Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blogging Is Hard




I realize that I probably don't have a lot of credibility, joining in on this "Blogging Is Hard" prompt because some of the people who are writing about why blogging is hard blogged every day in July. I on the other hand, did not. In fact, the only reason I have a blog post today is because last night I decided to apply self tanner and teeth whitening strips at 10:15 PM at night. 10:15 is approximately 45 minutes PAST my bed time, but then I had to stay up an extra thirty minutes so A. I didn't turn the sheets orange where I am house sitting, and B. To leave these painful but magical whitening strips on to do their magic.

Anyway-can I just get a big collective AMEN when I say YES, blogging is hard. It is HARD to come here day in and day out with new, creative, refreshing, inspirational, funny, and honest content that people want to read. It is REALLY HARD. I think its extra hard because we put all this pressure on ourselves to have "pinterest worthy" posts, posts that people will pin 800 times and share all over their social media feeds. Sometimes, I just want to tell you about my day and the guy I saw in Starbucks studying while his little son quietly sat next to him on an iPhone, but I tell myself its not "pinterest worthy" and therefore, no one will want to read it. LIE. Thats a lie I let myself believe too often.

I also think blogging is hard because we put so much pressure on ourselves to show up when sometimes, life plain gets in the way. I've been out of the house every night this week and all day long, in the middle of meetings and during my evening activities, I stress about when I am going to find time to blog. And not only show up with some thoughts thrown together but a QUALITY post with corresponding graphics and expertly styled photos. Help.

Blogging is hard because it takes so much time to write, edit, take pictures, edit pictures, make graphics, share your posts on social media, reply to comments, engage with friends on social media etc. Lets not get started on how hard sponsors can be and the whole debate about sponsored posts. Lets not, because its exhausting just thinking about it.

All of this stuff is hard work. Its exhausting. Its time consuming and it takes effort. But, doesn't everything good in life take hard work and effort? Relationships and careers and children are hard, but good. The best things in life aren't free....or is that saying the best things in life are free? Well, blogging certainly isn't "free" and I certainly put my hours in here, but I keep showing up because of you. You right here reading, you who comments the thoughtful and sweet comments day in and day out, you who emails me to tell me that post I thought no one read was exactly what you needed to here. I show up for the friendships I've created and the people I wouldn't have the real pleasure of knowing if it wasn't for blogging.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Naked 2 Palette Tutorial

Girrrrrrls I am so excited about this guest post today. I LOVE makeup, and have all three of the Naked Palettes but I always struggle to figure out what colors go best together for the look I am going for. I hope this video by my friend, Brittany helps you out! 


Hi, everyone!!  I'm grateful to be guest posting for the beautiful Brittany today.  Maybe it was her strong faith, open and honest way of writing, or her wide-ranging posts on everything from fitness to finance… But I couldn't get enough of Happy is a Choice!!  I'm sure you, her readers, feel the same. 

My name is Brittany and I am Blogger-in-Chief at Torts and a Tiara.  I began the blog as a creative outlet while I was in law school… A place for me to talk about things I enjoyed after a long day of contracts and torts.  Over the years and through many misadventures, my blog has grown with me.  It's where I share some of my favorite things: life, personal style, beauty, decor, and travel.

I'm currently a bride-to-be and planning our wedding… So watch out for the occasional Wedding Wednesday posts!!

One of my favorite topics is beauty.  I get lots of questions from my own readers about how I do my makeup and hair.  So I created a little eye tutorial especially for Happy is a Choice readers… It's one of my favorite eye looks for Summer and Fall, and the bronzy colors flatter every skin tone!!      


Enjoy!!












Monday, July 28, 2014

Thoughts on Change, Uncertainty, and Contentment



My head is still spinning from this weekend-it was a full one. I got to do a lot of great things, spend time with friends and go on a date with my husband. When we were out at lunch we realized its been over a month since we went on an actual date. Oops! Newlywed fail. Anyway, I mentioned last week that I recently finished the book, Bittersweet and I just wanted to come here and share a few things that it taught me.

This book had me laughing and crying all in one chapter-Shauna Niequest is an exceptionally gifted writer. The way she weaves in practical wisdom and lessons into her life stories makes me want to stop and think more about what God is teaching me in every day moments.

You've heard me talk about contentment over and over in this space-it is one are of my life that I've constantly struggled with. I have a personality that is always striving, pushing, reaching. It served me well in high school when I made a 4.0 GPA and in college when I worked multiple jobs while taking full loads of classes, and its served me well in the real world as I climbed the career ladder and got a job I desperately wanted.

