10 Ways you Know your Spouse Loves you Unconditionally

Sunday, August 30, 2015

I wake up each and every day without an ounce of doubt that I am loved by my spouse. He makes it a point (whether he realizes it or not) through his actions and words that this is a fact. Yes, I may be bragging about the mister just a bit, but in all honesty, he deserves it.

I know he loves me - no conditions or strings - just because I am me.

What are some ways a spouse shows that he loves you unconditionally?

1. He supports your goals, and he honestly believes you can accomplish them. He is your biggest cheerleader and your number one fan. He believes in you, even at those times when you, yourself, may be in doubt. No matter how serious or silly he may think the goal is, he knows and wants wholeheartedly, as much as you do, that you reach it.

2. He continues to court you and date you. My husband and I try our best to go on weekly dates as a married couple and value their importance in our relationship. I am always impressed as he continues to hold my hand and tell me I look beautiful (even when I am rocking a messy bun). He continues to show me how excited he is that I'm "his girl".

3. He spends his down time with you. Now I am not saying he needs to spend every waking moment with you, but he also shouldn't be spending every free moment away from you either. Your spouse should want to spend some good old fashioned quality time with you when he gets the chance. After all, he said he wanted to spend forever with you right? If he was up for that, a few hours of R & R with his gal should be cake.

4. He listens when you speak. Even more importantly, he listens actively. Television off, phone in pocket, eyes on you- engaged listening.

5. He continues to listen even when you share the same thing over and over again. My husband has learned that I process through talking. That meaning, sometimes I need to talk about the same thing tirelessly, maybe even over a period of days, maybe even after I said I was done, maybe even if I am not seeking a solution -  I still need him to listen. Bless his heart (and his ears), he does.

6. He speaks highly of you to others even when you are not around. He doesn't succumb to "guy talk", but rather demonstrates a respect for you and your relationship in every conversation he has. Heck, he may even gush about you a time or two to his friends.

7. He partakes in your antics and activities. My husband deserves a medal for all of the crafts, diets, yoga classes and clay masks he has been subjected to throughout the years. While he may not have enjoyed every minute (or maybe even any minute) of them, he did and continues to do these things because he loves me and he knows these things are important to me.

8. He knows when you need help, and he picks up the slack.  Whether that means running an errand, folding the laundry or bringing you a Jamba Juice smoothie and asking what he can do to help; he is there. He is the other half of the "we" in your team.

9. He prays for you. He shares in your fears and your joys, and shares these same fears and joys with God as well.

10. He tells you he loves you. This may be the obvious one, but those three words never get old.


State Fair Scavenger Hunt

Friday, August 28, 2015
This afternoon the mister and I hit up the State Fair. To embrace the crowds and the crazy, we decided to spice up our adventure with a little scavenger hunt. 

Here are the 25 items that made our list:

1. The best artery clogging food
2. The longest hot dog at the fair
3. A vegetable bigger than your head

4.  Someone who clearly attends the fair every day
5.  Someone who is holding more food than he/she can really handle
6. An award winning cake/pie
7. An unfortunate tattoo
8. A political booth
9. A newscast filming live
10. A baby animal
11. An award winning animal
12. A freebie you can wear proudly

13. Something that is actually healthy to eat
14. A temper tantrum
15. Something on a stick that isn't food
16. Someone carrying a giant stuffed animal
17. Someone who is way too dressed up 
18. Someone sleeping (aka in a food coma)
19. Airbrushed clothing
20. Someone wearing pajamas
21. A couple making out
22. Somewhere to stick your head in and say cheese

23.  A couple in matching outfits
24.  A fanny pack
25.  A little bit of bottom "cleavage" 

We nearly checked off our entire list in the few hours we spent at the fair. Surprisingly enough we had the hardest time finding a couple making out (thinking we went too early in the day- not enough drinks to be had yet), and bottom "cleavage". Although, I will admit I saw plenty of bottom "cheeks" poking out of some very underwear-sized shorts along the way. 

In all, our hunt kept us entertained, focused and from spending a bunch of unnecessary money too. 
Winning all around if you ask me.

Grab a free copy of our hunt by clicking on the image below if you'd like to share in the fun at your State Fair. 

