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    60 Mother’s Day Gifts That Moms of All Ages Will Absolutely Love

    I’ve always loved scrolling through Pinterest and seeing the many gift lists people create. Perusing them is so fun for me as it introduces me to new products and ideas. I finally made the jump into making my own 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide. (Don’t worry mom, your gift isn’t on here!)  I absolutely loved making this guide so it definitely won’t be the last one I make.

    A Quick Word to Moms

    Thank you. Those are two words that aren’t said enough by kids no matter how old they are. I know I fail daily to give my own mom the gratitude she deserves. Instead, we kids drive you crazy and are often thankless. Yet, you still love us. Here’s a much needed message from us kids everywhere to all the moms out there: We love you and are thankful for you. 

    The Mother’s Day 2017 Gift Guide

    There’s a ton of stuff on this list that I absolutely love, have a friend that loves or I can see a friend who’s about to be a mom fall in love with. If you don’t find quite what you’re looking for in one of the items below, may I suggest sending your mom on a vacation with other grown ups instead? I’m sure every mom would love to get in line for that gift!

    1. Handmade Wood Mother’s Day Card
    2. Kendra Scott Signature Dani Drop Earrings in Mother of Pearl
    3. Harney & Sons Caffeinated Hot Cinnamon Sunset Black Tea with Orange and Cloves Tin
    4. Bath & Body Works White Barn 3-Wick Candle in Endless Weekend (I am personally OBSESSED with this scent!)
    5. Sam Edelman Melanie Handbag
    6. Mama Bear Glass Coffee Mug
    7. Birch Floral Notebooks by Rifle Paper Co. (Fun Fact: The light blue pattern was used as part of our wedding inspiration.)
    8. Ocean Salt Face and Body Scrub by LUSH
    9. Fire HD 8 Tablet with Alexa and 16 GB
    10. Daelman’s Stroopwafels Variety Pack of 3 – Caramel, Maple and Honey
    11. At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider (I really want to abandon my 2017 Reading List to read this right this second!)
    12. S’well Insulated Double Walled 17 oz. Stainless Steel Water Bottle in Bikini Pink
    13. Mom Life: A Snarky Adult Coloring Book
    14. KitchenAid 1.25 Liter Electric Kettle in Pistachio (We have this and it’s AMAZING.)
    15. Dogeared We Are Family Heart Pendant Necklace
    16. Lodge Pre-Seasoned 13.5″ Cast Iron Skillet
    17. LeSportsac Classic 3 Zip Pouch
    18. Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera
    19. Natural Sliced Blue Agate Coasters – Set of 4
    20. What I Love About Mom Fill In The Blank Journal
    21. Vera Bradley Printed Preppy Poly Zip Top Tote
    22. Old Shanghai Women’s Kimono Robe Short in a Watercolor Floral Pattern
    23. Naked 2 Eyeshadow Palette by Urban Decay
    24. Belkin MIXIT Lightning USB Leather Tassel Charger for iphone/ipod/ipad
    25. Together: A Mommy + Me Coloring Book (I love that this is something for a kid and a mama to do together!)
    26. Fossil Q Wander Stainless Steel Touchscreen Smartwatch (One of my friends has this and absolutely loves it.)
    27. Mommee Coffee – 12 oz. Whole Bean Organic Fair Trade Coffee with Full Caffeine and Low Acid
    28. Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy by Emily Ley
    29. Vivere Double Hammock with Space-Saving Steel Stand in Paraiso
    30. LifeProof FRE Waterproof Phone Case for 6s Plus in Banzai (I have this phone case and it really is waterproof!)
    31. Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion For Dry Skin
    32. Gilmore Girls Mother Daughter Thing Coffee Mug
    33. Gold Heart Magnetic Notepad
    34. LE3NO Womens Lightweight Sleeveless Military Anorak Vest
    35. You’ve Got This Black and Gold Insulated Travel Tumbler by SLT
    36. La Cie PetiteKey 16GB USB Flash Drive
    37. bittersweet by Maria Shireen Hair Tie Bracelet
    38. Converse Unisex Chuck Taylor All Star Ox Low Top Sneakers in Mint Green
    39. NIX Advance – 8 inch Hi-Res Digital Photo Frame with Motion Sensor (Be sure to preload it with family photos!)
    40. Bath & Body Works 3 Wick Sugared Lemon Zest Candle
    41. Q&A a Day for Moms: 5-Year Journal
    42. Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Moisturizing Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia
    43. Creative Co-Op White Stoneware Ring Dish with Eiffel Tower & Gold Detail
    44. Kate Spade New York Women’s Brigis Cat-Eye Sunglasses
    45. Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are Devotional by Shauna Niequist (New mom approved!)
    46. Kiehls Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Masque
    47. simplehuman 80z. Sensor Pump with Soap Sample in Brushed Nickel (We got one as a present and have them everywhere now. We love it!)
    48. One Dozen Wild Rainbow Roses
    49. Primitives by Kathy Bless the Food Before Us Kitchen Tea Towel
    50. Anova Culinary Bluetooth Sous Vide Precision Cooker (My husband who is the family cook is slightly obsessed with this.)
    51. Day Designer for Blue Sky 2017-2018 Academic Year Weekly & Monthly Planner, Twin-Wire Bound, 8″ x 10″, Navy Stripe Hardcover
    52. Kate Spade New York Women’s Dahlia Thermal Mug
    53. 12×8 Vintage Felt Changeable Letter Board
    54. URPOWER Essential Oil Diffuser and Cool Mist Humidifier
    55. T4U 4.25 Inch Ceramic Japanese Style Clay Planter
    56. Lindt Lindor Irresistibly Smooth Citrus White Chocolate Truffles (These are amazing. Rick and I are both obsessed.)
    57. Wireless Bluetooth Sport Stereo Headphones
    58. Essie Wild Nudes from their 2017 Nail Polish Collection 
    59. Spiralizer 5 Blade Vegetable Slicer (We got the KitchenAid Spiralizer Attachment and it has made me not hate veggies!)
    60. The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places by Heather Avis (A book on down syndrome parenting!)