But it doesn't always serve me well, like when I get restless in that job I wanted so bad and start to feel like I need more. More responsibility, more challenge, more money. It doesn't serve me well in my marriage when I am constantly pushing us to do more, more, more. It doesn't serve me well in life when I look at what my neighbor/coworker/friend has and think that whatever that is, it will make me happy.

This season we are in is one that I am confident God is using to make us more like Him. He's revealing some issues in my heart that make me want to squirm and shove back deep down inside instead of face head on. Its one of growth, of changes, and above all, uncertainty. And if you've been around here-you know how well I do with uncertainty. But I'm reminded that certainty was never part of the deal. Jesus didn't promise a life full of certainty, of perfectly wrapped up boxes of where life would take us and road maps of  every possible outcome. Slowly, painfully, I am learning to open my hands and release the grasp on my life, my plans, my security and let Jesus do his work in me.

I still have a long way to go, and do not have this contentment and peace thing figured out but I am learning how to quiet the noise in my heart and in my brain in order to let God speak to my anxious heart. He reminds me of His faithfulness over and over again, day in and day out. This growth thing is painful and its easy for me to want to stomp my feet and whine and complain as if that will get me my way. But sometimes, when I slow down, I remember that Gods ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts.  And He's worth trusting, He's worth surrendering our lives too. Today, I am holding on to the truth that He holds it all together, not me. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Coffe Date + Highs and Lows


Friday is here and I am so so over the moon by this fact. The week has been long and I am thrilled to have a weekend away from the office. So, today I am linking up with Jenna from Dearest Love to share some highs and lows from the week!

Coffee Date Linkup
Highs

Ronnie and I are now officially working out at the same gym and we’ve bene going together in the evenings. Its been really nice to spend that time together and he basically is my personal trainer because I am kind of clueless when it comes to lifting weights. It helps me stay consistent and pushes me to get out of my comfort zone in the gym!

I went back to my 7-4 with a full hour for lunch schedule. The past few weeks I tried working nine hour days in order to take every other Friday off, but I hated it. I love getting off at four because I can actually run errands, workout, etc and not feel like I am getting home at my bed time. And yes, my bed time is about nine PM and I'm not ashamed of it in the slightest.

I’ve lined up quite a few babysitting jobs, which is awesome because not only do I love hanging out with kids we also have been racking our brains to figure out how we can be making that school payment each month and still do things we want to do, like go on our anniversary trip. Luckily we have all of it paid for and are now just saving for our spending money and I couldn't be more excited. We're determined to get through his school debt free, even if that means picking up side jobs and working more hours. Dedication! We're very thankful for the way God is providing for us during this season I definitely had a hard time trusting Him!


Lows

I think I may have overbooked myself this weekend and next week. In the next seven days, I am house sitting, babysitting, going to a concert, going to a bridal shower, babysitting some more, hosting a campfire/s'mores night with some girls from youth group, and doing a fun photo project that I will give you more details about soon. If you know me, you know I value quiet, no-plan time much more than I love busy busy time but all of it is good, fun stuff so I am hoping I can keep my sanity and my blogging schedule up.

Ronnie has also been extra busy and between both of our schedules, I am starting to miss him! I am super bummed he can't come to the concert I am going to this weekend because he is working, but luckily my mom is coming so I know we'll still have fun.

We finished the last season on Netflix of White Collar and we can't find the next season and it makes me want to cry on a daily basis. My name is Brittany and I get too emotionally invested in characters from books and movies.

Thats its for my highs and lows-its been a pretty good week overall and I am ready to take on the next week with energy and enthusiasm. I hope!




PS: Have you met one of my blogging besties, Rachel?



I've been reading Rachel's blog(s) since before I had my own blog. She has always been not only an amazing writer, blogger, DIYer, but she's also turned into an amazing and dear friend of mine. Rachel and I exchange texts almost daily and she is one of the most encouraging and uplifting people I know.  She is a gorgeous new bride with amazing wisdom about marriage and being a wife. She is a labor and delivery nurse and I can't imagine a better job for this girl because she is so gentle, loving and kind. If you are needing some inspiration to blog and write again, check out her post about how to find your passion to blog again. Rachel is also an expert DIYer and these DIY Anthropologie look-a-like coffee mugs have me swooning. I can't get enough of her, her posts and her friendship. Love you mean it friend!!




Thursday, July 24, 2014

What I'm Reading V.2

I have loved books for as long as I lived. As a child, I would harass my parents by going up to them over and over again with the same book begging them to read to me. I'm fairly certain one of my first words was book or read. I learned how to read at the beginning of kindergarten and by second grade, I was signed up for the Baby Sitters Club Book Club, and was getting four books mailed to my house per month. I would lock myself in my room and plow through those four books in approximately three days. Everywhere my parents took me, I had a book with me. I even tried sneaking a flashlight and a book into a movie that my dad and brother forced me to go to, but my Dad said I'd annoy the other patrons.

