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    What I’m Loving + Favorite Photos // July, August + September 2017

    Oh my goodness. For a monthly review of all things that I’m loving and a chance to show off some more personal photo projects than my clients, it’s been a long wait! I missed July, because it felt too soon after June. The last weekend of August is when Hurricane Harvey hit southern Texas completely decimating entire cities and leaving lasting tragedy in its wake. Posting anything that week, especially the things I’m loving, just seemed wrong.

    As we’ve begun to recover and life has gone on, I think it’s time to let you in on a ton of things that I’m loving. The last few months have been so much fun. If you’ve been around my page for a bit, you know that I absolutely love sharing about the things that I am currently loving. Enough with talking about it, let’s jump in!

    What I’m Loving

    BINGING Hart of Dixie for all the good, quintessential small town feels and the quirkiest of characters. Meanwhile, I’m savoring The Great British Baking Show on Netflix with only a few shows at a time. It’s the absolute loveliest of competitions and has inspired me to start baking again.

    PONDERING on Carlos Whittaker’s Kill The Spider book. Full disclosure, I’m part of his launch team, so I got a free ebook download of it to read. I devoured it. Before finishing, I’d already preordered one copy for myself. I just went back and preordered another copy for a friend, so I can force her to read it and discuss it with me. Also because I really am looking forward to doing the video course and the workbook. Y’all, I am actively planning on rereading this already. I cannot express enough how much this book is a game-changer in spiritual warfare and actively living as a Christian instead of just brushing sin away like it’s now dealt with. I’ve started compiling a list of quotes that I love, but really, how does one compile one of the most comprehensive daily prayers that I’ve ever read into a list of quotes. It’s pages long, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and a necessity in a starting place of my own prayer life. Seriously, I have all the love for this book and can’t wait to see the impact it has after its release on October 3. It’s my number 1 suggestion from my 2017 Fall Book list.

    RICK’S RECOMMENDING his new audiobook series he’s been binge-listening to. One Second After is the first of a three part series that has us and some family friends re-evaluating what we’d do in the event of having to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

    LISTENING to so many podcasts these days. Rick and I have officially fallen in love with the Popcast with Knox and Jamie. Their “Urban Dictionary” series and “No’s of _____” are absolutely captivatingly hilarious. The “No’s of Birthdays” had me laughing so hard in the car that I was crying. The other podcast I’ve fallen absolutely in love with (along with so many others!) is the For The Love Podcast with Jen Hatmaker. I am absolutely loving how she’s bringing both unknown and everyday people onto her podcast instead of big name people that everyone knows. Don’t get me wrong, she had Brene Brown and Shauna Niequist on, and those were absolutely fabulous. I love hearing and learning from the everyday people she has on as they discuss friendships and moxie. I can’t wait to see the next topical series she does. My favorite ones right now are these: Luvvie Ajayi – Authenticity in a Branded World, Real Girlfriends Stories from The Tribe (Have tissues ready!) and Anna LeBaron + Ruth Wariner – Unyielding Courage.

    READING a book about slowing down, taking in life and making the every day things seem less stressful. I’m only a few chapters in, and I absolutely love Emily Ley’s writing style in Grace Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy. We just signed on our new house right before Harvey, and I can’t wait to move in and implement some of Emily’s suggestions into our own home. (No worries. Our new home was unaffected by Harvey.)

    STOPPING to scroll through 5 instagram accounts (Yes, FIVE!) that I absolutely adore as they’re each drawing me closer to Jesus in a different way. @beckykiser of @sacredholidays is super encouraging, and it’s been a true delight to watch as she gears up for writing her first book. She writes the kind of long, good, thought-provoking #instadiaries that I love. The other four accounts are makers who infuse Jesus into their works. @dearmushka is a jewelry company that I have fallen in love with due to its simplicity and calling to memorize and remember scripture. I love her #instadevos. @lindsay_letters is an incredible calligrapher that I’ve followed for years. It’s been so fun to watch her as she opens up more about her life instead of just her business on her account. I’m just fascinated with who she is as a person and love that she’s funny in her own way and not scared to share her quirkiness with the world. Sisters @nataliemetlewis and @valmariepaper have stolen my heart with their adorable twin-ness and deep desire to not only dive into scripture themselves, but to draw those around them to do the same. Clearly, I’m really loving instagram these days.

