December Goals

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Because of the holiday, I decided to share my December Goals a smidge early! Hope that's okay, friends!

December Goals? What? I truly think that this year has gone faster than any other. Wow, oh wow! I would say that I'm ready for the fresh start of 2014.. but I truly believe I got that this fall. I've always felt like the new school year defines a clean slate more than January. However, I am excited for the challenge on reflecting on the past year and refining my routines and goals. I'm a goal-a-holic.

First, let's look at last months goals, shared here.

November Goals:
  • Host a Thanksgiving celebration for friends 
  • Host a Thanksgiving celebration for my mom, brother, and his girlfriend Tomorrow, tomorrow! I'll love ya, tomorrow! You're onlllllyyyy a day awwwwayyyyyy! 
  • Finish my homemade Christmas gift for Ben's Granny's side of the family  wrapped and ready to go under the tree that we'll put up the day after Thanksgiving! I can't wait to share a photo! 
  • Freak out when I read my preordered V6 of Southern Weddings, this publication serves as a coffee table book around these parts  YES! When I added this goal, I wasn't 100% sure my little snippet would be included in the publication. What a humbling and joyful experience, as I shared here
  • Put our Christmas tree and other decorations up the day after Thanksgiving This hasn't happened yet but I'm 100% certain it will. Honestly, I'm surprised that I've lasted this long. 
  • Wrap all of our Christmas gifts as soon as Christmas gift wrap pops up at Target  This was seriously one of the most productive and satisfying things of the month! Although let me tell you to prepare yourself before you enter the Target Christmas area. It's basically a dark alley of temptation for a lady with envelopes in hand. 
  • Celebrate the end of football season! Ben's schedule is going from before and after school practice and three nights a week of games to one night a week of games and only before school practice. Thank you, Lord!   We gained over 20 hours a week back! WAHOO! 
  • Address and Stamp all of our Christmas cards  Can't wait to mail these little babies! I also plan to post a Christmas Newsletter here on the blog, for all of the card receivers who find their way to the blog. Eco- friendly!! Save the trees! ;)

December Goals:
  • Celebrate our first Christmas as a married couple
  • Mail out our Christmas cards
  • Fill Ben's stocking to the brim with goodies :)
  • Put Matilda in her Christmas collar 
  • Host an overnight guest during the first bit of the month 
  • Soak up the joy of the Christmas season through lots of festive outings!!
  • Work through Lara Casey's Goal Setting series in preparation for 2014
Part One

I totally support and encourage checking out those links.. I worked through them last year and it was really beneficial to me. I also included the links just so that I have them in one place. :) 

What do y'all have planned for December? The last month of 2013! WHAT!?! I saw a tweet that said "In one month it will have been 7 years since 2007" and it BLEW MY MIND! It's obvious math but for some reason that way of phrasing just freaked me out. Seven more years from now I'll be 30 and hopefully have approximately 6 kids. Just kidding, Benjamin Luke!!! Kind of!!!! ;)

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I cannot even say how thankful I am for you lovely people! I am so humbled to have hit 100 followers on Google Friend Connect this week. This is something that has felt so out of reach for a long time and I'm so excited and thankful for your support! As I mentioned on Facebook, I want to celebrate with a giveaway! It will be posted on Monday! :) Go enjoy the holiday with your family and friends! If you're local, and need a place to go.. please don't hesitate to reach out to me. We'd love to have you and want no one to celebrate alone! XO 

A Thanksgiving Update

Monday, November 25, 2013

Last night was the first of several festivities we'll be hosting during the busy and fun week of Thanksgiving. Apparently Friendsgiving is a worldwide accepted thing that everyone does.. but for good reason. I have lots of fun photos and details to share about hosting, but something is wrong with my SD card reader and my computer won't get photos. :( We have a doctor's appointment for the computer at the Apple store... so stay tuned.

I will say, that even the process of setting the table for this event brought me such joy. It was so fun for our wedding china to be used for the first time, and to snip a few branches off a tree. I had a sweet moment when I realized that each piece on the table had been given to us by someone different, at our wedding. It was such a collaborative effort to pull our first holiday together, starting from the table we sat around. That made my heart full.

