March Goals

Friday, February 28, 2014

This post can also be known as "Day 28" in the Blog Everyday in February challenge! Yippee!!!! I did it! Sort of. I skipped a few, and rearranged a few. But overall, we're dandy. :) Thank y'all for sticking with me for the million blog posts. Regular programming will be up and running on Monday, and I'll be giving the details for our Coffee Bar Makeover, shared here, with no words, soon. 

I'm just really excited for March. So much got accomplished in February, things that I didn't even list on my goals to begin with. I read A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker,  & Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth. I got a new job. We finished our kitchen renovation. I figured out a few difficult styling spots in our home. I started a cleanse (halfway done! woo!). I've been increasing my load at the gym and trying new things.. and loving it! We saved more money than usual. It was a full and productive month. I think that after January and being sick for so long, I was so ready to hit the ground running and make things happen!

Let's look back! 

Host friends for the Super Bowl
Celebrate turning twenty three!
Have a sweet Valentines Day with the hubby, wearing lots of pink, of course!
Order Blog business cards for Hope Spoken in March (and to cross off 101 in 1001!)
Write 8 handwritten letters (womp womp on this from last month)
Continue our Valentines tradition (more on that soon!)
Make or buy decorative pillows for our bed
Complete and order our 2013 photo book

Okay so clearly handwritten notes are out the window for awhile.. and that's okay. :) I am still trying to figure out what I want for bedroom pillows, and I plan on squeezing in the ordering of some business cards today! 

March Goals
Finish reading Alliegant by Veronica Roth
Start Love Story by Nichole Nordeman
Attend Hope Spoken (eee! I'm scared)
Enjoy Ben being off work for a full week!
Travel to College Station for a basketball game 
Organize our desk junk drawer, and dining room cabinets (a scary land)

Day Twenty Seven: Blogs You Love

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I blogged about this exactly a year ago yesterday. Isn't that hilarious? Okay. Maybe not. But I kind of thought so. A little.  :)  But, as with everything else, things change. All of the blogs on that list I still read, but there are others that have been added, or some of those aren't updated anymore or often. Let's get a refresh.

Now that I've been blogging regularly for about half a year (WHAT WHAT HEY!) the blogs that I read go into two categories. Blogs that I read because I like their content or have grown attached after several years of reading, and blogs of friends I've made through blogging. :)

Honestly, I read more blogs than this, but these are just my top, read every post blogs. There are many other blogs of blogging friends that I read, but I kept it to these three, that I communicate with outside of blogging or social media, simply because my list was longer than I thought. I don't want to overwhelm y'all with blogs. :) So if you're like "UGH! I thought I was her blog friend! You are. I read your blog. :)

Blogs I Read:

Young House Love (will forever be my favorite- first blog I ever read!)

The Magnolia Mom (so much inspiration and decor! you NEED to be following her on instagram. NOW!)

Bower Power 

Gal Meets Glam (style and beauty inspiration for someone who needs it... ahem, me!)

Under the Sycamore

Elm Street Life

Michaela Noelle Designs

Nancy Ray Photography (so much great inspiration can be found on this blog!)

The Lipstick Gospel (if you are a girl, you need to be reading this. okay yes.)

Blogging Friends:

There are many other blogs of blogging friends that I read, but I kept it to these three, that I communicate with outside of blogging or social media, simply because my list above was longer than I thought. I don't want to overwhelm y'all with blogs. :) So if you're like "UGH! I thought I was her blog friend! You are. I read your blog. :)

Nicole @ Bloom 

Jamie @ Life with the Leakeys (formerly Southern Simplicity)

Bailey @ Anchored in Love Divine 

Day Twenty Six: A Favorite Recipe // My Favorite Tacos

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lately, we've been working really hard on eating healthier, and more than anything just being a bit more educated about what we put in our bodies. This is a process and a balance, but let's be honest... Spinkles cupcakes will always trump any other thing. :)

One recipe that I recently came across is from A Beautiful Mess, for a vegetarian taco bell dupe.

What I will share with you today is a simple way that we've been eating tacos, inspired by the recipe above.

Note: the biggest thing that I got from this recipe is inspiration to look at the selection of refried beans at the store and find REFRIED BLACK BEANS. Maybe it's weird, but I could eat them all day. 

Victoria's Favorite Tacos


Shredded Lettuce
Whole Wheat Tortillas (I love getting warm, fresh ones from Kroger!) 
Refried Black Beans 
Lean, Ground turkey 
Mrs. Dash All Natural Taco Seasoning
One Green Pepper
One Onion
Fresh Cilantro
(Shredded Cheddar Cheese if you want.. but we've mostly eliminated cheese from our diets!) 

1. Brown the ground turkey, chopped onion, and pepper in a large saucepan on the stove. Use as much or as little onion and pepper as you desire. Begin heating your refried black beans in a smaller saucepan, keeping an eye on them. 
2. Drain the excess fat off of the cooked meat, and mix in taco seasoning at a slow pace, determining how much is needed. 
3. On your whole wheat tortilla, spread a base of refried black beans, then add some ground turkey/veggie mix, lettuce, and avocado. Drizzle with fresh cilantro. (You could also add fresh, homemade salsa instead of just cilantro, or also add chopped tomato!) YUM! 

Literally the easiest, most delicious, and relatively healthy meal. I promise you won't eat this and feel like you're deprived of the good eats, eating rabbit food only. :)

Does anyone else have a healthy, yummy recipe to share?

Ps. Update: Louisa has accepted Jack's invitation to prom on May 3rd!! :)

Day Twenty Three: A Message from Jack

Monday, February 24, 2014

I skipped yesterday's post on "the joys of blogging"... but this probably takes the cake for my FAVORITE blogging moment of all time.

These cuties are Jack and Louisa, from South Carolina. 


First, I'm jealous of your gorgeous strawberry blonde curly locks. You are absolutely beautiful! Your sweet boyfriend Jack sent me an email to let me know that you love reading my blog, which fills my heart with so much love and joy. Seriously, I cannot even begin to tell you what an encouragement that is to me. I wish I could come on over to see you, take you to lunch, and give you a big hug. 

But what's more important here.. is that Jack had something to ask you today. He wanted to borrow my blog and ask you....


