Wonderfully Made

Jul 31, 2013

Today I'm thrilled to be featured over at Milk & Crown with the beautiful Kristyn. I'm taking part in her Wonderfully Made series- posts written by women, about themselves, in a positive light. Kristyn says these posts are..."What you love about yourselves....women embrace and celebrate who they are...it encourages all of us to be a little kinder- not only with others, but with ourselves".
 It doesn't feel natural to highlight your good side. I'm usually one to roll my eyes when someone tells me I'm pretty, or make a dismissive comment in response to a kind compliment. I hate that I do that. Being humble does not equal self-bashing, nor does being modest in spirit equal never being able to just say "thank you" for a compliment. I'm the worst at this, and I'd like to stop. I'd like to appreciate the way someone else sees me without tearing myself down. I wouldn't tear someone else down, why do it to myself, especially in front of others?!

Easier said than done, but one step I've taken is participating in this series. I've had to purposely sit down, think about my positive attributes and what I like about myself, and let the blog world know. It wasn't easy, but I'm glad I did it. I'd like to think that it's one step closer to accepting myself and breaking down my walls of insecurity. 

If you'd like to read my post, go HERE
To check out the rest of the series and some other great women, go HERE. 

In other news, I recently finished revamping a friend's blog and I'm glad it turned out well. I really enjoy the design process of blogging (as you've probably noticed with my ever-changing blog header and layout)! Leah is a great writer- funny, witty, down-to-earth, and has two adorable munchkins. Check out Behind the Stone Wall
 I really enjoyed working on this and learned a ton more about html in the process. I'd really love to dabble in this as a work-from-home side job, but would need some more practice and experience first. If any of you are interested in a little facelift for your blog, let me know! I'd love to work on something for you! 

That's it for this Wednesday! Head over to Milk & Crown to check out my post there! 
Have a wonderful, wonderful day! 

photo contest: water

Jul 30, 2013

I'm entering this photo of Noah playing in his pool into Running from the Law's photo contest. I love Sara's blog. She keeps me laughing with her mommy confession series and takes some great pictures of her little guy! This month's subject is water and I knew I had the perfect picture for my entry!

I took this photo one evening last month while Michael was grilling out and I was splashing around with Noah in his baby pool. I love how he just happened to look up and make eye contact with the lens as I snapped the shot.
[f/1.8, ISO: 200, exposure edited with PicMonkey]

Want to enter your own photo? Head over to her contest to enter for a chance to win a gift certificate to Pinhole Press! Happy Tuesday!

In the Kitchen | Roasted Tomato Sauce

 Surprisingly, our tomatoes have done really well this summer. That, along with our green beans, have flourished and provided us with an abundance of colorful, nutritious veggies that taste so much better than the store-bought ones. I love growing and harvesting my own food. There's pride in it. There's the knowledge that your hard work is, in turn, nourishing your body. There's comfort in knowing just what is in and on your food...or what isn't. 

We've been eating organic produce for a while now and are pretty strict about it in our own home. We make sure our food is gmo-free and not sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. We're steadily making steps towards eliminating almost all chemicals from our food and water, but it's a slow process and sometimes not the most inexpensive one. Growing things at home is one way we take control of what we're putting into our bodies and take another step towards being self-sufficient.
All these bright, red, beautiful tomatoes were begging me to be turned into tomato sauce. I've tried Pioneer Woman's recipe, and while it was good, it kind of tasted like the jar version from the grocery store. I wanted something with a little more flavor, body, and uniqueness. And let's face it, this mama doesn't have three hours to be standing over a pot of tomatoes. 

I finally came across this recipe from Joyful Healthy Eats and knew it was the one for me. I adore tomatoes when they're roasted and love the flavor it brings out. It was a quick fix, too, and Michael agreed it turned out to be the best sauce yet! 
Roasted Tomato Sauce
 2.5 lbs of roma tomatoes
1 cup of basil
4 garlic cloves, in their shell
1 tsp. of salt {add more if needed}
1/2 tsp. of pepper
3 T. of olive oil

Wash Roma tomatoes. Cut in half and place on a baking sheet. Next, place garlic cloves with shell intact onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place baking sheet into a 400ยบ oven and roast for 25 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and let cool. Next, remove garlic clove shells. Place all tomatoes and garlic in a blender along with fresh basil, salt, and pepper. Blend until desired consistency. Serve with your favorite pasta. As a HUGE Parmesan fan, I suggest loading your bowl up with the shredded goodness to your heart's content!