    Happy Shopping + Moms, what’s on your radar to get for Mother’s Day?
    Ashley

    My Top 3 Family Owned Restaurants in the Houston Area

    It’s no secret. I love to eat, like I absolutely love it. I especially love when I can support a smaller family run business rather than a huge chain. These are my top 3 favorite family owned restaurants in the Houston area. There’s a chance that I may even run into you at one!

    1. El Dorado Mexican Restaurant
      I’ve been coming here since they first opened. They’ve never ceased to satisfy my Mexican cravings. The waitstaff is always friendly and accommodating, especially to special needs. I almost always get the Durango – a chile con queso puff, a guacamole taco, a cheese enchilada and a sour cream chicken enchilada with rice and beans. It can be quite a bit of food, but it’s too delicious to deviate to another meal. One of my other favorite meals is the  Also, their pina colada is absolutely phenomenal. This family has worked so hard. I’m so excited to say that they have opened a new location in League City. My family and I went right when it opened and we absolutely loved it. Well done, friends!
    2. Dumar’s Mediterranean Restaurant
      I’ve said before that this I recommend the couples plate. I wholeheartedly still urge you to order that. It allows you to try all the things possible on the menu. I have officially tried all the chicken shawarma options and have to say that there’s no way you can go wrong. There’s something so delectable about their chicken shawarma that keeps me coming back for it. Rick loves the lamb kebab. Next time, we’re trying the kenafeh!
    3. Marini’s Empanada House
      I got to know the Marini’s the summer after my senior year in high school when I first fell in love with Argentinean empanadas. My absolute favorite things on the menu are the Apple Gabriella (diced apples, dulce de leche, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, and nuts), the Italian Marcello (Italian sausage, pizza sauce, mozzarella & provolone cheese) and the New Yorker (broccoli, cream sauce, mozzarella & provolone cheese). The best part is that each empanada is super customizable. I almost always add avocado to the New Yorker. It just makes it even better. Marini’s has been growing increasingly famous which is awesome as they are such a sweet, sweet family. They have their restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives this Friday night.

