Author

Danielle Cosgrove

Howdy, friends! I am SO EXCITED to be back on the blog today and to be sharing Sybil’s lovely little nursery with you all. It has been such a fun labor of love for us these past several months and I could not be more thrilled with how each and every detail has turned out!

When we found out we were pregnant, I knew very quickly that regardless of what we were having, I wanted the theme of our baby’s nursery to be Classic Pooh. I absolutely loved Winnie the Pooh as a kid and love it even more now (Pooh’s Heffalump Movie may or may not be one of my top favorite movies to date. #noshame), so the fact that we have a kiddo of our own on the way who I can share the goodness with too, is so very exciting for me!

I’m not the type of person who likes to go bonkers with a theme, and I definitely didn’t want things to get excessive in here. So I took my time finding what I think is a good balance of Pooh decor and other subtle, unique things to compliment it.

For Sybil’s bedding, I decided to go with the cutest bee printed crib sheet and matching diaper changing pad cover from Target, a simple white bed skirt and my personal favorite, the Honeycomb Toddler Quilt in Horseradish from Pottery Barn Kids for when she’s older! Her gorgeous, solid wood crib was given to us, which was such a blessing and big money saver, and we were able to thrift the glider chair and diaper changing station. 

For her decor, I thrifted and was given a few things that I just gave a fresh coat of paint (including the darling piano, chair, and shelf above the changing station.) I picked out some Classic Pooh plush toys and prints that I found through Amazon and EtsyMy sweet friend Kimmy, of Drift Design Co., surprised me with a beautiful brushlettered print of a beloved Pooh quote and it was such a perfect addition to my gallery wall. I framed one of my favorite ultrasound photos of Sybil, two cute printed cards that came with my purchases from Harper Kate & Co (the most darling headbands you ever did see) and Briar (obsessed with all of their gorgeous bonnets!), topping it all off with my favorite little bee hoop from Thread Honey! Other amazing friends of mine made the CUTEST blocks, a crocheted bear, gave some jars that look like honey pots and an antique Classic Pooh bear, which I just about died over. The curtain I picked for Sybby’s room is from Target and I love how its pom poms match the DIY baby mobile I made (keep reading!). I just could not be more in love with it all!

Jay and I really wanted to work on some fun projects of our own for the nursery as well, and we’re both so giddy over how everything we made turned out! Jay rebuilt a dresser we found for free on the side of the road that was a piece of c r a p, by adding a new surface, drawer faces, and legs and lightly stained it all. He also built Sybby’s absolutely GORGEOUS bookshelves and I could not be more obsessed with them.

As far as my projects go, I had THE most fun creating some homemade decor for Sybil. I really wanted to make some simple kites to go on the wall next to her crib, so I used some spare fabric I had lying around, bought a handful of dowels and some natural cord yarn. Another project I worked on, and my favorite project, was Sybil’s baby mobile! I had spotted a super cute mobile from Pottery Barn that I really liked, but it wasn’t in all the colors I wanted and on the pricier side. So I decided to just wing it and try making one of my own! It ended up turning out so good and was more than half the cost of the one I liked from Pottery Barn! For this, I just grabbed a variety pack of pom poms, a nautical white wreath, a darning yarn needle and some natural cord yarn from Hobby Lobby.

Both of these DIY’s are dirt simple and so much fun to make! Initially I had planned to include directions on how to make some of your own in this post, but for the sake of length, I’m just going to do a separate blog post on them in the next several days. So be on the lookout for that!

 

Though Sybil won’t be in this room right away, it just feels so good having everything done and all ready for her when it’s time. It all could not have come together more perfectly. I kinda sorta wish this was my room!

Thank you all so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed getting to see how our girls’ nursery turned out. Only a few more weeks left until she arrives. EEK!

 

 

 

 

 

Well friends, it’s been a LONG TIME coming, but I’m so very excited to 1. Be back on the blog writing again, and 2. Share the latest and one of the biggest DIY’s we’ve ever done with you all!

Since finding out we were pregnant, life has just been a whole new level of crazy and different and exciting. We’ve been keeping real busy, trying to get as much done around the house as we can before our sweet Sybil arrives! My mind and body have just been in a whole new place and quite a bit has been delayed with the blog and just creating in general. So I’m sorry for being non existent over here for a hot second!

 

But anyways, on to the good stuff. This project was very special and sentimental for me, because it was restoring the dining table set I grew up with. There are endless, wonderful memories that were made sitting around this table and it just holds such a dear place in my heart.

When we moved to GA, we sold a ton of our stuff, including the kitchen table Jay built for our apartment, and so we were just planning to build a new one once we got into a home. I knew that my parents had this set in storage, but I wasn’t sure of its’ condition or what they planned on doing with it, so I didn’t think of it as an option for us to have. But once we got here, found our home and were making preparations to move, I kept thinking about how beautiful the table would look in our house and was curious if my parents would part with it.

I mentioned the table to them and they said that it was in pretty rough shape, with water damage on the top and that the fabric was destroyed on pretty much all the chairs. But I still envisioned it in our home, with some beautiful new fabric, sanded down, re-stained and just knew that we could bring it back to life. Jay very easily could have built a table for us, but we just felt so strongly about this set and decided that we’d rather have it instead.

My sweet parents ended up giving it to us, which was such a huge blessing and we got busy working on the table top and hunting down the perfect fabric for the chairs! At first I thought I wanted a colorful floral fabric, but then I just kept feeling like going a more simple route with them was the right choice. If you don’t know this about me, I have a thing for deep color tones, and I decided that a rich, deep blue would be the perfect choice for the fabric.

