My very first giveaway!

So remember a couple weeks ago when I took my girls on a random photo shoot? I said I had big plans for that picture and I am ready to let you know what they are…

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Isn’t it beautiful?! This picture doesn’t even come close to doing it justice.

I recently teamed up with Easycanvasprints.com, they were amazing to work with. Their website was super user friendly and easy to navigate. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to get my order ready for purchasing. They also give you loads of options and great examples of what your order will look like. I really dislike ordering something and having it turn out to be a disappointment. Easycanvasprints.com will not disappoint you! They also constantly have sales and promotions going on. I know you will be surprised at just how affordable their products are. The hardest part for me will be figuring out where I want to put this picture!

This picture isn’t all Easy Canvas Prints had in mind. They also have offered to host a giveaway. One of my readers will win a FREE 8×10 canvas print and everyone that registers will receive a 60% off coupon! The giveaway will start today and run through 8/28. Anyone who lives in North America is eligible to win!

Enter here!!!

Here are some links for Easy Canvas Prints and their affiliates. Check them out

Canvas
Photo to Canvas

Easy Canvas Prints recommends:

Bumper Sticker Maker
Banner Maker

custom shirts
Custom T-Shirts

So today we went to the park

It is amazing at how much you can get accomplished when you wake up just a tiny bit earlier. Typically I barely am able to roll myself out of bed around 7:30. I leave just enough time to go get Emily up, pour juice cups for the girls and fix Russ something to eat before he walks out the door. This leaves no time for me to get around without interruptions and no time for me to mentally wake up before being bombarded with giggles and questions. Most important I am rushing into my day without even giving a second thought to the one who should most consume me. A God who loves me completely and want me to put my hope and trust in him. He desires a relationship with me…. but I just didn’t have time for that, especially in the morning. It is easy to realize how absurd that sounds, but 6:30 comes and it is hard to put those thoughts into action. I knew this needed to change so I recently started putting a greater effort into waking up early. It is hard, but it has been so good.

This morning I was thinking about how much I had already accomplished it wasn’t even 8:30 and so much was done. Then I heard the pitter-patter (or small heard of elephants) running toward me. Two bright eyed blonde girls who excitedly said “MOM, can we go to the park?” My heart sank and I verbally let out an ugh. My first thought in my head was “I don’t want to go to the park”. I didn’t, it wan’t on my list of fun things I could do and it certainly wasn’t on my agenda. Key words revealing my sinful attitude, I and my. I was being completely selfish not even giving a second thought to what sounded fun to them. Just 1 minute before I was thinking of how ahead of the game I was. It should have been clear to me that a 45 minute trip to the park wouldn’t ruin the days schedule. Sometimes as a mom I forget that I am not just an “I” I am an “Us”. Not that I times don’t exist, they are important and needed. But on a day to day basis we operate as an us unit. My schedule is our schedule and I need to be more intentional at not just filling it with things that bring me joy, but my girls to. Sometimes I may not want to go to the park but maybe I should that day because I love my children. So today we went to the park. We may not go every time they ask but hopefully the next time they do my heart won’t be so selfishly tied to an agenda, or my desires. Maybe I will react with a positive attitude and be excited about something that brings them joy. After all, it isn’t all about me.

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God bless the sister

From the moment I found out Emily was going to be a girl I was excited. Excited for even more pink, and sparkles. Excited for the familiar. But most of all I was beyond excited that Marissa would have something that I never had, but always wanted… a sister. The picture in my head was fairy tale like. BFF’s forever, loving, nurturing, and caring for each other. I never in my life pictured the flip side to the coin. which happens to involve a lot of drama.

From the very moment I thought about sisters I thought about this…

I adore this movie, and I adore this song. Some days it seems like my hope and prayer may never come true among the bickering over whose doll is whose, or which one gets the pink bowl today. Some days Marissa wants to help Emily with everything and Emily just wants to be left alone.  But other times leave me hopefully optimistic that they are forming an amazing bond that will never break.

For now I am just trying to stay calm, have extra grace and pray a lot! I hope I am teaching them the value of the each other. Having a sister is a blessing and a gift that I pray they will always cherish.