    I hope y’all spend the night out at one of these establishments. I have absolutely loved my time spent at all of them and hope you do too.

    Happy eating!
    Ashley

    The Reality of My Spring Break

    Last week was Spring Break. I’ve always loved the respite that Spring Break provides as well as the clear transition to start getting the ‘When Is It Summer!?’ fever. I completely planned on utilizing some of the self care ideas I talked about in 10 Cost Effective Ways to Practice Self Care Over Spring Break while dreaming of more glamorous breaks in the past. (I did a real vague variation on them that I’ll get to later in this post.)

    My whole Spring Break plan didn’t exactly pan out the way I thought it would because I got sick. I’ve known for years that something was off when I get sick. Friends and family would bounce back seamlessly as I would stagger on for weeks with the slightest of colds. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t shake what was ailing me. In some ways, my diagnosis of Chron’s Disease was an answer to this recurring sickness cycle. Knowing that and knowing that I have some yearly check ups in the coming weeks, I decided to cancel all activities sans a few and rest.

    I’ve never been good at rest. There’s something about it that that over the years transformed into a taboo thing for me. Maybe it’s because our culture seems to equate rest with laziness. Laziness isn’t something I ever wanted to be tagged by. I was always told that rest was for the weak so I stopped resting. This week, I brought it back. I didn’t bring it back in the sense that I was reading or liking pins on Pinterest to look at later but to actually rest. Actually resting for me means not forging ahead trying to conquer things whether it was working on ongoing projects or trying to get tasks done around the house.

    Intentionally looking for real non-working rest is what started me down a Netflix rabbit hole. I had to watch something that I couldn’t multitask while doing. For me, that meant finding a show in another language that I needed to read the subtitles for. I settled on Mossad 101 (HaMidrasha), an Israeli show focusing on Israeli Secret Service agent training. I absolutely loved listening to the Hebrew language while reading the dialogue. The twists and turns got me right up until the very end. I really do hope there’s a season 2 that follows.

    Afterwards, I switched to Jane the Virgin, a quirky telenovela centered around one mistaken moment. Oh, how I have fallen in love with this show. It’s the perfect mix of drama and comedy. The characters are all so intriguing on their own but the lead, Jane, captured me in such a unique way as she’s totally relatable. From waiting around on texts and phone calls to crossing boundaries for her friends, this girl is fantastic. I’m still on season 1 but I can’t wait to see how things unfold from here.

    When Rick got home from work one day, I asked him if I was even doing a good job at resting. He laughed at me. I can’t blame him. It seems like such a ridiculous question. Between laughs, he told me that I had indeed rested and I had done a good job at it. Apparently, vegging out on the couch got his vote of approval – or at least it did last week. It was good to hear, especially since it’s something that I don’t regard myself to be good at doing. I may not have done the self-care ideas that I posted a few weeks back, but I was able to sneak some special things into my couch laying – I painted my toes wine and gold, did a facial mask and played a lot of games on my phone.

    How’d your Spring Break go? What’s your go to when you’re sick?
    Ashley

     

    P.S. I did listen to an awesome interview on The Happy Hour with Heather Avis who is releasing her book today, The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places. It’s about an adoptive family to three kids, two of which have down syndrome. She talks about the journey they took to become this family of five. She discusses a lot of the same things that my family has been through – open heart surgery on a baby, the public school system and I’m sure so much more. I can’t wait to read this from the angle of an adopted mom. If you’re new around here, my twin sister, Lori, has down syndrome so it’s a topic that hits my heart very closely.

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    What I’m Loving // March 2017

    I’ve started 2 different blog posts for today and just nothing seems right. I don’t know if it’s just the day or what, but things aren’t flowing like they should. I love top ten lists, which I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve been journeying with me. I’m not sure since I’ve been back to blogging that I’ve really allowed y’all to see a peek in to who I am yet. Today, I’d like to share 10 things that I’m loving right now.