Will you go to PROM with me? 

- Jack 

I know my opinion may not mean much, sweet friend... but this boy seems like a total keeper. I think you should say yes! ;)

Lots of love and hugs, 


Ps. Don't worry everyone, I've already requested that these two send us a prom photo for me to post for all to see. You're welcome. 

Day Twenty Four: Guest Post

Goodness gracious, I can't tell you how delighted I was when Victoria asked me to guest post for part of the #blogeverydayinFEB challenge! She is such a doll --which I'm sure you know-- and has been a source of encouragement and inspiration since I first stumbled upon Happily Ever Strader. It is so refreshing to find someone passionate about genuinely sharing the ins and outs of newlywed life while inviting everyone in on the journey no matter what their season of life. It confirms my dreams of one day building a home and hosting friends from far and wide (and from this lovely blogosphere) as we walk through our days together. I am a tad bit bitter that A&M stole her from me for a while, but this Baylor gal won't hold too much of a grudge. It seems we were meant to be friends anyway ;) Vic, I'm so blessed to know you and thanks for having me today!

How about an introduction to get things rolling? My name is Bailey Jean and I blog over at Anchored in Love Divine. I am a twenty-something Seattle transplant who originally hails from the Lone Star State. I also bleed green and gold, and my years at Baylor were some of the sweetest I have ever known. I am a Anthropologie addict (...sales gal, too) and children's theatre director by day, a blogger/pinner/instagrammer and dreamer by night. Today I wanted to share with you a little of what I've been loving, living, and learning. Enjoy!

Loving: This, That, and The Other

I recently picked up You're Made for a God-Sized Dream by Holley Gerth and it is spot on! I have some big dreams on my heart (a few of which I hope to share with you soon!) and this has been a refreshing reminder that God delights in our dreams and equips us to pursue them with Him at our sides. I highly recommend it! As far as this dress from Anthropologie, I would live in it if I could. It is super comfy, has adorable elbow patches, and can be paired with literally everything. I am also finally starting Project Life. I am creating my album while also working through the One Little Word workshop and it has given me the crafting bug again :) Lastly, I picked up a copy of Life: Beautiful last month and was pleasantly surprised by the magazine's fresh eye for design and designers, this feature included.

Living: Leaving on a Jet Plane

I have been living out of my suitcase for almost a month. I spent the first week traveling to Alabama for a graduate school interview. Boy was that an ordeal. Travel delays gave me a surprise night in Dallas with my mom, and I caught snow every step along the way. All in all I think the interview went well, and God's hand was all over that trip, sending blessings my way in unusual ways. I spent almost a week in San Diego on vacation with my family (the cutie in the right corner is my bro, and I'm absolutely smitten with those big brown eyes!). We hit Legoland, Sea World, and the happiest place on earth, Disneyland. I'm 100% Disney Princess if you didn't already know that ;) My last stop on this journey was Chicago for another interview. I drove through the middle-of-nowhere-land Illinois and back again before seeing an incredible production of Into the Woods and hanging out with my Baylor Theatre family. I'd call it a successful --although tiring-- series of events!

Learning: Choose Joy & Believe Big

What if I said your life could be radically changed by two words? Two simple words, one realization, could completely alter the trajectory of your life and flip your days upside down. What are those words, you ask? Choose joy. It's that simple. By choosing joy, we choose to believe what the Bible says about God. It says that He is true, just, faithful, and works all things for the good of those who love Him. To choose joy is to declare that He is bigger than our circumstances and our feelings, more powerful than the enemy and his tactics to deter us. If I choose joy I open the door to fully receive His blessings and wisdom. We can't always control what happens in life, but we can control our response. It's our choice. Choosing contentment over jealousy. Choosing trust over anxiety. Choosing joy over apathy. In choosing joy, I am more free to dream the big dreams that He has given me. There are many desires in my heart, dreams for my today, tomorrow, and beyond, but by choosing joy there is room for these big dreams and an opportunity to fully enjoy today. It is no longer one or the other. It's both. There is freedom to dream BIG and believe BIG because my God is bigger than any doubts or dull attempts by the enemy to deter me. Let's choose joy today, shall we?

Thanks again for having me, Victoria! I hope this glimpse into what I'm loving, living, and learning has encouraged you. It was such a joy to share! Find me at Anchored in Love Divine, on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. I love making new friends!

Day Twenty Two: How You Fight Anxiety/Stress

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Image from here.

While working through the Blog Everyday in February challenge, I've been surprised at how many posts have come at the perfect time. Yesterday, I was really putting thought into things that cheer me up.

First, let me say that in my life, I have not been able to find relief from anxiety or stress outside of Christ. That has been my experience, and I'm so thankful for a mighty God that I can glean peace from in times of hectic circumstances. Okay but what does that actually mean? Good! I'm glad you asked. So often we talk of finding peace and rest in Jesus but HOW?!?! For me, a relationship with the Lord is what focuses everything around me and allows that rest to come. On days where I'm stressed, I love to put on some soft worship music and journal prayers. Or read old, familiar passages of scripture that I know will be encouraging. Google "encouraging bible verses". All good things. 

I know that my faith will always be a constant source of encouragement in my life.. but at this stage, what are some activities that relieve my anxiety and fill me with joy? That's exactly what I was thinking about yesterday. I came up with the following things. (Husband, print this out and keep it on your desk so you know what things we should be doing when your wifey is stressed. XO)

1. Working Out

Okay. I know. Eye roll. I never thought I would be this person. But a good amount of the time, sitting around feeds negative feelings, at least for me. Doing cardio and straight up getting a sweat on is great, or doing something that I specifically know will make me sore... Feeling that sense of accomplishment is awesome and always makes me feel like I can take on the world. Or even just getting outside and walking Matilda (aka less than a ten minute walk because bulldogs lack stamina) or something like that... just getting up and active, 9 out of 10 times is going to make me feel better than being a couch potato. 