I say all that to say-I REALLY love to read. My favorite way to spend my lunch break is sipping a diet coke in my car reading a good book. So, here's a few books I've been reading lately.


1. Beautiful Oblivion- I LOVE Jamie McGuire. I read Beautiful Disaster and fell in love with her, her writing, the characters in her stories. I literally felt what the characters felt- I cried with them, I yelled at them, and I felt like I was living their life. I love books like this-emotional, intense and have me feeling like I not only understand the characters but I AM the character in the story. Anyway, this is a book that follows some of the characters introduced in Beautiful Disaster and I really LOVED the story. It wasn't your typical goody two-shoes meets bad boy and they fall in love and I loved that the heroine was strong and independent and feisty. I have to say-I loved the book until I got to the end and then I was so lost and confused. I was scratching my head thinking "WTF!" and I had to google what actually happened. I had an idea but I wasn't sure-and I didn't love the ending. 

2. More Than This- This was  a decent read. It was really tragic at the beginning, and it made my heart hurt for the main character. I enjoyed the read, but I still always compare books in this genre to some of my favorites like Hopeless & Beautiful Disaster. I liked the chemistry between the main characters but I thought they could've been developed a little more. I still will  probably will read the other books in this series at sometime. 

3. Bittersweet-I normally don't read a lot of non-fiction books, but here and there I will pick one up. I fell in love with Shauna Niequist when I discovered her blog, and her writing spoke to my soul. This book though-it is AMAZING. It has spoken so many life giving words of truth about fear, anxiety, worry, contentment and faith that I can't say enough good things about it. Some of her thoughts about contentment & comparison have really done a work on my heart that I am going to share more with you guys soon. If you read any of these books I listed today-read Bittersweet. SO GREAT. If you're a fan of the book Bread & Wine, this is by the same author and you will LOVE IT!


I'm linking up with Rachael from The Rachael Way today and if you have any good book recommendations, PLEASE leave them in the comments. I am hungry for good books lately!



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Greater


*This is a guest post written by Hayley from A Beautiful Exchange.


A few months ago, my family and I moved back to our hometown and have spent this time getting back into the swing of things, meeting up with friends, and finding a new home church. We have finally found the place that God is calling us to be in community with fellow believers and serve Him and we are really enjoying it so far! One of my favorite things about this church is that they are so gospel centered, from their "welcome speech," to their music, to their messages. I am challenged each and every week and adore the raw, real, experience of worshipping alongside those people each week. Since we are the "newbies," we are still learning some of the songs that they play frequently, and I found myself standing in awe as I let the words of a song we sang this last week ("Raised to Life") truly sink in and become a sort of anthem for my life. The whole song focuses on how we are all new creations in Him, but the bridge speaks the loudest, to me:

Sin was strong
But Jesus is stronger
Our shame was great
But Jesus you're greater

I really just love how God will use lyrics to a song or something from His word to remind us of just how much he loves us and just how much He did for us. If you've read my story before, you know that I have made (and continue to make) so many bad decisions that it is basically unfathomable. I snap at my husband, get frustrated with my son, think things I shouldn't think, and a million other things each and every day. Those four lines just remind me time and time again that though my sin and temptation is strong, my Jesus is stronger. That though my shame was so, so great, my Jesus was, and always will be, greater.

Throughout all of my bad decisions and worry, He has always been constant--lavishing more grace on me with each new morning and giving love where it was so undeserved. These words remind me that no matter what I face and no matter how weak I may feel, that I serve a strong God. A God that has already overcome the world (John 16:33) and is always stronger and always greater.

I hope that this little reminder has been as much an encouragement to you as it was to me. I have written these words on the front of my journal and would encourage you to pray these words as a prayer of thanks to Him!





Tuesday, July 22, 2014

10 Things I'd Splurge On




You've heard me talk about how we are on a budget and are working very hard to save our pennies and pay for Ronnie's school debt free. I've analyzed our budget over and over and figured out where to trim it, but I also have a few things that I seriously do not mind spending money on here and there. Most of these things just show me that I am actually, quite lazy. Just kidding. I would call myself very busy with a limited amount of time, not lazy.