 

We ended up finding the most perfect color and texture of fabric from Joann’s and had a 60% off coupon, so we saved tons of money! The fabric was too thick for the buttons on the chairs (which for the record, are HELL ON EARTH to do and Jay pretty much had to make all of them because I kept messing them up) so we just snagged a yard of thinner navy fabric from Walmart for $1 and it worked like a charm. You can’t really tell in the pictures, but the buttons are a shade darker than the fabric of the chairs, and the contrast between the two blues is so gorgeous!

You would never know that this table ever had a thing wrong with it and we just couldn’t be prouder of the way it turned out. Though, I will say, that Jay and I have both agreed that we are NEVER doing anything like this again! As thankful as I am that we were able to fix and make this set our own, it took so much work and reupholstering those blessed chairs was the biggest pain in the butt. Upholstery is no joke, people!

So yeah, projects like these are definitely not for the faint of heart and our hands were quite full with all!

But it was the most satisfying feeling when we FINALLY finished everything. I just can’t get over how amazing it looks now and the fact that we did the whole thing ourselves.

I was hoping to have my plate wall for the dining room finished in enough time to show along with the chairs, but I just finished completing my collection and am still deciding on how I want my pretty plates hung. But I’ll have them up very soon!

Well I hope you all enjoyed getting to see the finished product and again, I am so sorry for how long it’s taken me to reveal it to you! Thanks so much for reading and be on the lookout for some more DIY’s coming to the blog for Sybby’s nursery. Eek!

 

 

Life Before Oils

Before I began using essential oils, my husband Max and I were already pretty health conscious. In January 2015, I started to really research the ingredients in my cosmetic products (which led me to look into the ingredients in all of the other products that we use) and this was really the turning point for us. We began eating organic, eliminating certain things from our diet, and just became so much more aware of our surroundings and our effects on our environment.

I had heard about oils long before I ever became a member with Young Living. Although I am not exactly sure where I first heard of them, I know for certain that I would always see stuff about them on Pinterest. We were already leading a fairly healthy lifestyle, essential oils were just the missing piece so to speak.

The first oil I ever owned was one that I got for super cheap at a local vitamin store. Of course it didn’t do much, because quality and source matters. At this time I didn’t know much about oils other than what I saw other people using them for online. When I learned about Young Living, who they are, their standards, efficacy, and quality, I was immediately on board. I only recommend Young Living because of their purity.

Life With Oils

We have seen so many amazing results from using our oils on a regular basis. They have truly changed our lives in so many ways. We have learned how to take control of our health and oils have driven us to pursue more natural routes in all other aspects of our lives. I am so grateful that we found Young Living and realized how powerful plants are. Digestive support, seasonal support, emotional support, hormone support, there are so many things that oils are good for.

From the time I get out of bed, to the time I go to sleep, I am using oils. Max has found that he likes the rollers more out of convenience so I am always making him custom blends or buying him the Young Living roller blends. He is way more prone to using them this way. On a day when I wake up on time I like to start my day with a wellness tea that consists of peppermint, lemon, thieves EOs, raw honey, and warm water. Digestive support (peppermint), metabolic support, and immune support (thieves).

I use various oils throughout my day, such as  frankincense for my quiet time in the morning, lavender for emotional support and just to calm me while I’m dealing with people at work, DiGize for digestive support, peppermint for an afternoon pick me up to help me keep alert, and of course my beloved lavender to prepare me for a restful night’s sleep.

What Are Essential Oils EO’s?

Essential oils are the life blood of plants. They circulate to provide nutrients to the plant and they are the most powerful part of a plant. Fun Fact: chlorophyll and human blood have almost identical molecular structures. Essential oils are extremely potent. In fact: Essential oils are 100,000 times more potent than dried herbs. With this being said you only need about 1-3 drops per application. They can be used aromatically, topically, or internally (again I only recommend YL).

EOs are adaptogenic, they help bring your body balance, they meet you where you’re at and help bring you to where you need to be. With this said there is no right or wrong way to use them. Many of them are known to be good for specific things, but they are all beneficial. Sometimes my body needs digestive support, sometimes it needs emotional support, I am able to use whichever oils I have on hand. Oils are adaptogenic, and they are each good for more than one thing (many different things in fact). Having a huge collection of oils is nice, but you only need about 10-12 to make a good kit. The staple oils in our home all come from the Premium Starter Kit. Oils are amazing tools to have in your wellness arsenal.

ABOUT BOBBIE: 

My name is Bobbie Monte, wife of Max Monte, and mama to Calvin the Yorkshire. Born and raised in Gilroy California, I am an assistant preschool teacher, and am in pursuit of optimal wellness. Exploring the Bay Area, cooking, gardening, and hanging out at home are my favorite things. I am passionate about wellness, being a good human, and teaching others to get informed about their health and their impact on the earth.  ☺ Let’s be friends!

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Well friends, our big secret is out, and we are SO excited to finally be sharing the news that we are expecting our first little one! I still find myself pausing after saying that, because it’s just so hard to believe that it’s actually happening. We’re going to be PARENTS!

I remember like it was yesterday when we found out. Back in January, I had been getting hit with major waves of exhaustion and just not really feeling like myself for a few weeks. I had a slight feeling I was pregnant, but kinda brushed it off initially because I wasn’t expecting us to get pregnant so quickly. Both Jay and I have had our own slew of health problems and so we were assuming it might take awhile. But I eventually took a couple tests and literally gasped when the two pink lines showed up on both (don’t ask me why I took two after the first was positive! Haha) I immediately ran downstairs to tell Jay and it was pretty hilarious how shocked we both were. The baby wasn’t unplanned, we just couldn’t believe it was happening so soon! But we are THRILLED beyond words and super anxious to find out what our little one is.

