Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dreaming With Your Spouse

Today was one of those days that was like a deep breath in and a deep sigh out. A day for writing, laughing, lounging, rocking on a porch and talking about dreams and goals. My husband and I typically have one day off entirely together, and today was that day.

I absolutely love the conversations that we have. While we were in the car driving today, he put up with and answered silly questions that come to my mind like "if you could live in any historical era, what would it be?" and "if you could visit any ancient civilization, what would it be?". We actually had some great discussion from it.

Perhaps one of my favorite topics of discussion though is dreaming and goal setting. I am a goal person for sure. At the beginning of the week, month and year I create lists, dreams and goals that I want to accomplish. All you have to do is come over to our apartment and you'll see them plastered on the fridge and on the walls.

Today was one of those days that my husband and I sat out on a porch, the cool summer breeze blowing by as the clouds rumored of a storm. We rocked in the classical southern rocking chairs, and we talked about our dreams and goals together.

Where we see ourselves in the next two years, what we want to accomplish, who we want to help, how we want to bless others, what we will be doing, and so on. Now, I am the first to tell you that God is in the business of the unexpected. I know that my plans and dreams are fully in his hands, and I will accept his guidance.

But I also think that it's important to always be moving forward with a goal in mind. I am so thankful for a husband who is willing to sit down and set goals with me, and ask me what we want our goals to be. If you have never set goals with your spouse, I would really encourage you to try. It doesn't have to be huge, in fact, it can just start small.

Here are a few questions that my husband and I regularly ask each other to hear each other's hearts, and to set and track our goals for the future.

1. What's one thing I can do to love you better this week?

2. What's one goal that you want to accomplish together this month?

3. What's one tangible thing I can do this week that will show my love for you?

4. What do you see for the next year for us? 

5. What's one thing you want to do together in the next six months?

These are just some basic questions that we ask each other. Our answers change and vary. They can be as simple as having the other write a note or give an extra hug to show our love and appreciation. Our goals can vary from paying something off to taking a hike at a place we've been talking about.

Dreaming together and building your lives together is so important. And communication about those topics creates intimacy. I really encourage you to ask just one question and both answer it for each other. See each other's hearts and set a goal that you can both push for together.

What are some of your big dreams? Share one below!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sesame Chicken

Thailand. The Philippines. Malaysia. Cambodia. China.

Taken in Beijing, China

Five months in five different Asian countries. From November 2011 to the end of March 2012, I spent my time spread across those five Asian countries as part of my World Race route. And let me tell you, I absolutely loved the food.

Me out on the Great Wall of China!

Market in Bangkok, Thailand

I've always loved Asian food, but never cooked much of it. I am completely inspired by the fusion and boldness of the flavors of Asian food. And let me tell you, when I was traveling with the World Race, Asian food was like a gift of heaven. It was full of flavor, which is what I'm all about- bold flavor.

Lately I have been wanting to get into cooking different Asian dishes and try my hand at those unique flavors. So the other night I whipped up and experimented with Sesame Chicken. And let me tell you, it was a winner!

Here's the digs on this delicious recipe inspired by the exotic flavors of Asia!

Sesame Chicken

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 Tbsp. sesame oil, divided
10 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of corn starch
2 cups of water
2 cloves garlic, minced
To taste: garlic powder, pepper
Optional: ginger and sesame seeds (I did not have either, so I didn't use, but it would compliment the dish well)

4 servings of brown rice (about 1 cup uncooked rice cooked in 2 cups of water)
4 servings of cooked snap peas

1. Preheat oven to 375 and place chicken in a baking dish.
2. Mix 2 Tbsp sesame oil, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, and a generous pinch of garlic powder and pepper. Pour over chicken, and bake chicken about 20 minutes until mostly cooked through. Don't overcook because you will be putting the chicken on heat with the sesame sauce.
3. Heat remaining 3 Tbsp of sesame oil in a large skillet (a deeper skillet is best for this), over medium high heat.
4. Mince garlic, lower heat to medium and cook 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
5. In a separate bowl, mix together soy sauce, water and corn starch until blended, and mix into sesame and garlic mixture. Add honey in right after.
6. Heat through until it starts to thicken a little.
7. Take your chicken out and chop into smaller pieces, then place in the sauce.
8. Note, if the sauce starts getting too thick, you can thin it out with more water.
9. Let the chicken and sauce blend together and cook over medium about 5-10 minutes.
10. Season with garlic powder (I used about 2-3 teaspoons, but I love garlic), and black pepper. You can also add more soy sauce if you like the flavor. If you are using ginger and sesame seeds, add at this point.
11. Serve over a bed of rice with snap peas, and enjoy!

What's your favorite Asian dish? Share below, I love learning new recipes! 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Body, Heart and Soul

Many of you know, and some of you may not, that every month I hold different challenge groups. Some are thirty to sixty days and revolve around health and fitness. Others are just seven days long and vary on topic from clean eating to how to create your own hand lettering pieces at home.

