Thursday, September 17, 2015

Captive: book review & giveaway

Ever feel utterly captivated by a book? Like you are so mesmerized you literally cannot put it down? This is how Captive {the untold story of the Atlanta hostage hero} was for me. Imagine my delight when I found out there is a movie made by Paramount about it as well!

I think the thing that got me the most was how completely different the character in the book is from most people's reality. From her husband, her daughter, her habits, lifestyle and then to on top of it be taken captive in her own home. But she then spiritually leads her capturer into turning himself in to the authorities. A man that killed multiple people and had also threatened to do so to her as well.

The book had me engaged the entire time. It was very well written and it painted a great picture that I could visually see in my head as well. I love that in the center of the book it shows actual pictures of Ashley Smith as well as Brian Nichols {the man that took her hostage for 7 hours}

Ashley was in the depths of despair. She was looking for a way out of her horrible habits and was trying desperately to create a life for herself so she could then in return make a life for her daughter as well. It is amazing to me how God works within each one of us. He knew she needed this very moment to "snap out of it". To take her life into her own hands and to come clean. Nothing had worked before this moment. It was like a switch had been flipped within her. What happened over the course of 7 hours was miraculous. And to think a book many of us have read {The Purpose Driven Life} gave her the tools she needed. God prevailed.

Wanna hear something awesome? One of you get to win the book! Trust me when I say, you won't be able to put it down! It is SO good!! Here is what you need to do:

* Enter using the Rafflecopter
* Open to U.S. & Canada residents only
* Must be at least 18 years of age to win
* Winner will be drawn on the 20th

a Rafflecopter giveaway
"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Easy as Pie!

Ever just have a day. Not like an average day...but like a "I just need to cram chocolate into my face super fast" sorta day? Well, that was this day for me!

From the moment I woke up my day was NOT playing in my favor! But you know what did? I made up a recipe and have dubbed it my "Get in my belly" fast pie! Yep, start to finish this bad boy took about 20 minutes to make! And then an hour to "set up"! NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE put me up to a challenge! Recently they did a hackathon. You can click HERE to see some super incredible recipes that are tasty AND easy!!, who DOESN'T like easy?? The challenge was to use NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE products and come up with a tasty little treat. I brainstormed ideas with my big. Her request...that it be lactose free so she could partake! Here is the Speed Scratch recipe we came up with!

We first picked a cookie. Our pick was Chocolate Chip Lovers...the more chocolate the better! Let stand 10 minutes before starting to let the dough get a bit softer.

Using a rolling pin, we flattened out the cookie dough and pressed it together to make 1 large cookie. 

When lifting the dough, find something flat or else it will fall apart in your hands!

Once rolled out we pressed into an ungreased pie plate. Forming it around like a pie crust. Preheat your oven to 350 and bake for 15-18 minutes.

When golden brown, using a paring knife cut a few slits in the dough to release some steam. This will help the dough to sink down and become more flat. 

I then squished the dough down along the center to create a crevice for the filling to go inside. Anything with a smooth flat bottom would work great! For me I found a measuring cup!

Since the big requested lactose free, we made dark chocolate pudding to go inside for our filling. Pour directly inside the "crust" and then let stand in fridge for an hour.

Of course no pie is complete without a whipped dairy free topping and Dark Chocolate Morsels on top! It was DELIGHTFUL!!! Creamy, crunchy and sweet!

How's about a little giveaway?! I am giving away a $10 gift card for PayPal or Amazon to 1 lucky winner on Instagram! Go HERE to learn how you can enter and win! It's super easy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


When I was a child I couldn't wait to grow up. To move out. To be on my own. To meet THE one and to then start a family of my own. I had a dream of being a mom. I came from a small family and wanted a large family. I wanted to hear the sounds of little feet. My walls filled with shrieks of joy and laughter. Silly jokes and bedtime stories.

I am living my personal dream.

God gifted me 4 of the most precious gifts I could have ever received. We have 4 more perfect packages awaiting us at the pearly gates that I know will be just as eternally amazing. But for now I live in the now. This moment.

Since my hysterectomy I relish each minute more. I know I cannot get these moments back. I must mould, grow and form them with gentleness, love and compassion. I need to live with a heart that is lighthearted and joy filled. I must stop, if only for a second to breathe in the youth. Breathe in the little. Make a mental memory that overflows my heart.