I am thankful to say that my first ever turkey was a success, and everyone left full and happy! I did forget to snap a photo (HOW?! I don't know.) of the bird before the boys dug into carving, but we'll just take one on Thursday and pretend. :)

It will probably be quiet around here this week... Ben is off work all week (teacher perks!) and I'll be soaking up as much quality time with him as possible, as well as prepping for some other fun things going on this week.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving. Whatever your circumstances are this year, I pray that you'll be filled with a thankful heart.

Is anyone else hosting this year? Any last minute tips for me? :) What about a friends giving? I love it!

Thankful for you all and the encouragement you bring! Also, bring on Christmas decor!

The Many Faces of Matilda

Friday, November 22, 2013

First, thank you for all the positive feedback I've gotten this week. You people make my heart full! Now, for something fun....

I have recently realized that I don't mention our little pup as much as I would think I would. Matilda is our English Bulldog, and she's weaseled her little way into our hearts. As I type this, she's sitting next to me on her bed, snoozing and snoring. Love her. I'm not a dog person at all, so I never thought I would love her like I do. She's our precious little dumpling and I can't get enough of her. So naturally, I thought I'd compile a post with lots of photos of her. Obviously that's really necessary. This can also be considered a preview of how crazy I will be with photos when we have a child.

All images courtesy of Zac and Kaitlin Photography. Taken in a two hour time span. This truly shows how crazy our little pup is!

A Story

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In the past few months, I've fallen into a rhythm of posting here on my blog. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, I read over everything one more time, submit, and shared. Then during the next few hours I approve and respond to comments as my schedule allows.

When I started blogging, I knew that one day I would recieve some kind of pushback. A side affect of sharing your life with others is negativity. This is a silly example, but anytime I look at a celebrity instagram account, or even a blogger with a crazy large following.. the most recent comments are always some kind of a fight between people saying something mean and someone else defending. I knew that at some point I would get my mean comment. I had anticipated it for awhile, prepping myself. Well, I didn't prep too well. On Friday I received a comment that crushed my heart. It can only be described as an anonymous attack on... well, me. I could divulge details but I won't. There's no purpose. My Friday was clouded with tears and hurt from this experience. I will say though, that I'm thankful for all of my readers that encourage and support me every week.

On Monday, I had no post written. I had no ideas for one. For the first time in months, I felt like I had nothing worthy of sharing with the world. I felt foolish and ashamed of myself. I had let this anonymous person let me fear that the things I say would be twisted and manipulated. I stayed silent.

Today, I've decided that fearing judgement from this one mean person and letting them overshadow positive feedback and opportunities is not happening. I also decided that the opposite of shrinking back is vulnerability. So I'm going to share something that makes me nervous to share with real life people. Even as I start to type there is a little girl in me that fears certain eyes finding there way here and laughing at me. Just keep swimming.

For as long as I can remember, fitness has been intimidating to me. I've never been naturally athletic and certainly not sporty. That, combined with childhood junk food snacks (thumbs down!) and the natural insecurities of a girl... created a monster. I remember dreading any sort of running or physical test at school. I built exercise up to be something it's not. I made it scary, and something that only "certain people" could do. In high school, I used to go on long walks when I felt a little prickle of desire for activity, because I was still just ashamed and intimidated by not being a "sporty girl".

Then I married the most athletic man alive. Haha! But really. The man can physically not sit still for more than a small period of time. If I agreed to some sort of hiking oriented vacation he might marry me all over again. Just kidding. :) Ben never had an expectation for me to be athletic, but after we got married, it was natural for him to want me to join him for workouts so every once in awhile I would go and pedal slowly on the bike while reading a book on my phone. Thinking back I feel so silly for the mental block that I felt.. but I share hoping that others can relate!