Well I've been brainstorming and I have come up with a really exciting new program that I will be launching this fall! My heart is totally in this one and I cannot wait to see it come to life.

As I have embarked on my own journey to health since February of this year, the one thing I have really noticed is that even though my original main goal was to get physically healthy, I have seen changes in all areas of my life.

I have seen physical transformation in the form of pounds and inches lost on my body. I have seen my energy increase, which has led to me dealing with situations in a better mindset and better emotional state. I have noticed that my energy and zest for life and being adventurous with my husband has increased.

My daily quiet time with the Lord has become more consistent and my brain feels clearer and less foggy throughout the day. I have put more discipline and passion into my work and my daily routines and interactions with people.

The transformation has not only been physical, but across the board. And that is what I am passionate about. Specifically in reaching out to other women. I know that I have only tapped the surface of potential in my own life, and it has ignited my passion to reach out to other women and lead the way.

That has led me to this new seven day group called "Body, Heart and Soul." For one week, I will teach women about exercise, healthy eating, and their Biblical identity in Christ. Every day will involve me posting a specific, easy but effective exercise to follow. I will also be posting a healthy recipe, and over the week you will get ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

Lastly, and most importantly, I will be teaching from one of the most influential passages of scripture in my life, Ephesians 1. I struggled severely growing up with realizing my identity in Christ, and it's a passion of mine to teach what I have learned. So many of our body issues come from a deeper rooted identity issue.

The climax of the week will be something I am most excited about- a live event here in the Atlanta, Georgia area! I will gather together those from the group that are local to the area, and we will spend a few hours one morning on the weekend to be together.

It will be a morning filled with a workout together, a delicious brunch and time of fellowship, followed by a time of individual and corporate prayer. I'll be pulling out a lot of stops and my mind is already filled with tons of Pinterest-y ideas. So if you are in the Atlanta area, you are not going to want to miss this!

The dates for the group are still to be determined, but please message me or comment below if you want to be a part of this exciting new seven day group, I would love to have you be a part of it and learn how to incorporate some healthy ideas into your life and be in community with other awesome women!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Revamped "Cookie Dough"

Alright, I admit, I am an avid fan of cookie dough! The stuff is just so delicious. Never mind that they say you shouldn't eat batter with raw eggs, it's just too good! But, unfortunately, raw eggs or not, it's probably not a great idea to eat cookie dough anyways. At least not regularly.

But I recently found a fantastic way to curb the sweet tooth and get just a little hint of that cookie dough  like taste! And the best part, it's much healthier than cookie dough, and bonus, you don't have to worry about any raw eggs.

Here's the digs on the recipe, it's super easy, fast, and delicious! Perfect for that late night sugar craving so you don't derail your days worth of clean eating.

3/4 cup of plain Greek Yogurt
2 tsp. natural peanut butter (it's just a better choice for you)
1 tsp. of honey
2 tsp. chocolate chips
Pinch of salt (optional)

1. Combine yogurt and peanut butter in a bowl and stir
2. Add in the honey, chocolate chips, and salt.
3. DIG IN!

This recipe is super easy, and really versatile! We ran out of chocolate chips and I had some dried cranberries, so I substituted that instead, and it was delicious! Get creative, there are so many options out there! Nuts, blueberries, white chocolate, etc. Just remember, everything in moderation!

What would you add into this recipe to revamp the cookie dough? Share your thoughts below! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ways to Surprise Your Husband

Last week, God laid it on my heart to do some extra special things for my husband, just to simply show how much I care and how I much love him. They weren't necessarily huge, extravagant gestures, but they were simple little ways to remind him exactly why I loved him and was blessed to be his wife.

Zach and I during our first dance. 

Now, I must say that I am a HUGE fan of surprises. I love planning them and seeing them come to fruition. Some of my favorite memories involve surprising the ones I love. Whether it was my best friend and her bachelorette party to Disneyland, or coming home from 11 months overseas and surprising my parents, or just a candle lit dinner for my husband when he comes home, I love planning the unexpected things.

My best friend Sarah and I at my wedding.

It just adds so much excitement and zest to life! I may get even more joy out of planning these things than the other people may have in getting them, but I love it.

So as newly weds, our budget isn't the hugest in the world, as I'm sure many other newly weds around our age can attest to. That meant working with what we had for the most part and turning it into something special for Zach.

Originally these were all supposed to be in one week, but it ended up being stretched over two weeks because Zach had an issue with his back and was home from work (thankfully he is all healed up now thought!).

Here are a few of the ideas that I used to surprise one of the most important person in my life to let him know that I loved him and I was on his side, and adore him.

1. I made him breakfast in bed. Now this may not seem like a huge thing, but we love to just snuggle into bed and talk and share life together that way some mornings. So I decided to kick it up a notch, make breakfast in bed, and then bring in our computer to watch a funny movie together in bed! It was a hit and just a wonderful way to start our day.