    1. If there’s one thing I’m loving currently, it’s the The Happy Hour Podcast by Jamie Ivey. I’m a bit obsessed. Like, I’m binge listening level obsessed. I love stories and I love how Jamie is inspiring me to stay connected in my faith, especially during this weird season of mine. Her guests are courageous, God-loving, fascinating women and I’m loving devouring their stories and getting to know them. Maybe, one day, Jamie will interview me. A girl can dream!
    2. Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs is a book that I’d recommend for sure. I finished this book in late January. It’s so worth the buy! I’ll be reviewing it in an upcoming post. It’s actually one of the ones that I started today and just decided I wanted to sit with the book and ponder a bit longer.
    3. The Pokemon Go App for Iphone is my current go to phone game. It’s reminding me to walk which is always good. Collecting Pokemon is fun too.
    4. Rick and I are both a bit obsessed with Skipbo. We’ve been playing almost nightly. I went on a 10+ Skipbo run there for awhile but he’s made a comeback. We actually spent most of our weekend relaxing with a NCIS marathon while playing this card game. Sometimes, it’s the simple things y’all.
    5. Want to Be a Writer? Start Writing. I absolutely love these encouraging words from Becky Kiser on writing. It’s interesting. Everywhere I seem to look lately, I hear more and more about this concept. It’s so simple, yet somehow has the power to paralyze us.
    6. If you’re looking for a good date night dinner spot in Houston, you should check out Dumar’s. I’d say get the Couples Plate. There’s a ton of food but it’s ridiculously delicious and so fun to try the huge variety that comes on it. I’m currently hooked on their chicken shawarma.
    7. In lieu of writing, I got to get together with some out of town friends tonight. We had a wonderful evening discussing life, drinking coffee and playing Harry Potter Clue. I think it’s been almost two full years since we four have been in the same place. My heart longs for a day when we could do something like tonight in person once a month or even more. God’s brought some amazing girls into my life, I just hope one day he’ll have us all in the same place too.
    8. I just started The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh over the weekend. I’m floored with the beautiful use of language within the pages of that book. I almost couldn’t even stop reading for date night because it had captured me so deeply. It’s been quite a while since that happened and I’m so excited to see what happens as I continue reading.
    9. I’m savoring alone time. This seems so weird to say, especially as a newlywed. Rick, don’t be upset if/when you see this. There’s just something that I’ve loved lately about carrying our fold up chairs into our backyard with a cup of ice cold water and reading. I cannot get enough of it. I don’t know if it’s the sun on my skin, the opportunity to get lost in a good story or just as much silence as suburbia has to offer. Unfortunately, I think winter is coming back so it may be a while before this is a consistent thing in my life. In the meantime, I’ll be snatching up the bits of time that I have to bask in the sun while I can though.
    10. This last thing I am loving is so silly. It’s not silly because of what it is, but how it came into my possession. I went shopping with my mom. We noticed this Columbia polka dot vest on a rack and she made me try it on. It fit perfectly and it was on sale. Plus, it is one of the most comfortable things I’ve worn in a long time. She bought it for me because I refused to get it for myself. With the constant changing of seasons and it’s ability to be ridiculously comfortable, it’s practically made itself into my every day uniform. I don’t even have a single complaint about that. I just can’t move on to another piece of clothing. It’s the perfect thing to grab in the mornings and I give no apologies for that.

    Alright y’all, thanks for sticking with me today and hopefully gaining some insight as to who I am, especially if we’re not IRL friends yet. I’ll be back with some serious insights soon. Love you and hope y’all are having a wonderful Spring Break! Don’t forget to get some self-care in!

    Ashley

    What This Crazy Texas Weather Is Teaching Me About Seasons

    Sitting pool side with warm rays of sunshine hitting my face is not something I get to do often. Doing that in February though is crazy unheard of. It’s been an uncharacteristically hot winter. You could even say that we have skipped spring and beckoned summer to come play with us a little early this year. It’s a bit ridiculous. A bit ridiculous yet still super cool. I’m loving reading outside in my backyard this time of year in spite of the crazy Texas weather.