10 Things I'd Splurge On

1.Someone to clean out all one MILLION spam comments from my blog (Thanks, Annie)

2. A Deep cleaning of my house

3. Getting my car washed and vacuumed

4.Staying in a decent hotel room when we travel that doesn’t look like its rented by the hour

5. Diet Coke from the fountain

6. PicMonkey 4.99 monthly fee for unlimited to access to all the fonts and editing tools.

7. Extra data on my cell phone plan

8. Healthy food that inevitably costs three times as much as food from the box. I’m looking at you, Quinoa and Coconut milk.

9. My house to be cool at night when I go to sleep

10. Getting my eyebrows waxed.


What about you-what are you okay with shelling out a little of your hard earned money for? Expensive jeans that fit right and make you feel like a million bucks? A babysitter so you can go out on regular date nights? I'm linking up today with Erica for "Listed Tuesdays" so if you want to play along and write a list of well, anything ,then feel free to link up at the bottom of this post!





Monday, July 21, 2014

Back Yard BBQ

“This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Wet-Nap but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #showusyourmess  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Every other week, two of my best friends and our husbands take turn hosting Dinner Club. Each one of us takes turns playing hostess, and who ever is hosting is responsible for everything-dinner, dessert, drinks, and cleanup. Twice a month, we gather around tables and talk about life, about work and church and things that make us laugh and things that sometimes just plain bum us out.

Its almost been a year of dinner clubs, and aside from the good conversation and the many laughs with friends, we've had amazing food. More often than not one or all of us girls show up in yoga pants, and takeout is never discouraged or judged. I can honestly be myself around these people, and whether my house has been freshly scrubbed or a broom hasn't come near it for weeks, they are going to love me regardless. We've had make your own pizza nights, loaded baked potato nights, breakfast for dinner, and everything in between. This is our first summer though, so I was so excited to be able to host a backyard BBQ complete with ribs, chicken legs, corn on the cob, and watermelon.







The first word I think of when I think of BBQ ribs and chicken is messy. I don't know about you, but I can't eat ribs without making a huge mess of myself. When I was shopping at Wal-Mart for dinner club I picked up a package of Wet-Nap hand wipes in the Napkin Aisle for easy and quick cleanup. Wet-Nap towelettes work so much better than our usual paper napkin, and they are softer and stronger than ever. We especially loved the way these moisturized with aloe, leaving our hands (and faces) soft and clean. We were reaching for these all night. 




My favorite part about Dinner Club isn't the amazing food or the constant refilling of the wine glasses. Its getting to do life with these people. Its setting aside the stresses and burdens of our lives to catch up and laugh together. Its knowing that in good seasons and tough seasons, these people are always going to be in my corner, cheering me on and praying for me. Its allows us room to reconnect even when life is crazy and take turns serving one another. Dinner club is more than just dinner. 



Seasons come and go, and as we embrace the out door seating and sticky finger dinners of summer, we know that as Summer turns into fall, we will still gather around tables, sharing our meals and opening our hearts up to one another. 


Are you hosting any dinner parties or bar-b-ques this summer? If so, we'd highly recommend picking up some Wet-Nap wipes for easy and fast cleanup. We got them at Wal-Mart because of their everyday low-prices and you can use this coupon for .55 cents off any of the Wet-Naps products.

Cheers to summer, good food and good friends!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Non Scale Victories



My entire adult and even teenage years, I think I’ve been concerned with my weight. Borderline obsessed with the number on the scale. At the beginning of this year, I saw one of the highest numbers I’ve ever seen when I stepped on the scale and though I haven’t lost a drastic amount of weight, I’ve lost about 6 pounds that have helped me feel better in my clothes and more confident. Its not much, but its something.

I still feel like I have a long way to go in my journey to being healthy and fit and last week, I was thinking about all the reasons I like to workout and eat healthy besides just seeing that number on the scale go down. These are some things that motivate me, that make me feel amazing, and keep me wanting to treat my body well. These are what I call non-scale victories-milestones and accomplishments that are so much more than a number.

-Running my fastest mile

-Fitting into a pair of pants that I haven’t been able to button for years

-The endorphin high after a workout

-Liking the way my arms look in a tank top

-Feeling confident in a swimsuit

-Having energy to do more than veg on my couch after work all night

-Beating a personal running record or even just beating my last week’s time or distance

-Having will power to say no to food beacause it will make me feel terrible, not because I’m worried about the calories

-Not wanting to delete the first 3 pictures on my camera roll because I hate the way I look and think I look fat

-Not beating myself up over a treat because you know I ate healthy the rest of the week

These are the things I am focusing on while I work to stay diligent about working out and eating healthy. I haven’t accomplished every one of those things on the list, but I am working hard at keeping those in mind instead of obsessing about the number on the scale. Tell me,what are some of your non-scale victories?