2. I covered the bathroom mirror with notes. Post it notes are some of my favorites! So I decided to grab a pad, and write down a ton of different encouraging thoughts, notes, reasons why I love him, and just affirmations. I then snuck into the bathroom and plastered them all over the mirror for him to find and be encouraged by. They stayed up there for a good week until I had to take them down to clean the mirror!

3. Have a picnic at home on the living room floor. Sometimes you just can't make it to the park for a picnic. But I brought the picnic home! I cooked us dinner, put a blanket on the floor, grabbed some candles and set the stage for a fancy, romantic picnic dinner on the floor! You throw on a favorite Pandora or Spotify station and you have a hit!

Candle light picnic, anyone?

4. Baked a sweet treat. There's always the saying that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I don't know if that's the only way, but I know that Zach has a sweet tooth, so I decided to bake him a special treat to fill his stomach and warm his heart!

Yummy banana oat muffins! 

5. Created a scavenger hunt. I love doing scavenger hunts! Before Zach came home from work, I told him he would not see me at the door, but he would have clues to find me and he had to follow them in order. We have been on a Harry Potter kick lately, so I created a Harry Potter themed scavenger hunt, had the soundtrack playing in the background (thanks to Spotify), and then we watched one of the Harry Potter movies and I attempted to make "butterbeer." It was a special and fun night!

Our attempt at butterbeer...not healthy, but pretty tasty! I would not advice drinking it on a regular basis, hah! 

Banana Oat Muffins

Who doesn't love the goodness of a warm muffin fresh out of the oven? That heavenly scent wafting through the air like a good, warm, comforting blanket. Not all muffin recipes are creating equal, though! Some can be loaded down with sugar and will leave you dragging.

I have been using this banana oat muffin recipe for a while now as our go to muffin recipe so that we can have something quick and easy to grab in the morning, or if we are traveling. They keep well, and taste delicious!

Here's what you need to know to make these tasty muffins...

1 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat is one of the healthier options)
1 cup rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 mashed ripe banana (2 if you want it extra banana-y!)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. (All of the first section of ingredients)
3. In a medium bowl, beat your egg.
4. Add in milk, oil, honey, vanilla and banana with the egg and mix well together.
5. Create a well in the middle of your flour mixture, and pour in the liquid mixture.
6. Gently stir all ingredients until they are moistened.
7. Fill greased muffin tins to 2/3 full (should make 12 muffins)
8. Bake for 13-18 minutes, or until golden brown. (I find that 14-16 minutes is the sweet spot for my oven)
9. Remove from muffin tin and let cool on a cooling rack...then ENJOY!

TIP...these muffins are super easy and super delicious, so don't be afraid to make a bigger batch and freeze the extras for later!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Who has ever just had a hankering for macaroni and cheese that just wouldn't quit? I must admit, that I am guilty! I LOVE mac and cheese. There's just something familiar, warm, and comforting about it. But, while I do enjoy an indulgence every once in a while on my journey towards health, mac and cheese just isn't all that healthy as is.

So I wanted to find a way to make it healthier so we could still enjoy this treat from time to time. Oh boy, did I find a delicious revamp of this tasty classic! And it uses one of my new favorite ingredients- cauliflower!

Did you know that cauliflower packs a powerful nutrition punch? Check out just a few of it's benefits!
(photo courtesy of Pinterest)

And what if you don't really like cauliflower? Well, good news, you can't really tell that it's in this recipe of mac and cheese! So you can also use this to sneak in some extra servings of veggies for your kids or husbands, or yourself!

Alright, so here's the digs on our Revamped Cauliflower Mac and Cheese! It's super easy, and insanely delicious!

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese (makes 2 larger servings or 4 smaller servings)


1 head of cauliflower
3/4 cup of plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 an onion
Salt, lemon pepper, and garlic powder to taste
Your choice of pasta (whole wheat is best!)

1. Boil two pots of water, one for the cauliflower, one for the pasta. 
2. Cut cauliflower into floret pieces. 
3. Cook both in a rolling boil until tender. Note that the cauliflower may take a few minutes longer than the pasta, so adjust your timing accordingly.
4. Drain and set aside.
5. Place cauliflower, yogurt and onion (you don't need to cut very small) into the food processor. Blend for about a minute, until it starts becoming smooth.
6. Add the shredded cheddar cheese and seasoning into the food processor, blend another minute until it is all smooth and incorporated.
7. Put over your pasta, and enjoy! 

Now, for some variations, if you want to get your protein in, blacken, grill, or bake some chicken seasoned with paprika, salt and pepper, cut into strips and have it on top of your pasta!

If you want to get even more extra servings of veggies in, switch your pasta out for cooked spaghetti squash! It's one of my favorite new veggies as well. It looks like pasta and tastes amazing. 