School starts soon. Sports are happening and for some reason this doesn't make me excited. It makes me sad. It marks the start of another chapter in my favorite little peoples lives. New firsts, new beginnings. New moments. New memories. I would be lying if I didn't admit I have cried more than a handful OK 2  of times. I must sport my brave face. Dawn a smile and cheer them on. But I don't want to. As selfish as this sounds I really just want them to stay little. Stay small. Stay mine. Here in my perfect little world.

We have skipped bedtimes for extra stories or couch cuddles. Done marathon gardening and planting when dusk has struck our path. Spent countless hours in the car as we travel and see things. Spent a week exploring the beach and feeling the sand between our toes. We eat out once a week for breakfast at our favorite local diner. Bring art projects in and do them at the table. Had more coffee/smoothie or frozen yogurt dates than I can even count and skipped showers so many times just so we could move onto something else in our day.

We hold hands. Sing songs and we laugh as often as we possibly can. We have so many projects started and not finished and my inbox is flooded with thousands of emails I haven't bothered to even check. We raised ladybugs and tried for the 4th time to raise fish. <---- we think this time we have finally got it.

I have had meltdowns. Myself and the children. We have shed tears and we have had so many fights and bickering matches it should make me want to send my kids far far away. <----- these negatives were far less than the positives. These "moments" shaped us and helped us to grow.

This is our perfectly imperfect life and I wouldn't change it for the world.

My children are growing up before my eyes. I am so excited for what their future holds, but for now I will continue to make as many lasting moments in their lives as possible.

Thank you Macey of Moments by Macey for not only being my friend. But coming with us on our annual beach trip. YOU captured some moments I will cherish for the rest of my life. I love that you didn't just capture the perfect, but you captured the real. I can't wait for our next life style shoot.

I was just about to publish this post and I finally read some messages. I laughed as Macey wanted me to share an offer to MY readers!! I thought, well gosh! Is this perfect timing or what? Mention my blog for $50 off of a 90 minute session and you will also receive a free 8x10. She is an incredible Portland, Oregon based lifestyle photographer who doesn't limit herself to location! You can see more pictures on her blog and also follow her on Facebook for upcoming specials, events and more.

I don't want to forget these moments. I will never regret stopping to smell a pack of fresh diapers {oh my heaven!} or tickling the palm of a dimpled hand. These are my babies. My people. My entourage and moments.

God, you are so good to me. Thank you for your sweet blessings.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cake smash for a 2 year old

Alright, let's talk photos for a minute. If you have followed my blog for a bit you KNOW that I am absolutely infatuated with photos. No...I do not take them myself! I have an amazing friend who does this for me. Her name is Julie and she owns Happenstance Photography . One of the many things I love about this women, is that she is always open to new and fun ideas. Mind you I may be a tad bit bias, considering the fact I consider her one of my dearest friends. But, for real! I will have a random dream and message her about it (idea for a picture) and she is always like YES! Let's do it!

This photo shoot was one of them.

Now, most consider doing a cake smash for a first birthday party. Right? I mean, woo hoo! Cute. I love them and did them with all of mine. But let's be honest. MOST 1 year olds have never had cake before. So they are taken back by the sweetness of the frosting. The loud noises and the peanut gallery they are facing as they take their first bite. Some will take a fist full...most will just. Cry!

I wanted something different. Livy is my last of 4. I am realizing I relish in her smallness. I am cherishing each tiny dimple on her hand and I wanted her to be able to go at a cake ALL by herself. On her own terms. With Julie watching, of course! My most favorite style is more rustic. I am a farm girl at heart and my last name is! I have to play off this! Julie suggested an incredible National Park which we have done many shoots at and we went out on a beautiful warm afternoon. Much to my and her delight...the pictures turned out better than we could have ever imagined.

First she needed to warm up to the camera. Although she knows Julie extremely well. Like any other toddler there is a "get to know you better" period! This picture captures this side of my boo bear oh so well. Her lovey in hand (she doesn't go far without Bunny. In fact Bunny is in her 1 year pictures as well!) First scrape on her elbow. This one, is in a frame! Once she was warmed up, we decided to set out the cake! I picked up this cake at the bakery THAT morning! I didn't pre-order! I just saw this one and said PERFECT!

She ran to the cake!

First words were "Mommy, mine?" We said yes and she was over the moon. The rest is all her!

I will cherish these pictures for as long as I live. I am getting teary eyed as I reflect on these memories. This moment. My baby was so happy we let her, be...her!