Growing up a picky eater, I've never liked plain tomato. Up until about a year ago, I dipped around chunks in my salsa and always ordered my burgers with "no tomato, please". I still don't eat them by themselves unless they're with something else, say bruchetta, salsa, or in some sort of Italian dish. This recipe, however, had my mouth watering for them as soon as they came out of the oven. They smelled absolutely delicious with the roasted garlic cloves (one of my favorite foods!) and olive oil. I probably could have had them with my pasta just as they were. Although I really enjoyed the consistency of the pasta once blended, as well. 

I've really enjoyed cooking lately. I enjoy having an honest opinion from Michael and getting excited to see what he thinks about it. Our cutting board has almost had a permanent place on our counter and to me that says fresh, real, and made with love.

Miscellany Monday: Flight, Family, & Food

Jul 29, 2013

1. Flying. Noah did so well on our flights to and from Charlotte. Because of his schedule being a little backwards, he was going on very little sleep but still managed to do great! On the flight home we downloaded Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on my phone and it kept him occupied for awhile. We got comments on how well-behaved he was and that definitely helps us not be scared to fly again. 
2. Family. We had a wonderful time with Michael's family over the weekend. His dad scheduled his mom and I facials and massages and they were heavenly after an early morning and a plane ride. We had dinner at a great Italian restaurant Friday night, shopped on Saturday (including Ikea!), ordered CPK pizza and swam Saturday evening, and browsed around Charlotte on Sunday before our flight. We checked out their farmer's market and enjoyed seeing all the different vendors, fruits and veggies, and homemade products.
3. Food. I've really been struggling lately with making the lifestyle changes I know need to happen. It's the worst feeling when you know what food is best, but you still sometimes resort to the junk out there. Michael and I both struggle with this. We've learned so much together, but have a hard time sticking with it. We've taken HUGE strides in changing our lifestyle in other ways, but what we eat has fallen behind. If you look at what we eat for our meals, we do well if we're not eating out. But it's the junk we get while we're out in town or the cookies I make a few nights a week, or the unhealthy restaurants we go to. We're both pretty determined to get a good grip on this and I'd like to highlight that some in my blog. More on that later this week! 

Happy Monday! 

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Five on Friday

Jul 26, 2013

Today, we're up early and catching a 7am flight to Charlotte! This will be Noah's first plane ride and I'm excited to see how he'll like it! As I wrote about last week, there is an Ikea in Charlotte and we're heading there Saturday morning to do a little shopping. While I'm going to need Michael to hold me back and not let me buy the entire store, I do have a few things in mind. Here's a little looksee at my Ikea wish list....

I obviously won't be bringing all of these home, but a few of the smaller items fit in our budget and will hopefully fit in our luggage, too! I love that Ikea has some amazing products that are affordable and good quality at the same time. 

Linking up today with the Five on Friday crew - NatashaDarci, April, and Christina! We're off for our trip! Hope you have a great weekend! 

real and raw | how far?

Jul 25, 2013

It takes a lot to bare it all on a blog. It takes being okay with people in your "real life" knowing what is going on when you share posts that are real and raw. It takes being okay with people in the blog world seeing a part of you that they may not like, or may disagree with. It's not easy to know exactly how much to give and how much to hold back.

There are times I'm dying to get real in hopes that others are either comforted, inspired, or can comfort or inspire me. Sometimes I just need to get it out before my heart explodes. Those are the posts that make your heart come up in your throat as you click "Publish". There are other times I intentionally hold back to respect someone in my life or keep boundaries in place where they're needed the most.

There are posts that I wish I could share with you all out in the blogging world, but keep from a handful of people in my "real life". But then I think that, aside from necessary boundaries, it's unhealthy in a way. What if we just got to the point as a society where it was okay when someone said, "You know what....no. I'm not okay". How much pain could we avoid if we simply let what was in our heart out and quit getting dressed up everyday in our favorite masks.

