Monday, January 1, 2018

1SE in 2017. (our yearly video)

  One of the best projects I started in 2017 was using the 1SE app. If you haven't heard of it, google it. If you want a fun way to document your year and your family, it's worth downloading and starting today! The one second clips seem insignificant at first but (like all good things) they add up and make a really fun video.

  2017 was a steady year for us and I love how the video is mostly full with clips of the boys in their highchairs or playing around the house. Add in some beach vacations, a hospital stay, a ton of park dates, lots of family and friend time, and lots of birthday celebrations- it all made for a full year. The best things outweighed the hard (don't they usually?) and it was just a good 2017.

  Here is how we spent our 2017!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Steady (a look at 2017)

 Maybe its cheesy, but I love picking a word for each new year. Not a big resolution, but instead more of a focus. It's always fun to look back and see how the word played out or how I did with keeping it at a focus throughout the year.   

My word for this year was Steady. Firmly fixed, supported or balanced, not moving. I spent 2015 and 2016 developing some great habits and I wanted this to be a year of maintaining them- of strengthening the roots I had put down.

Looking back at this year, I can see that it was steady. It wasn't full of new, big things. Instead, I (and we as a family) built on the things we've been working on for the past few years. Health-wise, we added more natural/clean recipes to our rotation and just exercised more. Financially, we had more and more conversations and planned more for our future. Relationally, we put in real work to keep developing community. Spiritually, we kept committing to our local church and to our habits in our walks with Jesus. 

 Overall, I would say that we just kept up with the idea that little by little, things keep growing. Small seeds planted in faith can increase abundantly!

  Here are the goals I set to go along with my word for 2017:

Read through the Bible. I did it! I say it a lot, but this is my favorite habit. You can read more about how I go about reading through the Bible in a year in this post.

Run a 10k. Well, I didn't exactly run a 10k. Instead I ran a half marathon and helped raised money for World Vision (with help from so many of you!)! See all about my race here

Date nights. Justin and I absolutely did a better job with prioritizing dates this year. Maybe we could be a bit more consistent with them (we average one a month right now) but overall we had a ton of fun dates (beach vacation, night away in Cincinnati, basketball game, dinners and movies, Christmas shopping, christkindlmarkt market, comedy show, soccer game, dinner party with friends, group dates and game nights). We've even tried to be creative with babysitting costs (it gets so expensive!) by swapping date night sitting with my sister and having friends over after our kids are in bed. 

Family bucket list. This was way less formal than my other goals. I did make small bucket lists for each season and it was fun to slowly work through them! (here are our winter and summer lists)

Ride out Noonday. This goal was the BEST surprise of 2017! I just wasn't sure if I was going to continue on as a Noonday ambassador. I decided to sit down, set intentional goals and truly work hard this year with my business. And it paid off! Literally and figuratively. I had the best season ever as an ambassador, which means my impact was bigger than ever! Financially, it also meant great rewards and support for our family. Plus, I just remembered how much I love the mission of Noonday, gathering women, and encouraging others to make a difference with their purchases. 

Girls trip. Didn't happen! And honestly, I didn't really try for it. So many of my girlfriends are in different stages of life (babies, job changes, moving, etc) that it didn't make sense to try to put a trip together. Maybe 2018 will be the year? 

Host. Justin and I both prayed specifically about ways to open our home in 2017 and two great things came from those prayers. We initiated First Fridays- where we invite anyone/everyone who is free on the First Friday of every month over for a meal. It is always a different group of people and the size always varies. But its also been so fun! I've also started doing a summer and winter Play Date with a Purpose- which has been a blast. (read more about those here and here

Can't wait to share about my word for 2018 and some goals I'll be working on!


Friday, December 29, 2017

Ideas for the new year.

My RushLittles chatbooks series

With only 3 days until the New Year, I thought I would share some of my favorite year-long habits/projects/ideas. Not so much goals as they are projects or activities, these are all useful things to start and keep working on for the next year. What are you setting out to do? Do you have any little projects you work on each year? I know I'm missing lots of good stuff from this list like organized, minimizing, creating, etc. Give me all your tips!

1SE: My favorite discovery of 2017! Have you seen this fun app? Such a great way to document your family and your year. It seems insignificant at first (1 second movie clips are so short!), but they add up and are so cool to look back on. The app is inexpensive and really easy to use. If you forget a day (or 10!) you can easily import a video from a different day. I love it! (See some of my 1SE videos from the year here)

Project life: I may be super behind on mine, but I really do love Project Life books. When I'm on my game, I print a large set of photos each month (Shutterfly and Snapfish always have good deals for 4x6 prints) and then put them in the photo sleeves. I wrote more about that here! (There's also a handy app you can use to make it all even easier and digital- I'm just a sucker for printed photos in photo sleeves)

chatbooks: Clearly I love photos! This year I discovered Chatbooks and how easy it is to create an ongoing book series. I use a unique hashtag on my Instagram photos of the boys and then Chatbooks pulls those specific photos to create a book. Once the book has 60 photos, it ships to me. SO easy. I can go in an edit (I leave all my captions out and choose 5 pictures to have printed in addition to the book). You can see some of my Chatbooks here!