2. Being a Couch Potato

Let's be honest. Every once in awhile the only rest that's going to sound good is sweatpants, Netfix, and a good snack. I think what's important about this is to not feel any guilt over doing this. I know for some people breaks like this feel like the ultimate lazy.. but it's okay. Everyone needs to curl up and do nothing every once in awhile. Well, I know for sure that I do. (Ps don't even get me started about the joy that is about to come into my life as far as guilty pleasure television goes.... Next week = Grey's Anatomy comes back and TWO episodes of The Bachelor)

3. Getting out of the house and getting a small treat 

Once every few months on a bad day, the Straders take a trip to Sonic Drive in at around 8 pm. My treats of choice are either a vanilla soft serve cone or an Ocean Water (sprite and blue coconut for those of you not around a Sonic). We don't tend to eat fast food or really ever stop for drinks at places, so this little, manageable treat every once in awhile brings a smile to my face. 

4. A long phone call with a friend or talking with someone in person

Even if you talk about the things in your life that are bringing stress, struggling with others is always going to be better than struggling on your own. Always. 

5. Completing an Organizational Project or cleaning 

Again, a feeling of accomplishment can always make me feel like I'm a little more focused. 

What do y'all do to relieve stress? 

 Blog Everyday in February

Day Twenty One: The meaning of HOME

Friday, February 21, 2014

Anticipating this post, I wasn't sure what I was going to write. I have recently posted on the subject. But today, all over again I reflected on the joy of a home that is a place I can rest, a place that I can care for and open up to others.

For some reason, when I opened up a drawer to get some aluminum foil, I was filled with overwhelming gratitude. I may be a little bit crazy, but it made me so happy. I feel so blessed to live in a home that I can organize and fill with things we need for our daily life. Today, I genuinely felt so grateful to have a roll of foil, and to be able to cover a casserole I was making for company later that day. Again, it's so silly. But I love having drawers to fill. I love having a place to prepare for guests. Maybe it's the recent kitchen overhaul, but I'm loving my time in our kitchen.

I truly am so thankful for our home. The room above used to look like this:

It's amazing what some paint and new carpet will do. Seriously.

I love that our home has a story. It's only ever been lived in by one other family. The couple built it when they were young and lived there until they died. We bought it from their grandson. That meant that nothing had been updated for YEARS and YEARS... but it also means we got a story. And an opportunity to make something new and beautiful out of something no one would ever want. There's so much Jesus metaphor in that I can't even handle it.

I would love to hear about your home. What is it that makes where you live a sweet place for you? Any fun stories about where you live? What are some ways you can be thankful for the little things in where you are today? :)

Day Twenty: A Story Without Words // OUR NEW COFFEE BAR

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day Nineteen: Little Known Facts

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

This post made me think of a conversation I recently had with some blogging friends about little things about ourselves that are missed just by reading our blogs. Kinda funny, right?

1. The only boy who's ever broken my heart is my husband.

We broke up for over a year in college, and it was an extremely hard time in both of our lives. But we needed it, and God used it. We allude to what happened in this video, but I'm thinking of sharing our story soon on the blog. Is that something y'all would be interested in reading? :)

2. I don't drink anything but water.

Actually, the exceptions are the occasional hot chocolate, apple juice, sprite when I'm sick, and blue powerade. Those are the only beverages I can even slightly tolerate, and the times I stray from water each year are less than ten. I told Ben the other day that I wish I could experience the joy others feel from stopping to get Starbucks or enjoying a glass of wine. I live vicariously through you, people.

3. I've never used a curling iron.

I just posted about this yesterday on Instagram... but I've only ever curled my hair using my straightener. I just got a curling iron/wand set for my birthday, so this will soon change. Please send any tips my way!

4. I have to drive 30 minutes to several nearest Targets, and 20 to the closest legitimate grocery store. We really do live in a small town, and I've had to get used to everything being 30 minutes or so away. It really doesn't bother me though, it's become a way of life. (Miss you, College Station!)

5. I attended two Universities.

I went to Baylor University my first semester of college, and then finished the rest at Texas A&M. Best decision ever. ;) Really though! (sorry, Bailey!)

6. This summer I'll see my mom's side of my extended family for the first time since I was 16! England problems.

7. Because of our small town, I often time my trips to the gym so that I'll be the only person in there. It takes out the intimidation factor.. plus it is so fun when Ben is with me and we have the whole place to ourselves to talk even when we're on different equipment or sides of the room.

Okay y'all. Sorry for the most boring post ever. You're probably sick of reading stuff just about me all during this month! :) March will bring fun and new things! Thanks for sticking with me.. thankful for y'all! XO

 Blog Everyday in February

Day Fifteen & Sixteen: A BIG CAREER CHANGE!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hi there! I decided to intentionally post my Blog Everyday in February Challenge posts from the weekend today- the post you are about to read is a combination of the posts from Satuday and Sunday!

Image from Lara Casey

Occasionally I get emails asking "what is your job?" or other variations of "why do you never seem to mention your job? how do you instagram your house in the middle of the day?" Today you're getting those answers.

When I graduated college almost a year ago, I had an education degree from Texas A&M in hand, and started the job search. I had some mixed feelings about the journey ahead, but figured that was just part of the big life transition, and moved forward. Over the process of the summer and different, and lots of teary eyed conversations with my husband, we decided that it didn't look like I was going to be teaching that year. So now what? What a loser was I?! I just finished a whole degree focused very specifically on educating elementary age children.. and that wasn't what I was going to do.

I will be honest and say that this was a very difficult time. I felt like a "loser", yet I was confident that the Lord was confirming our decision in my heart constantly. I was certain in what I was doing, yet at that point.. it was nothing.

During a few months of soul searching, Ben and I really got to talk about what our vision is for the future. Ultimately, it is our dream for me to stay at home with our future children. Working moms are rockstars, stay at home moms are rockstars, ALL moms are rockstars. We just felt like this was what we wanted to work towards being able to happen. One thing that Ben kept bringing up is that it didn't seem very purposeful for me to throw myself into education for a few years, and then suddenly go cold turkey for awhile and stay at home. It became our dream to figure out something I could do out of our home, with flexible hours, long term.

So... Surprise! I've been back in school for the majority of last semester. Taking a look at what our vision was, and what my passions are, plus a valuable connection with some people very close to us lead us into the decision about what was going to be next for me. As soon as my license arrives in the mail, I will officially be Real Estate Salesperson for 2 Mac Real Estate Group. Yippeeee!!