Credits: Andrew Zimmern, Scrappin Doodles


Healthy Summer Festival Date

Sunday, August 23, 2015
Yesterday the mister and I took advantage of the nice weather and a day off together to attend the Chipotle Cultivate Festival in our area. One thing I loved about this festival (in addition to the free entrance) is that while the majority of summer fairs and fests tend to host a slough of fried and processed goodies till' the eye can see, this one could not have been more opposite. The purpose of the festival, while certainly to entertain guests, is also to educate attenders on the choices we make to nourish our bodies. The teacher in me just couldn't help but delight in this opportunity for fun and learning. And apparently I wasn't alone (see photo below), as this place was happenin'.

When we entered the festival, we received a map and guide to help us navigate around the different exhibits that were set up throughout. Topics ranged from a look at ingredients in fresh vs. processed foods to responsible farm practices to how Chipotle makes their guacamole. As you visit each exhibit, you receive a stamp. Visit 4 of the 5 and you receive a coupon for a free burrito, bowl or salad at any of their restaurants. Motivation, wrapped up neatly in a tortilla, if you ask me.

In addition to food and exhibits, there was also a Kids Zone for the kiddies to paint, draw, create t-shirts, eat and play, and two stages set up - one with bands that played throughout the day and the other with local chefs sharing their secrets. Another area that was one of my personal favorites was a local artisan tent that housed deliciousness straight from our city. You better believe we had to sample some all natural frozen goodness.

Oh' and lets not forget to mention (as I know you were all dying to know), mission free burrito was accomplished all. I foresee a free date night in our near future.

Do you and your significant other enjoy a good festival and healthy eats? Check out the Chipotle Cultivate website to learn more about this event and/or feel free to seek out other healthy festival locales that may suit your fancy in your area by reading The 38 Best Healthy and Happy Festivals.

*The thoughts and ideas shared in this post are solely my own and based on my own experience. I was not reimbursed in any way for this post or its content.


7 Ways to Maintain Friendships as Life Gets Busy

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Let's be honest with ourselves here for a moment. Like it or not, as we get older, maintaining and cultivating friendships with our girlfriends tends to become a bit trickier. With busy schedules, distance, husbands and kids, it can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day of all we have on our plates and lose track of how long it has been since we have checked in with some of our favorite ladies.  I have come to find that we have to be more proactive and purposeful in our interactions (and this is a work in progress for me), or there is a chance that they may not happen. Long gone are the days of seeing each other in the halls on a daily basis or getting together for lunch on a regular schedule- but that doesn't mean that these friendships and women are any less important in our lives. We still need these special people in our lives to laugh with, cry with, and lean on, just as much or maybe even more now than we did in those simpler days. So how can we continue to foster and strengthen these relationships, when we have less time to put into them?

1. Social Media: While some may say this isn't the the most authentic of avenues to maintain friendships, I am just going to throw it out there and remind you all that these are the times in which we live. So why not embrace it. This is by no means my number one suggestion, but I will admit that it is the easiest. A glimpse at Facebook on Instagram each day, and I can find photos and events in the lives of my friends and their families with a quick scroll through my feed. Better yet, I can take that extra moment to "like" or even leave a comment on their posts and images to let them know that I am paying attention and care about what they have shared.

2. Email: Just embracing all the technology available to us at once all. But really, email is kind of like a modern day letter. You can say and share more than you would on social media, and keep a "thread" or conversation going for as long as you'd like. Another neat thing about email is that most of us have a digital calendar tied right along with our account. Set a weekly or monthly recurring reminder and spend a few minutes that day writing to your favorite gal pal.

3. Phone Calls: While the 13-year-old version of myself may think otherwise, I will admit I am not a phone girl. With a busy schedule and a short attention span, it's usually not my first go to. But living in the city, I can have quite the commute some days. I have learned to put that time to good use at times (thank goodness for Bluetooth, right?), to catch up with family members and friends. It's a bonus when we are both stuck bumper-to-bumper, and can joyfully commiserate as we make our way home.

4. Group Text: This is something my girlfriends and I recently started doing. It's a simple way to get a message big or small out to everyone at the same time. You could share a photo, a tidbit of inspiration, a question, or a quick "just thinking about you all" and you will receive responses within seconds. Similar to email we just keep the thread alive and well. Obviously this is one to be used responsibly, as it could get out of hand if you have a few "over sharers".

5. Girls' Getaway: This is something my ladies and I also started this summer that I can wholeheartedly say was a highlight for me. You can make it a weekend or a week, nearby or across the country, but plan an annual gathering with your girls. I promise it will be worth it, and if you plan with sufficient advanced notice, you can all carve out some of this precious (and often much needed) time together. There is just nothing that compares with actual face-to-face QT.

