Sunday, August 31, 2014

Make Time For Fun

Perhaps one of the saddest things that I see in our country and culture today is the lack of balance in our priorities. We forget what is truly important in life- the people we love and living life with them. While a career and good income and the “American dream” qualities are not bad in and of themselves, a lot of times we focus so much on that that we forget the thread that holds all life together- relationships.

Something that I am very passionate about is making time for fun and making time to invest in your relationships. Whether that is with God in quiet time, with your spouse, family, friends, or whoever, it is vital to create time in your life for relationships. There have been seasons of my life where I did not, and everything got out of balance.

One great, practical tip that you can start implementing is actually scheduling time for fun with your family. I know it may sound silly, but when you intentionally carve out time specifically for your family and relationships, and protect that, some wonderful things happen. Conversations, adventures, and life, and those things last far longer than any amount of money ever will. Those memories you can cherish forever.

Ever since Zach and I have been together, we have been intentional about having a date night (or day) every week. It can vary depending on work and what is going on, but we always make sure we have intentionally set aside that time to spend together and build our relationship. And boy have we had some fun adventures!

Go check out a movie together.

Or explore a nearby town...

Something else I do is write down on my weekly to do list to connect with people, whether by phone, text, or in person. I make it my intention to connect with those I love and build those relationships.

Don’t get so caught up that you forget how to have fun, or get so busy that you feel so overwhelmed that you can’t breath. Stop, slow down, and make time for the fun. You have to find the balance!

So as we conclude this short time management series, I encourage you to take time and pencil in intentional relationship tip with the people in your life. Whether a date night with your significant other, family time, or girls night out, write it down and do it!

Let’s hear from you now! Do you already pencil in activities like this, or do you typically wing it?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Creating More Time

Of course we have all heard the saying “we all have the same 24 hours in a day.” And it is true. Time cannot be sped up, and you can’t lose time. What we can control is what we DO with our time each day, and boy there is a lot to be done.

Since February I have taken a hard look at my schedule and my time and had to be honest with myself. I had to ask hard questions like “is this a good use of my time?” or  “is this adding any value to my life?” and “what is priority?” Because when it came down to it, I was wasting a lot of time on things that were not benefitting my life or getting me closer to my goals, and there is such beauty in life that should not be missed.

I want you to stop and think through a typical day for you. Just your average work day from beginning to end. What do you do first thing in the morning? Do you watch TV throughout the day? What do you do in your car to and from work? What do you do when you come home from work? Just think through your day and your life.

For me, I found that I was wasting time in a few big areas: waking up, playing on my phone scrolling through news feeds, and during my commute to and from work.

 First of all, I noticed that from the time my alarm went off and I was actually semi-functioning and getting going took about 45 minutes. Now there is nothing wrong with taking your time in the morning, but when I looked honestly at myself, I knew that I could wake up faster and get going faster than I was. So, that is one thing I have been working on, actually getting out of bed and getting going faster in the morning so I can start my routine.

The next thing was my phone and the scrolling through news feeds on Facebook and Instagram. Before you put up a defense, hear me out. I use social media every single day, it’s how I can connect with people, how I grow my business and a huge platform for me to encourage and inspire others. My problem with it was when I was mindlessly scrolling through feeds, clicking on videos and links that added absolutely no value to my life. It has actually fueled me more to put out things of value to encourage others in their lives. Now I set a timer or tell myself I only have 5 minutes to scroll and then I have to work and do my thing.

The last area that I noticed I could be using my time more wisely was in the car. I love music, but I honestly hate the radio. I don’t like listening to commercials and songs I didn’t care for were always popping up and I would have to change the station. So what I did was start listening to inspirational messages, trainings, and sermons while I drove to and from work. I absolutely LOVE it, I can’t even tell you. I don’t miss the radio one bit, and I have learned volumes of knowledge for free while driving to and from work.

These were the areas of my life that I found I was wasting time that could be spent more valuably. They may and probably will look different in your own life. For some it may be TV or video games. For others it might be doing meaningless tasks that just waste time. Others it might be gossip.

Whatever the case, I challenge you to really be honest with yourself and examine your day. See if you notice any areas that take up time where you could be spending it elsewhere. One activity you can do to really see how much time you spend on one thing is to track it. Grab a notepad and carry it with you for a few days and write down the start time and end time you do an activity throughout the day, and add it up at the end. It can be eye opening!

So let’s hear from you, what’s your biggest time waster right now? How can you convert it into a time saver?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Time Management Tips

“He’s making a list, checking it twice! Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.”

While Santa may still be getting his list ready for Christmas time, he isn’t the only one who should have a list and check it twice. Today we are going to talk about how keeping a list is going to help you with time management.

Do you ever feel like you just have too much to do at the end of each day, or every task you thought you were going to do got piled on at the end of the week? I know I have gone through seasons of disorganization where I let life happen to me instead of taking just a minute to sort out my priorities.

When I started my fitness journey, I was a busy person. I had just recently gotten married, was working, and keeping up with daily life in general. It was absolutely hard to carve out the time to workout and make my health a priority. I had to make a new routine.

