linens
My mom always dresses up her home with the changes of the seasons. I love how she celebrates each one with special touches here and there. One easy way she does this is with different tea towels or dish towels. I grabbed a few fall colored towels and linen napkins at TJMaxx. I keep the napkins on the table in a cute basket my sweet friend Kirby gave me a couple years ago.

3. cinderella pumpkins
I love the classic orange pumpkin, but I think these beauties have claimed the top spot on my pumpkin variety list. Their muted color and unique shape is my favorite. Plus, what's not to love about a pumpkin named after a beloved fairytale!? I love them paired with the gorgeous, green jarrahdale, a multicolored "one too many" pumpkin, and a simple, white pumpkin.

4. mini pumpkins & gourds
You can usually find these for a dollar or less just about anywhere. Who doesn't love mini anything? Tuck them in baskets, hurricane glasses, or on bookshelves for some cheap fall cheer. Dustin's mom always has a delicious display of produce. Put that pretty, edible squash on the counter. Great double duty of decor & dinner!

5. happy everything plate
This has been one of my favorite wedding presents. Switching out the attachments is such a simple & cute way to celebrate the changing seasons & holidays. The red leaf definitely adds happy to my kitchen!

6. chalk art
My friend Whitney Prescott is the chalk art queen. She has a gift of creativity! I love how she updates her chalkboard with different beautiful designs. My art skills are lacking but I do enjoy changing out messages on my pig chalkboard. Dustin gave me this for Christmas one year & it has been a favorite of mine since. I love the adding little reminders for the month or season.

7. thieves
I think aromas add to the autumn ambience. Pumpkin bread, hot apple cider, savory simmering soups, smoking tobacco barns, and sweet marshmallows toasting over bonfires are some of my favorite fall scents. Diffusing my Thieves essential oil is also a favorite. Its spicy scent reminds me of fall all year long & with flu season upon us, I love the added protection it provides.

What are your favorite ways to celebrate & decorate for fall?

Monday, September 14, 2015

sausage + sweet potato soup

Who else is excited that the beloved soup weather is back!? I love it. Friday night we had some friends over for our first chili of the season! If you're looking for a good chili recipe, PW (Pioneer Woman) has a great one. I follow it almost exactly. Y'all know from pretty much any recipe I share, I can't follow a recipe exactly without adjusting for our tastes. Saturday we split the chili leftovers for lunch and then I made a pot of soup for supper because the weather was perfect for it!

Anytime I make a new recipe, I always ask Dustin, "Is it a keeper?" and he agreed that this is one to make again! When I was serving the soup, I tried to describe it to him as a close relative --maybe a soup sibling-- of Olive Garden's Zuppa Tuscana (as if soups have relatives!?) Several of the ingredients are the same but there's just enough changes that it has a different flavor, sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes & a tomatoey broth instead of a creamy broth. I was inspired by Martha Stewart's recipe but I did my own adjustments according to the reviews I read (always read recipe reviews!) and what we had on hand. No offense, Martha! Here's the recipe with my alterations.

Sausage + Sweet Potato Soup

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 lb bulk mild Italian Sausage
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 small can tomato paste
Italian seasoning (I eyeballed it, maybe almost a tablespoon?)
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (you could omit if you don't like extra heat)
A dash of ground nutmeg
4 cups unsalted beef broth
2 cups water
4 cups roughly chopped kale

In a large pot, saute onions in EVOO until tender. Add in sausage and cook until browned. Add in seasonings and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Stir tomato paste into the sausage and onion mixture. Let this cook together for a minute or two. Throw in potatoes and cover with the broth and water. Bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. After about 10 minutes test a potato for tenderness. At this point mine needed just few minutes longer (probably about 4) so I went ahead and added the kale for it to wilt. Taste for seasonings and enjoy!

I love the flavors of this soup! It's a little spicy from the sausage and red pepper flakes, a little sweet from the sweet potatoes and tomato paste. It's also very hearty & filling! The colors are very fall-ish, too! Deep red from the broth, green from the kale, bright orange from the sweet potato. Oh and let's not forget about the nutrition! Good protein from the sausage, a nice serving of carbohydrate and Vitamin A from the sweet potatoes, Vitamin A, K, and C from the kale. I contemplated adding a can of cannellini beans but didn't. I might next time!

Let me know if you give this recipe a try and what you think of it!