As far as how the baby and myself are doing, the pregnancy has been going great so far. Baby is due October 7th! He/She is going strong and has a good and healthy heart rate! I was hit with pretty horrendous morning (afternoon, and night) sickness majority of my first trimester which was not fun. At all (at least it’s a good thing). But thank the good Lord, by week 11 I started feeling SO much better and more like myself and that’s been glorious. 

Being completely raw and real with you all, the first few weeks pregnancy were an emotional roller coaster for me. I had the desire to be a mom and had been feeling “ready” for quite some time to embark on that adventure, so I couldn’t have been more excited when we found out! But then with all the excitement came the realization that a very new, unfamiliar, life changing chapter was approaching us. I cannot put into words just how beautiful marriage to my husband has been and how much we truly enjoy spending life with each other. It’s been such a sweet time and there was a bit of sadness in my heart knowing that things were going to look very different for us very soon. From there, the enemy used the thoughts and feelings I was having to create more fear inducing thoughts and feelings. I began to feel all sorts of unprepared and inadequate for motherhood.

But I am so thankful for the peace of God. The marvelous, all surpassing, enemy defeating peace of God! It swoops right in, full of precious promises and perfect comfort, that drown out the meaningless noise and fears we so easily can get overwhelmed by. God continues to lovingly and patiently remind me, that His timing is always perfect, ALL his paths are steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 25:10, 26: 3, 40:11, 86:15, 117:2) and that He is the one that gives us the strength and ability to do anything in this life.

Anything done in our own strength and by our own efforts will always fall flat. It’s by His Spirit and by fully surrendering to Him that we are fully equipped, given the ability to live lives that bring Him the greatest glory, and that in turn bring us the most freedom. I initially wanted to write this blog just to elaborate a bit more and celebrate our exciting news, but I also wanted to write this as some sort of encouragement to somebody out there today.

I don’t know where you’re at right now. Maybe you’re terrified (like I was for a little while) about having a baby, maybe you desire so much to be a mother and are struggling with fertility, maybe you have kids already and are just really feeling defeated right now, or maybe none of this is even on your radar yet. Whatever season you’re in, take comfort in the fact that our good and gracious God CAN BE TRUSTED. He is perfect in ALL things, ALL circumstances and at ALL times. He sees you. He knows exactly what He’s doing with and in and through your life and it is without question, beautiful.  His grace is sufficient for you today, tomorrow and the days to come (2 Cor. 12:9). It’s in our weakness that His mercy and strength can be displayed all the more!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

– 2 Corinthians 12:9

If you think to, please keep our little family in your prayers. Pray for God’s wisdom and direction for Jay and I as we prepare for parenthood and raising up our child in the truth. And for our sweet baby. Please be praying for their continued life and health and that even now, they would be drawn to the Father. We cannot even wait to meet our little one and introduce whoever they are to you all. EEK!

Thank you so much for the prayers and for reading. Stay tuned for more updates!

 

Friends, I am so excited to be partnering with JORD on the blog today and do a fun giveaway for you all (Keep on reading)!

I don’t know about you, but if there’s something Jay and I have failed at far too many times, it’s been purchasing a solid watch. We’re a family on a budget and so we are always looking for good bargains, but we’ve made the mistake of paying less for lesser quality watches and they end up never lasting us long at all.

My hubby in particular has gone through several watches in the past year, so when JORD reached out I knew I wanted to gift my guy with a legit watch that will stand the test of time (see what I did there?) !

We picked Frankie Ebony & Gold as Jay’s watch choice and could not have been more impressed when it arrived in the mail! For starters, the watch comes in the most stunning wooden box, beautifully branded and packaged. The smell of the wood when you first open the box is absolutely glorious! There’s even a little built in drawer on the bottom, to keep all of the included care materials in place.

The watch is super sleek and classy, as well as simple and unique. It’s made of gorgeous natural wood, a perfect fit for my talented woodworker, and sapphire crystal glass. These watches are the real deal and we just couldn’t be happier with ours!

And on that note, I would love to make someone else happy who’s in need of a new watch, so I’m giving away $100 shop credit for JORD to one lucky winner. YAY! They have SO MANY OPTIONS to choose from for both men and women, so you definitely won’t have a problem finding the style that’s just right for you or a loved one.

TO ENTER, all you have to do is go HERE, provide your name, email, watch preference and you can increase your chance of winning by following JORD on Instagram!

Now even though only one person can take home the $100 credit, JORD will be giving everyone who enters a 10% off coupon code to use.  The giveaway will run until April 1st, so spread the word and get your friends and family to enter ASAP if they could use one of these beauties.

Thanks so much for reading and good luck, folks!


Watch Gift Ideas

 

Simple living is all the rage. It is all over social media, It is on the latest magnolia journal, it’s something I have been striving towards in my own way of living. It has become a new way of life for many people. I love that it’s something people are striving for. Simplifying your life to make time for the things that mean the most to you. It is definitely something I can get behind.

Simple living is different for everyone. For some it can also often mean minimalism. I wouldn’t define myself as a minimalist, as I don’t want to be defined by my “things” or a lack of “things”. Honestly, I love my things. I love the simple pleasures of my home, like throw blankets on my couch to curl up in, family pictures on my walls and extra towels for when I get lazy and skip doing laundry.  Minimalism is not what I am talking about when I refer to simple living.

Simple living can also mean getting back to the basics. The basic life that really isn’t all that simple. I want to emphasize that living simply does not mean living lazy. Simple living does not necessarily mean easy. Living simply sometimes requires more elbow grease in order to have more time and money for the things that mean the most to you. This is why living simply involves intentionality.

Simple living isn’t about bare homes, zero color, and the lack of “things.” It’s about living intentionally for the things that bring you life.