I am so excited about the company I am going to be working with, and for the opportunity to help people find a place to call home. There is something really precious to me about that.

My husband has been my number one supporter through this entire process. He never pushed me to figure out immediately what I wanted to do. He was flexible and hopeful, and we have lived more than comfortably on his one salary. Because of our financial journey, the goal is to continue living that way, even with the income I bring in. I am so thankful for the transformation that the Lord did in my heart regarding our finances. It really played a role in this process. I couldn't be where I am today without envelopes. I just couldn't!

I had to truly learn to humble myself in this whole process. Not being able to announce my new job post grad was really hard for me when I watched everyone around me do just that. I was in a season of waiting and learning while my "peers" seemed to be connecting with their dreams. But that is behind me, thanks to lots of prayer and keeping my eyes on the goal ahead. Throughout this whole process, my dreams shifted. I am still confident in the fact that I learned so many applicable skills from my degree at Texas A&M, and that I will use the things I learned about education in varying capacities in my life. I'm so pumped to be using my love for interior styling and homes in general in my day to day work. It will be extra sweet.

Looking to buy or sell property anywhere in the DFW area? Email me. I'm your girl. ;)

Day Seventeen: Five Favorites

1. Fresh Flowers

Thanks to my  23rd birthday and Valentine's Day.. I've been spoiled in the fresh flowers department. I love them so much and want them to stay alive forever. I think my dream life involves fresh flowers everywhere, always.

2. The Darcy Swing Tunic from Anthropologie

Thanks to a gift card from Christmas, this little baby found it's way into my closet. I know a lot of people would probably not support the spending of this gift card on such a simple top... but it has been SO worth it for me. The top feels as if it was made for me, I just love the fit, the fabric, and the stripes. In the first week I had this top, I legitimately wore it three times without any shame or question. I just kept gravitating towards it. I know it will be a piece that stays in my wardrobe for years to come! It's so simple and looks great paired with a great statement necklace. At least I think so. :)

3. Blog Designs

Along with my own blog refresh from last week, I completed three others for Emma Grace (just her buttons), Rachel, and Dora. Today I'll be working on Jamie's blog.


This website looks intimidating on first glance with all the beach babes all over it, but I am LOVING their workout plans and videos. I've added so many simple moves into my daily routine. Really I'm just loving participating in things that go towards my 2014 vision. It feels good to be moving in the right direction, and this website is helping!

5. Our Kitchen Renovation

I'm so excited to share full details soon, but for now.. just this little peek! :) It is truly amazing how much our home changed in just one week. The kitchen is now one of my favorite places to be!

PS. Stay tuned for a SECOND post later on today, and also, I'd love for y'all to keep sending in questions to be included on my FAQ page! Email me, tweet me, or comment them directly on the FAQ page!

Day Fourteen: Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentines Day, sweet loves! I pray that today you can enjoy all things red and pink, enjoy a treat of your choice (chocolate covered strawberries, cupcakes, and macarons, oh my!), and  a little bit of sparkle.. but mostly that you know how valuable, cherished, and loved you are! Even (especially) when it may not feel like it. 

Long ago, I got it in my head that we needed a Valentines Day tradition. It wasn't intentional for our first photo.. But I wanted to hold a copy of our previous year's Valentines selfie in the next photo, and so on. Notice we skipped a year (more on our story here) but that first photo is when we are 18 years old. We'll take our most recent photo today! :) It's really fun for me to daydream about how these photos will change over the years to come. 

Update: Our 2014 photo: 

Do y'all have any special Valentines Day traditions?

Ps. You may have noticed my blog design has been refreshed! Yippeee! I've added a FAQ page to put some of the questions I am often asked via email/twitter/insta to make everyone happy! If you have any specific questions you'd like me to answer, shoot me an email (click on "contact" above) or tweet me.. whatever you want! :)

Day Thirteen: A Favorite Quote

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Not a lot of quotes fill my head on a regular basis, outside of studying scripture. But this one quote, heard by a young girl watching The Princess Diaries for the first time.. it's just lingered since then. This week hasn't been super encouraging for a few different reasons, and choosing a quote to share here came at a perfect time. I needed to remember this myself this week.

It really is true though. In a recent time of discouraging news, my immediate response was to want to binge shop/eat/watch netflix aka irrational and irresponsible behavior. The Lord so graciously stopped me in my tracks and drew my attention to my sinful nature. Not that there is anything wrong with shopping, or a good cookie, or some quality tele watching.. but the fact that my heart was in distress and I was desiring an excess of these things (outside of Christ) that I thought would bring healing.. that wasn't good. Although in this situation no one was making me feel inferior, I think it's a similar thing... I had a choice about how I was going to respond. I chose treating myself to Subway lunch, (deeeeeeelish!) spending some time reading, and finishing up with an hour at the gym. I chose to fill my sad heart with positives instead of negatives, and I felt so much better. I was lacking guilt, and it was just a small mirror of my forgiveness through Christ. It ended up being a good day.

I hope this quote encourages you today, wherever you are!

Ps. You may have noticed my blog design has been refreshed! Yippeee! I've added a FAQ page to put some of the questions I am often asked via email/twitter/insta to make everyone happy! If you have any specific questions you'd like me to answer, shoot me an email (click on "contact" above) or tweet me.. whatever you want! :)

Day Twelve: Whats in your Bag

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When I dumped out my purse contents onto our living room ottoman, this is what was found! Until this point, I hadn't realized that everything in my purse has it's own little compartment for the most part. :)

  • The pink sunglasses case was a free gift with purchase from Lilly Pulitzer last summer, and I actually keep pens and a flash drive in it! 
  • Bath and Body Works Fresh Picked Hand Creme in "Sweet Clementine" (no longer available) my very favorite hand creme is from the fresh picked line! It's the perfect amount of moisture and scent for your hands (especially during winter) and it's not too sticky, which drives me nuts about a lot of hand cremes. I have a larger container in the console of my car! 
  • Headphones for the gym and for any other moment that arises.. I am lost without these guys! 
  • My favorite headband for working out! The Luluemon Bang Buster! It may seem ridiculous to spend $18 on something I will ruin with sweat, but this is seriously the only headband that doesn't slide out of my hair during activity. I have tried so many others. This lavender color makes me so happy, too! 
  • The blue file holds all of my cash envelopes, receipts, gift cards, and coupons.
  • The gold wallet holds any extra cards I need to hold onto, and my change. 
  • The black sunglasses case holds... sunglasses. This time. :) 
  • In my lace makeup bag, I store feminine care items, chapstick, and hair ties. 
For some reason, what's in the bags of others is so fascinating! What are your must haves for being on the go? 