    There’s quite a downside though. I love fall and winter fashion. I enjoy fashion year round, but there’s nothing like throwing on a vest and a scarf and heading outside to face the frigid temperatures. (Okay, in Texas frigid temperatures are like 60 degrees. Laugh all you want northerners. This Texas girl just can’t handle it.)

    It’s not just about the fashion though. Texas can’t make up her beautiful little mind. Leaves on the ground or bluebonnets bursting through the ground. What has happened is that we’ve been switching from tshirts and shorts one day to a winter coat the next. It’s a lot to handle and is causing severe problems. I just got back from running some errands in a long sleeve tshirt and a vest. It’s February. That seems like a considerably warm outfit for this time of year. This is insane. I’ve been sweating for hours! Thank the good Lord that a/c still runs on 60 in most stores. (Actually, that could be changed too but for different reasons.)

    All of this back and forth between the seasons stopped and made me think about what we’re missing out when we miss the seasons. I’ve been painfully aware of them over the past several days. God’s even placed on my heart an overt awareness of the season my life and heart are in.I like to sum up seasons with a word to remember them by. (I’ll be sharing my word on the blog for this year/season which happen to be the same soon.) If you’re not sure what season you’re in, it’s okay. Ask God to show you what he’s doing in you, what the key themes he’s trying to get you to grasp right now are. You may just be surprised.

     

    Be Aware of the Season You’re In

    I could have easily hit the weather app on my phone while I was brushing my teeth. I would have known a short sleeve tshirt would have been enough for running errands this morning. This seems so simple. Yet, how many of us don’t check what season of our lives and we’re in or where are hearts truly are? Right now I know I’m in a season of healing, a season of giving myself grace and a season of intentional growth. With this seasonal perspective, I know how to prioritize my time, what to say yes to and what to say no to, and how to equip myself for this current season.

    Live Into The Season of Life You’re In

    Living into the season where you are living is the absolute hardest thing one can do. We long for the future. In the future, we’ll be better, we’ll eat healthier, be more fit, have our life perfectly balanced, a successful career, the happiest of happy homes, and all of our relationships will be satisfyingly perfect. We will have our quintessential version of a perfect us and a perfect life. That’s just not true friends!

    It’s so easy in the midst of a tough season to say that you just have to grit your teeth, hunker down and try your hardest to get through this season. You can certainly do that and I have definitely done that a time or two. It gets you through, but you miss so much of what is going on around you. I wish I could go back several seasons and start over. If I could go back in time to past seasons, I would focus on and learn the things that I am learning now. I could have learned some lessons in past seasons if I had stopped to truly realize what God was doing in that season and let Him fully do it.

    I’m in a weird season currently. I’m in a season that I long for to be over. I know that if it was over tomorrow, I would have missed it in so many ways – settling into a new marriage, discovering who I am sans my identity being tied up in what I do for a living, learning to give myself grace. I need this season. I need to lean in fully and be okay with what awaits me. Even when what is waiting for me turns out to be something scary.

    Do Prepare For Future Seasons

    Seasons change. It’s a beautiful thing. It can be a scary thing though. Each season is meant for it’s own purpose. If we live into that purpose while being aware and preparing for future seasons, I think we’ll be better for it when we face that season with all of its unknowns.I know that I won’t be in this season forever.

    One day, I’ll return to a traditional job. Knowing that, I’m getting ready for that future transition now. I’m seeking opportunities I may be interested in when the timing is right. If my skills don’t match up with something I’d potentially love to do, then it’s time to see how I can acquire those skills. It’s time to look at what has held me back in the past and how that can be changed for the future. The ground work I am laying now is in the small things. These things like learning to eat healthy seem small and maybe even too easy with a lot more time on my hands. When I go back to work though, I’ll have new eating habits where I’ll be okay leaving the entire box of donuts in the break room for other employees.

     

    I pray you’re living into the lessons of this season friend,
    Ashley

    Starting Over To Become A Better Me


    I love, love, love the idea of everyday adventures and unseen beauty. Oh how I wish my life could be that! I wish those were things that really exemplified my life – searching for unseen beauty in things that may not be so lovely and seeking out everyday adventures in the mundane. It just doesn’t seem like that is where I am though. Maybe it is where I was and maybe where I’ll circle back to in a different season. Right now though, that’s not the season I’m in. It’s not where my heart is. I think I just need to start over and work on becoming a better version of myself.