To start on your own journey towards simplicity, you must first ask yourself the big what and why: what do you want to simplify in your life and why do you want to do it? For me, I want to take care of my family’s health and wellness. I want to cultivate a good work ethic and thankful hearts as we steward the resources we have.

I’m excited to share some ways that we have simplified our lives. Honestly, these ideas aren’t all “easier”, some are hard work. But it’s little steps that make a new normal and my new normal is more time with family and more money to save for our future. To embrace purposeful simplicity is the best decision we could make.

1. Homesteading

I’ll be the first to admit that this idea doesn’t resonate with everyone. In fact, a lot of my points below may not, because it involves hard work and time, but with homesteading we have saved so much money and learned so much gratefulness.

Grow a garden to cut out some food costs. Get some backyard chickens for eggs and to sell eggs (they can also help “mow” your lawn!). Start composting and minimizing waste in your home. Don’t have the space for homesteading? Join a CSA: support local farmers and reap the fruits of their labor.

If you need some help starting a homestead or taking steps towards one, Check out this blog HERE

2. Minimize Waste

Can we all agree that our homes are filled with waste? From mismatched Tupperware, to junk mail, to loads and loads of paper products, our homes fill with waste often because of the lack of intentionality…or laziness.

Grabbing a handful of paper towels to clean up a spill is easier then grabbing a rag that you will later have to wash,dry, and restock. Paper plates and cups are easier to clean up after a gathering then washing dishes. Sure, these things make my life simple and less complicated. BUT, I might unintentionally be cultivating laziness in my family for the sake of convenience. Remember, simple living doesn’t always mean the easy route. 

Here are some ways to minimize waste in your home: Use reusable bags for groceries, get a reusable water bottle, ditch the paper towels, start recycling, compost food and paper, use glass jars and Pyrex for food storage, get reusable napkins. Start making your own home products.

3. Homemade Products

This past year, this was the biggest thing I changed. We ditched the toxins and decided we didn’t want to spend the extra pennies to buy things organic or natural, so I learned to make all of them on my own. It saves you so much money and you are getting the cleanest ingredients. Here I am purposefully living towards good health and wellness while saving our family money.

An easy place to start is to think of the things you use every day and replace them. I spent 20 min one day with a piece of paper and walked around my house to think about the things I bought each month, I then tried to figure out a way to replace them. Things like:  – Laundry detergent, wool dryer balls, dry shampoo, all-purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, glass cleaner, facial scrubs, make-up, shampoo, soap.

4. Declutter 

This is a little different than minimizing waste. This is more about “things”. Ladies, purge that closet. Even if you aren’t ready to do the capsule wardrobe yet, just go through it and get whatever you can out of there. One thing I did, I went through my closet, got rid of some clothes, then told myself I would wear everything that was left in it at least once over the next month. if I didn’t, it’s because I either didn’t love it anymore, it didn’t fit how it used to, or it just lost its’ “touch”. – it was just taking up space so it had to go.

Clean out closets and shelves, even the pretty decorations cluttering your home. Think about what they mean to you. Again, I’m not talking about minimalism and giving away the simple pleasures of your home, I’m talking about getting rid of that clutter that you know is there and just keep “putting off” for that spring cleaning. There is no time like the present.

5. Buy Less

We all having something we spend our money on. Maybe it’s accessories, entertainment, or food. We all do it. But maybe we can take this a step further,  I do notice I spend money on things I do not need to because of laziness. For example, I have a band of hair ties and bobby pins and I’m making an extreme effort to see how long I can make them last (this one will be the hardest. Am I right, ladies?). For me personally, it’s the little things like this that I slowly lose money on. Mindless spending because I just need them, instead of purposeful effort to not lose them.

But really, make goals for yourself. Try not to buy a new article of clothing for a month, or don’t buy something when you first spot it. think about it for a week and then go back to it. Make a budget.

6. Cook at Home

This is such a simple thing that can really simplify your life. For me, I push this in our home, not because it is always simple, but because it’s an intentional effort towards the things that matter to me. We control the quality and ingredients of what we are eating, we get personal time with family slaving over the recipes, and money saved from the labor invested. Cooking at home can also become a way to allow creativity and independence in yourself and family. Also, eat as a family. I can’t stress this enough. Turn off the TV and your phones and enjoy the company of those you love most.

For me, living the simple life is freeing. It is the best decision we have made as a family. It is a slow process and we are nowhere where I would like, but it is a process. Some of these things may not resonate with you. The idea of getting backyard chickens or getting rid of shampoo, those are a little extreme. I get it. Maybe your idea of living a simple life is doing less, traveling more, enjoying friends more often. Sit down and think about your why. Make a list of the things you value most and go from there. Just start.

ABOUT SARAH: 

Sarah is a wife and mother who currently resides in Upstate, NY. She is obsessed with homesteading, gardening, and raising animals and babies. In the evenings and on the weekends she is a professional photographer, photographing weddings and families. Gift her a kombucha, RX bar or fresh eucalyptus and you’ll be besties for life.

Sarah has a heart to educate those around her to live simply and naturally. To find joy in the little things and live for the big things. Her mission in life is to be a loving wife, a gentle and patient homemaker, raising a family to love and serve Jesus.

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One of the biggest driving forces that led to shifting my purpose and vision for The Lowly Life, was my smartphone. Over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself going back and forth about using my phone too much and really struggling with just how involved things like social media were in my life, and in the lives of those around me.

Technology and all we have access to through it is truly amazing! It’s fun and can be a practical, useful tool for our lives. But it can be overused so easily and there are many unfortunate side effects to this. Relationships suffer, we disconnect from real life moments and experiences, drama (So. Much. Drama.) discord, and comparison eat away at us, our health can be negatively impacted, and we can struggle to be productive. It was really important for me to take a major step back and look at how I was personally being affected by the ways I used my phone, and then determine the changes that I needed to make.

