Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Summer reading.

For the past few years, I've signed myself (and the boys!) up for our library's summer reading program. That sounds super official (and nerdy), but it really just means I hop online every few weeks to log our reading time or the books I've read. Then, when we visit the library we stop by the kids' desk and pick up prizes (and I grab my Target gift card and free book while the boys get half a dozen gift cards and treats). It's the best. Really simple, but it helps the boys feel excited about reading and visiting the library and it make me more intentional about reading for myself. Plus, our library has the BEST kids prizes (Chick-fil-a gift cards!)

Anyways. I was logging in my books this week and realized its been awhile since I shared some of what I've been reading. So here it is! To be honest, I've been reading more lighthearted and simple books to offset the non-fiction books I've picked up. Ever since taking a break from book club this year, the mix of books I read has changed drastically (aka I'm sticking with what I know). So after writing out my list, I realized its a bit boring and now I'm on the hunt for a few more fun books! Any suggestions?

 I should add that I am typically NOT a non-fiction reader. At all. I'll read maybe one a year, but they just aren't very interesting to me and I have the hardest time finishing them. For whatever reason, I've actually read (and loved!) a few already this year. I'm really surprised by that! I think its more of a testament to the books than my preferences actually changing (I don't plan to read any more non-fiction this year!). So the ones I've listed below are really, really good and definitely worth reading. :)

The Weight of Blood: actually a pretty creepy read. Overall an interesting story, but probably a bit to dark/realistic for me.

The Selection Series: SO GOOD. I've probably talked about these before? Crazy fast reads- you'll be sucked in right away. Probably the best (fiction) books I've read all year!

Unseen: I don't have the words to really say how much I loved this book, or rather, the whole premise of the book. So much so that I bought the book after borrowing and reading it from the library first! I'm slowly working my way through it again (and doing the deeper studies included after each chapter)

The Business Boutique: Another non-fiction! But if you have or are dreaming of starting your own business or side hustle, this is a super comprehensive and helpful book.

Simplicity Parenting: And another non-fiction. While not terribly ground-breaking, I really liked it. I have a background in therapy and counseling, so some of his ideas didn't seem new or inventive to me. But I liked the further look into what creating a quieter environment for kids (and ourselves!) looks like- especially how to facilitate deep play and filter out the adult world.

The Blue Bistro: Simple and sweet (if incredibly predictable) beach read.

The Hot Flash Club: I'm loving this series! I've read the first two and I think there's one more. The author weaves together the lives/stories of a few older women and it's just a fun read.

(Ps. See my summer reading lists from 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Friday, June 1, 2018

Weekly Top 5 |v.9

  Hey hey, its Friday! And it's summertime, which feels wonderful. We have a neighbor's 1st birthday party, some church things, and literally nothing else planned all weekend- which I love. I'm hoping to get in a longer run one day and finish getting everything ready for our garage sale next weekend (hooray for getting rid of stuff!). Why is it that same basic weekends somehow just seem more fun when its summer? Maybe its the daily trips to our neighborhood pool? Either way, here are some fun things I'm loving this week:

1. This video on the official rules of pre-meal prayers is hilarious! I will for sure be thinking of it the next time I go out to eat with a group.

2. I just signed myself (and the boys!) up for our library's summer reading program. That sounds extremely nerdy, I know. But its a fun way to read a bit more and our library gives a ton of great prizes. It's totally worth looking into if your library has one! Our's has a an online format- so we don't actually have to go to the library to sign up or track our books. (Most have programs for kids AND adults with some great prizes like Target gift cards!)

3. I'm finally upgrading my summer sandals and sneakers (I haven't bought a pair of either for at least two years) and while I was shopping I found that Toms now has the CUTEST options! How cute are all of these?!

4. I've decided to make a new sangria recipe any chance I have this summer and so far this is my favorite.

5. Did you see that this movie is finally coming out next week? I generally don't care about/keep up with movies, but I'm excited to see this one!

Happy weekending!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A simple summer.

  I wrote a little earlier this week about my goal of being quieter this summer. I feel like that's a vague thing to say. Maybe I should use the word 'simplify' instead? Either way, what I mean is that we're not filling our days and schedules just for the purposes of having full days, I'm not saying yes to things so quickly, and we're trying to just overall declutter (both mentally and practically).

  Minimalism and simplifying is really trendy right now. It could be that I'm influenced by that trend, but honestly I've been feeling this pull to just get quiet for a few years. (Quiet was my word for 2016!) A lot of little things have carried the same theme (books I've read, conversations with friends, and just what it feels like God has been telling me through prayer) and this summer somehow became the season to officially take steps to simplify more! Do you ever have that happen? Where everything your read or see or talk to others about seems to be related and you just realize one day that maybe God is really telling you something?

