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    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


    10 Summer 2017 Books I’m Excited About

    I absolutely loved reading during the summer when I was little. I loved being able to pick out any book I wanted to see what would happen. Looking through the Summer 2017 books that are coming out, there’s 10 that have stood out that I really want in my personal library or at least to read. I absolutely love the endless adventures and possibilities waiting for you with each book.

    Coming in June + Ready for Preorder (Or Just Out This Week!)

    June 6Praying with Eyes Wide Open: A Life-Changing Way to Talk with God by Kevin G. Harney and Sherry Harney
    Growing up, prayer was something that was defined to a set time – mealtime, bedtime, church time, etc. I love how the Harney’s are opening up prayer to permeate every aspect of life rather than just those moments that seem to be ‘prayer times’. I’m really excited to see how this book can take my prayer life to the next level.

    June 6The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard by Kristin Schell
    I joined Jamie Ivey’s Book Club a few weeks ago and was ecstatic to see this was the first on our list to read. Focused around community and your own neighborhood, this is an easy read and may I say GORGEOUS book. I can’t wait for this to show up in my mailbox!

    June 20My Year in Paris: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World by Janis MacLeod
    When I lived in Costa Rica, I read an entire series on a life in Paris. Ever since that summer, I’ve been increasingly more interested in both baking and France. This day to day journey of a memoir is exactly what I want since my summer travels don’t include a trip to Paris. One day…

    June 30 – When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
    What is summer without some summer romance? This unexpected novel quickly caught my attention. If you know me, you know I’m a fan of cultures around the world. I love reading about them and I love experiencing them. This novel combines that with a look at how two Indian-American’s look at arranged marriages as they navigate both their relationship as well as their relationships with their parents.

    Coming in July + Ready for Preorder

    July 1 – Exalting Jesus in Acts (A Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) by Tony Merida
    It may be a little weird that I am adding a commentary to this list. Y’all, these commentaries are so cool. They’re one of my favorite additions to look at next to the scriptures. Acts is a book that I’ve longed to read for a while now. Since I’ve loved the other Christ-Centered Exposition Commentaries, I will definitely be using this one to pair with my reading of Acts. If you’re in any type of teaching the word of God, I’d highly recommend this series of commentaries.

    July 4Fearless Parenting: How to Raise Faithful Kids in a Secular Culture by George Barna and Jimmy Myers
    I am not a parent. I have spent a lot of hours working in youth ministry with teenagers though. Researcher George Barna’s has teamed up with counselor Jimmy Myers to create a book steaming with insights of what it looks like to raise faithful kids in today’s world. Even though I’m not a parent yet, I believe the insights of these two are worth reading for anyone who works with kids or students.

    July 4Doing Busy Better: by Enjoying God’s Gifts of Work and Rest by Glynnis Whitwer
    Busy. Overcommited. Exhausted. These three words often define me, and maybe you too.  Glynnis Whitwer breaks down our habits that we’ve built for ourselves and shows us how live our lives better as we work a new rhythm of rest into it.

    July 25Lucky in Love by Kasie West
    This romantic tale seems like a fun story for you to get lost in. Both the main characters work at the zoo which is one of my dream places to work so that makes me both excited and intrigued about this tale. How fun would it be to say that your coworker is a tiger? Okay, this may not be so much about the animals as it is a secret, a dramatic life change, two zoo co-workers and love. I’ll still love it anyway.

    Coming in August + Ready for Preorder

    August 1Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlike Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter + Aaron Ivey
    This tale unites the lives of Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson as it shows us their individual lives as their journeys cross paths and they become friends. I’m not sure if it’s historical fiction or an accurate historical account. Either way, I do believe the juxtaposition of their tales will make for an interesting read.

    August 8Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of this Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker
    Jen has a way of utilizing her wit and insight to draw you closer to Christ. Her past books have made me reflect on many things that I’ve never really drawn a parallel with in my life with Christ. I’m very excited about this read, plus I love saying the word ‘moxie’.

    + Some Spring 2017 New Releases I’m Still Super Excited About

    Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner
    This call to slow down is meant for the busyness that we allow to invade our lives, but let’s face it, I doubt we left our busy tendencies behind when summer started.

    Love Lives Here by Maria Goff
    This is one of the few books that made it onto my 2017 Reading List. Maria Goff infuses her life and home with love. In this book, she has provided us insight on her secrets on how to do that in our own lives. It’s a must read for me after falling in love with her husband, Bob Goff’s book, Love Does.

    Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships by Lisa-Jo Baker
    Friendships can be so, so hard. I’ve heard a ton

    Sweeter Than Honey: A Coloring Book To Nourish The Soul by Lindsay Sherbondy
    indsay Sherbondy has beautiful work – calligraphy, sayings and this coloring book is icing on the cake as she invites you to join her in the creation.

    At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider
    I listened to another podcast the other day with this author and each time I get even more excited about this book, her travels and the amazing stories and revelations she had in her 9 months abroad. This one will give you wanderlust for sure.

    Lucky Few by Heather Avis
    I am in love with Heather’s story about how God took all her plans and wrecked them for his. She’s an adoptive mama of 3 kids, two of which have down syndrome. I follow Heather on instagram and absolutely love watching her journey.

    Hopefully this makes choosing your summer reading picks a bit easier. What’s on your summer reading list?

    What I’m Loving // May 2017 Edition

    I I’ve decided that I deeply love the What I’m Loving blog posts. I love the fact that it provides a snapshot into the season, of the everyday life. Here’s a little snapshot of life lately through things that I am absolutely loving over here.

    I absolutely adore Gilmore Girls. I use to watch reruns throughout the week when I was in high school. I’d sit and do a few math problems before getting lost in the world of Stars Hollow. When they brought their new movie style shows to Netflix last fall I binged all of it again to be ready. You can imagine my excitement when I opened a present from my friend at Christmas and discovered Lauren Graham’s autobiography, Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls. Over the past several weeks, I’ve binge read the book soaking up all the words in this fast talking novel that has made me fall even deeper in love with the Gilmore Girls (and Lauren Graham herself). If you’re a Gilmore Girl lover, a Parenthood lover, or just really enjoy behind the scenes of Hollywood life, you’ll love it.

    Over the past several months, I’ve fallen in love with Jamie Ivey. Her word and her encouragement shine through her podcast, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. Jamie sits down with women and discovers what’s going on in their worlds. It’s like mini-memoirs in a way, which I absolutely love. She recently sat down with Tsh Oxenreider to discuss her book, At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe. It’s such a fun podcast to listen to right before summer as it has infused me with crazy wanderlust. The return of the sunshine hasn’t really hurt that desire to wander either.

    Christine Caine’s words are echoing in my mind from her book, Undaunted. This is a must read if you’re struggling with your purpose and calling. She said something to the effect that God uses the available and willing but we don’t always allow ourselves to be willing or available. Cut to the heart. You can read more about my thoughts on her words and how they hit my heart here.

    It’s a little hard to separate a few of the things I love: my rec chair that’s set up in the backyard, a good book, and Hubert’s Lemonade. I have this set up for a lot of afternoons. I have had to recently share my spot with a pesky spider and I think his whole family. It’s cool though. He doesn’t talk while I’m reading which is something I look for in a reading buddy. It’s super relaxing and doesn’t require the set up that my hammock does even though I love it.

    A few weeks ago I shared my Hanna + Nick Maternity session to Facebook. I shared it because a friend of mine challenged me to do so. I wasn’t sharing anything on social media regarding this new journey of mine back into blogging and photography. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about it. After stopping for three years and slowly getting back into it over the past few months, I was scared. I don’t feel as if I measure up to where I wish I was at this point. Sharing it not only made me brave but allowed for people to see it and react. The reaction has warmed my heart and given me strength to continue. I just wanted to end today and say thank you for that. Thank you for your belief in me, your encouragement and for reading all the way to the end. Love y’all!

    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?

    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!


    10 Cost Effective Ways to Practice Self Care Over Spring Break

    There’s something about the changing of seasons from Winter to Spring that really makes me squirm. The longing for Summer days reaches deep down into my bones and I can’t shake it. I’m ready for a vacation. I used to love Spring Break. It was a little spurt of freedom before getting the ultimate freedom of bells ringing on the last day of school.

    This year, I don’t get a Spring Break. I’m okay with that as I’m going to employ my own “mini Spring Breaks” throughout the week. A lot of that will be in intentionally doing things that promote self-care for me. I don’t think there’s one right way to do self-care. Self-care is anything you do that feeds your soul and recharges you. It’s not an easy thing for us to slow down and do that, especially during Spring Break. Here’s some ideas to add a little self-care for you regardless of what your Spring Break plans are and better yet, they’re cost-effective.