6. Cards: There is just something about receiving a physical piece of mail (that isn't a bill or something trying to get you to buy into something that will lead to a bill) that just gets my heart all a flutter. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the post cards, birthday cards and even thoughtful gifts my girlfriends send me throughout the year, that surprise me and brighten my day. There is just something so personal to me tied to these small acts of kindness that isn't quite achieved through an email. Seriously, all hail to the snail mail.  

7. Prayers: Praying for your friends and for your friendships with them, for that matter, is the ultimate way to strengthen these relationships. After all, God created us to be in community and called us to love each other as He loves us (John 15:12). What better way to love on your girls than through prayer in their times of joy and need?

How do you work to maintain your friendships when life gets busy?


Wine Cork Memories

Wednesday, August 12, 2015
This idea was originally inspired by MintageHome a few years back. The corks have found their home in a few different jars and locations along the way, but I am loving their current home on the wine rack (seems most fitting, right?) in our kitchen.

The process is really quite simple. After uncorking a bottle of wine, grab a sharpie and jot down the date and the occasion as you sip. Sometimes our corks display big events like anniversaries to small and intimate ones like an evening at home with good conversation. 

To store your memory corks, you can use a vase, jar, large basket (some of you may be more avid wine drinkers than others), or even get creative like we did and find a piece that fits your style and your corks. Any way you choose to do it, it serves as a simple and unique way to preserve and relive special moments in your lives.


Pea and Quinoa Salad

Saturday, August 8, 2015

I am always on the lookout for new recipes to try that are both healthy for my body and mind (this meaning they don't require much talent/low rate of failure for those of us who aren't cooking inclined).

I recently came across this recipe for quinoa salad from a Pinch of Yum and decided to try it out last night for dinner with a few alterations. It was both easy and yummy, and both gluten and dairy (option) free. Makes for a great lunch time or evening meal in these fleeting summer days.

The original recipe called for feta cheese crumbles. I don't do traditional dairy so I swapped this out for chopped goat cheese instead. If you don't do dairy at all, you could certainly just take the cheese out all together. The recipe also called for bacon. While, I do, do bacon, we had some turkey bacon on hand so I opted to use it instead. You could also add in some additional greens if your heart desires to give it more of that "salad" feel. I found it to be perfectly delicious on its own accord.


When Success is Overrated

Friday, August 7, 2015

As a child I would have sworn I was destined to be the next pop star. I was going to live in a glitzy mansion in L.A., marry a Justin Timberlake look-a-like and have a closet the size of my current apartment. After all, this is the ultimate level of success, is it not? All a girl could ever dream of.

As I got a bit older, while I still dreamed of being rich and famous, I started to become slightly more realistic. I thought being successful meant that I got all the right grades, went to the best school, got the job of my dreams and worked hard to move forward continuously so that ultimately I could still afford my slightly more realistic dream home and the finer things in life.

You see all too often in our culture we are faced with this overwhelming feeling that in order to be successful we have to continue to achieve. We have to make more money, get the promotion and make a name for ourselves. On top of this, we need to have more and more "stuff" to show for our success. A big, beautiful, impeccably decorated home with the latest electronics and priciest cars and toys. This is the American way and the American dream isn't it? To not only keep up with, but if possible, surpass those Joneses, whoever they are.

And if you are not doing these things, not "moving forward", that is, then you either must not be trying hard enough or had a bought of bad luck right? I mean why would you willingly leave that six figure job for a measly five or move from your comfortable home on dream lane to a one-bedroom studio. That's crazy talk, most would say.

1 Timothy 6: 6-8 states, "But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." You see when we trust in the Lord and seek to strengthen our relationship with Him, this is the greatest wealth we could ever dream of. This is all we need. I have been reminded of this scripture lately as I have been reading the book Kisses from Katie. This book, written by Katie Davis, shares her story of how she left her comfortable life here in the states to serve in Uganda only to find herself adopting 13 children and making the choice to make this country her permanent home. Throughout the text, Katie describes how while she, like so many of the people she comes into contact with have so very little, they have such a strong love for the Lord.  The cool thing is all, God loves them just as much as you or I, and sees us equally no matter our circumstance.

Katie chose to leave that track to success to lead what we may deem is a way less glamorous lifestyle, because she felt it was what God was calling her to do. And while many thought her choices were holding her back from having the successful life she could have made for herself, I can't help but think "you go girl"! She made her own definition of success, that while maybe counter cultural, has been equally if not more impactful than that pop star I so longed to be as a child.