Now this is coming from a girl who LOVES her Instagram and has made so many incredible connections through being on social media! I know that there are many positive aspects to it and it can be a beautiful way to engage with others. But I do think use of social media and our smartphones in general, has blown way out of proportion and that it could be dialed down a bit. Okay, a lot.

We can implement significant changes into our everyday lives that will help us spend less time on our phones, and live more simply, intentionally and purposefully. This will look different for all of us, but today I wanted to share with you some simple ways that I’ve personally created distance from my phone, and the boundaries that have really helped me to be more productive, mindful and invested in different areas of my life. I hope they are helpful for you as well and that you’ll consider giving them a try if you’ve found yourself in the same boat.

1. Turn Notifications OFF

This one change has been SO helpful for me! My phone used to blow up with all kinds of notifications throughout the day and it made it difficult to be self controlled and not respond to things immediately. So at the start of this year, I turned off all social media notifications and it’s been absolutely wonderful. Now my phone only goes off if I receive an email, phone call or text message. In addition, I’ll usually have my phone on silent during the day, and this has also helped me be more detached and able to get things done without it calling to me 24/7.

2. Phone Free Date Nights

I recently started leaving my phone at home or in the car when Jay and I go out for date nights. This boundary allows me to focus more fully on time with my husband, without the distraction or need to check my phone for anything.

Back on our 2 year wedding anniversary, Jay took to me to a super fancy restaurant in Downtown Austin. It was such a beautiful place and the food was insane! I very quickly grabbed my phone to capture/post it all and he lovingly asked me if I could just put my phone away. A very simple and understandable request. This made me so frustrated, however, because all I was trying to do was capture the beauty of what we were experiencing. I didn’t see the harm at the time.

But the truth is that it simply wasn’t necessary. Jay wasn’t trying to be a jerk, all my husband wanted was a full date where we were focusing on simply being together, not worried about sharing it with the world or capturing the perfect picture.

There isn’t anything wrong with taking a snapshot to remember something beautiful, but we have to be careful and mindful that it doesn’t become routine, obsession, distraction, and have a negative impact on the people around us.

Don’t get me wrong, every now and then I’ll bring my phone with me if I want a picture with Jay or of where we are, but I never post in real time and always try to be selective and disciplined in it.

3. Phone Free Night Stand

I don’t know about you, but this girl is a major night owl. I am always more productive, alert and my creative juices flow best late at night. Jay on the other hand tends to be an early riser and can be out cold by 8:30/9PM, which is pretty much impossible for me. We hardly ever go to bed that early, but sometimes he’s ready to hit the hay long before I am. We don’t like going to bed separately, so unless I have something specific to work on, I try winding down when he does.

More often than not I am tossing and turning, wide awake forever after he’s gone to sleep, so my first instinct is to grab my phone off of my night stand. It’s terrible I know, but it’s usually the only thing that “helps” get me to sleep. I’ve wanted to break this habit because I know it isn’t good for me, so I finally made a change and moved my phone away from my nightstand. It now charges on our dresser, on the opposite side of the room, which I’m too lazy to get up and grab if I can’t sleep. So that worked out nicely!

While this has been been an adjustment, it’s definitely been a positive one. I’ve actually had an easier time getting to sleep since making the switch, which is interesting. It also gets me out of bed quicker in the morning because I have to get up to shut off my obnoxious phone alarm, as opposed to hitting snooze a billion times when it’s next to me. We’ll be getting lamps for our room soon, so I’ll be able to read in bed when I can’t sleep, and that usually works wonders for me, too.

4. Posting Content Later And Less

I used to feel this strange need to post in real time and often. I thought I had to post something every single day,  and would even stress over not having content to share. It was ridiculous. Platforms like Instagram are such fun creative outlets and I love being able to showcase different aspects of our lives through pretty pictures,  but these apps should never, ever control us and it can be so easy for them to.

Things don’t have to be shared the moment they happen, and sometimes a moment should just be enjoyed for what it is, away from our phones and our favorite apps.

This shift in mindset was a game changer for me. I started looking at social media in a different light and saw less of a need for it in my everyday. For me, it’s been really helpful setting boundaries online, when it comes to how much I post and how much I’m on in general. Weekends, for example,  have become more of a phone free time in our home, where we aren’t posting, interacting online much and are very intentional about doing things together.

For you it might not be your phone. Maybe it’s Netflix, or cable, or just too much time browsing on your computer. Whatever the case may be, take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing a good job of being invested in the lives of those around you, intentional with your time, and disciplined in the way you’re using technology. If you find that these areas could use some work, and even if none of my ideas suit your fancy, come up with a list of your own and give it a trial run! See the difference it makes for you.

I want to conclude by saying that I AM NOT PERFECT. I do not succeed in every area of this all the time and this is a constant work in progress! I’m not over here saying I have all the answers, because I most certainly don’t! But I have experienced very quickly the benefits of incorporating these much needed adjustments. I feel so passionate about giving my phone and technology in general, less of a place in my life. Because life is precious, and it’s important to view all that we do, as well as the motives behind what we do, in light of that.

 

Thanks for reading and please let me know if you give any of these a try/how they’re working out for you. Happy Friday!

 

 

“Friendship is a deep oneness that develops when two people, speaking the truth in love to one another, journey together to the same horizon.”

~ Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

I am blessed to say I married my best friend. I fell in love with my husband, Matt, when I was sixteen and he was eighteen. Because we were so young, he and I were able to grow and learn together as we became adults. So much of who we are now was in some way shaped by the other. We have been extremely compatible from the beginning and have come to know each other so well during our almost twelve-year relationship (going on 5 years of marriage!). But, as we all know, people change as they grow. Movies, music, and activities we enjoyed when we were in high school might not suit our fancy as much now as we approach our thirties, and the fact that we have been given a beautiful daughter who never lets us sleep has changed our priorities as well. How do we continue to cultivate deep friendship when many of the commonalities that brought us together don’t mean as much now? There are also many marriages where the spouses are very unlike one another, and that’s not a bad thing! Regardless of how dissimilar a couple may be, deep friendship is possible. I wanted to share four simple and practical ways Matt and I continue to grow in our friendship, even when life looks different from how it did before.

1. Make Christ Your Dearest Friend

I know it sounds like the cliche Christian thing to say, but this is such a foundational truth: Jesus is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. He will never fail you. He will never change. His love, his grace, and his mercy towards you are inexhaustible. We and our spouses are in stark contrast. We constantly fail, change, and exhaust our supply of mercy and grace. But knowing that we are perfectly loved by God in Christ, we won’t be crushed when we fall short or when our spouse fails. This takes such immense pressure off your relationship and places you on unshakable ground. Matt and I must constantly preach the gospel to one another and remind ourselves that our identity is not found in our imperfect relationship but in Christ—our true and better friend who will never leave or forsake us. We can have confidence that our marriage will last on this journey of life because it is built on the firm foundation of the gospel. “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

2. Be Intentional (Date Night! Date Night! Date Night!)

In practically every marriage or counseling book I’ve read, the number one reason for struggling marriages is neglect. Neglect is stealthy and hard to notice unless you’re actively searching it out. Even when we’re focused on good things, our marriage can suffer if it is not a priority. One of the most practical ways to be intentional about staving off neglect is having a regular date night. And no, it’s not just going and getting food somewhere that makes a good date night (although food is amazing); it’s using that time to intentionally focus on your spouse. Matt and I do our best to have one date night a week, even if that means dropping our daughter off at her Nana’s so we can enjoy an “at-home” date night, since going out every week can get pricey (but if you’re going to spend money on something, invest it in having intentional time with your spouse). Use that time to ask specific questions and learn something about your spouse. What are they learning in their Bible reading? What are they struggling with? What’s something they’ve learned about themselves? Where are some areas you can improve?

Matt is one of the pastors at our church, as well as an MDiv student, so he is constantly learning, studying, and planning. Anyone who knows him knows he processes by talking things out. I love listening, but on date nights, we try to make it a rule not to talk about his work or school, and I try not to talk about how tired I am. Even though those things are a huge part of our lives right now, date nights are a time to direct our focus to other areas that get less attention. For some couples, a date night with this kind of discussion might seem awkward at first because it’s an unnatural style of communication: asking such direct questions to someone they know so well already. However, it’s worth the initial awkwardness and effort to make it a habit of being a student of your spouse, intentionally learning and growing in love and friendship together. So, drop the kids off at a family member’s or a friend’s, and enjoy some quality time together!

3. Have Fun

This step ties in with being intentional but deserves its own point: having fun together is vital for friendship in marriage. Laughter can lighten the heaviest of moments and erase a day’s worth of exhaustion and tears. In other relationships I admire, it’s noticeable that the couple laughs together and truly enjoys one another. I must make note that this laughter is never at the other’s expense but rather an expression of their mutual joy and love. I’ve always appreciated Matt’s sense of humor; he can make me laugh like no one else can. He knows exactly when to say one of our favorite lines from Frasier, or he’ll randomly dance side to side from the doorway in our kitchen as I sit watching from the living room in hysterics. The comic relief he brings to our home is a blessing. A big part of intimacy in friendship is simply being able to be silly together. With the many responsibilities we carry, it’s easy to be serious most of the time (or to take ourselves too seriously), but it’s important to show your spouse that they bring you joy. Be generous with your laughter.

4. Give More Than You Get

Sacrificial love is the most Christlike love you can give your spouse. It means serving and giving more. It means trying harder to love your spouse better. A practical way to live this out is to care about the things that matter to your spouse. Whether it’s a specific sports team, a show, or a hobby, try to find something about those things that you can enjoy too. Try to pay at least some attention during the football (or in my case, futbol) game. For Matt, it means going on a walk with me even when he just wants to relax indoors after he’s home from work. It means sacrificing even when you feel you’re the only one who ever does.

Because we’re human, we’re selfish. We want what makes us happy and comfortable. But God’s primary purpose in marriage (and life) is not to make us happy, but to make us holy. Holiness happens over the course of our lives through the work of sanctification—a continual dying to our sinful nature and a consistent growing in our likeness of Christ. In Christian marriage, sustained and motivated by God’s love towards us in Christ, we have the unique opportunity to find deep, pure, and substantial joy by sacrificing our preferences for the betterment of our spouse. Can you think of a more true and beautiful friendship than when both spouses are doing this for one another: “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21)? Not only do we show a picture of Christ’s love to each other, but the world gets to watch the gospel on display as we glorify Christ in our marriage through our friendship with our spouse.

ABOUT BRIANNA:

Brianna is wife to Matt and mother to Lorien. She is a committed member of her church, Elmira Christian Center, in Upstate NY. She is passionate about helping cultivate healthy, gospel-centered marriages and families. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram .

 

How many of you have been stressed out from throwing a party and maybe so much so that you don’t even enjoy it and your guests? Or maybe you have been so intimidated from the thought of throwing one, you avoid it all together? I have been there and I get it. Over the past several years of hosting parties, I have learned a few lessons, tips and tricks that I want to share with you.  