Then the sugar started to kick in! This is where "drunk Livy" enters the room! Seriously we were in stitches laughing so hard! Look closely at the foot! This is the start of it! She was dancing her heart out! Leg in the air as she chews her bite. Licks more frosting and then the other leg in the air!

OH, but it gets better!

Not only is she now walking AROUND the box...but she also decides trying to eat the cake from standing on top of the box is a nifty idea!

The point is. Don't limit a cake smash to a first birthday! Think outside of the box {as Livy did above!} and come up with a new angle. I am kicking myself we didn't do these with all the kids! Hey Julie, what do you think about a 5, 7 and 9 year old cake smash!

The sugar rush after made for some of the cutest pictures! Completely out of her shell. In her own element and just pure cheese for the camera!

Want to learn how you can have your pictures taken by Julie? Visit her website or follow her on Facebook! She has given me the most precious gift any mom could ask for. Visual memories which are so much more than a keepsake. They are a treasured walk, down memory lane.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Living life and Huggies Simply Clean

My world is filled with laughter and our cups running over. It is loud, crazy, fun, messy, dirty and brings me the biggest joy. I am...Mom.

I had dinner with a bunch of girlfriends and somehow we got on the topic of "OK, who here has baby wipes in their purse?" Almost every single person at the table, reached inside their purse and pulled out a pack! We were cracking up! I told them before children I would have never bought them. But now that I have them, I will never STOP using them!

My wipes of choice, Huggies Simply Clean which are new and improved with a triple clean layers and they don't tear! A friend was over and said, "OH my gosh. So I used your wipes and was happily surprised. NO tearing!" I laughed and said, "RIGHT?!" I always buy the refill packages. Easy to toss and go.

Messy noses and the first thing my Liv love asks for "Wipe, peas? Mama?"

We were laughing as we swapped stories on ways we use wipes.

See the crayon marks on my BRAND NEW ottoman? It was covered in them...

There is NO way I could get mad at this sweet face! Instead...grab a Huggies Simply Clean wipe and watch it disappear! 

Crayon be gone!! POOF! The thing I have realized is I will never be without wipes, BECAUSE KIDS OUTGROW DIAPERS, NOT MESSES* Want some of your own? You won't regret it! You can find them HERE!

Thank you Huggies for sponsoring my post and inspiring me to try them in my home!

Peaks and valleys

I am in a peak, searching for a valley.

Ever feel that way? As a mom of 4, we have sports and extracurriculars almost every day of the week. Toss in school (and most of our friends are at different schools), church, family life and the fact I work from can start to seem pretty isolating. By the end of the day, I am straight up pooped. The only thing that sounds good to me is sweatpants and hanging my bra up like it's flappin' on a flagpole.

Sitting with one of my nearest and dearest as we watched our babes splash in the water, we were talking about how wonderful it was to spend time together. That we both desperately needed it and how odd it is so many around us are in "seasons" of change. Homes, works, friendships. You name it, I do not know 1 person not going through SOMETHING right now. We were talking about childhood friendships. I told her how envious I am of my childhood friends. I moved away as soon as I graduated. Followed by my parents moving, shortly after I did. So if I visit it's not like going "home". Someone else lives in my house. The flowers are gone and my walls are no longer covered in pictures from magazines. I am the outsider now. Those that stayed are best friends for life...I live a few hundred miles away and although I can visit. The connection has changed and I am that one girl who used to go to school with them but moved far far away. It makes my heart heavy. I am thrilled to bits for them, but sad for me. Sad panda.

You go off to college, you have your best friends who you are INSEPARABLE with. Graduation comes and you go your separate ways. You are still in touch, are in each-others weddings and will always be there for the big moments. But it's changed. You are in serious relationships, some are struggling to find work and others are landing the most incredible jobs and traveling the world. It's incredible. One of you has to be the first to get married and another will be the first to have babies. The wind picks up and the seasons start to change again. Once again these friendships are always going to be there, but everything that was the same will never be again.

Baby comes and your world is filled with extreme joy. Your single friends don't have a clue what to do with you or even can comprehend this odd language you have taken on. I mean, come on. What in the heck is a nonny? You get enough gumption up to attend "baby circles". You form friendships and you feel like you are set. This is it. I have everything I could ever want and more. Toddlers form in the place of chubby bodies and you can feel a slight breeze. Change is once again on the horizon. You attend each other's birthday parties. Still do dress up and pop in when you can but your world is in preparation for more. Then those you are closest with, move away. Your heart aches. You mourn and you feel like a lost sheep.