Monday, September 07, 2015

7 on the 7th: september smorgasbord

It's September! The month I let go of summer and welcome fall and all things pumpkin with open arms! I can't help but feel a tiny bit bad for summer as I usually neglect the last few days of it. (Totally over the heat, though!) So to make up for it, I am picking back up with my tradition of sharing seven of my favorite things on the 7th of the month. Sometimes I try to have a theme for my 7 on the 7th. Today, it's a compilation of random things, or a smorgasbord of sorts. A little food, a few fun finds, all favorites.

1. Curried Chicken Salad with Cherries
Chicken salad can be complicated or simple. I think it only needs 4 main components: chicken, a nut, a fruit, and a dressing. I'm pro-fruit when it comes to chicken salad. I enjoy grapes, apples, and cranberries (individually) as add-ins. My new favorite is adding fresh cherries. Super simple "recipe": Chop up a couple of cooked chicken breasts. Add about a cup or so of halved, pitted cherries. Add an equal amount of chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, your choice!). Then combine with an easy dressing of mayonnaise with curry powder. Depending on how wet or dry you like your salad, you can add more or less mayo. The same goes for the curry. I am obsessed with curry so I add a good amount. No joke, at least once a week we have a dish with curry powder in it.

2. Tomato and Cucumber Salad
My MIL made this one day while she was keeping Charlotte. I fell in love! Another super simple summery snack. Dice up a tomato, a cucumber, an onion, and an avocado. Drizzle with EVOO & the juice of a lemon. Adjust the amounts of each ingredient to fit your taste. This is summer in a bowl to me! So easy. So tasty. So satisfying. I made some today for our Labor Day get together.

3. Crispy Roasted Okra
I've only had okra a couple of ways-- fried and pickled. I love both ways but thought that it would be a good experiment to roast it. I happen to live by the motto: when in doubt, roast it out. I've yet to have a veggie I didn't enjoy roasted. Try it for yourself! Chop up some okra into similarly sized pieces. Or you could probably leave it whole too. Drizzle with EVOO or melted coconut oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then roast in a preheated 425* oven for about 20-30 minutes. If it isn't crispy enough, turn on the broiler for a minute or so but watch it so it doesn't burn. You're going for crunchy not charred to death. You also don't want mushy, which I make the mistake of doing sometimes. Even Dustin, who doesn't love vegetables as much as I do, enjoyed these!

4. This top from Target.
A nursing/pumping mama's dream. I bought it in two colors because I love it so much.

5. Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.
I told myself when I was pregnant I wouldn't let our child watch television as a baby. Well I'm eating my words and telling the world wide web about it. Yes, I let Charlotte watch tv occasionally. No mom shaming allowed here, people. Charlotte coos and smiles so big when she sees the colorful characters on Daniel Tiger. The only downside, those catchy little songs they sing stick in your head forever. When you're sick, rest is best, rest is best! It's ok to feel sad sometimes, little by little, you'll feel better again!

6. Diffusing the Allergy Trio.
Lemon, Lavender, & Peppermint essential oils. Just a few drops of each & you'll have the room smelling lovely & the sniffles subsided. We have all had allergy issues in our home. Even poor Charlotte. I diffuse these nightly & throughout the day. With flu season around the corner, Thieves will soon be our go-to.

7. Pioneer Woman's new line at Walmart. 
Seriously. As if I didn't love her enough, she goes and creates this beautiful, affordable line for our kitchens. I love it all! I'm happy I walked away with one of her pretty plates to complete my gallery wall! I'll share pictures of it once I have them all placed.

What are some of your favorites lately? Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

teach them to your children.

Sometimes I get so excited thinking about all the things I can't wait for Charlotte to learn and for us to teach her.

I can't wait to teach her how to crack an egg or measure out sugar for a recipe.

I can't wait to show her how to use her crayons to create works of art on her coloring pages. (& hopefully not the walls!)

I can't wait for Dustin to teach her how to kick a soccer ball. (Y'all know I could show her the wrong way to do anything sports related. I'll stick to cheerleading!)

I look forward to her daddy teaching her gun safety, how to bait a hook, and all about the great outdoors.

I can't wait to see her peddling down the driveway as she learns how to ride a bike. I get teary eyed thinking about the day she drives away in a car!

I can't wait to teach her about the seasons, the weather, the stars and the moon.

I look forward to teaching her how to swim, tie her shoes, read a book, and write her name.

Oh the fun we will have learning how to garden, send notes in the mail, paint our nails, and take care of animals.