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A trip that never seems to happen…

Today wasn’t the day we had originally planned.

Plan A had been made months ago, finally after last years trip never happening we had planned an early anniversary trip. Nothing fancy, just a one night quick get-away to Branson. We booked the room over 2 months ago and were pumped to finally have something planned. After 5 years of parenthood we were finally going out of town for our first overnight trip. Then, then things changed. Thing changed for reasons more complicated than I care to try and explain in writing. To summarize things just weren’t working out the way we hoped they would to be able to leave the girls overnight. So, we felt it was in their best interest for us to just cancel. I thought I would be angry, or upset, or bummed but I wasn’t. I think this is Gods grace. I never once was upset about the change of plans. I knew we were doing what was best for the girls even though that meant sacrificing a trip.

So, we went with plan B. At first we didn’t have a plan B. But we figured one out. Russ already had the day off work why not make the best out of it! We decided to go out of town to spend some fun time together as a family. We slept in, comparatively speaking. Drove to Springfield and went to Russ’ sisters house for a quick visit. From there we left and went downtown. We took the girls to a real restaurant for lunch at The Springfield Brew Co. They were so well behaved and they actually ate their food which always equals a proud mommy moment. After that we took them to the Discovery Center for a fun filled action packed afternoon of over stimulation. After about 3 hours of more excitement than I could handle we stopped by a book store to grab a devotional book I had been eyeing for the girls and headed home. Today was a great day. Even though it wasn’t plan A and even when a trip that never seems to happen is once again delayed. Sometimes Plan B can be even better.

Spending time with the most important people in my life was just what I needed today.

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Photo shoot

You know how tricky it can be to get a decent picture of a child? I imagine this is a problem that seems to be multiplied by the number of children you have under the age of 10. Yesterday I took the girls down town to snap a new picture of them. The last one that I had done was over a year ago. I kept meaning to take them and have another made but the portrait place has been being remodeled and it really hasn’t been in the budget either. So, I got this crazy idea that I could do it myself. Surely I could snap a picture and with a little help from it would turn into something beautiful. I was even ambitious crazy enough to envision multiple poses and individual shots. So, at 8:30 after hair and a few melt downs over wardrobe choices (Emily our 2 year old is apparently VERY opinionated)  we went out and I started snapping away. I QUICKLY realized this wasn’t going to be the experience I hoped for. But I made the best of it snapped about 40 pictures loaded the kids up and came home. As soon as we got back I popped my memory card in the computer and realized that not one of the 40 pics I took was good. I almost gave up. I told the kids were going back they both let out some sighs, we immediately loaded up and went back. This time I decided to simplify things and make it as quick as possible. I took about 15 pics and felt confident I had gotten a good one for sure this time.

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We didn’t get multiple backgrounds, individual shots or wardrobe changes. Emily isn’t wearing exactly what I thought she would wear and she IS wearing her sneakers. That girl LOVES her sneakers and cries anytime you put anything else on her feet. I didn’t spend hours curling, straightening or fixing their hair. But I did get one shot, one single shot that captures exactly who they are.

Beautiful

Exciting things are in store for this picture… stay tuned for more details about that!

She’s going the distance

A few weeks into our new eating habits and I started to get what I personally found as a strange urge. Why would I consider it strange? I am glad you asked. I was having the urge to exercise. I personally feel like this statement should be followed by a loud Dun dun Duh! I haven’t exactly been the “I love to exercise” kind of gal. At first I didn’t know what to do. Should i pull out my yoga mat again, join a gym, do some Billy Blanks Tae-bo tapes or buy a bike? I was very confused. A friend of mine had recently taken up running and she loves it she is even planning to do a 10k in the fall. She is going to do great! I never had a desire to run but thought to myself “Running doesn’t require a lot and it gets me outside somewhere I love to be. Anna really seems to be enjoying it. Why not try it.” So I picked a day to start, laced up my running shoes and I went. I may have only went 1.57 miles with an average pace of 13:00 a mile but I ran and I, much to my surprise, survived. I didn’t quit either two days later when my legs were still sore from my previous run I went again. Last night I had my 4th run. In a short amount of time I have already felt my body growing stronger and my stats reflect it to. Last night I ran 2.21 miles and averaged 11:24 a mile. I was so excited and proud. But, even more exciting than that I am doing something to benefit my health and I am loving it. I started out just thinking I would give this a try and probably not stick with it. Now I find myself excited about my next run even the day before.