  So, here's what things I'm doing to be a bit quieter these days. Maybe they'll help you too?

  First, I'm trying really hard on simplifying things for myself before imposing all of of this on the boys or Justin. It only seems fair! Practically speaking, this means I'm saying no to lots of things and just all around trying to take in less.
  I decided to hop off instagram for a month or two (likely until I start really working on marketing my new business in mid-July). I actually love instagram and get tons of encouragement and inspiration there. There is such thing as too much of a good thing, though, and I am looking forward to hearing from others less and hearing from God more! I'm trying to just need/use my phone less overall- which means being more disciplined about working my part-time job on the weekends and early mornings so I don't need to throughout the day. I'm decluttering our house- paring down the kids' toys, sorting through decor pieces to only keep a few things, and finally emptying out our basement from our move two years ago. It helps that we're having a garage sale next weekend, so I have a deadline to have it all out of our house! It already feels great to have less cluttered rooms.
  I'm also adding in a few things! A couple times a month, I'm trying to schedule early morning coffee dates with some friends that fill me up. I've learned that big group get-togethers or play dates with kids just don't have the same accountability & encouragement effect that waking up at 5am to sit across from a friend for an hour or so really does. Add to that some consistent time spent running (I'm shooting for 2 miles twice a week and one longer run), and trying to really dive into Psalms each morning. I even checked out this and this from the library to help me not need my phone in the morning- I'm used to using the Bible app and commentary search on it when I'm studying and I am excited to truly leave my phone in another room now and not even look at it until a few hours after I wake up!

  After all of that, I'm really trying to keep our days simple. Less TV (I'm thinking of telling the boys are AppleTv is 'broken' so they're stuck with PBS and will truly only want to watch one show in the morning and after naps) is a big one. It is also just naturally easier to have the TV off with summer weather. We're already spending our days in the backyard, at a local park, or our neighborhood pool. It is AMAZING how well the boys get along when we're outside. They have time to explore, feel a little bored, create play on their own, and cycle through that again. I find that they need me less and don't need any cool toys either. It's the best! Even more, I notice an attitude difference in all of us when we've spent all day outside. We're happier, less agitated, and we all (me included!) listen better.

  Speaking of listening, that is the other things I'm trying to do more of right now as part of my effort to be 'quieter.' It is so easy for me to talk and share and say things I'm processing, but I really want to be a better listener. With God, friends, my family, etc. What does that look like? Less talking at God and more listening to him during all parts of my days. Taking a step back from being the initiator in lots of things to see what others really want to do/talk about, etc. And my favorite way I've been practicing listening is with the boys. Almost every night, I linger in Caleb's room after bedtime. Most days I would rather head downstairs, finally make myself supper, do some work, and just in general feel off duty after momming But those extra 20 minutes snuggling in his bed are amazing. He is more chatty than usual and I don't say much- which gives him a chance to let his thoughts wonder and for me to hear a different side of his sweet personality. Lately he's been doing a lot of birthday party and summer planning! I don't do the same every night with Tyler, but a few times a week I'll scoop him out of bed after he's been tucked in and we'll sit in his chair. He recounts his day with me and usually makes big plans for the next day. It's just amazing how the quiet, soft light of their rooms at the end of the makes for a perfect place for them to open up and chat freely without any prompting from me!

  So yeah. Quiet, simple- however you put it- I'm shooting for a summer with less inupt and truly more space to breathe. I have a feeling it will spill over and continue into the Fall, and I'm honestly excited about that!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Summer goals.

  It's the day after Memorial Day and it just truly feels as if summer has begun. The temperature outside has been hovering around 90 for the past few days, we've made 4 trips to our neighborhood pool since Saturday, and we've only eaten grilled food for the past three days. Does summer get any more cliche than that?

  Every summer, I make a little 'fun list' to do with the boys. Caleb was really into it last year, so I think we'll sit down and make one together this week. But I found myself wanting to sort of make a list or just some summer goals for myself too. After a few days thinking about it, here's what I came up with!

Get back into running regularly. I've actually been working on this for the past month or so and just want to keep it up. I've already registered the run a half marathon again this November, so these next few months will be great to just get back into basic shape. That looks like 3 runs each week/one being a 'long' run (by long, I mean 5ish miles!)

Read through Psalms. Pretty self-explanatory! My goal is to read and study one or more Psalm each day from now until September.

Open my new market! I still have lots to share about this and I am crazy excited about it, but specifically I want to set-up my home office, complete wholesale orders, begin marketing, and build my online storefront by August and have my grand opening on August 15th. SO SOON!