In August, I had an "ah-ha" moment and decided that I wanted to make personal fitness a part of my life, a part of my normal routine. I wrote this post for Nicole at the beginning of the month, about my ideal day. Its crazy to me how just a few weeks later God had transformed my heart and attitude and added something major into my life. I made a commitment to go to the gym three times a week, with or without Ben, and to try new things. I think he might have gone with me once since then. (Thanks, football season!) I remember even just a few weeks after this commitment, I felt transformed and refined. I was sweating from activity for the first time in years and slowly learning to coach myself through temptation to quit. I wanted to, and had to learn discipline in that area. There were days I didn't want to go.. sure. But I did. For some, three times a week is nothing. But for me, it was a major lifestyle change. I always leave the gym feeling better than when I got there, refreshed. Remember when Elle Woods from Legally Blonde said that "exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy and happy people just don't kill their husbands"? It's true. I have learned so much from this, and would love to answer questions if you have them, although I'm no expert, and won't ever be. I do know, that three months later, workouts will always be a part of my weekly routine. It's a nonnegotiable for me to stay healthy and active. I want to equip my body to serve my family and advance the kingdom of God.

If this is something you've ever struggled with, let me encourage you that the first step is just getting yourself out there. I never in a million years thought that I would be at the gym at 6:15 am some mornings. Never. But I love it, and the discipline has refined me in so many ways.

Thank you to all who read and stick with me. I'm constantly thankful for your support and positive feedback.

Six Things that have Made the Difference in my First Year of Homemaking

Friday, November 15, 2013

Photo of our front porch by Zac & Kaitlin Photography
1. Meal Planning:

There are people all over the web posting about meal planning. I know it's nothing new.. but for me, planning all of our meals for the week ahead has simplified our lives. Before we got married, I had literally never cooked. But here's the thing, y'all. I love everything about homemaking. So I had to rise to the challenge, and teach myself to cook. You may not get something crazy gourmet at our house, but it is my hope and prayer that you will always leave our house full and happy in more ways than one. I only plan every week, and on Mondays, I hit the grocery store for everything needed for the upcoming week. This allows us to eat fresh foods and not need to worry too much about things going bad in the week ahead. After getting meals for the week on the schedule, I stopped forgetting to defrost chicken or to turn on the crock pot at the right time... it was all right there in my planner. I love it!

 If y'all are interested in more details about how I meal plan, I'm willing to share, so let me know in the comments! I feel like there is tons of information on this all over the place, so I didn't want to be repetitive unless y'all really wanted my input! :)

2. My Swiffer Vac:

Suggested to me by a friend, my Swiffer Vac has cut down a ton of time on my cleaning routine, as well as made it a lot less painful. You see, the majority of our home has hardwood flooring. Our living room and office have carpet, but that's all. For the first six months or so of us living here, I felt like I was CONSTANTLY sweeping. Constantly trying not to step in or mess up little piles and just being over it and not wanting to sweet. For a girl who generally enjoys cleaning, this wasn't cutting it for me. The beauty of the swifter vac is that it vacuums as you swiffer (you're welcome for breaking that down for you!) As you move your little pad around the floor, dust, hair (yep!), dirt, etc is picked up, and other things get sucked up in the vacuum. It is so easy and leaves the floor a whole lot cleaner than just sweeping... it just does a more thorough job. If you have hardwoods, I wish I could mail every single one of you a Swiffer Vac. Really. It's worth the $35. It's been a total attitude game changer for me.

Ps. No one at Swiffer knows  I wrote this... but I wish they would because then they'd send me Swiffers to give away and I'd feel like Oprah!

3. Learning from Older Women

Just yesterday I joined my mother in law in her kitchen to get a lesson on pie crust. I even made a test pie for Thanksgiving. I will openly say that the pecan pie would have been flawless, except I somehow totally forgot the butter. It turned out tasting wonderful anyway, and was probably a little bit healthier! Yippeee! I love learning recipes and entertaining tips and cleaning habits from older women around me. This Monday is the last week of Apples of Gold, a six week mentoring program I've been participating in through our church. Each week is a lesson on a characteristic (Purity, Loving your husband, Hospitality, Humility, etc.) and then a brief cooking lesson on what meal is being served.. then we eat together and discuss the lesson. It's been such a blessing and I've learned a lot. I encourage everyone to seek out women around them and to ask for cooking lessons, and really lessons of all types! I am certain it blesses them as much as it will you!

4. Trying New Recipes

I just started trying anything that I wanted to, and it has been a huge success. I can't recall a single time that I've made something we've hated.. but when it does happen one day... there is a Subway down the road, we have plenty of cereal.... no love lost. :) My favorite places to pull from are The Pioneer Woman, Crockin Girls, and Skinnytaste.