You can also roast some cauliflower separately seasoned with paprika, salt, pepper and olive oil, and serve it over your pasta! Mix all the seasoning and oil with cauliflower in a bowl, roast in a 350 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes or until it is cooked through and looking nice and tasty! 

Let me know what you think of this recipe! I am going to be doing a series of recipes this week and sharing them with you all, so comment below with any kind of recipe you are curious about making a healthier version of! 

What recipe would you love to make healthier? Comment below! It could be my next feature!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Don't Quit

"Give me your very best! Don't quit on me! Your very best!"

The other day I watched the movie "Facing the Giants" with my husband. I forgot just how inspirational that movie is. If you have never seen it, I highly recommend it. It is packed full with some very valuable lessons for all of us.

One of the most powerful scenes in the movie for me was when the coach has one of his players do the "Death Crawl." He challenges his player to carry another player on his back to the 50 yard line- blindfolded. The player thinks he can make it to the 30 yard line, maybe the 50 if he had no one on his back.

He agrees to do the challenge anyway, and the coach simply asks him to give his very best. In the end, the coach is down on his hands and knees, encouraging his player to keep going, to not give up, to give everything he's got, and not to quit.

The player thought he could only make it to the 30 yard line. Blindfolded, he made it across the entire field with another player on his back. He went exponentially farther than he ever thought he could. He gave his best, even when it was hard, when it hurt, and when he wanted to give up.

There are so many circumstances in our lives where we limit what we think we can do. We put a limit on ourselves and allow too many excuses.

"Well, maybe if this were different, I could do that."
"It's just too hard to do that."
"I don't think I could do it."
"Someone else is better at that than me."

Even if we don't vocalize these thoughts, they are there in our mind, only limiting ourselves. Already defeated. Already failing, simply because we have not tried.

I saw a great quote the other day that "The only way you can fail is if you give up."

How many times have we written ourselves off before we have even attempted something? I know that I have- countless times. COUNTLESS. How many times have I quit half way in because it just seemed too hard, or the reward not near enough? Countless. How many times have I not given my best, because it seems like someone else's best is better than mine? Countless.

But you know what? We were not made to quit. We were not made to give up. We were not made only to put in half our effort.

You were made to live, you were made to be strong and courageous. To stand firm.

I'm telling you now- get rid of that self defeating mindset. It will keep you in chains the rest of your life, no matter what area of life you allow it in.

I challenge you today to challenge your own view of yourself. Try these 3 steps to take action against those areas of self defeat today.

1. Find one area where you are self defeated. Where do you talk down to yourself? (Oh, you can't do that. Well, maybe I'll try it a different day. I just need this circumstance to line up.) Write the area down. Recognize the issue.

2. Write down WHY you feel defeated. Write down at least 5 reasons you feel defeated about the issue. This may be a hard one. It's hard and can hurt to dig up the real root of the issue. Are you afraid of failure? Do you think you're not good enough? Are you afraid of what will happen after that?

3. Write down AFFIRMATIONS. Now I want you to take those 5 reasons you just wrote and flip them around. If you wrote "I am afraid of failure" I want you to write "I can and will succeed." If you wrote "The timing just isn't right." I want you to write "Timing will never be perfect, the time IS NOW." And so forth. Take what you wrote and write the opposite, speak positive life over yourself.

Be encouraged that you are not alone in self defeat. I have struggled with it so much in my life, and still do at times. But I also know the power of changing your mindset and shifting away from the negative to the positive. It can make a world of difference!

If you have never seen the movie "Facing the Giants" I really encourage you to check it out! Share your thoughts on the movie below, and if you're brave enough, share one way you turn around self defeat in your life. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Money Wasn't Really the Issue

"That's a good bit of money."

Those were my first thoughts when I started thinking about investing in my health, when I was starting to see that I wanted to change. Being newly weds, we didn't have an extreme amount of money floating around, and I am still learning how to budget and be a better steward of our money (and am thankful for a husband who diligently tracks all our receipts and finances for us).

Putting money into something that I wasn't sure I could do was scary. Especially holding it up to the light of my track record. I had attempted to do two other workout programs before, gotten a few weeks through them, and then they collected dust and I went back to my ol ways.

Nothing had worked.

In truth, the programs that I tried had worked, I saw some results. But I lost motivation and I was the one who gave myself excuses and eventually gave up altogether.

And as I was contemplating yet another investment in a workout program, thinking of all the times before, I realized something. I wasn't truly hesitant because of the money. The issue was me. The issue was my determination, or lack thereof that made my money a "waste."

When it boiled down, I was afraid of change. Afraid to give up the things I had held onto practically all my life. My identity as an overweight girl. My comfort in rich, often unhealthy foods. My easy going, only sometimes active lifestyle. I was afraid of what change would really look like.

Oh, if only I had known then.