Day Eleven: Traveling // Planning for Paris

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ever since we booked our photo session in Paris with Stacy Reeves, it's all I can do not to daydream about it 24/7. I don't know what has triggered our recent over excitement for our trip, but we've been talking about it CONSTANTLY. I am so excited to explore two amazing, iconic cities with Ben. Just the two of us. Of course, I'm already envisioning all the details.

Ben says I'll change my mind about five times before the trip, but right now, this dress from Loft is what I'm envisioning for our shoot. I want something classic and structured. Beautiful, but not so detailed that it takes away from the scenery. When I laid eyes on this dress during a 50% off sale (whoop!) it clicked for me that it would be perfect for our trip. I'm imagining Ben in a classic white shirt and dark gray slacks with his favorite dress shoes.

What do you think?

The planning of our trip for the Paris portion is going fabulously.. but my little heart broke this week when I tried to book tickets to tour Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey is filmed) and it is closed to the public for the month of July. Wahhhhhh!

 Blog Everyday in February

Day Ten: Learning // Twenty- Three

Monday, February 10, 2014

You may have noticed I skipped three days of the blogging challenge- oops! One of my friends actually texted me to make sure I was okay when she saw I didn't post, haha! My weekend was full of friends and family and birthday happy, so I missed posting. I'm back now though, and I may possibly make up those missing posts over the next few days. I'm not sure though. :)

Today's prompt of "what I'm learning" comes at a great time. This morning I took some time to really think about the past year, and anticipate the next.

During Twenty- Two:
saw the importance of community,
learned that it was okay not to follow the natural path,
was encouraged and loved by Benjamin Luke,
discovered a love for fresh flowers,
determined that my love language is... all of the love languages,
believed that consistency is key, in so many things... and that:
rest is good,
healing old wounds is great,
what you do in the morning really matters,
and that my passions are there for a reason.

Hopes for Twenty-Three:
more journaling
lots of celebrations
a new career
snuggles with my first niece/nephew in July
exploring Europe with my handsome hubby
honest prayers
bold encouragement of others
deeper study of scripture
creativity on this blog and in my home

 Blog Everyday in February

Day Six: Make-up Must Haves

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Today's challenge topic is something I love and enjoy but don't necessarily feel like I have knowledge about. Makeup! I feel like every person has such specific needs with their skin type and coloring, but these are the things I love! I've finally gotten really comfortable with my makeup routine.

Note: I could really do without the fact that makeup seems to always be named after inappropriate things. I apologize for that!!! 


I had been using Bare Minerals for YEARS (probably my freshman year of high school) and before Christmas I had some extra spending money and a desire to shake it up. This product is similar to a loose mineral foundation as far as application goes, but the coverage is just so much better! Even when I use enough for a really nice finish, it doesn't look or feel cakey at all. I love it and don't plan on switching any time soon.


Benefit Bo-ing

Another new-ish product (I had been discontent with my makeup for awhile!) is this concealer. First, I wish everything I owned was in Benefit packaging. It's so cute and fun. I just use this a little bit around my nose and on the occasional blemish.. I'm planning on the little container lasting at least a year, probably more!


In high school, my friend Katherine gave me this blush for a birthday or Christmas. It's a product that's pretty well known for being beloved by all. Including me! This is my second package (I dropped my first one on vacation a few years ago) but I really just love it! It's a great shade!


I've only recently started using bronzer, and LOVE it. It just adds a little bit of color to my fair skin and just makes me feel a little more healthy looking. :) This product is great because it's easy to apply in layers, so I'm not suddenly orange looking. But, once it's on, it has a really long wear. Since I've started wearing this product I've felt a lot more confident about my makeup as the day goes on and gets to the end.. You know what I mean? Towards the end of the day your look isn't as good.. but this bronzer has kept me looking somewhat put together. I think. :)

Eye Primer: 

Another product that I've used for a really long time. I've had the pot I'm currently using for at least two years. It's so great. It just serves as a base for eyeshadow application. I think it works really well, but it also could be just that I've only ever used this! haha! #notabeautyguru


This has been my favorite eyeshadow since high school. It's a shimmery champagne color, and it works as a base, alone, etc etc. It can be used for everything and I love it! i originally found it in an Urban Decay palette long before the famed Naked palettes but it is also included in the original Naked palette.

The most recent of the Naked palettes, this eyeshadow palette was a stocking stuffer to myself. :) I really should have included the original Naked palette, because I've used just that consistently since early college. I love the colors so much! The Naked 2 doesn't have a lot of colors that I think would be good with my fair skin, but I've really loved the new palette and it's rose gold coloring. These palettes can be used to create so many different looks and I've seriously used up all of three or four colors on my original Naked palette. I've thought about asking for a new one for Christmas or something because it's low! I've used it that much!!


I looooove mascara but constantly feel like I'm searching for a new one. I'm currently using this one and really like it, but I also like the "falsies" one by the same brand. I have tried higher end mascaras at different times but just always come back to the old faithful Maybelline. I love being able to pick up a new mascara easily at the grocery store, with it being the product that is used up most often.

There's my two cents. :) What products do y'all love? I'm always up for recommendations!  Blog Everyday in February

Day Five: A Book Review

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I LOVE to read. Love to, love to. In December when we got snowed in, I read two books in a day and a half. I love nothing more than a good book, yet life has recently gotten in the way. Over the past year, I've read the smallest amount since actually learning to read independently. Seriously, I remember in first grade I'd read a chapter book a day. (Magic Tree House and American Girl were my treats of choice) I credit this change not only to life, but my lack of having a next book that I want to read in mind. I think knowing there is a book on my nightstand or loaded onto my kindle app makes me more likely to start reading, as opposed to thinking "I really need to find a good book to read"....
Any who... more about that in a minute. Today, instead of reviewing one book I've read recently, I'm going to mention a few that I just LOVE that I've read over the past few years!