Organize photos: While we're talking about photos, I should say that being more organized with mine is my goal for 2018. Anyone have a million photos (digital and printed) that you just don't know what to do with?! I plan to buy this guide from Nancy Ray (I hear amazing things about her tips!), finally figure out how to use the external hard drive I bought 3 years ago (anyone want to help me with that?!), and use some of Valerie's tips.

Yearly Bible reading plan: Hands down, this is my favorite yearly habit. Have you ever read the Bible in its entirety? It's one of those things worth doing once, and then over and over again. You can find endless plans and tools for reading through the Bible in a year, and I've found that using the YouVersion app on my phone is the easiest. It's free and already on my phone, so it didn't take much work to get started. I use a chronological plan (my favorite one builds in one grace day each week!). It tracks my progress for me and, if I don't have my actual Bible with me for any reason I can read straight in the app. I talk more about why I love this discipline here! Even better? Find a friend to do it along with you to help with accountability and encouragement.

Gratitude journal: Tons of research shows that practicing thanksgiving has positive impacts on every aspect of health (physical, emotional, mental, etc). Whether you pick up a cute notebook at Target, a cute one from a small business (I like the customizable ones from May Designs!) or download this adorable free Best of My Days pack for free- it's a really easy way to make sure the new year is intentional and focused on the right things.

monthly photo spot: One of my favorites, Shannan Martin, takes a photo each month in the same spot on her neighborhood. Its a cool way to see how things change and how they stay the same. I always love clicking through her hashtag!

make a book list: I set out to read 26 books in 2017 and, to my surprise, I nearly doubled that! Having a specific reading goal made me more intentional about it and it's been a fun thing to 'work' on. A quick google search with give you lots of lists of the best books to read right now- and you can find some of what I read in 2017 here, here, and here.

Word for the year: you've heard of this, right? It's not a new concept, but way more practical than making resolutions for the new year. This handy site can help you pick a word to focus on this year!

What are you working on in 2018? I'm always looking for fun new things to try!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Weekly Top 5 |v.5

  Merry (almost) Christmas! We aren't traveling or hosting anything this year, and it honestly feels really great. Justin has had the week off and we've just spent low-key time as a family. We're all a little under the weather and we haven't had any actual plans at all. It's been so nice to just wake up together, pick out some fun things to do, and even just hang out around the house. The chance to run errands without toddlers has also been pretty great!

  I've loved the slow start to Christmas so much, that I'm taking advantage of being on vacation from work, too. I'm deleting Instagram and my email from my phone until New Year's. There's not much better than being present, having few distractions, and ending the year on a restful now.

  Here's to hoping your holiday is great! Here's some weekend reading for you:

This show on netflix. Justin and I always have a hard time finding shows we both like, but this one is SO FUNNY. It has super dry humor, and we love it.

1SE. I've been using this app to make family videos for almost an entire year, and I'm still as obsessed with it as I was last January! If you need a fun (easy!) photo/film project to document your family/year, its a great idea to start on January 1st.

Goal setting. I always love reading Lara's goal setting tips and encouragement. Whether you're setting big, little, or no goals at all for 2018- her blog is worth a read!

5 minute fudge. We made tins of treats for our neighbors, and I may have kept a big thing of fudge to keep for myself!

I'm almost to my yearly impact goal with Noonday Collection! Want to help push me over the edge and make my biggest impact on our artisans who work in vulnerable communities around the world? I just need 10 people to buy a pair of earrings or even just a gift card before the end of the year. And if you shop through this link, you might win $45 of free Noonday for yourself!

Happy weekending (and merry Christmas!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Little world changers. v.|2

  Would you look at that cutie with the collections from our winter Play date with a Purpose?! He's the best. (see a similar photo from our summer play date here!)

  We've decided to make these play dates a semi-annual thing and they are the best. I invite all the moms/kids I know to come over and play (and snack! while collecting donations for a local non-profit (a domestic violence shelter in the summer, SafeFamilies in the winter). It hopefully gives the parents a chance to start teaching their kids about loving others and supporting our local community and reminds us all that we can be all be world changers.