After talking with my husband and getting his full support, we ordered the workout program, and started it together after it arrived. It was hard. It was a change. It was difficult to keep going at times and I wanted to stop.

But I kept going. I made up my mind that I did not in fact want to keep living the way I had lives, because that was going to lead to a place full of health problems and not the life I wanted. I threw away my excuses, stopped blaming it on timing, money, circumstance, genes, and anything else that came to mind.

I realized that I was responsible for this. I had to do it. And I did!

It has been one of the best decisions of my life because it has not only started my physical transformation, I have become more disciplined in all areas of my life. My quiet time of Bible study I more consistent. I am reading and listening to personal development books. I have been investing more into my marriage and relationships. I am more alert for life, and it is incredible.

Of course there are always days that I struggle. That I want to give into stress and eat a whole bag I chips dunked in salsa. There are days I don't want to workout. Days I don't want to do the things I said I was going to do.

But I have found that the struggle is worth it. The investment is worth it. The time is worth it. You may not see the effects immediately, but over time, if you stick to it daily, you will see results in your life. Keep going.

Think seriously about the investments you make in life. What is tilt holding you back? Confront your fears and go after the thing you are called to. Be bold and be courageous!

What's one thing in your life that you are afraid to change? Share below!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Date Your Spouse

"Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?"

"I do."

It has been seven months since I walked down the aisle towards my groom. Since we shared our first kiss a husband and wife and he swept me into the dance floor for our first dance to "Turning Pages."

Seven months of life together- it's hard to believe. It seems only yesterday that our friends and family were gathered up in Helen, Georgia to witness an celebrate our covenant. We had our "hiccups" of the day of course, like my heel breaking right before I was supposed to walk to the aisle- thank goodness for flats! But the day was absolutely perfect and beautiful, because I was marrying my best friend.

And marriage has been even more beautiful. Of course it is hard- you bring two people together as one under one roof and you have to work at it. I don't think I ever realized just how selfish I could be until Zach and I were married and I saw I needed to be selfless, and that compromise didn't mean that he did what I wanted.

One thing that we have made priority in our marriage is date night (or day). The key is to set aside intentional time to do something together. We alternate weekly who plans date night, and it's something I look forward to every week.

Some nights are simple, others more extravagant, others still adventurous. The focus is us- our relationship and quality time together- unplugged an focused. It doesn't have to cost a lot, or anything at all. We have had some pretty fun, free and creative date nights so far!

I want to share just a few is my favorites with you, in hopes to encourage and inspire those who are married to make intentional time for your relationship. Set aside time at least once a week, and you may just be surprised to see what happens!

Here are my favorites from this year:

1. A day trip and picnic to Helen, Georgia. Helen is only forty fives muted north of where we live, and holds so many precious memories for us. We had one of our first dates up in the small Bavarian town. We have traditions of stopping at Nora Mill (an old grain mill) for "pioneer porridge" and to feed the trout in the river. We also frequent the local country store "Betty's" and get soda and giant cookies.

This particular time we also decided to stop and pick up a block of cheese, some sliced ham and salami, dried fruit and a fresh load of bread. We took it down to the river and set up a little picnic for ourselves! It was a gorgeous afternoon filled with joy in the simple things.

2. A homemade dinner, a blanket fort and a new movie. Both Zach and I are kids at heart, so for one of my date nights I sent Zach out on errands and quickly constructed our own blanket fort in the living room. I prepared dinner, complete with s'more cookies for desert- a special treat. I also rented a new movie from Red box, and we were set for a night of fun! Even though we were at home, it was all new and exciting!

3. Cooking together. One of my other favorite reoccurring date nights is cooking a fancy meal together. I absolutely love to cook, and Zach has grown to like it more now since we've known each other. So every now and then, for our date night, we cook our own gourmet meal!

We start with a recipe or menu idea, and head to our local farmer's market (one of my favorite places in Atlanta), and grab some fresh ingredients to bring home. Then we lay it all out and prepare our meal together, put on some jazzy music and dance to some songs in between stirs and timers beeping.

Throw up a few candles on your table and you have a super romantic, fun date night at home!

These are just a few of my favorites- there are so many. All you have to do is have a little imagination and creativity! But my challenge to you is to make time for the important people in your life. Set aside the time intentionally and have fun together! You'll be glad that you did.

What's your favorite date night with your significant other? Share the creativity below so we can all try out your favorite date nights !

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Studio App Tutorial

One of my favorite apps that I use to help create some of my Instagram and Facebook posts is Studio. It's a free app and it has a wide variety of graphics that you can customize yourself. You can create to your hearts content!

What I'm going to do is walk you through is just a simple quote picture, but you can create your own using your own Camera or Picture Library on your phone for the background picture! There are so many different things you can do for your pictures, but here's just a simple look at what I do.