    CRAVING the Shinoda at Japaneiro’s and the Teriyaki Pizza at Local Table. I’m a huge fan of local restaurants. What are some of your favorites?

    Y’all. 3 months is just wayyyy too long. There’s so many things I’ve been loving and itching to share with y’all. Can’t wait to share again next month! Until then, what are you loving!?

    Favorite July, August + September Photos

    Hate, Love + Kindness

    Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    My heart aches right now. As many are hurt and terrified as the climate is filling with even more tension and wonder after the events this weekend in Charlottesville, I have to add my voice to the mix. It would be wrong not to do so at this point in history. Being silent is saying that this is okay. It is NOT okay.

    I spent much of last week looking through old photographs. I was blessed with being exposed to other cultures early on in life and getting to sit in classrooms for years with students who didn’t look or think like me. Being a white woman who has been surrounded for much of my life by people of other nationalities, races and beliefs is a gift from God as I would not be who I am today without these friendships. They have taught me so much about perceptions, privilege, hardship, injustice and beauty and for that I will be ever grateful.

    My heart not just hurts for what happened this weekend. My heart hurts that this is still a conversation in our nation. I hate that God has set us free yet we live in fear of ourselves. I have friends that don’t feel comfortable in a variety of situations, because they are treated differently based on their skin color.

    Last Friday, I had lunch with a dear friend where we discussed gender bias and racism, because these are real constructs that are happening at our time. The stories of my friends aren’t my stories to share, but I wish they would. Friends, I urge you to share your stories online, be that voice. Help us to listen and understand with new fresh eyes.

    I’ve seen several things over the course of the last six months or so begging the question of if you wonder what you’d do during the Holocaust; you’re doing it now. The thought of that is so incredibly scary but I think it is pertinent that we really evaluate that.

    My words are not enough.

    I pray that we will all stand together and say that hate is not okay. I’ve read a bunch of articles as well as Instagram and Facebook posts over the past few days. Unfortunately, many are already buried under ongoing social media. My prayer is that we will not forget the ongoing daily struggles when we only see the big, tragic moments. Here are some that I’ve been able to dig up along with others that I believe need to be heard in this moment.

    Look at What is Happening in America in 2017
    A Word from Dan Rather, Journalist
    Letter: Family denounces Tefft’s racist rhetoric and actions
    Words from Jen Hatmaker regarding Charlottesville
    Here’s an Anti-Fascism Video the U.S. Gov. Released Back in 1943. You Should Watch
    A Note to the Church: Let’s Be For, Not Against by Kaitlyn Bouchillon
    A Response to Charlottesville by Judah Smith + The City Church
    Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey featuring Tasha Morrison
    Jamie The Very Worst Missionary’s Call to Find A New Church
    Watch Dr. Cornel West and Rev. Traci Blackmon’s Friday Prayer Service in Charlottesville
    Pastoral letter about racism in America in 2017 by Bishop Scott J. Jones of the Texas Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church
    Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide

    I wish I had more eloquent words to convey how deeply saddened I am by this. God has seen my tears and heard my cries. We have to stand up for those who can’t, for those who have continually stood up allowing us to have this freedom we have today and for those who have ultimately sacrificed themselves for their beliefs. Whatever side you are on, know that the side of love will always win.

    Humans, hate is never okay. Let us be kind and love one another.

    Can You Pray For Us Today?