5. Fifteen Minute Power Cleans

What is that? Let me tell ya! I know that when everything isn't in it's place, I feel a little bit chaotic. Something I've implemented recently that has really helped, is taking 15 minutes within the hour before Ben gets home from work, and just rushing around the house putting things in their place or wiping off counters. Sometimes it's just organizing my things on the desk. But this has made me feel so much better about the state of things and I hope he's liked it too!

6. Always Be Willing To Host

I've learned so much about homemaking simply through volunteering to host things at our home. We've hosted so many dinners, a large scale couples shower... and in the next month we'll host two Thanksgiving dinners and a party. This has been an opportunity for me to grow creatively, plus I just love having others in the place that we love so much! It doesn't matter if you're eating pizza on paper plates, having people in our home is a blessing to so many.

What helps you keep your home moving along nicely? What great homemaking advice has been passed on to you? Anyone want to come over for dinner? :)

Dining Room Paint Reveal

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Last week, I painted our dining room. It was quite the ordeal.

When we picked paint colors, I knew I wanted to use turquoise somewhere. My young, inexperienced self thought turquoise would look excellente with the dining rooms soon to be white beadboard. Which, it did. But I guess I forgot I wasn't decorating a bachelorette pad. Seriously... it would be so cute to do a room in this color.. but after almost a year of living with it, I realized that this color didn't fit in the home I was making for us.

Let's start at the beginning... when we toured our house for the first time after knowing it would be ours, it looked like this:

Green. Eeeeeeh. It was even more pukey looking in person. Sorry for that graphic.

Let me just say... bright white trim changes everything. And floors. And Chlorox cleaning products. This was a HUGE improvement.. but it just wasn't us yet. I struggled with this room for a year, and it was by far my least favorite in the house, especially after I painted our bedroom.

Inspired by the beautiful, dark gray I observed everywhere during my trip to the Magnolia Fall Show, I knew what direction I wanted to go in. I searched Joanna's Instagram for paint color sources and my eyes fell on.... Intellectual gray. Insert heart eyes emoji here. I loooooved the brownish undertones. As I painted, it almost looked dirty. LOVE.

TA- DA!!!!

I love it with all of my heart! In the photo, the neutral from the kitchen is kind of poking through and looking really pink... but it's not. Promise. :) If our kitchen counters weren't bright yellow, I'd paint the whole thing gray. Sigh. One day. :)

This room has a LONG way to go styling wise, and in a short time, probably! I have some ideas brewing... But I will say that yesterday Ben said "the table and the hutch are the only two pieces of furniture in our home that don't look luxurious"... This tells us two things... One: all the people who have given us hand me down furniture are as fancy as they are generous Two: If the hubby notices the room needs work... it NEEDS WORK. With three celebrations going down at our house during the rest of the month, I gotta hit the ground running. A week from Sunday is the first one.

This just became like the Hunger Games. Kind of. CAN I DO IT IN TIME?!?!?!

What do y'all think? Not about me finishing, but about the color! :)


Last night Ben and I ate our first meal together sitting at our kitchen table since SUMMER. Thank ya, football season. I made this, and Ben literally forced us to eat it the second he got home because it smelled so good. I guess that means it was a success? :)

60. Have Ben’s Meme write out her famous “Magic Cookie” recipe for me to frame

Monday, November 11, 2013

One thing I really wanted to put on my 101 in 1001 goals list, was having Ben's Meme write out her signature cookie recipe. I specifically chose her, because I had a professional photograph of her cookies that she made for our wedding reception.

After finally getting on the ball, I'm super inspired to have more relatives do this. I mean really, look how cute in the photo above! I just used a frame that held two, side by side 5 by 7 photos. This frame is currently sitting on our kitchen counter (howdy yellow countertops!) but I am potentially going to move it over to the dining area for a small gallery. Oh yeah.. If you follow me on Instagram you know that there is a dining room makeover in the works! I had really been struggling in that room with our turquoise walls.. I finally just decided they were more "bachelorette pad-ish" and painted those babies gray. I'll share a look at the color later this week! :)

Now, I'd love to see y'all run with this idea and get some relatives to write down their signature recipes. I know that one day we are going to cherish having that handwriting on our walls. I hope it was an encouragement to Meme that we wanted to showcase her recipe in our home. Something that I have learned in my almost one year of having intercontinental grandparents, is that your encouragement means so so much to them. This idea could also be used as a Christmas gift... get creative with it, friends!