1. Open the Studio App!
2. Click the green plus button to create a new picture.
3. Select to create a blank canvas.
4. Click the upper left hand corner button called "Layers."

5. Click "Add overlay."
6. Here is where all of your graphics are. You will click this button to add anything to your picture. 
7.To give your canvas background a color, I typically select a square and choose the color of my choice.
8. Click the "color" button at the bottom to scroll through and find the color you want. 

9. For this picture, I selected a blue. To enlarge or shrink the square, simply pinch the square and make it bigger or smaller. 
10. Click your layers button again and this time find the "Flowers" graphics. These graphics are all free, but you have to add them to your app by "shopping" and selecting the graphic design sets you want to use on your pictures. There are tons of great ones!
11. Select which flower pieces you want to use, and enlarge or shrink them as we did for the square.
12. This is one of my favorite parts of Studio, the "fade" bar. Toggle this little circle and you can keep your graphic completely bold, or you can fade the color so it's a lighter shade and a little see through. I made this one lighter. 

13. Next, we are adding in our text! Click on the layers tab, and find which fonts you like best. For each different word, I went back and selected a new font.
14. You will adjust their size the same as you did for the square and flowers. Drag them around the screen to your desired placement.
15. Next I am adding lines for a visual break between each word. Go back to the layers button.
16. Find the lines tab, and select your choice. Now, to make it simple on yourself, you can duplicate the line exactly to the size you want by adjusting your first line, then clicking the layer button. You will see to the left of your line "layer" it will say "Edit." Click edit and you will find a choice to "duplicate layer." You can also delete layers from this point.

17. Once you are satisfied with your placement, you will go to the upper right hand corner and select "finish." Then you will hit the "publish" button.
18. Click each media drive you want to save your picture to. Typically I save it just to my camera roll, but you can upload it to any platform you desire.

And...tada! You have a fun, simple quote put together through the Studio App. 

What is your favorite picture app to use? Comment below with your favorites, I love finding new ones! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Progress Not Perfection

I heard a great quote once on an inspirational talk I was listening to, and it struck a chord with me.

"Often we overestimate the event, and underestimate the process."

That is so true, and I have found myself guilty of that sometimes in my health and fitness journey. We see pictures of where we want to be, know what exactly we want our bodies to look like in the end, and in our typical American mindset...we want it NOW.

We think "if I was only at this weight, or this size, THEN I would be happy."
"If I just got this promotion, THEN I would be happy."
"If we just found this certain kind of house, THEN I would be happy."
"If he/she would just do this, THEN I would be happy."

I want to encourage you...don't get stuck in the end results. Set your sights on your goals and dreams, and dream BIG, yes. But don't put all your stock in that one event, because it will come and go and leave you chasing after the next thing like chasing after a wind that just won't stand still.

Find beauty in the process, because I'm telling you, no matter what your journey, whether to health, a different career, a different place in your relationship, there is beauty there. We go through seasons in life- we have to. Find the joy in each season.

The process has not always been easy for me. There are days that I feel bloated and "fluffy" as I tell my husband and he affectionately reminds me "No, you're beautiful. Fluffy is a three headed dog, and you are NOT fluffy." (For those of you who caught that Harry Potter quote, I applaud you!)

Point is, it's not all rainbows and sunshine. There are rainy days. But you know what? There's something beautiful and freeing even in a rainy day. And without those hard days, we would not grow. If it was easy, we wouldn't get stronger. We wouldn't change.

EMBRACE the process.

I'm learning day by day on how to embrace the process, because I know reaching my "goal weight" won't signal the end of my journey in the health and fitness realm. It will just transition into something new, because this is a lifestyle that I am setting for myself.

One of my biggest lessons from learning how to love this process in my journey to health...taking pictures. Sure, it can be uncomfortable at first. You may not enjoy what you see in the mirror. But if you are staying consistent, working out, watching what you eat, you should be seeing results week to week.

I've made it a point to take pictures every week. You might not see a HUGE difference just from week to week, there are weeks that I don't see a huge change. But when you compare your first to your last, you WILL see that change, and remember why the process is all worth it.

Take those small steps every day, and you will get there. Love the process. Laugh, cry, dance, sing...LIVE. Don't get caught up in the event, but dream big and DAILY go after it, enjoying every day for the blessing that God has given us. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Secret to Staying Motivated

Flipping through the pages of most magazines on the shelves these days makes me nauseous. I ache for women both thin, large, and everywhere in between that hold up these images, then look at themselves and compare. I want this to be understood now...YOU are beautiful.

Stop comparing yourself to the magazines. To the models. To that other person. You are not that other person. And you are beautiful. BE YOU.

One of the biggest struggles throughout my life and my journey with weight loss is knowing how to stay motivated. I knew I didn't want to get sucked into staring at pictures from magazines and use that as motivation. That to me was like torture.

So if we don't use the images society gives us to stay motivated and on track for our goals, especially in any health and fitness journey, what do you use?