This post is by no means meant to say that if you are on that "forward" moving path I described that that is not the direction you should go. For some, it is. It is just a reminder that for others, success may look different. It may even look like a step in the wrong direction.

I have been on this "forward" moving path the majority of my life. And I will admit I have had my fair share of struggles these past few years as I began to discover that all those straight A's, job promotions, and shopping sprees that I worked so hard for and that left so many thinking I had it all together, at times left me feeling more stressed, empty and further from God. I have been so concerned my entire life with achieving in the way I thought I was supposed to and being so proud of what I had accomplished "on my own", that I think at times it has potentially kept me from being the success story I was created to be. Lately, I have found so much freedom in scaling back my lifestyle, spending less time working and more time on relationships and learning to be okay with the fact that in this moment I am not moving forward at 100 miles an hour. I am learning that it would be equally as okay if I even took a step backward to that lessor paying job that brings me more fulfillment or that new car that is in fact older than my previous one if it meant bringing me more financial peace or that I could share more of our blessings with others. I am learning slowly but surely to place more of my success in God's hands, and letting it be defined less by what society deems it should be.

My advice to you is that you don't get caught up in all the this and thats of life and let them lead you away from what is most important. Remember none of these earthly possessions were ours to begin with and won't be ours when we leave this world either. They don't make you more worthy. You still have the same value no matter your job, things or bank account. Don't be afraid to take a step "backward" if that is what you think God is calling you to do, and remember to praise Him for all the milestones along the way. There is a different definition of success for all of us, and sometimes yours may not be found in taking the glittering, gold-paved path. Sometimes that path is overrated.


Thriving While Living Together

Monday, August 3, 2015

Well all, we officially made it. We made it a year, that is, of living together as a married duo without killing each other, any mega blowouts or rethinking our choice to do so. But that shouldn't be the goal after all should it? Our goal was not to simply survive our first year together but to thrive and grow as a couple enabling us to look forward to successful cohabitation for years to come.

That being said, here are some tips that have worked for us this first year in making our home a Happy one. Do we get all of these right all of the time? By no means. Are there other ideas out there that we haven't even begin to think of yet? By all means. Will they change as our family grows and changes? Of course. But we like to believe these are the unwritten rules (for now) which guide our home.

1. Greet each other when you get home. No, it doesn't have to be a dramatic "Honey, I'm home" type entrance every time. But a quick hug, kiss and how was your day goes a long way.

2. Divide up chores in a way that works for you and your schedules. I know that some couples have a lot of success delegating specific chores as his or hers. For us, it has worked really well just to either a) tag team them on a day we both have off (we can knock out floors, bathroom, vacuuming, you name it in less than an hour) or b) take turns taking on the responsibility throughout the week. Since we both work full time, this has worked well for us to ensure than neither of us is taking on the majority of the load.

3. Similar to housework, making cooking a joint effort whenever possible has been good for us. Neither of us loves cooking (although we love eating), particularly after a long day of work. Therefore, when we can do it together it makes it a faster and less painless process. Ryan has become quite the expert chopper and slicer (this is my least favorite part), and usually when he has finished the prep work, I take on the rest. Mission accomplished.

4. Share things that are important to you in your home. Aka shoes put in the closet, dishes in the sink, etc. Your spouse cannot read your mind, so you need to be specific. For instance, I shared with Ryan one day shortly after we moved in that I truly love being able to get into a freshly made bed each night. As he is almost always the last one out of bed and off to work, he has taken on the bed-making responsibility most days as he knows it is something means a lot to me. I can nearly guarantee, however, that if I had not said something- it would not be gettin' done all.

5. While it is important to share what is important to you in your home, it is equally important to not be overly nit picky. Proverbs 10:12 reminds us that ...love covers all transgressions. Sometimes the best way to deal with the little things that get on your nerves is to overlook them and extend a bit of grace to your loved one. None of us is perfect, and while sometimes it can be hard to bite your tongue and just straighten the hand towel in disarray or pick up the Q-tip that didn't make it into the garbage, sometimes this is also just what you should do because love covers mistakes. Let it go.

6. Spend quality time together. This seems obviously, right? Particularly if you are living under the same roof. But it is easy for work, chores, technology, etc. to get in the way of this. Set these things aside (I promise they will still be there) and watch a movie together, cook dinner, play a game, go on a walk around your neighborhood or just have a good old fashion conversation.

7.  Pray. Thank God for the gift of your spouse and this home you have created together and pray when you need wisdom on how to handle these gifts as well.