  It was a smaller turnout this time, and I was tempted to feel insecure about that. Then I remembered that no matter the size, any donation would be helpful to the families served by SafeFamilies! The kids played their hearts out, ate a million snacks, and it always good for me to spend time with moms in the same stage of parenthood as myself. By the end of the morning, our dining room table had a big pile of things to be packed up and brought to the SafeFamilies office!

If you ever need an instant pick-me-up, visit a local non-profit and have some gifts in hand when you do. I say that because on Monday the boys and I dropped off donations from our second Play Date With a Purpose to our local Safe Families. It was the absolute highlight of our Christmas season this year! They were surprised at the amount we brought and SO excited to have special gifts for their moms (I put an ask out to any/everyone who might want to 'adopt a mom' and donate a Noonday bracelet to the moms served by the organization). Through some generous donations, they've been able to set up a Christmas room for parents to 'shop' gifts for their kids, but there isn't anything special for the parents themselves. Most of the moms receive cleaning supplies, gas cards, etc- but the coordinator was saying it would just be fun to bless them with the bracelets as a real gift in addition!

So here's my semi-annual plug to do something. Don't wait until you have more time or bigger network or a great idea or for someone to invite you. I guarantee that you can make a real difference in your community today. With exactly what you already have! Whether its inviting some friends and their kids over for a playdate with a purpose, baking a lasagna on Christmas for your local fire station, sending a starbucks e-gift card to your favorite local non-profit (a mid-week coffee treat on you!), call a local adoption agency and ask if there is a family in need of funds (then host a Noonday trunk show with your friends and Noonday will donate from your show!), WHATEVER. It takes so little to make a difference for our neighbors. And if we're being honest, we benefit too. If feels great to be a part of something bigger than ourselves!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Weekly top 5 |v.5

How adorable is Caleb's mini Christmas tree with it's single ornament?!

 For lots of reasons, today officially feels like the Christmas season has begun! My moms' group ended the semester this week and had our Favorite Things party last night, we finally have our tree up, its snowing outside right now, and I just sent Justin and Caleb off on their first movie date to see this cute Christmas movie this morning.

  Outside of the movie date, we have nothing on the calendar for the entire weekend and it feels so good! I finished all of our Christmas shopping and I'm going to see how the boys do with wrapped gifts under the tree (my guess is they'll try opening them and I'll have to put them away until Christmas morning). Maybe we'll venture out to see some Christmas lights tonight? Christmas time is just extra fun with little kids, so we're soaking up all the things.

Here's some weekend reading for you::

Last minute gift ideas and deals. Have you seen my gift guides? One with ideas under $30, gifts for her, and gifts for little ones. So many of the places I included have deals right now (I promise I'm not getting paid to say that)! May Designs and West Elm have free shipping this weekend, Walk In Love has 15% off, you can get a free Chatbook with this link or if you already have an account you'll get a free gift on January 1st when you order anything this weekend. I didn't include it in my gift guide, but I bought this hoodie as a gift for someone this year and am kicking myself for not buying myself one- and its 40% off right now! If you shop online and use eBates (you should!) they have double money back on lots of sites this weekend. And, while we don't have any sales right now, if you shop Noonday Collection you'll help me reach a BIG goal I have with my business (shop by Dec. 12th for delivery before Christmas!)

Salted Carmel Chocolate cookies. Need a cookie recipe for a Christmas get-together? Try these! Sally is my go-to girl for cookie recipes and I tried these for our Favorite Things party. They were a hit! The carmel inside is such a fun surprise.

Best slow-cooker pulled pork. I'm on recipe kick this week! I made this pulled pork from my new favorite cookbook (its on my Christmas list!) and IT IS AMAZING. I don't think I can't emphasize that enough. Bonus? It's full of real ingredients.

Christmas (or anytime!) DIY. Long story short, I'm currently obsessed with Caravan Shoppe. (they have the most fun digital downloads for parties and home decor!) I bought this holiday pack when it was on sale last week and then made a FUN diy frame (here's the tutorial). You can see how it turned out here.

Jimmy Fallon and Shaq. If you need a good laugh, this is one of my favorite lip sync battles!

Happy weekending!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Holiday gift guide: under $30

 It's December 7th and I will OFFICIALLY have all of my Christmas shopping done by tonight! (just a few last photo projects to finish) Phew. It took me so much longer than usual to shop this year and I blame in on our ever growing family (but having 6 nieces/nephews to shop for is SO fun) and December just sneaking up on my this year. Anyone else feel like that?

  Anyways! In case you still need to shop (or create your own wishlist for loved ones), I've round up some great gifts for under $30. Think teachers, neighbors, friends, gift exchanges, co-workers, sisters in law, etc. Lots of great ideas for just about everyone! 