What if instead of a bunch of people walking around protected behind their masks, there were a bunch of people walking around being real with each other and accepting that it's not always perfect or pretty and loving each other still.  For me, at least, the real and raw posts I've ever shared have been worth it  no matter how emotionally hard they are to put into words.

At least for me, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not being honest with myself or others if I'm not communicating what's on the inside. Sometimes that means resistance from others, but sometimes I come across those who accept that not everything needs to look okay and bare their burdens, however different they may be, as they walk beside me. And that makes it worth it.

What is your policy on "baring it all"? Do you think there are limits, or do you think it's helpful to be 100% transparent about your life and struggles? Do you think it's important to be absolutely real, no matter how imperfect it looks?

Aly's Visit

Jul 24, 2013

 I've loved having Aly here this week from Texas! She's my college roommate and we haven't seen each other in two years! She arrived Sunday after a day of delayed flights and is heading out today to finish up the rest of her vacation visiting friends in Atlanta and Alabama. We've had such a good time together. We both agreed it feels just like it did when we lived together in college. I love that even though we don't always consistently stay in touch, it felt like hardly any time had passed. Here's a little picture recap of our time together.

one & two | We visited Antique Archeology, the store of Mike & Frank of American Pickers. It's in an amazing building right outside of downtown Nashville with an amazing view of the city and in a prime location. Even more shops have opened up alongside them and the area is really coming together. It's such a fun store to browse around and even more fun recognizing some items from episodes!

three | On Monday, we shopped until we almost dropped! We headed to Opry Mills Mall and had lunch at Rainforest Cafe. Noah loved the animals and the "thunderstorms". I loved having Aly there to shop with- she's a super shopper and is also not afraid to tell me to put back that ugly sweater! There's a new H&M and I scored some adorable, stylish clothes for Noah for this winter, including suspenders!

four | Noah was such a champ the past two days. He endured getting in and out of the car in the rain and heat, hanging in his stroller some while we shopped, and staying out pretty much all day. He's such a content little guy and I just love him so, so much!

five | On Tuesday, we grabbed lunch at Jack's BBQ right on Broadway! It was delicious and we loved the decor. Its was a small joint and packed around lunchtime. I did decide that next time I go downtown I'd just wear Noah in the carrier. Trying to navigate a stroller in and out of the stores and through crowds of people was exhausting.

six | Did I mention Aly loves to shop? And that she's obsessed with cowboy boots? She is from Texas, after all. Nashville was boot heaven for her and it was fun dreaming about all the boots we'd get if we had the money! Isn't she pretty?

seven | This was one of the only pictures that turned out while I was trying to stop Noah from dipping his fingers in my BBQ sauce. He really enjoyed some plain BBQ and green beans and because it was a small place, he sat right beside me in the booth and did pretty well! This is a neat view of the "Batman" building downtown from Broadway. We had originally planned to go downtown Monday, but it was rainy and cloudy. I'm so glad we waited until yesterday because it was sunny and although a little warm, there was a nice breeze through the streets.

eight | We stopped at Hatch Show Print and fell in love with the beautiful prints they had on display and for sale. I love the exposed architecture and how the printing supplies were out in the open for visitors to observe. It was a beautiful place and we came away with our share of fun signs and postcards.

nine | Diana's Sweet Shoppe was the last place we stopped in before heading away from the downtown area. We enjoyed classic root beer floats and cooled down before walking back to the car. I love that they kept the original design of the ice cream bar and had some interesting flavors! This was a nice treat before ending the day and heading back home.

This was such a fun past couple of days. It was nice being with someone who was as excited about seeing Nashville as I am and who was willing to walk around and explore. This was the first time Aly had met Noah and I'm so glad she did! He loved her and I loved being able to spend time with such a sweet friend.

What about you? Do you keep up with any of your friends from college or your past?

In the Kitchen | Creamy Three Cheese Tortellini

Jul 23, 2013

During our first year of marriage, I found myself bored with our dinner options. I was constantly reading blogs and coming across amazing food bloggers who challenged my knowledge of cooking and inspired me to try new things. One evening I had gotten home from work early and decided to try something new. I hadn't planned for this meal, so I used whatever we had in the fridge or pantry. 