    Staycation Self-Care Ideas
    1. Clean your whole house.
      This may sound like a terrible idea for a vacation, but think about it. Over time, things get put out-of-place, small clean up tasks get delayed and side projects like that junk closet get put off to the inevitable tomorrow. Cleaning is not the first thing on my list of fun things to do. Why add it here? I believe it’s worthy of spending my time doing. When my house is clean and organized, I feel like my mind follows suit. Even if it’s just a couple of smaller tasks like cleaning my counters or doing a full sweep of my floors, it makes everything a little better. (I’m currently wanting to de-chemical our home with the products we rely on. If anyone has any tips on great cleaners that aren’t filled with tons of chemicals, please tell me in the comments!)
    2. Declutter.
      One of the easiest things to do is to get rid of things taking up space in your life that don’t deserve it. Old magazines, receipts, trash and items that are no longer relevant to your life (books you’ve already read, are super easy culprits. It’s a small thing but getting rid of those things and decluttering does wonders for feeling freer and more relaxed. That’s the purpose of any vacation anyway, right? Personally, I love shredding things. It feels better and more satisfying than just recycling or throwing something away.
    3. Volunteer Locally.
      There’s something so beautiful about serving that shows you the beauty of humanity and urges our hearts to be more hopeful. This can look different for anyone. You can send money to an organization, buy a product that helps others or causes awareness for an issue but my suggestion is that you should actively go serve. I believe there’s something different when you are physically engaged serving. If you’re not sure where to volunteer, I’d suggest asking a local church. Most churches have a great network of places they have partnerships with that are always looking for more volunteers.
    Out of Town Vacation Self-Care Ideas

    Choose 2-3 Priorities.
    This is a tactic that Rick and I employed on our honeymoon, especially for our days at Disney World. Instead of overwhelming ourselves with all the possibilities that we could do – shows, restaurants, rides, parades, etc. We chose 2 or 3 things that were the most important to us and made sure they happened during our time there. Everything else we could do was done in leisure. I didn’t feel any regret walking away from Disney World because we did a lot of cool things, but didn’t do the main things I wanted to do. We have already decided to employ this on any future vacation as it helped the trip to be so much more relaxing and enjoyable than we could have imagined.

    1. Plan Downtime.
      If you’re a vacation over-scheduler, this is particularly important. Most people returning to work after a vacation have crammed so much in that they return tired and in need of a vacation. Plan a few hours each day that are designated to relaxing, whatever that looks like for you. If you find sleeping in relaxing, sleep in. It’s okay to start your day later when you’re on vacation. This is something that I struggle with honestly. I want to do all of the things I can because I can’t guarantee I’ll ever be back. By choosing my 2-3 priorities for my trip, I feel freer to sleep in, to watch a movie or spend precious vacation hours reading.
    2. Stock Up On Gifts.
      This is kind of a weird idea. It’s not necessarily for your self-care in the moment. I’ve found it so useful in self-care later on during the year though. Whenever I see something on a trip that I know would make a great gift for someone I love, I buy it. I have a space designated for these when I get home that I can put it for safe keeping. When someone’s birthday comes up or Christmas rolls around, I check the spot. It takes away from super stress, especially around Christmas.
    Self-Care Ideas for Both Spring Break Plans
    1. Read.
      You knew I was going to say this, right!? Ha! Of course you did. I’m a book lover. Vacation time is really where I feel like my reading varies dramatically. I love getting lost in the story of someone else’s life, especially if it’s funny. (Mindy Kaling, I’m looking at you!) I love how it shields me from the world around me and lets me escape to another world for a bit. There’s also something about reading for your soul that is so important for our self-care. There’s a lot of books that might not be the funniest of books, but do look deeply into your soul to care for you on my 2017 Reading List if you’re looking for somewhere to start.
    2. Journal.
      When I think of journaling, I tend to picture someone sitting at a table with coffee for hours writing until their hand is cramped. The reality is that journaling looks so many different ways. It can be a ton of words, drawings or even bullet points. It’s whatever is needed to get what’s in your mind expressed on paper. It’s such a good release to get it out there and be able to truly visualize it in that way. Here’s three of my favorites to get you started: floral + ruled paper, simple + unlined, and a journal for non-journalers.
    3. Spend time with loved ones.
      My hope is that you are already doing this. If not, you should schedule it in on Spring Break whether it’s a phone call, Skype session or a good old-fashioned dinner. Make time for spending with your loved ones. Living out our days in community is something that we crave deep down inside and yet we easily set it aside during the rush of everyday life. Plan something. Plan anything with your people. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. It just has to be you and your people together. You won’t regret it. I know I haven’t.
    4. Do something creative.
      There’s something about art that unleashes our emotions and relaxes us. I love art. I love the variety of forms that it can come in from paintings to collages. Participating in making art is so important. I ‘m not necessarily the most amazing artist, but I do love to create. One thing that I have to come to love lately are adult coloring books. They’re easily transportable. These ongoing masterpiece that can be put down and picked up again when one has time. I spent a bit of time last week coloring in this gem of a coloring book. Your creative may not look like my creative. If your creative is woodworking, building, redecorating or anything else, go for it!