    Why Start Over?

    I believeIt’s a season of changes, healing and restoration. It’s also an incredibly challenging time of sorting out of the identity of who I’ve become versus who I wish I had become or could become. I’m questioning my current life path. I’m seeking out past hobbies that once brought me joy and looking at them in a new light. Due to all of this and the switching of priorities of taking care of family matters first instead of working for a career, it’s time for a fresh start, a new chance at who I wish I’d become. Some days, I have the desire to look at my life penciled on a page and start ferociously erasing. Afterwards, I’m left with imprinted scratches and a somewhat new-ish slate. It’s something I can start over with. With each pencil stroke, I can begin to build something new, something better.

    Why Becoming A better Me Starting Today?

    As this journey has started, one thing has become incredibly evident. I have changed significantly over the past several years. Unfortunately, I think the vast majority of these changes aren’t for the better. I’m not saying that I believe I need to be the perfect woman juggling her career, kids, faith, home, friends, family and everything else with exact and precise balance while living each moment with intentionality. There are areas of my life that I feel like I’m not good at though, that I feel like need improving. I don’t feel like I live each day with intentionality. The thought patterns I’ve developed over time could use a major overhaul. I don’t give myself grace, yet I know I need to learn to do so. These things won’t change overnight, but I believe I can start to become a better version of myself one day at a time starting today.

    What Does Becoming A Better Me Look Like?

    In short, I have no idea. So many areas of my life that need redemption. From my questioning faith after seeing so many Christian failures as well as my floundering relationship with Jesus to a new healthy lifestyle that isn’t filled with pinned workouts while I’m seeing how many donuts I can eat in one sitting. Due to my love of research and reading. I know that research and reading will play heavy roles on this journey. I know being truthful, honest and eagerly seeking out answers will be on the way. This journey will be filled with changing things/habits/thoughts/routines, trying new things/foods/workouts and discovering that even an older dog can learn new tricks. The cool thing is that each day is new and what becoming a better me looks like today may be different in a year or so depending on the season.

     

    Grab my hand and let’s journey together!

    Ashley

    Back to Baking

    Whirlwind. That’s the best way to describe this past week or so. I always seem to forget how busy this time of year is. It’s not the chaos of Christmas time by any means, but we have three (now four!) birthdays to celebrate and Valentines Day. This year, we added a special baby shower for one of my friends. That means that I spent a ton of time searching for cake and cupcake decorations and baking lately. (Shout out to my mom who knew where to go for the best decorations!)

    Getting back into the kitchen for baking was such a beautiful experience after so much time away. Flour and powdered sugar falling onto my kitchen counter, glorious smells of muffins filling the air and a lot of stories intermingled with laughter is how I used to spend a lot of my weekends. It’s funny that is no longer my reality. Funny being in that sad longing way for years past.

    If you ventured over here last week, you saw that my life drastically changed over the past couple of years. In the midst of that, I lost a lot of my heart and a lot of will to do the things I used to love. In fact, I offered to make the cake and cupcakes for the shower knowing that I could do it. I’d baked before. The reality is that I think I’ve baked maybe twice in the past 3 years. With mounting pain, instead of tossing it into some cupcakes, I tossed making cupcakes entirely.

    Stepping back into the kitchen, firing up the mixer and watching powdered sugar cascade onto the counter again, tinged my heart. I felt it in a place that I hadn’t felt anything like it in awhile. I wasn’t baking surrounded by the group of friends that I baked nearly every weekend with back in college. My beloved, Rick was there to pass me ingredients and lick the spatula though as he took over as my Assistant Baker.

    Baking allowed my soul the space to come alive again in such a small way. I guess it’s one of those things that you just forget to do. You forget in the midst of pain that it’s okay to do things just because. Just because they make you happy, just because they remind you of better days, just because it’s a good start on the journey toward healing.

    What’s one thing you haven’t done in awhile that you love?
    Ashley