Right now I am working towards my first goal: being able to run a 5k 3.1 miles. Goal two will be: Being able to run 11 minute miles while going 3.1 miles. I know I will eventually succeed with hard work. I am also planning on doing a 5k at the end of September so lets all hope that I reach goal #1 by then.

Running has brought me  an outlet, happiness, stress relief, better sleep and has increased my love for being outside. It is also building my confidence just by doing things that I didn’t think I could do. I am so glad that I dusted of my running shoes and laced up those sneakers. Sometimes that hardest part is getting up off the couch and getting started.

Home-grown

I used to think I was jinxed. It used to seem that I couldn’t keep a plant alive to save my life. I never understood why, I come from a family of very green thumbed individuals. We never have and still don’t have any house plants, unless you count the mason jar of green onions that I keep regrowing in my kitchen window sill. Then about 4 years ago I started canning. I instantly fell in love. The fact that I could make and preserve my own food amazed me. The first thing I ever canned was apple butter then I did some strawberry jam and the wheels kept churning. The next year I got some tomatoes from a friends garden and I made salsa. After that I was completely in love with my new hobby. Finally when we moved into our house in April 2012 I knew that I wanted a garden. I had this crazy dream of being able to grow and preserve my own food. I was imagining pickles, salsas, tomatoes, bbq sauces and more. In August of 2012 a group of volunteers helped me build my beds.
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It was late in the gardening season but that didn’t stop me! I planted carrots, broccoli and lettuce crops and we had great success!

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It seemed as soon as the garden was done for the winter I was already making plans for spring. I knew I wanted to base my garden around growing things that I needed to can. We added some more space, put in stone walkways (which was exhausting work). And before I knew it May was here and it was time to plant!

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Since this early picture a lot has changed here are some more recent pics

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This year I have already canned pickles, jalapeno pepper jelly and jalapeno slices. The tomatoes are finally picking up speed so soon I will have more work to do.

My garden is my”happy place”. It does come with it’s frustrations: unwanted pests, plant issues, or a pesky mocking bird who thinks he has a right to my tomatoes. But it is somewhere where I can go be outside and marvel at a creator who made all of this from nothing. I can see things growing right before my eyes, sometimes almost visibly overnight.

It is beautiful to me.

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul
~Alfred Austin

No looking back

Almost a month ago we decided to make some serious diet changes. At first I was wondering how we could survive. I didn’t know if I would be happy, if the food would taste as good and if I would have the time to do all of the changes that I wanted to. In four weeks I have discovered that I have no need to buy any kind bread from the store, or yogurt, granola bars, fruit snacks, chips, canned biscuits, tortillas, box mac and cheese and the list goes on and on. I had a very proud moment on Friday when my husband came home from work and said that he had ate a store bought granola bar that day and that it tasted gross. Something we used to always have on hand and think was an okay snack is now gross because we are choosing to save money and eat better buy making our own. I thought I would take this opportunity to share a few of my favorites that I have came across mostly via Pinterest.

Granola Bars

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I adore this recipe. I have taken this and used it as a base to make all kinds of flavors. Adding and taking away my own ingredients to make all kinds of fun options. Then I just wrap them in foil to keep them easy to grab and go.

Peanut Butter Granola Bites

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My girls have called these cookies. We usually just make small little bit sized cookies. Put them in the freezer and once they are hard dump them in a container and just take them out as we want to eat them. They thaw very quickly. I have never added the dates but maybe someday I will.

Artisan Bread in 5

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I couldn’t say enough about this recipe. We are head over heels. We use this for sandwiches or a nice loaf of bread with dinner. I am REALLY excited for soup season to get here.