Be quieter. With so many regular things on break for summer, it just seems like a great time to be intentional about taking a break ourselves. What I mean by that is hopping off Instagram for a couple months, being involved in less organized activities, etc. I'm doing kids camp at church with the boys and one big play date with my moms' Bibles study group- but other than that we are saying no to any other big things. I'm excited to be a little less involved this summer (and I'm guessing we'll continue it into the Fall...)

Blog more. I'm shooting for a blog post each weekday to help me just think out loud and practice being creative. I miss it and with all the business planning I'm in the middle of, it will be great to have a small place to process!

Tackle a house project. This is always on my to-do list and I don't hate it! Specifically, I need to paint our laundry room cabinets and I want to gather materials to start our little mudroom space by August. 

I might throw in a few more as I think of them (summer reading is always on my list) or change my mind about the ones I've already come up with. Either way, it is fun to spend time thinking of how I can be intentional about these sweet summer months and come up with specific ways to make it all happen. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

What we've been eating lately.

  Meal planning at our house seems to go in consistent waves and seasons. Spring always seems to be an easy time to stick with meal prep and intentional eating. About the time summer vacations and the start of Fall roll around we've slipped out of a routine and try to get back to it for a few month. Then we use the holidays to lighten up a bit and the cycle starts over again when spring hits. I used to beat myself up that- the whole not-sticking-with-it no matter what. Enough years and time behind us now, and I see that is normal and actually works for us!

  So, per our usual cycle, we've been back into meal planning lately! (Hi, spring time! You're great in every way.) I thought I would share a few favorites we've discovered lately. I sit down over the weekend and plan out three meals for the upcoming week. Any more and we're likely to be throwing unused food away. Three is the magic number for our family! With random meetings, nights out with friends, late nights at work, or just not being in the mood to cook a full meal- we've found that planning for only three meals is perfect. If one meal in particular usually has lots of leftovers, I'll try to make it earlier in the week to have for lunches, etc. Other than that, I just decided each day which meal to make instead of being really specific when I'm meal planning (ie. jalepeno chicken on tuesday, spaghetti on thursday etc). I've also started printing out the recipes that aren't in cookbooks I have on hand. THIS HAS BEEN HUGE. I'm always just bookmarking recipes on my phone and have to have it handy when I'm cooking. In general, I try to not have my phone with me all the time and trying to read a recipe on it while cooking just bugs me. Printing them out is wonderful because I can see them all at once, grocery-list making is simpler, and then I can file it away to use again if we end up loving the dish. Maybe everyone else has been doing this forever? I'm probably late to the game, but printing my recipes has been a dinner-prep game changer!

Ok, enough babbling. Here are some of our recent favorites (you'll see a theme- we're clearly working through all of Gina's recipes and we mainly eat chicken):

JalapeƱo popper chicken: SO STINKING GOOD. Justin and I both love this dish.

General Tso's chicken: I don't like Chinese food, but Justin really likes this lightened up version of a classic.

PW breakfast pizza: I hadn't made this for years until a bible study breakfast a few weeks ago. A great dish to share!

Lemon garlic sheet pan chicken & veggies: We cut the amount of garlic butter in half, but otherwise its amazing. The chicken is the best baked chicken we've found!

Spinach dip: another party favorite! Really fast and simple to make and gets devoured.

Brussel sprouts: it's not really a recipe, but I've been obsessed with cooking a few pieces of center-cut bacon and then pan-frying a pound of brussels sprouts in the same skillet. I eat it for lunch at least a few days every week lately!

Stovetop popcorn: Slowly but surely, we're cutting out overly processed stuff in our house when it makes sense. That includes microwave popcorn! My kids LOVE popcorn, so every few days we make a big batch on the stove with olive oil and salt (we use a WhirlyPop). SO good and simple.

 With summer on the horizon, I can't wait for grilling season and more fresh veggies! Give me all your favorite summer recipes! Also, can we talk about kid lunches/snacks? I want to round-up some new ideas (anyone else get a rut with those things?) so give your go-to's!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Life lately.

 It's 7am and I'm sitting in my quiet kitchen while the boys are still sleeping. That fact alone is amazing to me, since my boys have always been notorious early risers. That has shifted lately. This morning probably has something to do with Justin taking them to the park and playing outside way past their bedtimes last night. But it's also due in part to Caleb phasing out his afternoon nap, Tyler not being a baby anymore, and a host of other shifts we've noticed around our house lately. Our family is changing is really sweet ways.

  You guys. I keep trying to think up the words to explain all the things changing in me these days. None really seem good enough. That alone is probably evidence enough that I'm not quite the same person I was a few months ago. I have less words, or, more accurately, I feel the need to say less words. These days, I like quiet a bit more and have been letting thoughts stick around in my head a bit longer before saying them out loud to anyone but Jesus.