You get comfortable in your surroundings, meet new people and then something catastrophic to you happens. In my case I had major surgery. I spent many nights in mourning. Isolated from being able to tell others how I truly felt. The pain, the loss, the heartache. You notice those that step forward and are there for you. Those that send text messages, make phone calls or even send private messages. Friends that drop by with flowers and cookies or even bring your favorite coffee and sit by your side as you cry. As you laugh, as you share your heart with them. THESE moments are eye opening. Those you expected to be there, are not. Those you least expected, are. You are eternally grateful and cannot ever repay them enough for what they did for you.

Your perspective has changed. Your view on life is different. You start to notice that those you are always there for and would do anything for...may not be there when you need them the most. You notice that instead of being yourself are the one that always does the planning. The doing, the inviting. And you start to question yourself. Like Mindy Kaling wrote, "Is everyone hanging out without me?" Your love language is gifts, you give...but it's rarely reciprocated. So you take an even further step back. Does anyone notice? Some you typically message daily...don't message you. It makes your heart heavy again and you feel alone. You have the foodie friends, but you hate to cook. The crafty-Pinterest inspired friends, yet you don't even know how to hold a gluestick. The sporty friends that run, bike, swim, trike and there you are with a bowl of cereal in your lap loosening the strings on your yoga pants. That you TOTALLY wore, because you meant to go running. Of course! Each person has something in them that has made you a better person by having them in your life. They are inspiring.

Wanna hear something crazy? You are NOT alone. Apparently this is normal. WE are normal. Some are facing this, some HAVE faced it and some WILL face it in the future. Friendships are like have got to keep lickin' till you get to the center. I think God brings people into our lives for a reason. There was a season you needed that person and it was amazing. Instead of mourning or feeling lost we need to be thankful. My favorite quote right now is "There comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn't jump puddles for you." This hit me like a brick to my head. Those friends you think are ALWAYS so busy and are probably hanging out with other people...message them! See if they can hang out. It could be a person like me. I have tons of friends but very few know me to my core. Majority don't know I am most likely sitting on my couch, with my MacBook on my lap wondering if someone out there is wishing on the same great big bright star as I flip through the On Demand, eating a donut while my house is filled with silence. Don't forget your friends with LOTS of kids. OK that didn't mean to sound super pathetic...but I have 4 kids. I am not numb to the fact it's like bringing a herd of elephants over if we are invited for a playdate! Meet at a park, set up a couples dinner date! Mama's of many need friends too! I am the oldest of my sisters. I love my sisters something fierce, but they are WAY cooler than I am! We are in different seasons and I have to be OK with that.  They do things together and are able to get together more often...and I live in another State! PLUS, my youngest brother used to remind us each time we saw him, "you are like, old." Um, thanks! I love you too! Now every time I look in the mirror I see dirt! Thankfully he grew out of that! If you are always invited by someone else or they are always initiating...try that roll on for a bit. Their cup may runneth over. A text message or a simple and short "hello! I miss you" does the heart wonders!

To my friends who are going through this, I love you!! YOU are worthy and you are enough. Don't ever let anyone steal your sparkle. Instead, let the reflection of the sun beat off of you and shine. Shine baby, shine.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hey good lookin' watcha got cookin?! Easy Linguine

These days, my family has been looking for fast and easy dishes that are so simple we could cook it with our eyes closed. OK. Probably not with our eyes closed, cause that comes with liabilities! BUT you get my point! Here is what you will need:

1 cup of cherry tomatoes sliced
2 large garlic cloves chopped
1 8 oz package of green beans, washed and ends cut
1 box linguine
Olive oil
1 whole lemon
1/2 cup Ricotta cheese

Here is where it gets ridonkulously easy, you ready for this? Boil a pot of salted water and cook linguine as says on package. Meanwhile in a pan, heat up 3 TBSP olive oil and throw in chopped garlic and green beans.

Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and pepper and then cook 4 minutes. Before draining the linguine use 1 cup of the water and pour into the pan of the green beans. Let boil 4 minutes, or until the green beans are edible.

Drain pasta and in a glass dish toss with ricotta cheese. Combine with green beans and then add in fresh tomatoes and zest with lemon. Fresh Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top is delish and served with crusty bread is of course the way to go!

Delectable go get em tiger!
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