    Hi y’all. This last week has thrown me for a whirl on a roller coaster of emotions. I’m exhausted to say the least. With everything that happened, I didn’t end up posting a blog last week. I’ve got several blog posts that have been stirring in my mind for awhile, but honestly, none of those seem right. More than anything I could write to y’all this week, I would rather ask for a favor. Can you pray for myself, my family and my friends today?

    Please Pray For

    + A family member who is in a coma after suffering from 2 strokes.
    + Myself and my family as we grieve the loss of our dog, Clyde.
    + A friend suffering from a severe allergic reaction.
    + A friend who lost her father this past week.
    + Several new opportunities that are arising in the next few weeks.
    + Our continued house search as we start over after changing locations.
    + Restful sleep.

    Grateful For

    + Time spent with loved ones.
    + God bringing glory to himself in the midst of tragedy.
    + A husband who has supported me throughout this crazy week.
    + Getting to see friends I don’t normally get to see later this week and weekend.
    + A property manager who is working with us to extend our stay in our current home.

    Thank y’all. We desperately need your prayers. How can we pray for you?

    What I’m Loving + Favorite Photos // June 2017

    Hey everyone! I’m so thankful and excited by the overwhelmingly positive response I received last week on the official launch of Ashley Karlen Photography. Starting a photography business has been a dream of mine since college. I’m super excited to see what’s ahead. On to today’s fun stuff!

    If you’ve been around my page for a bit, you know that I absolutely love sharing about the things that I am currently loving. I’ve done this every couple of months since I started blogging again. You can read those here and here. While I still love sharing about the things I am loving, I wanted to spice things up. Every month from now on, I’ll be sharing things I love, am exploring, am curious about and many other things. The fun thing is I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite photos I took during that month. Are you ready!? I am!

    What I’m Loving

    DISCOVERING the library and the depth of it has been amazing. I absolutely love books and can’t stray away from a good book sale to save my life. This has really cut down on those books that I really want to read but don’t really need to buy. Plus, I’ve found that I absolutely love listening to fiction like this or this on audiobook. I love highlighting and taking notes so I’d much rather hold a non-fiction book in my hand.

    ENJOYING time on our back porch sitting in our camping chairs, relaxing and sometimes even building a fire. Yes, we live in Houston. Yes, it’s hot outside. Even with the heat, we’ve started a fire in our fire pit and spent an evening discussing life around the fire and roasted some s’mores.

    ADORING the lifestyle and community ideas from The Turquoise Table. Rick and I are already dreaming of our next home and how we can implement the ideas in this book to get to know our new neighbors and start building a community there. It’s made me start dreaming of fun little things to take out to my future table like this pitcher or these plastic cups. I just absolutely love the colors of those cups.

    PRETENDING I’m at the spa with this luxurious face mask. It smells so ridiculously wonderful in the morning.

    RICK’S RECOMMENDING the sous vide cooker. Rick has seriously recommended this immersion cooker to multiple people in the same day. I will say that this gadget is pretty nifty. It’s a great meal prep tool that you can set and leave which I’m always a fan of. The absolute best brisket I may have ever had in my entire life was cooked in this just a few days ago. (See below for the brisket picture.)

    PLANNING lots of vacation days in the next couple of months. Who has any fun ideas for San Antonio, Waco or Costa Rica? Later this fall, we’ll be looking for a great little bed and breakfast either around the Houston area or not too far away for a little couple’s getaway. Post all your must sees and great spots in the comments.

    GRATEFUL for the friends and family who have constantly encouraged me, stuck by my side and helped launch me into this new season of life.

    Favorite June Photos

     

    The Weird Thing Annie Downs Taught Me About Bravery

    My rhythm of life was greatly interrupted last spring. My daily rhythm changed drastically as I sat out a few rounds against Chron’s Disease due to surgery. What I didn’t realize at the time is that it was also being deeply interrupted by something else. I spent a lot of time in various waiting rooms reading tales of bravery penned by Annie Downs in her book, Let’s All Be Brave. It’s weird. I thought in those moments that hearing these stories were to help me to get through surgery and recovery but they seeped far into my heart past those months.