What are some of your family's signature recipes? I'd love to hear! Or even, have y'all share them in the comments! Thanks in advance! :)

Note: Image courtesy of Zac and Kaitlin Photography 

Southern Weddings Feature

Friday, November 8, 2013

Last night, I posted this photo on Instagram, and got bombarded with encouragement.

Two years ago, I found the blog of a magazine called Southern Weddings. Although I didn't have a ring on my finger, nor did I expect one soon, I fell in love with the site. I was drawn to the infusion of the South into everything posted, and even though I didn't really care about weddings at that point, I read page after page. I was drawn to how stinking COOL all of the ladies of SW were. I, like millions of other women, felt like I could be their best friends. I then put a pause on reading the site, because I felt very strongly about guarding my heart. Meaning, I wasn't going to think about weddings until I was having one. I really do believe that living present in the season you're in is so important.

On June 1, 2012... Benjamin Luke surprised me by asking me to be his wifey. After I said "yes, yes, yes!!" Two things happened. I emailed my dream wedding photographer and ordered a copy of Southern Weddings magazine. I didn't think a publication could be that beautiful. Every page was packed full of beauty and meaning and love. Even the advertisements carried the overall aesthetic of the magazine. I gathered so much inspiration from their pages and their blog.

Then, I decided to take a leap and attend Making Things Happen, founded by Lara Casey, the editor of Southern Weddings. Several of the ladies were there, and although I expected to be starstruck, God had some major revelations that needed to take place during my time there, so I just got to know people and again, saw that this brand and these people were just as lovely as I had thought. During and after the conference, I loved being encouraged and pushed towards greatness by Kristin, and developing a kindred spirit blog friendship with Emily. I can't help but mention that being in Lara's small group kicked my hiney, and made me realize that I was letting a bunch of toxic things control my life.

A few months ago, I got an email about contributing to a feature on marriage advice, including little snippets from people who have been married all different amounts of time. I poured my heart into my little paragraph, and tried not to assume it would for sure make it in the feature. Yesterday, my friend Meredith texted me a photo of my name in print.. she had found a copy of V6!

Every Thursday, Ben and I go on a date. So last night's date night involved a planned search to find an issue of V6 even though we already had one coming in the mail. :) Our search was short and strategic when we found it on our first stop. I was so overwhelmed with joy in that moment. One, I was so amazed at the beautiful, authentic publication that these incredible ladies had put together once again. Two, little old me had somehow weaseled my way in!!!

To some, I have three sentences among hundreds. To me, it is a true honor and excitement to be included among so many women that I look up to. The feature is filled with people who's blogs I read or who's work I admire. When else, ever again, am I going to see my name in print like that? It's something to celebrate!

Our first year of marriage has been filled with so many outside obstacles. In whole, it's been a difficult year for me. There have been a lot of hard and bold decisions that I believe will have changed my life for the better. This feature represented so much encouragement and joy and hope and just screamed at me "YOU CAN DO IT!"

... and you can! Whatever your sights are set on today- put something into action. You got this. :)

Ps. I'm on page 282. :)

24. Make a Watercolor Painting

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Since I have made my 101 in 1001 list (if you aren't familiar with it, check it out!) the thing that has surprised me the post is what a collaborative project my list of goals has become. So many different friends have volunteered to help with different things. I was blown away when I got a sweet note in the mail from Mandy, of Mandy Cave Watercolor.  Mandy wanted to help me cross something off my list, and teach me some watercolor basics so I could paint something. YAY! I was blown away. For those of you not familiar with Mandy's work, go check it out. You'll fall in love. Also, you may or may not see some of her work pop up on here sometime in the new year for a little surprise of some sort. ;)

We met on a rainy afternoon that was perfect for good company. Here's the deal, y'all. Watercolor painting is no joke. I have always loved Mandy's work, but after realizing how hard it was to start trying to communicate what was in my mind onto paper, I love and respect her work in a totally different way. As Mandy started to teach me basic techniques, I realized how intense an art degree is. I also realized that, since college, I miss learning things. I miss learning things that are interesting and helpful and fun. I've tucked that thought away for days to come, but I enjoyed being sharpened by the process of not knowing what I was doing, and learning baby steps.