  All of these shifts have happened slowly and without much notice until recently. I've somehow had more time to work on small house projects in the busiest season of our life. I've said no or stepped back from things that surprise even me. New things are important now. Prayer has become something that is woven into every minute of the day, and something I talk less to others about. I've been really looking at my kids and family and taking more mental snapshots. Dreams I would normally talk about and then shrug off, I find myself waking up at 5am to really truly work on and make happen. Even more crazy, I've been reading non-fiction books and loving them. Who am I?!

  I posted something about this on my instagram the other day, about somehow making time for small projects in the midst of this crazy season. And a really wise friend commented that is how it often happens. She said "when life throws us curve balls, we feel more focused and much more intentional. Instead of thinking 'someday', we think 'what needs to happen now? And then we do those things."

  Huh. Yes. Without realizing it, that is exactly that has happened to my heart since January. Letting that truth sink in makes me feel the weight of these last few months. On January 31st, we stepped into a hospital and into things that have forever changed us. I think I can speak for our whole family when I say that? Tyler is probably pretty unaffected, but Caleb's life has been forever marked, Justin's focus and priorities have changed, and I know mine for sure have.

  Maybe it's just that we see things differently- what fills our time versus our hearts? What actually matters? What does it practically look like to stay in constant communication with Jesus? What if we prayed about things more than we talked about them? When we know exactly how crazy life can get, how much more intentional do we want to be with the down times? What happens when we sift through the good and better things to focus more on the best?

  Or maybe its just that I'm getting older and experiencing more life and understanding a bit more each day that it is sweet to get quiet and look more at Jesus than anything happening around me. Or, more appropriately, to look for Jesus in the things around me. Spring helps with that, amIright?

  I just feel like this season is one to be marked. One that, when I'm 80, I will look back on as being significant. Lots of times we can't see what's happening, so its fun to know and see and be able to measure change and growth happening. I mean, check back with me in a few months to see if the little business I'm dreaming up has tanked or if we're feeling exhausted from the unknowns of some health concerns. I might be singing a different tune! Either way, it feels really sweet to be able to see God in the ordinary and specific things of our family and my life.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Mother's day: gift guide.

Need some Mother's day gift ideas? It feels as if every year, I find myself sort of wracking my brain for great gifts to give the moms in my life (my own mom, mother in law, sisters, friends who are moms, friends who are waiting to be moms....SO MANY MOMS). I'm on the ball this year (maybe for the first time?) and gifts are already on their way or ready to be wrapped up!

  I thought I'd share some of my favorite ideas- most are budget friendly, perfect for any mom (young, old, friend/family, or even someone waiting to become a mom!), and they're all a little unique. Let me know your favorite gifts for moms!

Belonging necklace. Simple, sweet, and handmade by women in Asia who have been rescued from human trafficking. I love the idea of gifting it to a mom in your life and letting her know she belongs. Also, its just a really pretty 10k gold necklace that makes a great wardrobe staple! (Wanted something else handmade by artisans around the globe? I also love this makeup bag, this fun bracelet, and these earrings (I'm really into gold right now evidently??)

Art print. The options for a fun and meaningful piece of art are sort of endless. A quick google or etsy search will give you hundreds of option. I am in love with this simple print. You could also do a fun photo project like this one or even create your own custom piece of art! (tip: save some $$ by skipping the cost of a custom frame and just picking up your own at Target!)

Giant fern. Ok I know that sounds weird. But giant, potted ferns are perfect for summer! Or splurge and buy your mama a gorgeous container full of different blooms. (Ferns are just SUPER hardy and nearly impossible to kill!)

The best book. Give this book to a mom you know, please. It's really, really great (and not specifically geared to moms). If you know a mom in the thick of raising littles, a mom waiting to carry or adopt a child of her own, a mom dealing with an empty nest- give them this sweet and wise book (add this free printable inside!).

A gift card. Stop hating on gift cards! Treat a mom you love to one so she can treat herself! Maybe buy all your mom bffs a Starbucks card or gift your mama a pedicure or a fun combo of gift cards for a date night out!

Babysit their kids. Don't just offer, but say "on Saturday May 35th I'm free all day and you're getting out of the house! I'll bring pizza and hang out with the kids!" What a sweet gift for any mom who isn't an empty-nester.

Experience/quality time. My sisters and mom have unintentionally started this tradition of doing something together each year. Its even better than big gifts! We've to brunch at a local landmark, met up for pizza and a movie, treated each other to lunch at a fun local restaurant, and this year we're going to this fun floral arranging workshop! Find a local cooking class, wine tasting, flower arranging, or even make signs together at Board & Brush. So much fun to do something together!