Anything by Shauna Niequest

This lady's words have spoken to my soul over the past few years. Her three books are very different from each other, but laid out in the same format of where each chapter is a stand alone story. She just writes about life and faith in a really beautiful way. I would really recommend her books to someone who isn't much of a reader but desires to read a book about faith, since you can read one chapter at a time. Although, I bet her strong voice could make anyone change their reading habits! I'm blessed to be able to hear her speak at Hope Spoken next month! For mother's day this past year, I got my mother in law her most recent book "Bread and Wine". It was so fun to see her love the book, then teach from it during a bible study on hospitality, and pick up the other two books to read too. LOVE! Grab them, even if you've heard them talked about a lot and don't desire to be on a bandwagon. I promise they're amazing!

I wrote a more detailed review of Cold Tangerines here. In 2011.

Love Does by Bob Goff 
Okay. Another book that everyone talks about. Forgive me for that. But this book is SO worth your time. It's uplifting and encouraging and fun to read. I read it all in two sittings because it just hooks you and puts you in the best mood. The book gives you a really great picture of what it looks like to live a joyful, loving life with your identity in Christ. Sometimes spiritual books can seem long and boring but this one is just so stinking easy to read. It'd be great for a new believer or someone who is wanting to make changes in their life to start living more for God. I made a lot of notes about future parenting things from this book, too!

I wrote more about this book here.

Seven by Jen Hatmaker
Again, an easy to read book about living a life of faith. I'm noticing a pattern here. I'll learn all about the complicated books from my hubby. First, reading this book will make you think Jen Hatmaker is your best friend. It's a real life situation. Second, the book is about the excess we have in our lives, and how to simplify that. It's just so good and is written like a journal or a blog. It was really eye opening for me but I would encourage you to read it even if you don't think excess is something you struggle with. I'd bet you'd be able to glean a lot of wisdom from it anyways.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 
This book is about to become a movie, but I think seeing it might make me too emotional in a theater. This book... let me just paste in the description from Amazon.

At 16, Hazel Grace Lancaster, a three-year stage IV–cancer survivor, is clinically depressed. To help her deal with this, her doctor sends her to a weekly support group where she meets Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer survivor, and the two fall in love. Both kids are preternaturally intelligent, and Hazel is fascinated with a novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. Most particularly, she longs to know what happened to its characters after an ambiguous ending. To find out, the enterprising Augustus makes it possible for them to travel to Amsterdam, where Imperial’s author, an expatriate American, lives. What happens when they meet him must be left to readers to discover. Suffice it to say, it is significant. Writing about kids with cancer is an invitation to sentimentality and pathos—or worse, in unskilled hands, bathos. Happily, Green is able to transcend such pitfalls in his best and most ambitious novel to date. Beautifully conceived and executed, this story artfully examines the largest possible considerations—life, love, and death—with sensitivity, intelligence, honesty, and integrity. In the process, Green shows his readers what it is like to live with cancer, sometimes no more than a breath or a heartbeat away from death. But it is life that Green spiritedly celebrates here, even while acknowledging its pain. In its every aspect, this novel is a triumph. 

Let's just say that I read it while we were on vacation in California and Ben walked in and I was crying my eyes out while reading and he just really didn't understand what was happening and why I was so emotionally attached to a book. That was a fun first in our marriage! Haha! Steer clear of your wife during Grey's Anatomy, Benjamin Luke!!! Anyways... I loved this book. The characters were so well developed and I just adored it. 

Note: From what I remember, there is some language and some sexuality in this book.

And this is where my list stops. Depression, right? I've just read so many books I haven't liked in the past year.  Ugh. Hate that. I went through all of my Amazon history from the past two years and these are the only books I felt were worth mentioning. Excluding The Hunger Games. (no one wants to read my own personal review of The Hunger Games)

I've compiled this list of books I'd like to read this year, and I plan on working my way through them. I'd like to get the list up to at least 12... so help me out! If you've read any of these, or have any other suggestions or comments, I'd love to hear about them!

A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker (currently reading with Blogger Bible Study!)
Start by Jon Acuff
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Allegiant  by Veronica Roth
Margin by Richard Swenson
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
Love Story by Nichole Nordeman
Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Please send me book suggestions, PLEASE! PLEASE!! :)

Day Four: My Blog Name

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Today's the day you get to read a quick little blurb about something you have probably never wondered about before. :)

My sophomore year of college, I got really into reading blogs. I read several of my new favorites all the way through. Discovering a whole new way to connect and get information was really fun and I loved it. I remember when I found someone else who "read blogs" it was really exciting.. because I don't feel like it was near as common then.

For me, picking a blog name felt like choosing an AIM screen name in middle school. What should I choose? Past screen names are too embarrassing to even be mentioned. But I wanted something catchy and memorable. I settled on "Bonjour Victoria", because of my French heritage, and because I thought it was something that would stick. I felt like it was my own version of Hello Kitty. I know that's ridiculous, but it just did.

My first commissioned blog design!

Bonjour Victoria didn't get a whole lot of love from real Victoria. If you've for some reason gone back to the beginning of my blog, I'm sorry for the weird things you may have read. I'm pretty sure a post would be like "I got this coat on sale at Anthropologie" with a picture. What quality reading!! :)

I had been dreaming of putting time and effort into my blog for some time. I guess I got legitimately serious about six months ago as far as posting on a regular, consistent basis, and growing readership. But let's rewind a bit. In March of 2013, I thought about how I was a newly married lady, and how my posting wouldn't just be about myself in the years to come. As my life and family would grow and change, I wanted a blog name that would remain the same.

Right before Bonjour Victoria bit the dust! :)

As Instagram has grown more and more popular, people have designated hashtags to be used for photo sharing from weddings. I had started brainstorming but my friend Sarah came up with "#HappilyEverStrader" and it was perfect. It just clicked for me.. and I thought it would also make a great blog name. It's arguably less unique than Bonjour Victoria, but it fits. I know there are probably others with similar names or plays on "happily ever after" but for me, this little blog has felt like home since that name change.