Of course we will need help along the way. No one can dance in our family like Aunt Micah. G-Dad (Dustin's dad) can fix pretty much anything. Aunt Jess has the best sense of style. I could go on and on. Little CC is surrounded with talented family and friends.

More than anything I've listed above, I pray we teach Charlotte the love of Christ and raise her according to His Word.

In the times we mess up, and we do that often, I pray we show her grace. In our words. In our actions. In our apologies. To her and to others.

Today is the baby dedication service at our church. In front of our families and friends we will vow to raise Charlotte according to scripture. What a privilege and responsibility it is to be her parents. Charlotte Lee, we love you more than words can say and our Heavenly Father loves you infinitely more than that.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. 
{Deuteronomy 11:18-20}

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

taking stock, again.

last year i did a "taking stock" post after reading one by ashley who blogs over at the vanilla tulip. i loved the format and idea of slowing down to notice the little things. it's also fun to look back & see what you took stock of in the past. here's mine.

making :: my second cup of coffee.

cooking :: leftover pad thai. who else loves random leftovers for breakfast!?

drinking :: a kona blend k-cup my daddy gave me w/ a splash of chocolate cashew milk {<-- fave}.

reading :: savor, a devotional by shauna niequist. 

wanting :: all the books. so many books, so little time. 

looking :: outside our window in the kitchen.

playing :: pat-a-cake & peek-a-boo with charlotte a million times a day.

wishing :: time would slow down.

enjoying :: the cool mornings as a hint fall is coming in a month! 

liking :: my new farmer's market stamps.

wondering :: what foods will charlotte enjoy the most when we eventually start introducing them. 

loving :: my sweet, hardworking husband who did the dishes last night.

hoping :: the stains come out from charlotte's blowout this morning {real life, people}.

marveling :: at mercy with the new morning {lamentations 3:23}.

needing :: to chill out if my to-do list isn't always completed.

smelling :: lemon, lavender & peppermint {yay for the allergy blend!} diffusing. 

wearing ::  stress away essential oil on the daily.

noticing :: charlotte is such a morning person. she coos and smiles as soon as she wakes up. 

knowing :: i need to be still & know the Lord is God {psalm 46:10}.

thinking :: about fall decorations. 

opening :: my planner to meal plan.

giggling :: everyday thanks to my hilarious husband & darling daughter. 

feeling :: all the feelings. often tired. sometimes overwhelmed. always blessed&thankful.

have you slowed down to take stock of what's going on in your life lately? 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

a one pan plan: skillet chicken

Hello blogworld! Long time, no see! Since my last post, we have welcomed our sweet girl into our world. Life as I knew it has completely changed! What a blessing she is to our family. Miss Charlotte Lee has brought us so much joy the past two and a half months! I can't believe it has been that long.

I've been trying to find easy recipes with easy clean up since having Little CC. This is a recipe that I have prepared THREE times in the past week! Dustin was out of town last week so my mom came to stay with us. She raved about a recipe her friend had followed from People Magazine so I wanted to try it out. The first night it was good, but I knew we could tweak a few things to make it even better so we did it again the next night! I enjoyed it so much and couldn't wait for Dustin to try it when he returned home. Last night I prepared it for him and he loved it! Here's the recipe with our adaptations, along with a link to the original.

Skillet Chicken
adapted from Jessica Seinfeld's Skillet Chicken

1 yellow onion, sliced
4-5 medium Yukon gold potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
3/4 tsp black pepper, divided
1-2 tbsp ground coriander
5 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 425*. Scatter onions on bottom of cast iron skillet. Place potatoes over onions and drizzle with EVOO. Season with about 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Place rosemary on top of the potatoes. Combine the remaining salt and pepper with the ground coriander in a small bowl. Rub spices on chicken, making sure to season beneath the skin also. Place chicken skin side up over the potatoes. Roast for about 1 hour, or until chicken is fully cooked and potatoes are tender. Top with feta cheese crumbles during the last 5-10 minutes of roasting.

What I love about the recipe:
- simple, real ingredients: After tasting it, I would have thought more than just 9 ingredients went into the dish
- easy preparation: The most time consuming part was peeling and slicing the potatoes
- one pan plan: This makes for easy clean up
- great flavor from the coriander and chicken: I really love coriander so I enjoy the use of it in this recipe. Even if you are not usually a dark meat kinda person, give it a try with the chicken thighs!
- great texture from the chicken and feta: Leave the skin on, it crisps up so nicely and gives a nice crunch. The feta adds a creaminess to the dish

Let me know if you give this recipe a try! Enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2015

taste & see

I went outside earlier to enjoy some of the beautiful sunshine and encourage some Vitamin D synthesis. What a lovely day it is! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, our windows are open, and I can hear my neighbor's wind chime when the breeze picks up on occasion.