I'm going to let you in on three of my "secrets" of how I have stayed motivated on my journey so far. For the record, this is the longest I've EVER held to anything in regards to health and fitness. I tried Weight Watchers for a while in high school, did good, but then fell off track. I tried Slim in 6 and Hip Hop Abs, got through a few weeks and gave up.

But I am thrilled to be able to say that I am now entering into my sixth month of consistently working out and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Not without ups and downs, but I have stuck with it. So how have I done it when I was never able to stick with anything before?

1. I started with a strong support partner. I came to my husband in January and told him I wanted to start working out and I wanted to get healthy. I asked him if he would work out with me for 10 weeks (the duration of the program we did, T25). He agreed and he held me accountable to working out every single day, and we did it!

I know that not all of you may have a supportive spouse, or someone who just gets it in your family, but I encourage you to find someone, whether a close friend, a relative, or whoever, and ask them to keep you accountable. Explain why it's important to you. They don't have to workout with you, but ask them to keep you accountable.

Post workout picture with my wonderful husband.

2. I remembered WHY I started, and didn't give up. Remembering why you are doing this is so key. There will be days you don't want to do it. But do you want your goal more? You should. The end goal should propel you forward even on the hard days. If it isn't strong enough, find a stronger reason.

If you need to, write down your reason why you are doing it. Put it in front of your face so you are DAILY reminded of why you started. Remove giving up and quitting from your mind and vocabulary. Don't let it even be an option! Trust me, it will be worth it.

3. I plugged into and then lead a challenge group. I decided I was going all into this, and I plugged myself into a group of like minded people online. I lead a group of women who were all doing a workout program, and we kept each other accountable every day.

I posted motivation, I researched and learned new tips to share, and we all pressed forward together. Being a part of a challenge group has been one of the biggest keys to staying motivated for me. Because I know there is a group of women that I am held accountable to, and I am holding them accountable.

We are all making positive changes in our lives, and it's so incredible to be surrounded with people who are going through the exact same thing as you. Who struggle one day with wanting to work out, and then a group that we can share our victories with, and FINISH with.

The results from my first round of T25

I can't even put into words what it has meant for my life to be getting on track with my health and fitness. I still have a long ways to go, but I have also come a long way. Not only physically, but emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I have seen growth and joy increase in all areas of my life.

If you're looking for a change, but don't know how to stay motivated or don't know where to start, please contact me. I would love to help you in any way that I can, whether it's just answering questions, or if you want to be a part of any of the Challenge Groups that I lead monthly, please reach out to me!

Because of the change I have experienced in my life, I am here to pay it forward and help YOU. Don't put your health on the backburner, trust me, it's worth the time and effort you put in to change, even if it's just baby steps and a little bit at a time.

So, now that I've shared my motivation secrets, what are yours? What keeps YOU motivated? Comment below with your favorite ways to stay on track! 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

10 Favorite Spots Around Atlanta

Since I moved down ITP (that's "inside the perimeter" in Atlanta language) I've had a chance to explore this fine city a little bit. And while I still have a lot to explore, here are a few of my favorite places I've been so far!

10. Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party- This is an awesome little tea house near Candler Park. It's a fantastic atmosphere and some great treats! Tea party, anyone?

9. Egg Harbor Cafe- A great brunch spot in the Sandy Springs area of town! It has wonderful, fresh, down home delicious breakfast choices and tasty lunch morsels! Bring a friend or two and go enjoy some southern sweet tea out of a mason jar! You can check it out here. 

8. Atlanta Botanical Gardens- This garden is absolutely gorgeous, as is the park it's in- Piedmont Park! Be sure to check out the Botanical Gardens during Christmas, it has millions of lights and is completely over the top and gorgeous! 

7. Hapeville Main Street- Hapeville is a small little town right near the Atlanta airport, but it has some wonderful murals, a fantastic bakery called Buttersweet, and a neat historic church next to a picturesque park with a gazebo. You can also walk over above the train tracks and watch the trains come in and out, and then stop over at the old historical drug store where they still have the original soda fountain handles! 

6. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area- A great place to dip your toes into the 'Hooch, splash around, ride an inner tube in the summer, take a walk or go for a run, and explore some cool forest areas around the city! Check out all you can do here. I think parking is only like $3, and so that's pretty good for a National Rec area! 

5. Decatur town square- Of course I have to shout out my own town square! There are AMAZING local restaurants down here, two of my favorites are Sweet Melissa's (but come early, they close around 2pm), and the Brick Store Pub. Decatur is also home to the famous Eddie's Attic! Tons of musicians have been found here, and they have great live music all the time!

4. Marietta town square- This is another adorable town square that holds a ton of history and fun boutiques and shops. There are some great restaurants like The Vineyard Cafe and Gift shop, and they also have a lot of events that happen as well. You can check out Civil War era reenactments during the summer! 