Ps. I'm so proud of myself for completing this blog challenge for 4 days so far- haha! Thank y'all SO much for reading and sticking around and just being overall AWESOME!!

 Blog Everyday in February

Day Three: Fear

Monday, February 3, 2014

Today's prompt for Blog Everyday in February is "Something that Scares You". I was thinking about this and decided to put my own little spin on it. I just couldn't come up with a productive reason for you to be spending your time reading why I'm afraid of something. Instead, I wanted to focus on the topic of fear itself and take you back to last March (I can hardly believe I attended Making Things Happen almost a year ago!) 

Here's the thing, y'all. We are all, at different times, guilty of letting our fears and worries get the best of us. Basically me today = worrying about something scary going on in my life (more soon, I promise!) Something we were encouraged to do at MTH was to write out all of the things that scare us and WHY they scare us. Remembering being back in that room is such a powerful feeling for me. I remember it clearly yet I wish I could relive it. Writing out all of your fears is a pretty emotionally draining process, but having every one of the fears that popped into my head written out on paper and explained... well, it felt like I was the one in control of them. I wrote them there, so why couldn't I just cross them off? 

So that's just what we did. Before we discussed fear in general, we were encouraged to write our biggest fear on a big whiteboard. After talking about how fear is essentially just negative self talk, and other goodness.. we came up again and marked out our fears.

Something I was really struck by is that in a diverse group of a hundred women, there were so many different "biggest fears" listed. Yes, we're all different.. but so many were specifically about the season of life that was currently being experienced. Meaning these fears might not remain the same overtime. Meaning that with a combination of prayer, supportive community, encouragement directly from scripture, and a focused, positive attitude.. these things don't have to rule us.

I don't know what is going on in your Monday, but I wanted to share a scripture that I hear as if it's new every time.

    There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. - 1 John 4:18
Now I think this can be a verse where you read it really quick and are like "that's awesome let me tweet it/caption my insta/write it on my notebook" without really taking the time to let  the true meaning of the words sink in. Maybe I'm the only one who does this. But let's stop. God's love is the only perfect love that will ever be in our lives. So we're talking about the love of God here. And it's perfection. And our relationship with the Lord CASTS ALL FEARS AWAY. 

If that's not freeing, I don't know what is, y'all! :) I hope this encourages you this morning! I'd really suggest trying to write out those fears, maybe talk about them with a spouse or accountability partner of some kind. It was extremely beneficial for me! I promise for happier things tomorrow! Hugs to you!

 Blog Everyday in February

Day Two: What Fires You Up

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What fires me up?

 Jesus, candles, Texas A&M University,  scripture, handwritten notes, neutral colors, Southern Living magazine, beautiful photos, interior design, great customer service, stationery, a productive morning, healthy crock pot meals, Anthropologie, grocery shopping, Kappa Alpha Theta, heartfelt prayer, Nancy Myers movies, hospitality, guests leaving our home with full bellies and happy hearts, Matilda: our English Bulldog, DIY projects, Nordstrom, financial planning, holidays and celebration, hydrangeas and basically all beautiful florals, gold foil, monograms, seasonal things, adoption, surprises in the mail.

I had recorded a lot of these things without even knowing it. Recently my love for pinterest has been renewed. I've just been gathering a lot of inspiration lately. During some of my recent pinning, I realized I needed a board for things I just plain liked. Images I might not specifically have a need to keep on file, but ones that I like anyway. That's where my "love" board came from, and it really helped me focus on things that just plain make me happy. If you haven't ever done so, I would encourage you to make a list of things that "fire you up"... things that get your heart beating fast and smiling big! Having that to look at is a major mood brightener!

Do we share any of the same loves? What fires YOU up? I'd like to hear! :)

Note: the sources of the images above can be found here.

 Blog Everyday in February

Day One: My Story

Saturday, February 1, 2014

 Blog Everyday in February

My sweet blog friend, Bailey decided to do a blog everyday in February challenge this month. I'd been looking for something to get me out of my normal groove a little bit, so I'm going to try to join in as much as possible. I've tried things like this before, but I love that I know Bailey's heart and she has worked SO hard getting together prompts for this month. Let's get a groovin. 

It's ironic that this first post is supposed to be my story. There has been a lot of reflection in the Strader household on testimonies in general. I've held back a little bit from sharing my testimony on my blog before, simply because it feels so unnatural to make something so private.. well, public.  Transparency is so important, but at the same time, I think there is wisdom in not disclosing every single detail of your life on the internet for all to read. Anyways, moving forward, I'm excited to share my story with you, and pray that you will read it with a heart of grace.

I was born in Paris, France. Apparently I wore knit hats and took naps in front of major landmarks. 

When I was about a year old, we moved to Atlanta, Georgia. It's fun for me to think about what it would have been like if we had stayed there. I think I would be even more captivated by the South. 

When I was about two years old, I got a baby brother, Henry. 

I don't remember much about being really little but I do know that we went to England every Summer for a few weeks to visit family. The photo above is taken under my aunt's kitchen table. I also remember that I liked pink starbursts and that I would cry when my mom untangled my long hair and that I used to pretend I had an imaginary tiger like Jasmine from Aladdin. 

We moved to Texas the summer before I started kindergarten. 

I attended school in the same district all the way through. (Meanwhile, on the other side of the district lines.. the more rural part, Baby Benjamin Luke was being cute and waiting to grow up and marry me. Yippee!)

During middle school some things changed. When I was in 6th grade, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was pretty far along and I remember it being described to me as tennis ball sized. I know that I was pretty oblivious to the reality of what was going on. 

Omitting lots of nitty gritty, hurtful details.. soon after my parents got a divorce. I don't think this was a surprise to me, but that didn't make it any easier. The process spread out over my seventh grade year, and during the first few months of eighth grade, I helped my mom look at houses and we moved across town. 

Then I started high school. It is on my to do list to go to my mom's house, get on her computer, and find a picture of me from high school orientation. Let me give you a preview of this greatness: I was wearing a navy polo shirt, a silver sequin belt (remember those from mall kiosks?!?), pink lipgloss, sunglasses on my head because that's where they looked cool, and holding a chihuahua. It doesn't get much better and more defining of freshman year of high school than that right there. Also, that was the first day I met my husband. I could detail more about our story throughout this, but our story is separate than my story. They obviously weave in between but I'll try to keep our story for another day, to keep this from being a lengthy novel. 