Homemade Granola

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Amazing flavor so easy and natural. We have been using this to make the above mentioned granola bars. The first time I made this I was hooked. Not only did it taste great but I got more than twice what I get in a box at the store and I spent less money making it!

Greek Yogurt

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The first time I made this I was hooked. Not only was it so easy but the flavor is amazing. My husband is addicted. Best part is a small batch only cost me $3 to make and I got about 38oz of yogurt. A 17oz container of plain Greek yogurt is 3.50 at Aldi… you do the math.

I found it easier for me to just go off of temps when making yogurt instead of time. So I used 8 cups of whole milk in the crock pot on low until it got to 180, I turned it off and left the lid on until it got to 115 then I stirred in a starter. I bought a small serving of Oikos plain Greek yogurt at the store, I put all of it in there and stirred it up. Then I put the lid back on wrapped it up in a towel and put it in my oven with the light on for 12 hours. The next day, voila amazing Greek yogurt.

So at this point I can say three things:

1. We are eating healthier than we ever have before simply but cutting out so many processed foods
2. We are saving money doing it
3. We aren’t suffering, the food we are eating now is some of the best tasting food we have ever had.

So as for the journey we started on that I was so unsure about I feel like I can with confidence say there is no looking back now and we don’t have any desire to.

Stay-cation

This weekend I was blessed to be able to escape for a little while. Even if it was only going to the home of some friends in the same town that I live in. Even if I had nothing planned. It was fabulous. I spent most of my weekend lounging by a pool drinking, laughing and resting with my best friend. It was refreshing, glorious, needed and so good for my heart. I would love to tell you about all of the fun things that we did but we didn’t do much of anything. That was the point of it all. So thankful for a husband that loves me enough to let me go away for some needed rest.

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It was also awesome to be able to spend the weekend together. I value our friendship so much. Maybe it is because I am older now and I see that I have found something worth treasuring. Maybe it is that we have been through so much together. When I think back to the tornado I can still close my eyes and hear her screaming my name.  She was trying to get to a home that was no longer there (she didn’t know that at the time) when a huge tree in the middle of the road blocked her from going any further. She was just half a block away from my house, saw the roof was gone and came running. I still think back on the months after the tornado and I am so glad that we were in it together. Tearing down, dreaming and rebuilding our homes together. Other times I think about a time in my life where it felt like I didn’t really have any friends. It seemed my closest friend was 2 hours away and I was so lonely. I cried and prayed for a friend, a real friend. My prayers went on for what seemed like months but God answered them through her and many other good friends since then. So thankful the way God brings people into our lives. He knows we need support, we need to be a part of a healthy functioning body. We weren’t meant to go at things alone and he brings people into our lives when we need it, to stand with us and sometimes even prop us up when it feels like we can’t stand alone.

C.S. Lewis said

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

I couldn’t agree with him more.

I love you friend.

We’ve been eating what?

I happened to open an article a friend had posted on Facebook. It was early in the morning and I was curious so I clicked on it. After reading it i felt sick. It was about foods that are allowed in the U.S. that are banned in other countries. You can read the article for yourself  here.

I always knew that we eat some pretty questionable things but for some reason I suddenly saw it as a problem that morning. Over the next few days I found myself grabbing bottles and boxes and reading labels. I was shocked, disgusted and slightly amazed that I had never really thought to pay attention to things more closely before.  So, what was I going to do about it?

BIG changes, that is what we decided to do. From croutons, coffee creamer, chips, fruit snacks, granola bars and more no more over processed toxic junk. I know we can’t make every desired change in the bat of an eye but I am going to try and make as many as we can as quickly as possible. If you really are what you eat I don’t want to be what I was eating anymore. Pinterest was a huge help (as always) when I went to look for recipes and ideas. I started reading labels IN the store BEFORE I bought something. I also purchased a food dehydrator and I am anxiously awaiting it’s arrival in the next week.

Part of me is a bit worried about this change. I know it will require more work on my part. But I really think it will be worth the extra effort and I am excited to see how the change goes.

nutrition--you are what you eat, what you eat becomes a part of you.preview