I saw a neighbor as she was outside working in her yard. We met in the middle and introduced ourselves. She told me about her love for gardening and shared with me about some of the flowers starting to come up in our yard. I told her about Little Miss coming any day now, as if it weren't obvious, which meant we probably wouldn't be putting out a garden this year. She mentioned she planned to plant some tomatoes and I agreed that nothing is better than a fresh, homegrown tomato. She then went inside and came back with a few she picked up on a recent trip to the beach! We talked a bit more, went our back to our own yards, and eventually inside our homes.

Once inside I couldn't wait to slice up one of the tomatoes for a snack. Paired with a ripe avocado and sprinkled with salt and pepper, it was a delicious treat. There's something about sharing food with people that really means a lot to me. This weekend we had the opportunity to grill out with some of Dustin's family and also spend time around the table with a few from our Sunday school class. I realize fellowship doesn't always involve food, but isn't it great when it does?

Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones or maybe it's just me being sentimental (or a combination of both) but I just wanted to share and savor this memory. In {Psalm 34:8} the psalmist writes:

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. 

Today I tasted His goodness in a fresh, ripe tomato shared by a sweet neighbor. I can see His goodness in the beautiful weather we are experiencing and in the generosity of another. What a blessing these moments are! How often I let these gifts of His goodness pass by without thanking Him. There will be days when the sun isn't shining. When staying inside is the only option. When a special snack may not make the cut on the agenda. Even then I hope I slow down and acknowledge that He is still good. For now, I will give thanks for today, taking time to taste and see His goodness. 

Saturday, March 07, 2015

7 on the 7th: pregnancy favorites part 2

Happy March! It's Baby C's birth month! My mom surprised me with this adorable Happy Everything attachment. I considered saving it for Mother's Day, but just couldn't wait! I cannot believe that she could arrive at any point. We are considered to be full term now (+37 weeks) but I'm hoping she keeps cooking as long as she needs. For March, I wanted to share some more pregnancy favorites. In November when I was 20 weeks, I shared my favorites to that point in this post. Here are some more to add to the list:

1. Prenatal Massages
Dustin has treated me to a couple prenatal massages, once in my second trimester and once in my third, and I cannot say enough good things about them!  Even though I have been pretty comfortable (thankfully) it's amazing how much tension can be relieved. If you want to treat yourself or a mommy-to-be that you know, give them a gift certificate for a prenatal massage!

2. Chiropractic Care
Along with massages, I fully recommend considering chiropractic care during pregnancy. I started going to a chiropractor a little after 20 weeks. Each week she would adjust my hips, back, and ribs. When you have a growing baby pressing against your ribs/lungs, breathing takes a bit more effort. I could instantly tell a difference in the ability to breathe after my adjustments!

3. Pregnancy Pillows
Dustin's parents gave me a pregnancy pillow for Christmas after my friend Kirby's recommendation. There are many different brands/styles/etc. I loved having a long pillow to support my back/belly as well as in-between my knees. You reach a point during pregnancy where not only is it uncomfortable to sleep on your stomach/back, it's not safe. Having a long pillow really helps me stay on my sides comfortably.

4. Eggs
Of course I am going to address food again. I mentioned in part 1 of my pregnancy favorites about my love for Bubbies Pickles, which provide probiotics along with their delicious flavor. I have also loved eggs almost every morning for breakfast. They provide quality protein, healthy fats, and great fat-soluble vitamins which are so important during pregnancy. They also make a great snack or addition to a salad!

5. Labor & Delivery Scripture
I came across Val Marie Paper through Instagram. She has beautiful Prayer Journals & her posts are always so encouraging. She recently released Pregnancy Journals which I am sure are lovely, too! In one of her posts, she mentioned a free printable she made of verses to meditate on during labor/delivery. I have loved reading through her list of scripture already! You can find the link to her printable on her blog.

6. Meal Planning
These last few weeks of moving, unpacking (still occurring), and preparing for Baby C have been a whirlwind. I can only imagine how different things will be once she is here with us! I have tried to be more intentional with my meal planning each week so that I not only am sticking to a plan/budget, but also prepared with simple, quick recipes. I hope to share more of my meal planning process in the future.