  I decided to put together a smaller under $30 gift guide for kids, too! Justin and I actually don't buy our kids big gifts at Christmas (is that awful? They get so many gifts from loved ones!) In case you're in the same boat or have other little ones on your Christmas list, I've included some of our favorite smaller kid gifts. Most are unique enough that the kid on your list likely doesn't have them! Happy shopping :)

(if you do lots of shopping online for gifts, be sure to use ebates! You just search whatever site you're shopping on Ebates and they'll give you a percent back from your purchase. No catch- they just mail you a check! And if you refer a friend, you automatically get $25)

Marble photo holder with prints. I am OBSESSED with these cute (and unique!) photo holders. Handmade in Vietnam, they make a great gift for anyone. Your husband to use on his desk at work, paired with cute recipe cards for a friend who loves to cook, grandma who loves to set out family photos, or even paired with a Starbucks gift card for your favorite teacher/babysitter/neighbor. (If you want to pair it with prints, my favorites are from Chatbooks!) One holder is only $22 (or you can buy a set of 3!)

Loved mug. Maybe mugs are overdone right now? But I love this one. How fun to gift it to someone with maybe some chocolates or another treat inside as a reminder (whenever they use it!) that they are loved. This one is another favorite- and these keychains. My favorite quote!

May Designs notebook. Starting at $15, these GORGEOUS and customizable notebooks make the best gifts. I discovered them last year when on Noonday secret sister gifted me one and I was surprised by how much I loved and used it. And if you aren't on a budget, the leather folios go great with the little notebooks!

10oz tumbler. While they offer other sizes (and koozies!) I love this smaller tumbler. It's perfect for one cup of coffee or just a smaller drink. And its ADORABLE! You can customize the background, (and add a monogram for $5). Such a fun idea!

Fun planter. (with real or fake plant!) I'm still a sucker for a cute planter. If you (or the person you're gifting) doesn't have a green thumb, you can fill it with a succulent (ikea has cheap ones!) or even artificial greenery. Don't love the cute turtle? These gold planters are fun, too!

chatbooks. Make a book of photos for your bff, your husband, grandparents, or one of your annual beach vacation. Super affordable and fun to have! (Bonus: if you order TODAY Thursday, December 7th, Chatbooks will email you a $5 gift card!)

Fingerless mittens. Everyone loves a good pair of gloves. This pair is a combo of mittens and fingerless gloves which is my fav!

Noonday Collection accessories! I mean, you knew I would include my favorite Noonday items under $30, right? The Metric Cuff is a bestseller and I bought this Dancing Charm bracelet for Caleb's preschool teachers. I love how unique the Cow Horn Hoops are and they make a great gift for someone who loves funky pieces. If you want to stay clear from jewelry, I have this Haitian Leather Tassel on my leather tote and its so colorful and cute. The Huipil Luggage Tag is perfect for pairing with a gift card (it acts as a gift card holder!) or cute passport cover.

A good book. I've received books as gifts a few times over the last year and each time, its felt like a treat! Maybe people shy away from giving books because it can be a tricky gift, but I also think it can be fun. If you want a lighthearted book nearly everyone will love, The Rosie Project is my all time favorite. For a non-fiction, practical book- Emily Ley's newest has some amazing reviews!

Notecards. My favorite Etsy shop owner makes really, really pretty notecards and sells them in sets of four (or eight). So pretty! I love the idea of pairing them with some vintage stamps or your favorite pens (I like these). If you know someone who sews/knits/bakes, she also makes little tags to include with their creations.

gift cards. Why do gift cards get such a bad rap? I don't think they're impersonal at all! Target, Starbucks (or a local coffee shop!), a pastry shop, Etsy, Noonday Collection, etc ALL make fun add-on gifts!

Pull-back cars. Tyler was gifted these last Christmas and the boys LOVE them. They're big enough for them to grip, made of a soft rubber-like material, and are so fun to pull back and race on our hardwood floors. (I've found them at Target, too, if you want to see them in person!)

Poke-a-dot books. Need a fun busy book for a toddler? These are super fun and sort of a better version of bubble wrap because kids can endlessly 'poke' the dots.

Craft kits. I love everything by Alex Kids. Their sets are fun and playful, and really budget friendly. We have this Paper bag puppet kit and its so cute!

Play tunnel. We have this play tent and I've been on the hunt for an inexpensive (and condensable) tunnel to use with it. This ikea one is just the right size and only $15!

Mini lantern. The boys LOVE playing with flash lights and lanterns (and turning off the lights to do so). We've gone through 3 toy flashlights/lanterns already and I love this one for a replacement because its a great size and an even better price if it gets broken!

gift cards. Kids (and their parents!) love getting smaller gift cards to Chick Fil A, Target, an ice cream or donut shop, or even local bowling alleys!