I have always loved throwing parties and will find any and every excuse to do so. My family and friends thought I was crazy for hosting a housewarming party only a week after moving into our home but I just couldn’t wait! I know some would say that parties could be frivolous and do not really matter a whole lot in life. This thought reminds me of the episode of “Friends”, when Rachel reconnects with her old sorority sister, Melissa. They begin to tell each other what their current jobs are. Melissa says that she left her job of real estate because she wanted to do something where she can really help people and make a difference. So Rachel asks her what she is doing now and Melissa responds with, “Party planning”. Of course you hear the audience laugh because the thought of really helping people by planning parties can sound kind of lame, but I would like to suggest to you that in a small way, throwing parties, big or small, really can make a difference and be meaningful. It is a way to connect people with each other, potentially creating life-long friendships, and at the very least, make long-lasting memories!

So let’s get down to it. I want to share with you 6 lessons I have learned over the years of throwing and hosting several parties. From my huge DIY wedding back in 2011 before the Pinterest and Instagram era, or large vendor fairs held at my house like the Galentine’s Day Spa + Market I hosted this past weekend, to the smaller bridal showers, baby sprinklings, costume Oscar parties and even smaller surprise birthday celebrations and dinner parties. All of them begin with the same basic principles that lead to a fun time with lasting memories.

1. Pick A Theme

Picking themes like a woodland animal baby shower or something more generic with just a color scheme can be super helpful in narrowing your decisions on how to decorate. It also makes your whole party look cohesive and put together if you stick to your theme/color scheme. Pinterest will be your best friend for this step! I can’t even tell you how many secret boards I have made for the different themed parties I have thrown together. What a great resource!

My Galentine’s party was spa themed, so I chose to run with the color green because of cucumbers, and peach because I just love peach and am not a fan of typical Valentine’s colors. Once I picked my colors, I incorporated them into everything from the DIY cucumber eye mask that each guest received, to the heart shaped peach-colored cantaloupe and green-colored honey dew skewers!

2. Decorate For Cheap

There are lots of really quick, easy and cheap ways to make your party look like you spent a lot more time and money than you did. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Just a little paint and paper can go a long way! I love making bunting signs for my parties like the one I made this past weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right color peach paper I needed and I live in a super small town that doesn’t have any craft stores, so I took peach paint and cheap poster board and made some of my own which turned out great! I always keep inexpensive twine, mini clothespins, and washi tape on hand too.
  • Another cheap option is to reuse decor items from past parties. For my wedding, I had used logs and tree stump plates that I had asked a local logger to cut down for me to decorate with (which he did for free!). Since then, I have kept them over the years and use them for most of my food tables at parties, or just around the venue/my house. I also used mason jars at my wedding and have kept them in my basement so that I can pull them out whenever I need a quick centerpiece.
  • Paper straws are also a great way to add to your decor. I have a giant bag with all different colored straws I have collected over the years and just pull out what colors I need for the specific party I am throwing. Most people don’t use the straws so I just put them back in my bag at the end of the night and reuse them for the next party! I also typically get matching party plates and napkins from TJ Maxx because they always have a great selection that is cheap. I store whatever is remaining for the next party!
  • I tend to buy green foliage like eucalyptus or myrtle or even filler flower, like wax flower or baby’s breath, to decorate with because they are cheaper than flowers. If I do buy flowers, I will usually go for alstromeria lilies because they are on the inexpensive side, but don’t look cheap like carnations. And the cheapest option is going out in your backyard and grabbing some wild flowers, pretty leaves or branches! For Christmas I always grab some pinecones from outside and get some clippings from my Juniper tree in our backyard. My husband and I also usually cut down a larger Christmas tree than what we want so when we cut it down even shorter to fit in our home, I will be able to use all the excess branches for decor.
  • Investing in drink dispensers is a good idea too because you can use them for many years to come. Not only do they have a great function, they also can add to your decor! I always put in fruits that coordinate with the colors of my parties and the color of your drinks can match too! For the Galentine’s spa, I made cucumber, lime and mint water and then sparkling green tea limeade that was an invention with raving reviews!
  • Along these lines, I usually try to make foods that go with my color scheme. This past weekend all of my foods were either green or peach/light orange and it made the tablescape very aesthetically pleasing! And let me tell you, the herbed cucumber chicken salad this past weekend was out of this world!

3. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!

I have a dear friend named Terri who always offers to help when I throw a party. Without fail, she will either come the night before or a little early to help with food or whatever is needed. Friends like these are keepers for sure! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends or family. I am very grateful for my mom who will make her famous veggie pizza and my aunt who makes her renowned cupcakes and cookies for my parties whenever I ask them to. This past weekend I had so much going on outside of the party that I enlisted some more help from one of the vendors who is an incredible chef and baker to help me throw the food together. I also have a handful of friends who I can always count on to show up early to help. Punctuality doesn’t make sense to me but I am grateful for them because they will always help with last minute food prep! I also am very blessed with a husband who will help around the clock for my parties. He is usually in charge of  jobs like putting on the music, making sure the garbage can is never overflowing and taking out the trash when needed. He does plenty of last minute errands and always sweeps. Sidenote: I never mop before a party because it’s just going to get disgusting again with so many people in my house!

Delegating is key to keeping things simple so you don’t have to do it all, plus when people feel like they have a small part, they feel included and needed and can take some ownership of it too! Make sure to thank these people and give proper recognition where it’s due! If you show your appreciation, they will more than likely be willing to help you for your next party!