I honestly don't even remember all I put in this thing....a little pasta, a vegetable, some cheeses, some outrageously mismatched spices, and I forget the rest. I was really proud that I could create something off the top of my head and was excited to try the final result. Michael got home from work, I finished up dinner, and we sat down to try it out. After only one bite, we both looked at each other with one of those disgusted looks and couldn't eat anymore. I've always appreciated that Michael is honest about the things I fix. My feelings might be hurt a little, but they'd be hurt way more if he pretended he liked it. I knew deep down that it was gross. We threw it out and ordered pizza, I think. 

Since then, I've come quite a way with my cooking skills. One of my favorite types of food is Italian and I wanted a way to create a nice dish at home instead of always craving it from somewhere else. I tried this recipe twice before I got it the way I wanted it and now it's one of our favorites. It is so quick and easy to fix and is so delicious. And this one is way better than the newlywed mystery pasta dinner.
Creamy Three Cheese Tortellini
1lb Buitoni Mixed Cheese Tortellini
1/2 Pint Whipping Cream
1/3 C Peas
1/3 C Feta Cheese
1/3 C Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Tbs. Red Pepper Flakes

Bring water in a pot to a boil, add Tortellini. Cook for ten minutes. Drain, add back to pot, reduce heat to low. Add whipping cream, feta cheese, parmesan, red pepper flakes, and peas. Stir together until cheese is melted. Creates around 4 servings.
It makes me feel good when Michael asks for this dish or brags about it to our guests. It's a really easy recipe and is wonderful for nights when a quick dinner is needed. I love that it mimics alfredo, but with a bit more character from the Feta and peas, and a little kick with the hot pepper flakes. And it goes so well with garlic bread!

Have you ever had a creative trial recipe go terribly wrong? Or have you ever put something together and been surprised when it tasted great?

You know you're a blogger when....

Jul 22, 2013

....you turn every activity or event into a photo shoot.

....you take more photos of your food than a newbie Instagram-er. 
....you stay up late to finish a post for the next day.

....you read twenty blog posts in ten minutes. 

....you comment on twenty blog posts in ten minutes. 

....you take thirty pictures of yourself just to use one for a post. 

....you'd die if they shut PicMonkey down.
....you feel anguish when you leave the camera at home.

....you think of the day of the week in link-party terms. 
   "Oh! Today is 'Miscellany Monday', 'Wordless  Wednesday', 'Thankful Thursday', 'Five on Friday', ...."

....your husband asks "Are you going to blog about this?"

....you know the grave danger of not backing up your html code before making an edit.

....you start to get a headache from staring at the screen for so long. 

...you tell your family, "Hold on, I'm almost done with this post."  twice in an hour.

What about you? Can you relate to some or all of these? Any fun ones you can think of? 

five on friday

Jul 19, 2013

Five things I'm excited about. 
one | Night Market. Tonight we're heading to the Nashville Farmer's Market for "Night Market". I've heard about it, but this will be the first time we've gone. A ton of local merchants, a few food trucks, some drinks, and some music sounds like the perfect end to a long week!
two | A visit from a friend. My college roomate arrives Sunday for a four day visit! We haven't seen each other in over two years! She's a Texan and is spending the week visiting friends in nearby cities. I can't wait to see her and for her to meet Noah! I'm excited to explore Nashville with her! This picture was taken at around 6 or 7am right before a 5k. Can you tell how excited we are to run?!  

three | Taking Flight! Next weekend we''ll be flying to Charlotte to meet Michael's family for a few days. This will be Noah's first plane ride! It's a 7am flight and I'm really not stressed about it. Noah's really a laid back baby and goes with the flow so well! Plus he's usually in a wonderful mood in the morning and will probably sleep the entire way to the airport, meaning he'll be good to go! I'm looking forward to the entire weekend. 
four | IKEA! There's an Ikea in Charlotte and we're hitting it up that Saturday morning as soon as they open. I'm in love with Ikea but our closest one is five hours away. I can't wait to browse around!
five | Our garden! As I've already written about, our garden hasn't turned out to be all we'd hope it would. The only "plant by seed" veggie that did well was our pole beans and while they've grown, they haven't produced green beans yet. However, our tomato plants are just growing and producing like crazy! I'm looking forward to making some salsa and pasta sauce with the ones we've collected. I also used our tomatoes in the Greek Quinoa Salad I featured on Wednesday! We got two squash before the plants rotted. Our neighbors' garden is doing great and they've been so nice and shared some of it with us. We friend up some of the okra they gave us and used some green beans and jalapenos for another dinner this week. I love it! 

Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? Any exciting plans coming up? Hope it's wonderful!

 I'm linking up today with the Five on Friday gals - Natasha, Darci, April, and Christina!

on being a mama

Jul 18, 2013

It's so interesting how just a mere almost eight months can change a mama. I feel like his birth day was so long ago. This has been an amazing adventure and one that is just getting started. I've learned so much by just being and doing. I've learned from my own mom, other mamas, observing, taking it in, pushing it away when needed, whatever it was at the time.

I feel like I'm settling into my mama groove. I'm getting comfortable in my own skin and it feels good. Although I feel I was pretty knowledgeable when Noah was born, I had no idea how much he would steal my heart and just how much perspective he would bring to life. At first, I was hormonal, insecure, and behind my facade of confidence was a mama who knew how she wanted to be a mama, but was nervous about it.

Somewhere between then and now, I've faced moments in which I've had to decide, commit, and speak out. I've also had moments where I've realized what is important to me as a mama and what wasn't worth getting upset about.

I was nervous to breastfeed in public. Now I feel at ease feeding my baby whenever and wherever he needs. Breastfeeding is a precious, precious thing to me and I truly enjoy every single chance I get to nurse my sweet boy.

I've made bold statements about things and people and decisions. Now I know things aren't always so black and white. 

I had researched until I was blue in the face and made decisions for my sweet boy based on what I felt was the best. I was nervous about the criticism I might face. Now, over time, I'm confident we've made the right decisions and don't let others influence me otherwise. 

I knew I wanted to keep my baby close and baby-wearing is important to me. I felt guilty if I put him in the stroller rather than wear him. Now I realize the value of balance and that our attachment isn't tarnished by a few rides in the stroller.

I knew I wanted to have a relaxed way of approaching things and when Noah hated his crib, I was nervous to co-sleep because of the negative feedback I might get. Now I'm confident in our decision, any feedback doesn't bother me, and we are a happy, well-rested, co-sleeping family.

I knew the way I wanted to introduce foods and how long I want to breastfeed, but felt anxiety when it would come up in conversation. Now I know enough and am confident enough that I don't take it personally when someone has questions.

There were things I thought were important, that now I realize we can do without. I started out feeling absolutely sure that there was a right and wrong way to all this. Now I give myself grace and patience and extend that to others, too.

 A good mama is one who does the best she can with what she knows.

As I learn more about the decisions I'm faced with and ask God for wisdom, I grow confident in my ability to choose what I feel is best for my family. I'm thankful for wise mamas all around me that challenge me, encourage me, and mostly inspire me. I'll never be a perfect mama and I have years and years....and years!....of learning to do. But I do know that it is a process and one that, while it does technically happen overnight, is cultivated over time with love, trials, mistakes, learning, humility, and even more love.

In the Kitchen | Greek Quinoa Salad

Jul 17, 2013

I don't know about you, but sometimes I have trouble keeping variety in our menu. I have winter staples - chili, crockpot chicken, and all kinds of soups- and summer staples- chicken on the grill with some sort of roasted veggies. We love quinoa, but it gets old after awhile when served plain. I came across several different quinoa salad recipes and loved the idea. It's perfect for summer as it's served cold, not too heavy, and really healthy! 