PS: This weekend only, you can take 40% off any ad space with the code COOKIE. Because, I love cookies and I love you all. I'd love to work with you!

S P O N S O R   S P O T L I G H T


Today I also have the pleasure of introducing you to one of the most positive and uplifting people on the internet! I first discovered Erin's blog, Life Fun Football because of her money-saving-debt-killing Sallie and Perkins series. If you need some serious inspiration about how to stick to a budget, save money,  and slash your student loans rapidly, you need to check this girls blog out. They paid off over $25,000 in debt in ONE YEAR. Hello, rockstars! I absolutely look forward to each S&P segment because it inspires me and gets me motivated to be wise with our fin aces.

Not only is Erin basically a financial genius, she is always so positive and uplifting. I almost never hear her complain about disliking a Monday or grumbling about being at work or complaining about well, anything. She is always finding a reason to be happy and thankful which the world needs more of, and you can find her celebrating the little things on the regular.  She and I have some similarities like our love for saving money, running, and not learning lessons we should know by now.This girls blog is a gem and its definitely one of my daily reads. Go stalk say hi to her on social media and follow her blog-you won't regret it!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things

Its Thursday and a fun Thursday at that-its Total Social Day with Helene in Between and Venus Trapped in Mars. Today, lets talk about a few of my favorite things  that I am loving lately.

Carmel Toffee Crunch Ice Cream


Last night, I wanted to cry when I got about half a bowl of ice cream when I realized that I was hitting the bottom of the carton. I ran out of ice cream like a total rookie. Normally, I have a second carton of ice cream for emergencies like this but I missed the mark on this one and had a sad night of only a half a bowl (but probably still 2.5 servings) of ice cream.

My bed

I honestly have a love affair with my bed. Most days I have to fight the urge to crawl into it the second I get home at 5 PM and eat dinner in it, blog in it, watch TV in it and sleep in it. Some nights I do better than others at resisting it but other nights, I change into that comfy yellow oversized tee shirt and sweatpants before I can even set down my bags and kiss my husband hello and I head straight for my bed for the night. Its a real problem, so I try and do productive things instead like workout or do a load of laundry before I retreat, but I don't always succeed.

Fresh brewed fancy coffee


Recently Ronnie bought a special pour over coffee maker thing and an Aeropress Coffee Maker and the coffee he's been making me has been the bomb.com. I especially love the cups he makes and delivers to my bed (see above) and wakes me up nicely by setting it on my bedside table. Those cups always taste the best.

Anniversarymoon Plans



We officially booked our trip to Hawaii for our one year anniversary!! We were able to score a smoking deal and get a free flight because of our airline miles, and saved our tax return and got another great deal on a hotel + rental car through Costco. We're going in October and I can't believe how quick it is coming up. We're focusing now on saving spending money in a separate account so we can enjoy ourselves on the trip. I can't wait to wake up every day and drink coffee on the balcony over looking the ocean!

White Collar

Ronnie and I have been binge watching a new (to us) show now that every single one of our shows is on summer break. We are watching White Collar on Netflix and I LOVE IT. The basic premise of the show is a sneaky and very smart criminal makes a deal with the FBI to let him out of jail to be a consultant and help the FBI catch other criminals. The show is amazing and I am not sure how we will spend our time once we finish the last few episodes on Netflix.

Those are just a few things I am loving lately. What about you? What are some of your favorite things right now?

Helene in Between

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Community Brew: Marriage


When I first read the topic for today's Community Brew post, I admit I quickly dismissed the idea of writing about the topic. The topic is marriage, and specifically, the question was asked "How has your "life stage" helped you grow in your relationship with Jesus?"  I read this on a morning I was feeling frustrated. I was feeling frustrated for myself and my sinful heart, feeling like a failure at nailing that whole "gentle and quiet spirit thing, and feeling prideful about my most recent argument with my husband.

I didn't want to show up to this space and write about marriage when I felt like I just not doing a good job at this whole wife thing. Those little shaming voices creeped in my head telling me I had no business writing about something I just wasn't good at.But, as I thought about it the rest of the day, I realized that what I was experiencing was all the more reason I should write. I realized that what I was struggling with, my pride and selfishness and insecurity, they are al areas that God is actively working on in my heart. I was reminded that I should be writing about this stuff-the nitty, gritty, real life lessons I'm learning, even when its hard.

Because God is actively pruning away the areas of my heart that are full of weeds so that I can bear fruit, and I want to bring these areas into the light so we all can encourage one another if its something that maybe God is working on your heart in too. What marriage has taught me more than anything over the past 10 months is how  much I need Jesus. I've never been more aware of my sinfulness, but I've never been more grateful for the grace of God, and the grace of my husband.