7. Comfortable Pajamas
Since I plan on breastfeeding, finding comfortable, nursing-friendly pajamas is a must. My aunt gave me a couple sleeping shirts back in my first trimester that I have enjoyed the entire time. I received a pajama set for Christmas that I have loved and picked up another set a couple weeks ago to also include in my hospital bag. All have buttons in the front and are a soft, breathable cotton material. I take my sleep seriously so it's nice to have good pajamas to ensure quality rest!

Do you have any pregnancy favorites? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, February 20, 2015

spring is coming

It's been a long, cold, snowy week here in Kentucky. We have experienced record low temperatures and more snow than we have seen in a while. I haven't left the house since Sunday. I'm clumsy enough without the change in my center of gravity thanks to Baby C. Ice/snow would not combine well with this uncoordinated, pregnant lady.

I can tell I am feeling a bit stir crazy. I've taken time to rest, cook, and unpack a few more boxes. I think Dustin is even nesting, maybe more than I am-- painting in the nursery, touching up a few places, planning projects he wants to complete.

March 20th, one month from today, marks the first day of spring. Oh how I look forward to the season of pretty pastels, beautiful blooms, and lovely signs of life all around us! As I find our spring things while I unpack, I can't help but get especially excited. This new season on the calendar will also be a special new season in our lives as we welcome our first baby-- very likely within that week! Words can't express my feelings right now when I think about how soon she will be with us. Probably because I'm having all the feelings! I'm thrilled, anxious, happy, thankful, emotional, you name it! Just ask Dustin-- he's put up with all my feelings.

In just a few weeks, spring will be here.
In just a few weeks, our family of two will be a family of three.
In just a few weeks, we will be momma and daddy to our daughter.
In just a few weeks, I will be holding a wiggling baby girl instead of feeling her kicks in my belly.
In just a few weeks, life as we know it will change.

As ecstatic as I am for her arrival, I also want to savor these last few weeks of being a family of two, of being pregnant, of life in the present--even if it is a very cold present! I don't want to overlook the blessings of today. Just like once she is here, I will want to hold onto each moment with her for I know in a blink of an eye they will pass quickly, too.

So today, and the in the days to come, I will enjoy the present. I will cuddle up with my husband and drink hot chocolate. I will relish my stretchy pants that are so comfortable with an ever growing belly. I will soak up the warmth of the fireplace, and then probably turn it off because I get too hot. I will continue to unpack and create our nest. I will rejoice in each day and be glad in it, for each is the day that the Lord has made.

Spring is coming and I've never been more excited, but I also don't want to miss the opportunity to give thanks for today.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

7 on the 7th: DIY favorites

So that whole nesting thing... It's real. Some people may think moving when almost 8 months pregnant is insane. However, I have never been more excited to settle into our home & make it our own. After several months of living in our sweet friends' basement while searching for a home, we have finally found one & are moving in this weekend! Just the thought of setting up the nursery, organizing the kitchen cabinets, & finding a place for our things has me over the moon. I enjoy organizing even when not pregnant, but it's been on a whole other level with our little bun in the oven.

I have been wearing Dustin out with incessant ideas for projects. I'm so thankful he has been so helpful! Thanks to the world wide web, the inspiration opportunities are endless. This month for 7 on the 7th I am sharing a few DIY favorites-- projects we have completed, are in the process of working on, some I would like to do eventually, & where I go for inspiration.

1. corner cabinet
We updated this corner cabinet with Annie Sloan chalk paint two years ago. I love the transformation from dark & drab to light & lovely! The outside is painted in Old White & the inside is French Linen.  I cannot say enough good things about Annie Sloan & her paint. It is the best! Period. I used the corner cabinet in the living room of our previous homes to hold books & knick-knacks but it will have a new function & location in our new house.

2. china cabinet
The corner cabinet was the inspiration for the china cabinet we painted a week ago. I wanted them to match since they will hopefully both be going in the dining room. Instead of French Linen on the inside, I used Olive mixed with a bit of the Old White to lighten it.  Dustin's great-grandmother's china is a cream color with pink roses so I know they will look great against the green.

3. chest of drawers
This chest of drawers has been used by many in Dustin's family-- his mom, him as a child, and his brothers. I'm so excited to use it for more storage in Baby C's nursery. Nothing like a couple coats of pretty pink paint & some lovely knobs to completely update a simple dresser! Dustin's mom painted the lamp shades to match & I just love them.