A freshman year photo with Seth, who was a best friend of mine all through high school and college and sang at our wedding. 

A humiliating depiction of being 14 years old. 

Up until this point I had never attended church. At the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, I was allowed to do so for the first time. There is a lot I will omit about being able to attend for the first time, but I will say that I had desired to go for some time, and that I knew my life was missing something. I thought I might find what was missing at church, because I knew lots of people went there.

The very first Sunday I attended, I met the new youth pastor, Josh, on the sidewalks by the portables. This was his first Sunday there too.. neither of us knew we were both newbies. I already felt like this church was a safe place because of the group of friends from school I had that had encouraged me to come. The confidence of already having a few friends that loved me being there let me make friends with others very quickly, praise God! I loved every minute of learning new things that I had never heard before, and fellowship with such fun, joyful people. 

I attended for a long time and asked a lot of questions. I learned of a God who created me in HIS image. I learned that long ago when Adam and Eve were the first people, they disobeyed God's one command to them and sinned the first sin (Genesis 3:6). I learned that since then, everyone has been born with sinful tendencies, with yucky hearts. I learned that God then sent His only son, Jesus, to die and save us all from the bondage of sin. (John 3:16) Because if we're honest, sin wraps awful chains around us and makes life hard. But then I learned that  there is hope and freedom in Jesus. Believing in His sacrifice in your heart, and confessing it with your mouth (Romans 10:9) brings peace to your life, knowing that one day you'll spend eternity in heaven with Him. I heard these words many times, but as scripture said, my eyes were blinded to this truth until the next summer. 

I went to youth camp, with a bunch of people that had become my closest friends. Several of them still are, which is a huge blessing. 

My realization of my need for Christ didn't come during an emotional worship service, but afterwards during a time of corporate prayer with the youth group. I confessed and accepted Christ that night. 

This tiny itty bitty photo was taken after I had become a Christian. Funnily enough I'm sitting next to my current cousin (in law) Shelley in that photo. #smalltownlife

From that point on I was filled with joy and peace in my new life in Christ. Lots of fun things happened from there. I believe the Lord filled me with a chock load of truth during that time. He grew me, and did so quickly. 

A photo from a Disciple now weekend in fall 2007. We were posing with Jeff Johnson, who later lead worship each week at Breakaway Ministries, a ministry I volunteered for in college. 

That was the same weekend I took my first photo with my future husband. At this point we barely knew each other but I was happy and fun and took photos with everyone because that's what you do when you're a teenage girl and need to remember every detail of a retreat weekend. I truly cherish this photo now. I should print it and put it somewhere in our home. That's just plain fun. 

Also a fun thing from Fall 07.. My friend Liz and I served in my close friend Kassidy's mom's wedding house party. Just five years later my own wedding was in the same church. Look at me. Young. Clueless. Cutting cake and totally unaware of all the things to come. 

There were mission trips and more camps and student council events. That year, my friend Morgan encouraged me to run alongside her for senior class officer. She wanted to run for vice president, and encouraged me to run for president. Looking back, Morgan should have been president. She was so equipped and wise. But her encouragement lead me to do something totally out of my comfort zone and it really stretched me. Getting involved in class council, and more involved in student council in general lead me to get to know tons of people I wouldn't have known or been friends with otherwise. That was truly a blessing in my life. I also made a ton of foolish mistakes in this leadership position, but I learned so much and in the end I think it was really successful. 

Note: At this point in the blog post I'm realizing this is more for me than anyone else. One day I'll be thankful to have written all of this out. It's okay if you're bored/not even reading this. It's just sweet to look back on and remember different seasons of growth and reflect on God's faithfulness. 

During senior year my friend Katherine and I stopped counting at how many times we had gone to the movies to see Twilight after nine times. Yes. I was that person. It's ridiculous but it was a comfortable thing for us to do on the weekends. We liked the romantic parts. Haha. We got bored of the end and the fighting at the ballet studio so we started leaving right before that happened. So hilarious. Katherine sent me this photo she edited once. Awesome. 

Senior photo. Obviously. 

I'm having to hold back from posting a million happy photos from this time.. it was just sweet and there were a lot of things to take photos of. I was constantly surrounded by friendship and community. That year my closest friend group grew and was such an encouragement. The friend group was also mentioned in this post. Basically, there were six of us. Three girls and three boys. We did everything together and it was a really sweet, pure community. 

Then it was time for college. I was headed to Baylor University. Ben and I started dating just a few weeks before we left for school. 

To make a long story short.. Baylor was not where I was supposed to be. I just didn't love it and looking back I probably could have, but I truly believe that the Lord had plans for my one semester there, and investing in the spiritual growth of a friend. 

Ben and I actually broke up just a few weeks after I transferred (again, a whole other story!) but I knew College Station was where I was supposed to me. I loved it!!

That summer I went on my first out of country mission trip, to Mexico. There is so much that could be said about this trip, but the moral is that I walked away convicted about telling others about Jesus, every single day of my life. I pray that will always be a passion of my heart. (Also, my mother in law is next to me in the green shirt in the top photo!)

My first kite! 

The fall of my sophomore year (first fall at A&M!) I went through recruitment and pledged Theta. That's where I got the majority of my community during college and I am so thankful for it. 

That was a hard year, but sweet to be surrounded by friends and to grow a ton. Ben and I got back together during the summer between our sophomore and junior years. College was a really sweet time with lots of fun things and people and learning about what it looks like to follow Christ in different ways. Not to crunch the end of this into one paragraph... but.... let's be honest we're all done with seeing photos of me. :) And the last year or so really overlaps to being a story of our marriage. Ben and I got engaged right before senior year and our last real semester of college. (Fall 2012)

I guess I feel like everything since then has been recorded on this blog. Dig around a little bit if you want. :)

Now hopefully you feel like you know a little more about my background, and don't hate me for the longest blog post ever. There are tons of majorly influential people who weren't mentioned. There are tons of big things not mentioned. But this was long enough already. Bless you if you read all the way through.

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