4. Easy Peasy Appetizers

My go-to appetizers are crock pot foods for sure! I am known now for my buffalo wing dip and cranberry meatballs. If you come to one of my parties you will likely see both of these dishes. I don’t branch out often because I do what I know people love and what is simple! Also throwing veggies (That match your decor) on a platter with store bought hummus is so easy. Or, my favorite, is making a simple and beautiful cheese platter with a variety of soft and hard cheeses, fancy crackers, grapes, almonds and rosemary to garnish. Simple but beautiful, and who doesn’t love cheese?! For my wedding I was gifted several white platters and server-ware, and for the past 7 years I have been using those for pretty much all of my parties! White goes with everything. Make the investment and you won’t regret it. Another idea to make the food prep easy and simple is to ask guests to bring a dish to pass! I know some could say this is tacky, but food is expensive, so people understand! I do this for my annual Christmas party every year. In years past I didn’t like doing this because I wanted all the food to look a certain way and to go with my theme (yes, you can roll your eyes, haha). But you can always request for friends to bring their food on a white platter or tell them you have a white platter they can use. Ultimately I have learned to just let the aesthetics go sometimes and not care; which brings me to my next point.

5. Imperfection is Perfect

Let’s face it, things are not going to go according to plan all the time. Life happens. Over the years I have had to realize that the party is ultimately about the people who you are hosting, and not the decor. You don’t want to be so focused on the way it looks or how things are running that you forget to connect with your guests and have a good time. If you do, people will not have a good time because they will sense the tension and the vibe – trust me!

6. Do It for the People

I realize some may not agree with me on this, and that’s fine, but I have found this to be an amazing mindset for me. To this day I still get people that tell me that my wedding was the most fun wedding they had ever been to and that brings me so much joy. I really think that this is because I made it a priority to make sure my guests and bridal party would be comfortable and enjoy themselves. I know a lot of people have the mentality that your wedding day is your day and you should do what you want despite people and their wants, but here’s how I see it: if people aren’t happy around me then ultimately it will rub off on me and then I won’t be happy. So really in essence I am making sure that people are happy so that I can be too. It’s honestly selfish, haha! But really when you think about it, the majority of your guests will lovingly supporting your marriage covenant throughout your marriage, so keeping them in mind when you’re planning is so important. For example, I wanted an outdoor wedding but I chose to move it indoors because in case the weather was bad I didn’t want it to irritate my guests or me! I made sure our venue (a barn) had AC installed for the hot July day and a nice bathroom was a must (a nice bathroom at any party/venue is really a must in my book!). Ample and easy access parking is always a good idea. Sadly the parking at my house isn’t awesome but my husband and I always make sure to pull into our garage to give more room. Thinking about the time of day for your party, the food you serve- having vegetarian options and sugar free treats are all great ideas. Be intentional with your planning – thinking about it from the perspective of your guests and what they would want.

Another way to make people feel more comfortable is to help introduce people to others they may not know. I realize not everyone loves doing this. For me as an extrovert, I love doing this like really love it! I love giving people topics to talk about and ways they can relate to each other. If this is not your personality type – ask a friend who is good at this to intentionally go around the room and connect people in this way. I feel for those introverts who hate introducing themselves and can’t think of topics to talk about so doing it for them will make them feel included for sure.

So when it comes down to it, it’s all about planning ahead in every aspect. No party has to be extravagant and huge but in order to make it a lovely time that brings lasting memories; it should be intentional, thought out and focused on what is most important – the people. I hope all of this helps make your next party simple, intentional and meaningful! I would also love to connect with you on Instagram! Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or if any of this resonated with you. Keep on planning those parties, friends! Everyone needs a reason to dress up once in a while!

ABOUT KIMMY: 

Kimmy is a small town designer, letterer, painter and party planner enthusiast. She is obsessed with plants, running ‘cause chocolate, a minimal, tidy home and Jesus. She lives with her bearded musician and teddy bear of a husband, Ryan, in Upstate NY where they are the pastors of their church, Anchor Oneonta. Kimmy loves helping others realize their passions and encourages them to use their gifts to their fullest potential, to ultimately bring glory to God.

Check out Kimmy’s Shop – Drift Design Co. – handlettered paper goods, apparel and home decor

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If there’s one thing you should know about it me, it’s that I LOVE me some dark chocolate! So much so, that if Jay and I realize there isn’t any in the house, some major panicking goes down over here! It’s a problem, folks.

Well something I never buy, but find myself craving every now and then is chocolate milk. We have a pretty strict grocery budget, so it usually never makes the cut. Plus, we’ve officially switched over to almond+coconut milk this year (dairy messes with us both if we have too much of it) and those options for chocolate milk tend be more pricey anyways.

So I decided to just start making chocolate smoothies instead when I get the craving, with ingredients that we always have in the house! It’s oh so yummy, super, duper simple to whip up and much healthier than regular chocolate milk. Sharing my little recipe on the blog today for anyone else looking for a chocolatey treat (um, who isn’t?) that’s good for ya and easy as pie to make!

CHOCOLATE MILK SUBSTITUTE SMOOTHIE

  • 1 Ripe Banana
  • 1 Tbsp. Almond Butter (or butter of choice)
  • 1 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1-1½ Cups Milk of choice (We LOVE Blue Diamond’s Almond/Coconut Blend)
  • 1 Tsp. Chia Seeds (Because why not throw some extra nutrition in there?!)

Simply toss all of these ingredients into your blender (If you’re on the hunt for a legit blender, we are obsessed with our Ninja! THE best.) and blend them to a milky consistency. You’re welcome!

PS: This tastes extra yummy if you pop it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Tastes just like a chocolate shake!

Now don’t get me wrong, there will just never been anything quite like a glass of straight up chocolate milk. But I’m thankful for tasty, healthy, and cost efficient alternatives, that can help meet my chocolate cravings, without making unnecessary purchases or screwing with my tummy!

I’d love to hear if any of you give this a try and what you think of it. Be sure to leave me a comment below and let me know if you approve. I’d also LOVE to hear any other favorite chocolate recipes of yours, so I can try those as well!

Thanks so much for stopping by and Happy Monday, friend!