Marriage has taught me a lot-but lately, I've been reminded how incredibly powerful the words "I'm sorry," and "I forgive you" truly are. I've learned (but not yet mastered) the true importance of repentance, and grace even when its undeserved and plain hard to do. I've come before God on my knees, thankful that He is so quick to welcome me back to His loving arms, no matter how far I've fallen or how many times I've failed Him.

If we can come before our husband, and God and repent our sinful words, thoughts, and actions, not only does it bring healing into our marriage, but also our own hearts. Its not an easy thing for me to do, to humble myself and confess that I was wrong in the way I spoke to my husband, or ask for forgiveness for my hurtful words, but when I do God works in my marriage and my heart. It gives God room to prune away the dead leaves and vines that are not bearing fruit, so then in turn, we can bear fruit in our own lives and in our marriage.


I recently came across this infographic about weddings, marriages, and honeymoons and its got me thinking about all that time that I (and countless other brides) invested into wedding planning, planning the perfect day and perfect dress and romantic honeymoon. And I am so glad for the gift of marriage, for being able to celebrate with friends and family, for the luxourius honeymoon and gorgeous flowers. But more than that, I'm thankful for a partner to do life with. A husband who will always stand hand in hand with me, through the moments of joy and moments of hurt. A husband who at the end of the day, will love me through my darkest days, my crankiest hours and my worst attitudes.



Wedding Infographic

Infographic Presented By Country Club Receptions

community brew link up

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Healthy + Simple Summer Recipes

Today my gorgeous and brilliant blog friend Jenna is taking over this space, sharing some easy and healthy summer recipes. I don't know about you, but I am in desperate need of some quick, easy and healthy meal ideas as it gets hot outside and I want to spend less and less time in the kitchen! Jenna always has the best recipe ideas and I am excited to give a few of these a try!
    

    Hello, Happy is a Choice readers! I'm Jenna, and I have a little lifestyle blog called Dearest Love. I share daily inspiration, DIY's, wedding photos, and recipes!  I'm so happy that Brittany invited me over today to share some healthy, delicious, and simple summer recipes with y'all. I don't know about you, but in the summer I go for the easy recipes that require fresh ingredients and don't require the oven. Here are some of my favorite recipes that I've been making all summer long for friends, for my husband, and for just little ol' me on random Tuesday afternoons. 


When I'm thinking up recipes to make, I always look at what is in season, what I already have in my fridge, or what produce is on sale. Then, I go from there. Some of my favorite chefs are Ree Drummond, Alton Brown, and Paula Deen, so I love to take recipes I've made of theirs and switch it up to fit my needs based on the season or my preferences. Where do you find your inspiration for recipes?

This strawberry and avocado salad is so delicious and always makes me feel like I've accomplished great things. It's healthy, super filling, and so easy to whip up. When I make it for friends, they rave about how pretty it looks and how yummy it tastes. Should I dare tell them how easy it is to make? Well, I'll share my secret with you: Grab a bowl. Throw in your favorite spinach/kale mix. Add halved strawberries and slices of avocado. Top with poppy seed dressing and chopped bacon. There ya go!

My easy summer guacamole is my all time favorite food ever. This recipe is adapted from The Pioneer woman, except I made it super quick to throw together, and you still find amazing taste! I could eat it every day for lunch with a side of carrots or whole grain tortilla chips. Yum town.

Ree Drummond's summer stir-fry is such a great meal. I've made it just for me and Lamar for dinner, and I've also made it as a side to pork roast. It's incredibly fresh and you can add whichever veggies and meat you have on hand. Just don't leave out the corn and squash--they are too good. Good news: it only takes about 15 minutes from first chop to first bite to make! Win!

My creamy basil pesto dip is the least healthy item on this menu, but I had to include it because it's not too bad for you (besides the sour cream and cream cheese) and it's oh, so good. It has such a great creaminess to it and the basil pesto makes for such a great flavor. I pair this dip with veggies and crackers and serve it when friends come over. It's so quick to whip up! Here's the recipe.


What are your favorite summer recipes? I'd love to hear!



Monday, July 14, 2014

Break From the Busyness



Happy Monday! I am trying to approach this day with a happy heart but can we all just take a moment and talk about how fast weekends fly by? My weekend was excellent though. It was really slow paced which was just what I have been needing after six weeks of go-go-go with lots of travel, holidays, and commitments.