This recipe came about by mixing a few of my favorite ingredients from several different recipes. It kind of was accidentally created. I was out of a few ingredients from one recipe, so I improvised! Michael loves Greek salad and I've been fixing it a ton lately, so this is my spin-off from that! This is a super easy salad to fix beforehand and take to a party, bring to work for lunch, or have for leftovers for the week. You really can't go wrong with this recipe, too, and can really make your own version based on preference and what's in your kitchen!
Greek Quinoa Salad
1 C Un-cooked Quinoa
2 C Water
1 C Diced Tomatoes
1/2 C Feta Cheese
1/2 C Corn
1/3 C Diced Cucumber
1/3 C Diced Red Onion
1/3 C Sliced Black Olives
3 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbs. Lemon Juice
1/2 Tbs. Basil
1/2 Tbs. Parsley
1 tsp. Sea Salt

Bring 2 C of water to a boil. Add 1 C of Quinoa, simmer for 10 minutes or until done. In a large bowl, mix quinoa with veggies, feta cheese, herbs, and salt. Lastly, drizzle olive oil and lemon juice evenly over salad and mix. Refrigerate until cold, around one hour.  (I fixed our last batch close to dinner and stuck it in the freezer to speed up the chilling process).
Do you struggle with finding variety in your meal planning? What are your summer quick-fixes? I'd love some links to your favorite summer recipes! Have a great Wednesday!

Q & A: Liebster Style

Jul 16, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I was nominated for another Liebster Award by Rebekah from Creatively Beloved! You can see my previous Liebster post here. Today I thought I'd just answer the questions since I completed the other parts with award #1
1 | What is your favorite childhood movie?
 'The Little Princess', starring Shirley Temple. I could watch that movie over and over again when I was a kid.

2 |Why did you start your blog?
This blog started out as an outlet for my thoughts while in college. It was a big growing period and I wanted to document my thoughts and feelings.  

  3 | What is your favorite part of your personality?
 For the most part, I think I'm pretty laid back. I'm up for anything and don't consider myself too high maintenance. I think being flexible is important!

4 | If you could visit anywhere in the world, with $$ not being an issue, where would you go?
Italy! We'd spend a whole summer there in the countryside, mingling with the people, learning the language, and eating authentic Italian food every. single. night.  

  5 | What is your all time favorite book? 
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I usually don't read a book more than once, but this is one I've read twice already. 
 6 | What song is currently your favorite?
You know, I don't have a favorite! I love a ton of songs!  

7 | If you could have any animal you wanted as a pet, what would it be?
Alright..I'm just going to put it out there. I love cows. They're cute. And I want one.   

8 | What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Photography. Cliche hobby, I know, but I'm really enjoying tweaking my DSLR skills and it takes time!  

9 | Which Holiday do you look forward to the most?
Christmas, for sure. There are so many amazing family memories and feelings that flood back to me around Christmas. The lights, the traditions, the decorations, the family...everything. 
10 | If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
Pay off the rest of our student loans and the house so we can finally be debt free. From there, we'd be free to do so, so much good. 
11 | Are you a night owl or an early bird? 

 I'm a complete night owl. I usually get a second wind if I'm up past 10pm. My mind is so busy during the day that it's not until things have settled down and I feel like there's nothing else to do before bed that I can relax and just enjoy something. Sadly, everyone else is usually in bed at this time!

Thanks again for the nomination, Rebekah! 

Miscellany Monday

Jul 15, 2013

Today is the beginning of a week at home, and I'm looking forward to it! We spent all of last week in Alabama at a Marriot Resort overlooking the river. Noah and I enjoyed the pool some during the day, but mostly after Michael had finished work for the day. Noah loved being in the water and I considered it a small mommy-success that Noah didn't get any sunburn!

 Our room was spacious with tons of light pouring in from the balcony door and windows. I love the picture of Noah playing on the floor with the light behind him. It's such a sweet moment. He is usually most content right after he wakes up in the morning and is perfectly fine sitting on his blanket and banging his toys around.
There was a small park near the hotel with a playground, walking path, and splash pad. We went out Wednesday evening for a walk and enjoyed exploring. Noah fought his second nap earlier that day but fell asleep in the stroller after only five minutes during our walk. 
When we got home Friday afternoon we immediately started preparing for the yard sale a friend and I were having the next morning. She and her family came over for dinner and we set up as much as we could that night. Saturday morning was an early one and we had a good amount of shoppers in the first hour alone! Overall, I made $234. Not bad if you ask me! Most of the things that didn't sell were taken to Goodwill. I kept a few of my bigger items and am going to try to sell them online.
Yesterday was spent resting and cleaning up some from the day before. It was a busy week and weekend! After that, this relaxed week will be a welcomed change.

How was your weekend? Do anything special?

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