After learning some basics, we decided to try something simple. Mandy knew that I love Rifle Paper Company, and since this little baby was just going to be sitting in my house, we decided it was okay to use this as our inspiration.

After lots of lessons and help mixing colors, we ended up with this..

YAY! I felt so accomplished. I know that sounds silly, but I really did! I created something that vaguely looked like what it was supposed to! Thank you, Mandy!

Does anyone else have any art experience as of late? Who else wants to help me cross something off my list? :)

One Year of our Home

Monday, November 4, 2013

This Saturday, November 2, 2013, marked one year since we signed papers and purchased our home. Y'all, I was all over the place with emotions on that day. We had just mailed our wedding invitations a few days before, I was finishing my last semester of  classes at Texas A&M before student teaching, and we were about to race against the one month clock of remodeling before I could move in for the few weeks before our wedding. I think now, my response to a fixer upper would be totally different, but last year, I was ridden with anxiety about how we would turn this place into a nurturing home. 

This little fella became the place that lets us breathe easy. In the one year since we moved in, we went from four pieces of furniture to a full home. We are blessed to say that the majority of our furniture was given to us by friends and family. And then there was our "once in a lifetime" craigslist find. We built a fence. We've served countless meals to each other and to friends, hosted a handful of overnight guests, let children play, shared the hope of the gospel with new friends while sitting on the front porch, hosted a couple's shower, and arrived home from our honeymoon. Although it will be awhile, the thought of us moving out of this place can already make me cry on the spot. I love the day that I knocked down that sick nasty lamp post and the day(s) that Ben scraped up all of the gravel and pulled up the big bushes. I love our yellow front door. 

I love you, house! 

November Goals

Friday, November 1, 2013

Y'all. November? You must be kidding me! I can't even begin to comprehend that in just a blink we'll be celebrating the new year. Ben and I will have been married for A YEAR. So much has changed, and I'm so thankful. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Reading this blog post yesterday REALLY got me excited to evaluate the year and do some goal setting for 2014. Yippee! October kicked off my favorite time of year, the anticipation of the glorious holidays. I'll be soaking in every single second of the rest of 2013! 

Let's take a look at last month! :) 

  • Find something for above our fireplace 
  • Clean out the guest room 
  • Read a book for fun
  • Attend the Magnolia Fall Home Show in Waco, Texas Read about it here!
  • Visit College Station, Texas for a Kappa Alpha Theta event Read about it here!
  • Finish my "homemade Christmas" secret santa gift for Ben's Granny's side of the family
I also checked a few things off my 101 in 1001 list, so check that out here!

Opening our home for Disciple Now 2013!

November Goals:
  • Host a Thanksgiving celebration for friends 
  • Host a Thanksgiving celebration for my mom, brother, and his girlfriend
Pause. Yes, you read that right. We'll be hosting TWO Thanksgivings. Our first year of marriage. AKA: I love entertaining and my dreams are basically coming true. The friends Thanksgiving will be a collaborative effort on the cooking, but for the evening of Thanksgiving day, I'm on my own. That week is going to be FILLED with cooking and fall scents and I can't wait to share every detail! 
  • Finally stinking make time to read a book for fun, this is now officially a nonnegotiable because this makes me really sad. 
  • Finish my homemade Christmas gift for Ben's Granny's side of the family
  • Freak out when I read my preordered V6 of Southern Weddings, this publication serves as a coffee table book around these parts
  • Put our Christmas tree and other decorations up the day after Thanksgiving 
  • Wrap all of our Christmas gifts as soon as Christmas gift wrap pops up at Target
  • Celebrate the end of football season! Ben's schedule is going from before and after school practice and three nights a week of games to one night a week of games and only before school practice. Thank you, Lord!  
  • Address and Stamp all of our Christmas cards (If you want one, leave us your address here!)

Well, it looks like November is going to be filled to the brim! I'm so excited though! What did y'all accomplish in October? Anything fun coming up in November? Any seasoned Thanksgiving-ers have tips for a newbie like me? :)
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