Saturday I got to wake up nice and slowly and sip coffee in bed while I read, and I am pretty sure it was after noon when I finally decided to get up and do something productive. I made up for it by cleaning the house (with Ronnie's help) and then I cleaned out my pantry which was straight terrifying. Sunday I served in the baby room at church like usual, and did grocery shopping, got a good workout in and my mom fed me dinner which is always a nice treat. The entire weekend felt so very grown up. Gone are the days of college weekends, my friends. Long live.

Today I am linking up with Juliette who is hosting this clever Blog Every Day in July link-up. I'm truly grateful for the long list of posts ideas because I am sure you are about ready to click that little red X in the corner after my detailed run-down of my boring weekend. So, I'm finishing a few sentences today. Enjoy!

When I open the fridge freezer I always hope I find...Tillamook Ice Cream 

 My favorite article of clothing is...A hideous yellow Turkey Day 10K Race t-shirt I got last year when I ran the a race on Thanksgiving. It is the softest shirt I’ve ever worn made out of some magical cotton that feels like I am laying in a cloud of happiness and I never want to take it off. It looks especially good on me when I pair it with my red and white HO-HO-HO Christmas pjs. I'd show you a picture but I think that could come back to haunt me someday if I post that on the interwebz.

 Last week I was really pissed when...Ronnie wouldn’t wear the cow-costume printable ears, tail, nose and spots I printed for Free Chick-Fil-A day. I would definitely dress up like a cow for free Chick-Fil-A, in fact, there’s not much I WOULDN’T do for free chick fila but he was being a poor sport. 

One thing nobody understands about me is...that sometimes I just need to come home from work and immediately lay in my bed and eat cookie butter straight from the jar and watch Greys reruns . 

 One thing I don't understand is...why we don’t get summer, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Spring breaks in the real world. 

 The world would be a better place if... women got one day off a work per month, no questions asked for that time of the month. 

 If I had a million dollars I'd…Buy a house with a HUGE bathtub. And a pool. I'd also take many vacations because traveling makes my heart happy.

If could change one thing about myself, it would be...To be more easy breezey, spontaneous, and less of a crazy type A control freak. 

Something that can always make me happy is...Coffee.

 Something I'll never blog about is...people I am upset with. Unless I do it in code and in a passive aggressive, vague way. 

 If I could go anywhere I would go... somewhere with a beach and zero responsibilities. Being an adult is hard.

If I were an animal I would be a....cat because they have the best lives and they make their own rules. In fact, my cat has picked up the habit of rubbing nicely against my legs as I make my coffee and then out of nowhere, biting my leg. He does what he wants and he makes no apologies.

A job I've always wanted is… a stay at home mom with no kids and no house work. 

My idea of a perfect day is...sleeping in and waking up slowly, preferably I’d be woken up with by husband with a cup of coffee and breakfast (BACON) in bed, and then I’d spend my morning reading a good book on my kindle or watching Scandal (because in a perfect world, it would never take MONTH LONG BREAKS). Then I suppose I’d like to do something fun like go to a cute coffee shop or lunch on a patio with a fruity drink and basically, have zero responsibilities or commitments. Going to an outdoor country concert would be on my list of perfect activities as well. I’d also like to end this day with eating ice cream in bed while watching more Scandal, but Chicago PD or Chicago Fire would also do.



Allieology

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tips to Save Money





I've mentioned here recently that my husband is starting college this fall, and we've made a commitment to stay debt free and pay for his school without student loans. We pay tuition monthly, and that payment is almost as big as our house payment. The payment felt impossible when we first realized how much it would be, but for the past three months, we've made it somehow without dipping into savings or living off credit cards. 

I do not take the credit for this because God has blessed us rich with good jobs and extra income through this blog, but we have learned a lot about how to stretch our budget, cut back when it feels like we don't have any wiggle room, and still live generously. Here are a few things that have helped us save money and manage to pay for college without student loans.

Step One: Analyze Your Bank Account 

The first thing we did was printed out our bank history and anaylzed it with a fine tooth comb. Actually we analyzed it with five different color highlighters. I went through and highlighted things in different categories like eating out, groceries, gas, etc. I highly recommend this as a first step. Before I did this, I was SURE we had no where in our budget we could cut back, but then when I actually went through it and analyzed every transaction and added up each category, I realized that we were spending money more frivolously than I imagined.

Step Two: Make ONE trip to the grocery store per week max

The first thing I noticed when I did this is that the amount we spent on groceries was insanely high. I typically go to the store for a "big" grocery trip once a week, but what was killing us was the random trips we made to the store to pick up "a few things." You know what I mean-when you need one ingredient for dinner like cheese but then you walk out with wine, apples, ice-cream and cheese-its? That was our life and if we did that 2-3 times a week that was an extra 50-60 dollar a week we were spending! We decided to make a rule of only going to the grocery store ONCE a week and to do this, we had to be faithful about our next step-meal planning.