4. plate gallery wall
This is one of those projects on my to-do list. I really like the look of gallery walls. We had a wall in a rental home that was filled with random things-- canvases, a clock, prints, & more. In our other house we opted for a monogram wall. I plan to bring back the monograms-- I think ascending up the staircase. I love the idea of a plate gallery wall like this for a kitchen. I have saved one of our salad plates that sadly cracked to get it started & I am on the lookout for some neat, unique plates.

5. The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith
If you don't follow The Nester's blog or instagram account, you are missing out. Last year she released a book, The Nesting Place, & I just adore it. She includes beautiful images of her work along with meaningful tips for creating your own nest. I love her motto-- It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. I tend to lean towards being a perfectionist so having that mantra is so freeing as well as applicable to so many areas of life!

6. HGTV's Fixer Upper
Joanna Gaines, the Magnolia Mom and star of HGTV's show Fixer Upper, is definitely a source of inspiration. I love her clean, classic style. I have yet to see a project of hers that I do not like.  Not to mention, her relationship with her husband & family is the sweetest thing to watch on tv! Her blog & Pinterest account are great go-to's for inspiration & project ideas.

7. a few more blogs for inspiration
IHeart Organizing is probably one of the first blogs I ever started following. I love Jen's ideas for organizing & DIY projects! She looks for opportunities to beautify & simplify every space in her home. It definitely shows in the projects she posts. Young House Love & Bower Power are two other blogs that I love going to for DIY inspiration. Even though YHL no longer posts regularly, they have TONS of archives you can browse. Both blogs make huge DIY projects look doable.

Are you a DIY-er? I'd love to hear about your projects & what/who inspires you!

Friday, January 30, 2015

glimpses of grace by gloria furman

One of my goals for 2015 is to read at least one book a month. My sweet friend Sophie gave me a copy of the book Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman & I wanted it to be the first one I completed this year. I love when a book challenges you & this one definitely does just that. Gloria is a pastor's wife, mother of four young children, and lives in the Middle East where she and her husband are planting a church. Talk about having your hands full!?

In Glimpses of Grace Gloria acknowledges how easy it is for us to look around at the mundane in our lives & neglect to see the grace in the midst of it. She provides practical examples of everyday life for a wife or mother and provides them with a gospel perspective. Whether your work is primarily in the home, outside the home, or a combination of the two-- this book speaks applicable truth for each of us. One part that really struck me is when she quotes Paul Tripp:

"If God doesn't rule your mundane, then he doesn't rule you. Because that's where you live."

When we think where we live, it often isn't as glamorous as the magazines and movies depict it. Instead it is full of mundane. The sink is overflowing with dishes. The toilets need to be scrubbed. The laundry is piled up like Mount Washmore. The refrigerator is smelly from leftovers forgotten. The floor is in need of a good sweeping. The grocery store lines are never ending. The driver in front of you won't pick up the pace. Our attitudes are often in need of adjusting. Yet in all of these situations, how do we react? Do we take the time to slow down, notice the grace we are given, praise the one who gives it, and respond with thanksgiving? I must admit my initial response to a combination of any of the situations above is often frustration, worry, and selfishness rather than patience, peace, and praise. Gloria said it beautifully: 

"The source of our faith, hope, love, joy and gospel-grounded optimism is God himself and not our stuff or circumstances." 

I could give excerpt after excerpt, but then I would be quoting the entire book. My suggestion-- read it for your self. When we are studying, discussing, and applying the gospel, our eyes are often opened even more to those glimpses of grace around us. Colossians 3:17 is such a wonderful verse that I probably should post somewhere in our home for constant reminding:

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

One book down, 11 more (at least) to go. Do you like to keep track of your book list? If you do, we have that in common and you may enjoy the free app goodreads! I installed it on my phone a couple years ago but never really did anything with it until a few weeks ago. I have enjoyed placing books on my virtual bookshelves-- ones I have read, am currently reading, and would like to read. I also made a shelf for Baby C. I like that you can see what friends are reading and also give recommendations. I would love to connect and see what books you're enjoying or would like to read!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

fabulous foodie swap

Y'all know I love me some food-- so much I chose a career that directly involves it. Everyone has their passions & food is definitely mine.

Rachel Cox of Oh Simple Thoughts is a fellow foodie. Her posts are absolutely beautiful & the pictures of her culinary creations are mouthwatering! A few weeks ago she created the Fabulous Foodie Swap & I am glad I participated. Be sure to check out her blog for details about February's Fabulous Foodie Swap if you're interested!