3. Stone Mountain Park- One of my favorite places for a quick hike with a great view of the entire city. You can also walk around to a working bell tower that was from the World's Fair! That's one of my favorite spots in the whole park. They have a covered bridge, a historic mill, and on weekends (or every day during the summer) a laser light/fireworks show! It's a great southern experience for sure. 

My hubby and I dancing in front of Stone Mountain before the show started!

Some more views of the park from early spring last year!

2. Georgia Aquarium- I absolutely LOVE aquariums. I love water, I love fish, I love color, I love swimming. I could literally spend hours in this place. The Georgia Aquarium is full of some great exhibits, you can touch sting rays, starfish, sea urchins, and all kinds of things! They also have a dolphin show, whale sharks, and beluga whales. It can be a little pricey, BUT if you are a Georgia resident, you get in for FREE on your birthday! I took advantage of that this year for sure.

1. Dekalb Farmer's Market- Literally my FAVORITE place in all of the Atlanta area, and I go here once a week. I just love it that much! This place is not your typical farmer's market where different people come and sell different things. No. This place is about the size of a Costco or Sam's Club, and is filled to the brim with things from ALL OVER THE WORLD. And people from all over the world. I absolutely love it, and the prices cannot be beat. We get all of our produce and spices here, along with some meats and cheeses. They have an outstanding seafood department, too! If you are ever in the area, seriously, you HAVE to see this place. But, I will warn you, There are a lot of people. The best times to go are weekdays, either when they open (9am) or an hour and a half before they close (7:30-9pm). If you go on the weekends, stay to those times as well. But, it's worth it!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Healthier Me

Let me take you back just six short months ago- to January of this year. I had just gotten married to my best friend, started a new job, and was transitioning into a new season of life.

But something was wrong. I was happy, yes. Overjoyed, in fact, to be able to spend every day with my husband, and dig into my new job and learn the ropes. But my body felt awful.

I was constantly tired, my ankles hurt in the morning when I got up. I felt weak. I ran out of breath easily. I told my husband that his legs were longer than mine when we would be out walking and that's why I was walking slower than him. But I knew, deep down, that I was headed in a bad direction. And at 25, my health was going downhill.

It all started two years ago when I returned home to the U.S. after being overseas for eleven months on the World Race (an eleven month missions trip to eleven different can see my blog recaps in older posts). So I came home having lost about twenty pounds over that year, which was awesome. But then, I started craving American food.

I saw things like bagels, bacon, cheese, pizza, Mexican food, In-n-Out Burger (for those of you fellow west-coasters, you know how amazing that is), and on and on. My mind was saying "oh you've been 'deprived' of that for a year! Go ahead and treat yourself!"

Well, I treated myself. And treated. And treated. And treated. Basically I ate everything bad for me, again and again. I packed on all the weight I had lost, plus more, and I was heavier than I had ever been before. And I was in denial about it. I wouldn't even step on a scale, because I was afraid of what I would see. I knew I needed to stop, but I didn't.

Finally, this January, I decided something had to give, or I was going to wind up with serious health issues. I wanted to be around for a long time with my wonderful hubby and our one day children and family, and the thought of them pushed me forward to a decision.

It took me until February to commit and get started. But my husband and I ordered T25, and we started it. Before T25 I had never completed a fitness program. I would always start and then lose motivation and just stop and go back to how things were. This time, with my husband at my side, I pushed through  the entire ten weeks and finished!

(Picture on the left was 4 weeks into T25, picture on the right was 6 weeks later after finishing T25!)

I am now on my second program, and focusing on my nutrition. I can't even explain how good it feels to know that I FINISHED. I accomplished it. And now, I'm moving forward, and continuing. This journey has been incredible, and I know it's just the beginning.

I have a long road ahead of me still, but I'm taking it one day at a time. If you would have told me a year ago that I would be working out every single day consistently, I would have laughed at you. That was just not me. Sure I liked doing active things. But workout every day? No way.

Oh how things have changed, and so much for the better! I not only workout every day, but I enjoy it! I love watching my body transform and feel myself gain more energy and strength.

I'm here to tell you that YOU can do it. Yes, you. You who has given up hope that you could ever change. You can. You who thinks it's just too hard or there's not enough time. It's not too hard, and you do have time, you may have to make sacrifices, but I'm telling you, it's worth it.

YOU are worth the time and investment. Your health is worth it. Just because you feel fine now doesn't mean all those chemicals and things you are putting in your body won't rear their ugly head later. Take time and do something good for your body and your life.

You are more than a number on a scale. You are more than your pants size. You are more than how many push ups you can or can't do. And YOU are worth it. If I can do this, YOU CAN TOO.

This is why I love being a coach. Being able to share my story with you, and hopefully offer you HOPE to know that you can do this! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I love helping others!

(Picture on the left was taken March 2014, Picture on the right taken June 2014)