    Happy Spring Breaking!


    Valentine’s 2017 Top Ten

    Welcome to my new Top Ten series. I love sharing things I am currently loving, desiring and fun gift ideas for those I love. To kick it all off, I’ll be sharing ten things that I believe would make amazing and unique Valentines gifts for anyone who isn’t desiring candy, jewelry or flowers.

    1. TableTopics for Couples: Rick and I absolutely love going over these on road trips. We keep them in the car and pull them out when there’s a lull during the drive. We love the fact that the questions make us discuss things we may not discuss otherwise.
    2. Pandemic: A board game about epidemic disease is probably not what you expected to see on this list. Rick and I love this game. It’s been wonderful to help foster communication between us. What couple doesn’t need a low key way to work on their communication skills? We certainly do!
    3. Rifle Paper Co Valentine Cards: I’m a sucker for words but just as much a sucker for beautiful cards with heartfelt words added to them. These would also make super cute decor to spread around your home.
    4. Let’s All Be Brave by Annie Downs: I’m a huge fan of this book. It’s the perfect gift for a single gal as Annie discusses her singleness in regards to bravery. I’m a married gal in love with a book that discusses singleness in such a good way. Annie has a way to spur her reader regardless of life stage into stepping out in bravery regardless of their life stage.
    5. Kate Spade Hot Air Balloon Chemise: This print is whimsically gorgeous. It seems like it would incite adventures in your dreams it’s so pretty. I love that it’s functional, not red or pink and not too overtly Valentines that weeks after you feel weird wearing it.
    6. KitchenAid Electric Kettle + Hot Cinnamon Sunset Tea: I have a confession to make. I was so iffy on an electric kettle when we added it to our registry. I have fallen in love though. A cup of tea in minutes? Not having to use my coffee maker for slightly coffee water tea or heating up a mug of water in the microwave and having a cup that burns my hand? Y’all, this item is just too perfect. It’s quickly becoming my favorite kitchen item. I am now in deep regret that I didn’t have it sooner. Hot Cinnamon Sunset Tea was an incredible gift to savor when I received it from a friend so it’s a must to go with your electric kettle.
    7. Sweeter Than Honey by Lindsay Letters + Crayola Twistable Colored Pencils:  I want this coloring book so bad it’s sort of ridiculous. I love the idea of connecting coloring to God as you focus on scripture. Lindsay Letters has absolute gorgeous lettering. I can’t wait to color, connect with God and then display these reminders around my home. Rick, you’ve been warned! Also, these are the colored pencils I love to use.
    8. IRIS Cookware Organizer: I can’t stand stacks of pots and pans in the cabinet waiting to be toppled over. I inevitably always need the one on the bottom and it’s disastrous every time. My cabinets are a full deterrent from cooking for me. We got two of these about a month ago though and I love them. There’s not a mess everywhere anymore and my kitchen cabinets don’t make me want to burst into tears. Sanity is the perfect gift for anytime in my opinion.
    9. DIY LUSH Gift Set featuring a few of my favorites – Ocean Salt Scrub, Intergalactic Bath Bomb, Mint Julips Lip Scrub + Honey Trap Lip Balm: I got a bunch of LUSH products from my mom for Christmas and am absolutely loving them. I feel like my bathroom is a bit more spa-like with these in it and it’s such a wonderful way to treat yourself after a long day.
    10. Cuisinart Fondue Maker: How sweet of a gift would this be given with a follow up gift of everything you need to make fondue that night? It could turn into the sweetest little date night. Our current Valentine’s Day plan for after work is a fondue night. I’m now trying to figure out if we want cheese fondue or chocolate fondue. I love them both so this is a difficult choice. Good thing I have a few more weeks to decide!

    Have a happy weekend!