I didn't document the box I sent my partner but I enjoyed finding a few things she likes along with a couple items I love. When we signed up Rachel had a space for us to include our preferences of snacks/flavors/textures so I tried to pick some from the ones she listed. I also wanted to give her some surprise happys-- a notepad & a cute tea towel-- both of which are must-haves for me in the kitchen. I am always writing down a grocery list or to-do list & I love decorating with tea towels.

Who doesn't love snail mail, especially when it's a package of food-related goodies?! My partner, Jill, sent me several neat treats:
  • sweet & savory popcorn
  • kale chia chips
  • vanilla bean lollypops
  • chocolate chip cookies
  • a great tumbler
  • a cute bracelet
The chocolate chip cookies didn't stand a chance with this pregnant girl. The box pictured is empty. Neither did the sea salted caramel popcorn. The bag is not shown because it is gone. I'm trying to let the remaining goodies last a bit longer! Thanks Jill for being my partner & thanks Rachel for the fun swap!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

a special anniversary

I love celebrating special little moments. There's something about taking the time to remember an event that means a lot to you. I especially love forming traditions out of such celebrations, and even more so when they involve food! Three years ago today, Dustin asked me to marry him. I love re-creating that special evening by preparing the same meal we were cooking together when he proposed.

I'll never forget that day. He had just returned from a duck hunting trip and we had plans to prepare some of the meat he brought home. Earlier that afternoon my mom kept encouraging me to go get my nails done. At an early age, she instilled in me a deep appreciation for a good manicure so it was not out of the ordinary for her to suggest such an idea. Although, looking back she was quite adamant!

Once I arrived at Dustin's apartment, we started preparing our feast-- bacon wrapped duck breast, glazed carrots, and mashed potatoes. I remember being indecisive about which recipe I wanted to use for the carrots so I kept leaving the kitchen to go look up other ideas. Dustin kept pulling me back to the kitchen, which I just took as a sign that he was hungry and tired of my delaying the meal! Ha!

After I finally decided on a a recipe, I was standing at the stove stirring melted butter and brown sugar --what's not to love about those two ingredients?!-- for the glaze. I noticed he had left the room but didn't give it another thought. The next thing I know, he's tapping me on the back and as I turn around he's down on one knee. To be honest, the rest is kind of a blur. The excitement and emotions took over! I do remember him saying he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and when he asked if I would marry him my first response was "ARE YOU SERIOUS!?" followed by a quick "YES!"

Then he shared more of how he had planned everything and discussed with our families. At that point our meal was ready but I was so excited I could hardly eat a thing! It wasn't until the following year when we re-created the evening for the first time that I truly tasted and enjoyed all we prepared. We started calling family and friends to share the news with them. He also told me that our moms would be coming with dessert to celebrate! What a sweet, special evening it was and I love re-creating it each year!

The first year we celebrated our engagement anniversary, we were in our first home together in Kentucky. We sat in the middle of the kitchen at a little table that belonged to my great grandmother, drank from our wedding goblets that also belonged to her, and reminisced. I loved actually getting to savor the yummy flavors of our special meal for the first time!

The second year, last year, we celebrated in our home in Illinois. We used his great grandmother's china and reflected on the previous two years. 

This year, our third year of celebrating, we are in our sweet friends' home, anticipating an upcoming move and the arrival of our daughter in the next couple months. I went back to the bakery where our moms had ordered a cake for us that night and picked up a few cupcakes for us to enjoy. We celebrated a little early because of our schedules this week. It was still so special.

So much has changed over the past three years-- our addresses, our roles, our ages, our perspectives, and I know things will continue to change in the future. Despite the changes, so much has remained. It reminds me of a verse that has been so special to me over the years and was included in our wedding-- 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Now these three remain: 
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love. 

Dustin, your love is one of my greatest blessings because love is from God. I'm so thankful to be spending the my life with you. You add so much laughter, wisdom, and camouflage to my life. I wouldn't want it any other way. Thank you for the past three years of celebrating our special anniversary and love for each other. Here's to many, many more. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

7 on the 7th: smart snacking

Happy New Year y'all! With the fresh start to the year, often people are making resolutions-- more of this, less of that, etc. I love to encourage people to be intentional with their lives and pursue healthier lifestyles-- in their spiritual walk, in their relationships, in their physical health, you name it.

In the fast paced world we live in, everything is about convenience. We want everything cheaper and quicker than before. I'm not bashing all shortcuts; however, if we are not careful we can become used to substituting quality for convenience. I see this most when it comes to the standard American diet-- packaged, processed food that quickly & cheaply gives us something to eat at the expense of our health.