    I wouldn’t say I’m a risk taker. The unknown and how everything will play out has always made me a bit anxious with possibilities. It makes being brave hard! When I started reading this book, I didn’t realize what being brave in my life would mean. I didn’t know the steps ahead that God would ask me to take in His name and in the name of courage itself.

    Unmarked

    I have long felt the desire to write about the words within these pages. Words of bravery beckoning for courage. Doing bravery any kind of justice is something I just I don’t feel I can adequately capture because I struggle with my own bravery. The path to finding my own bravery has been rocky. Some days look crazily more brave than other days.

    I’m a doodler. In meetings, in my personal reading, in making checklists for the day – I doodle. I underline, I highlight, I circle, I draw arrows and so much more. After urging my friends to read this book last January and finally finding a chance to have a book chat over Skype, It was a surprise to me when perusing the pages again that there wasn’t even a single pen mark.

    I picked the book back up again last week. Still no markings. I have very few books in my possession that are this devoid of pencil, pen and highlighter. In a way, I am so thankful for that. Last week, I read these words again and allowed them to cut into my heart and soul once again.

    Annie’s Words That Punched Me In The Gut

    “If you are brave, you are willing to walk the map that is yours, the one with twists and turns you’ve never expected, and you must be disciplined enough to stay on the narrow road under your feet. Step by step. Each step leads to the next, and before you know it, you are walking in a rhythm of courage.

    I never tied discipline to courage. I never saw the correlation. I guess I should have, since I lack in both. But in all matters – physical, mental and spiritual – I believe that to live a disciplined life leads to a brave life. We long  to be brave in the big moments, in the clutch times, in the times when our backs are up against a wall. But to get there? It’s the everyday. It’s the practice. It’s the steps. It’s the discipline.

    Let’s be real; that’s not the most fun answer you’ve ever heard. None of us enjoy discipline. Hebrews 12:11 puts it perfectly: ‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.’

    And in The Message? Boom. ‘At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.’

    It always feels like it’s going against the grain.
    Yet. It pays off handsomely.”
    Let’s All Be Brave by Annie Downs

    The Weird Connection + My Path to Brave

    I’ve always perceived discipline to be a continual rigorous act that requires patience and strength no matter what the discipline is for. Just like Annie, I never thought about discipline to be related to courage. Never in my wildest dreams. It just seems so weird. Yet, as I’ve started adding more bravery to my life, I’ve become more brave.

    I quit my job.
    I married my best friend.
    I began writing and blogging again.
    I picked up my camera and started shooting again.
    I started a Supper Club.
    With the support of some friends, we created an accountability group called the 7th.
    I started a new treatment for my Chron’s Disease.
    I confronted my fears.

    I became increasingly braver with every act. The bravery has opened my eyes to new ventures that I feel like I can say yes to and that I can feel confident about. I don’t know when I became braver. I don’t know when I first embraced courage and said, ‘Let’s travel this road together now’. What I can tell you is that as I’ve given myself the gift of grace to fail, I have become braver.

    I didn’t realize this until recently. I’ve struggled a lot with some of these things. When Rick and I were discussing one of them the other night, he turned to me and told me that I showed bravery in my decision. Bravery to follow God and to live true to myself. In that moment, a realization sunk in. I had never pictured it that way, but maybe, I am brave after all. If nothing else, I’ve got to be on the right path to bravery.

    I don’t know what you’re struggling with. I don’t know what giants you may be facing or what is lurking in the back of your mind today. What I do know is that my life is being changed through the brave path of discipline. The small disciplines of giving myself grace, allowing myself to fail and in saying both the courageous yeses and no’s, are making myself into a better person as each day goes on.

    Annie Downs later says, “Unforced rhythms of grace. Discipline as a rhythm. Could discipline look like grace and make me braver?” Yes Annie, I believe it can. I do believe it can.

    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