Step Three: Meal Plan

To avoid 100 trips to the grocery store, we got back into regular and faithful meal planning. We were kind of doing this all along, but weren't always doing it well. To save money, not only is it important to plan your meals, but also write down every ingredient you need for the meals so you can get it in your weekly trip. A lot of people say try going meatless for a few meals, but honestly, we love meat so much we haven't done this. What we have done is plan meals that can be used for lunches the next day and feed us more than one time.

Step Four: Eat At Home and set a Eating Out Budget
When we analyzed our budget, we realized that we were eating out more than we thought. It was the five and six dollar lunches here and there that were really adding up, not big elaborate meals out so much. When we both forgot to pack a lunch 2-3 times  a week and then ended up grabbing something at a restaurant nearby, it was 12-20 a day, and could be up to 60-70 a week! Since tightening our budget, we've both been bringing our leftovers and packing lunch every day and its helped a lot.

Step Five: Give Yourself (And Your Spouse) An Allowance
For some reason, we resisted this idea for a long time, but we decided to give it a try and its been really helping us a lot. We each get a certain amount per week of "fun money" for us to spend on whatever we want, no questions asked. Right now, that amount is fairly small, but it allows us room to grab coffee a few times a week, go out to eat with friends, or download books for our kindle. Doing this has caused us both to be much more conscious of the things we spend our money on because once that amount is gone, its gone for the week. 

Step Six: Use Cash
This tip can be really inconvenient, but it helps us stay on track with the budgets we set for groceries, fun money, gas, etc. It can be a pain to go to the bank but theres something psychological that just hurts when you see your cash supply dwindling. I dont get that feeling when I swipe  my card so using cash definitely helps.

Step Seven: Use Coupons
I am not an expert couponer by any means, but my mom is really good at it and she has been teaching  me just how much money coupons can save. We went to the grocery store last week and saved over $22.00 in one store, and I don't consider her an "extreme couponer." We just look in the paper and online for coupons for things we buy often, and we shop the stores where things are on sale. Sometimes this means we go to two stores in one day, but it saves a lot of money. Things that personal hygiene products, paper towels, laundry detergent, and meat are things that we are always looking for coupons/sales on because it saves so much.

Step Eight: Use Netflix/Hulu versus cable.
We save over 25 a month by paying for both Netflix and Hulu + instead of cable. Almost every show we watch is on one of those two services, and it makes it really easy for me to binge watch shows that I take up an unhealthy obsession with. Win-Win in my book! Sure its annoying sometimes to not get to watch a TV show the night it goes live, but most of our shows are either available on the  free channels with an antenna or we can just wait til the next day when they show up on Hulu.

Step Nine: Tithe First
As Christians, we believe that everything we've been given to us has been given to us by God. We are thankful for the jobs he's blessed us with that pay the bills and allow us to live comfortably. Sometimes it doesn't feel "comfortable" when we have to make a sacrifice and choose to spend our money wisely, but in comparison to the rest of the world and even here in the US, we know we don't have it bad. Sometimes it feels hard and my flesh thinks sacrificing eating out or buying a fancy coffee every day is the worst, but I know that we have been richly blessed. Because of this, the first thing we do when we get paid is send our tithe automatically. No matter how tight money is for us, our tithe is the first thing that gets paid and God has completely blessed us and taken care of us. We've never gone hungry, we've never had our heat shut off, we've never been homeless. He's always taken care of us and we know He will continue to do so.

What are your money saving tips? Keep in mind-this is just what is working for our family right now. Each situate is different, and I am not a financial expert, I just wanted to share what has helped us but am not saying that this is how you should manage your own finances. I'd love to hear any suggestions though as we look for more ways to live frugally!


Sponsor Spotlight: Libby from Health, Love & Fire


Recently I was introduced to this gorgeous lady's blog, and think you all should be introduced to her too. Her name is Libby and she is the wife of a fire fighter who is much better at crafty things than I am! Libby and her husband are currently working on building a house which anyone who's built a bought a home knows that it is not all fun and games! I really admire Libby for her honest voice and real life stories she shares on her blog, such as her adoption story. I love her home projects, such as this bedroom makeover. She makes projects such as a DIY headboard look easy enough for even me to do it which lets me honest, mine wouldn't look that good. One of my best friends just recently had twins, so when I saw the gender reveal party Libby through for her friend having twins herself, I fell in love! Libby is a sweet hearted soul with a down to earth, real life blog you definitely will want to check out!