I have heard from others, and even use some myself, many reasons for not prioritizing our diet-- busy schedules, lack of experience in the kitchen, aversions to certain foods, not wanting to feel deprived, etc. We place everything else at the top of our lists and leave what we eat at the bottom.

This year, and every year, I encourage you to prioritize you health by choosing healthier foods to eat.  Skip the unhealthy shortcuts. Make it a habit to plan meals & snacks each week. Spend more time in kitchen and less time in the doctor's office. Fill your grocery cart with more produce and less processed foods. Experiment with new ingredients and cooking methods. Say no to added sugar, lengthy ingredient lists, and nutrient empty foods that do not nourish your body. Say yes to real, whole foods.

Here are seven smart snack ideas and tips to fill and fuel your body:

1. Pair carbohydrate with protein and/or healthy fat. For example, if you have a piece of fruit, enjoy it with a handful of unsalted nuts or a piece of cheese. This slows down the digestion of the carbohydrate, which prevents a spike in your blood sugar. In doing so, you avoid the crash that follows.

2. Consider portions. Fresh fruit is delicious and provides vitamins and minerals. Fruit also provides carbohydrates which are broken down into glucose, or sugar, in our bodies. Aim for your fruit to be about the size of a tennis ball and try not to let that be the only food you choose as a snack. Also, Rather than reaching into and eating from the large container of nuts, prepare small containers of appropriate portions for snacks.

3. Be prepared. When you plan your menus for meals, include snacks for each day.  Put aside time in your week to make a batch of trail mix, roast an extra pan of vegetables, prepare a chicken/tuna salad, or boil a few extra eggs. Through this planned preparation, you are setting yourself up for success in your snacking.

4. Identify your weaknesses and eliminate the temptations. If you struggle with drinking cokes, eating too many chips, or reach for sweets too often-- don't keep them in your house. Instead keep your homemade snacks and fresh produce on hand.

5. Don't expect perfection but keep yourself accountable. Some adopt an 80/20 rule-- aim to eat healthy, whole foods 80% of time and allow treats for special occasions the remaining 20%.

6. Make your treats count. A fellow dietitian, Carlene Thomas, has a great mindset about those foods that are not for everyday consumption-- view them and experience them as a luxury. If you want ice cream or a chocolate, treat yourself to the best there is so that your experience enjoying them is full. Don't settle for a cheap alternative that still leaves you unsatisfied.

7. Assess your hunger before you eat. Are you truly hungry? Are you actually just thirsty? What flavors, textures, temperatures are you wanting? Once you identify the answers to these questions, seek to meet that hunger with the healthiest options: If you're wanting a crunchy fix-- reach for some plain nuts instead of chips. If you're wanting something sweet, try some fresh fruit or dark chocolate instead of cookies.

What smart snacking tips have you found to be helpful?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

devotion: one word for 2015

Happy New Year, y'all! Don't you just love a fresh start? I know I do. I have enjoyed reading about everyone's goals, resolutions, or reasons for not making resolutions this year. I think to some degree, regardless of how we label it, we all have our own way of pursuing growth in our lives. I don't know many people who want to say exactly the same. However that looks for you, I hope you see growth in your life in 2015!

Last year I learned of many people declaring one word for their focus in the upcoming year. Examples include: courage, peace, create, thrive, delight, bloom, etc. I loved this idea and declared simplify to be my one word for 2014. I aimed to for simplicity in many ways-- in our home, in our routine, in our lives. Through saying "no" to some things, I was able to say "yes" to what mattered most. Through letting go of  some "stuff" I was able to better appreciate the gifts I've been given. I hope to continue to simplify this year as well! With a growing family, I am sure it will be a challenge but I know it will be worth it.

This year, I am declaring devotion to be my one word for 2015. 
: a feeling of strong love or loyalty
: the use of time money, energy, etc., for a particular purpose 
: synonyms- affection, love, passion, commitment

I came across a form of this word while reading {1 Chronicles 22:19} last week and it has stayed with me since. 

My prayer for 2015 is that I remain mindful of my devotion. To the Lord, to my husband, to our family, to our friends, to my health, to the roles God has given me. I want to carefully consider how I am using my time, our money, and my energy. Too often I am guilty of wasting time worrying, spending money on frivolous things, and exerting energy at times when I should just be still. I pray that my love for and commitment to the things that truly matter in life continues to grow. 

Are you declaring one word for 2015? If so, what is it? 

Happy 2015!