Then in April I started coaching with Beachbody while still working my regular job. I didn’t drop any duties, but picked up something new. Now it wasn’t something that I have gone into lightly, and I have actually found that my time is more organized now than it was before I started my journey.

How is that possible? A list, my friends. A list.

Every week I create a list of tasks that I need to get accomplished. They range from simple, like grocery shopping and cleaning, to more complex tasks that have to do with my business.

Let’s try a simple activity, shall we? Grab a piece of paper (or if you are more technologically inclined, open up a notepad on your phone), and write out all the tasks you need to accomplish this coming week. This could be chores, appointments, projects, etc.

For me, I put down things like: meal plan, meal prep, grocery shop, write three blogs, vacuum, clean the bathroom, clean the kitchen, do laundry, call three people, create a new curriculum, and send someone an encouraging note, plan a surprise for my husband.

These tasks are actually fairly regular tasks in my week, and are things that must be done outside of my regular daily routine (quiet time, working out, spending time with my husband, working my business, etc). Now, imagine if you had let all of these tasks slip by until your weekend. You would feel overwhelmed, wouldn’t you? I know I would, and have!

Now, your next step is to break it down over your entire week. When you divide and conquer and make each day have it’s own goals, I have found that a lot more can be accomplished.

What I do is grab a piece of notebook paper and put seven small post it notes across the paper, each representing a different day. I take the tasks from my list and divide it up, and usually end up with about 2-4 tasks per day, depending on the week.

This simple exercise allows you to have a plan and a goal for how you want your week to go, and what you want to accomplish. Now don’t get hung up on the list. Life will happen, and some things may need to be switched around. But at least you have a plan, and you know written in front of you what you want to accomplish every single day.

Every day I check my list in the morning so I know what my intentions need to be set to, and I check it at night to make sure I finished what I needed to. I encourage you to give it a try for a full week and see what happens!

What are some of your regular tasks for the week? Let’s hear them below!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Revamped "Creamed" Spinach

Who loves a good serving of creamed spinach? I know that I do! But I also know that all of that cream and butter pretty much negates the nutrition I'm getting from said spinach. The other day while I was cooking, I needed to cook up a whole bunch of spinach that was on the verge of going bad, so I had the idea of creating a healthier version of creamed spinach.

My secret ingredient...cauliflower!

If you have been reading my blog lately, you'll know I've been loving cauliflower lately. I've used it for pizza crust, mac and cheese, pasta sauce, and all kinds of things. I seriously love it. I thought that if I had created a "cream" sauce for pasta, why not use it to make "creamed" spinach, and get even more veggie servings in!

So that is what I did, and I must say, I really liked the outcome!

Revamped "Creamed" Spinach

Ingredients (for about 4 servings)
-6 cups of raw spinach (you can add more if you want)
-1 cauliflower head, cut into chunks
-2 garlic cloves
-2 tsp cooking oil
-1/2 an onion
-1/2 cup of plain greek yogurt
-salt, lemon pepper, and garlic powder to taste
(Optional, if you have some parmesan cheese you can also sprinkle it in towards the end!)

1. Bring a medium pot to a rolling boil, and add your cauliflower. Cook until tender, drain and set aside.
2. In a medium to large skillet, heat up your cooking oil over medium high heat.
3. Mince your cloves of garlic and sautee for one minute, then reduce heat to medium.
4. Add in your spinach. It will pile high at start, but it will really cook down. Stir around so all the leaves get some heat and they start to wilt.
5. In a food processor, add your cauliflower, greek yogurt, and season with a small amount of salt, lemon pepper, and garlic powder. Process for a minute or two, until it starts to turn smooth.
6. Once the cauliflower mix has smoothed out, add your desired amount to the spinach, and mix together. If you're adding parmesan, add it in now!
7. Let the mixture heat through for a minute or so.
8. Dish out and enjoy! We had this with some chicken and it was delightful!

What's your favorite cauliflower recipe? I'm always on the lookout for a good one!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Creating Community

Ever since I went on the World Race a few years ago, my idea of community has been shattered. Living with six other people and doing life with them literally twenty four seven will do that to you. You see the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, sometimes all in the same day. And that creates a bond like no other, and a community that is incredibly unique.

Sometimes we related it to a marriage, but between seven people. Of course there are some parts not included in there. But, as a team, we HAD to work through issues. We HAD to communicate daily with each other through the good and the bad. We were there for one another, we were vulnerable and we lived life together.

But life after the World Race has posed a different problem. How do I create community in such a different environment- America? Where everyone has their own daily schedule, usually "slap full" as my hubby would say, and always on the go? It hasn't been easy to say the least, and my husband and I are still working on really forming a solid community around us.

But, it has to start somewhere and you have to take action. So I want to share just a few ideas that we have been using to really foster the community around us in our lives, and what we are trying to be intentional in doing to be in community with others.

1. Share a meal with someone. This may be one of our favorites, and something we have made a goal in our marriage. We made a goal before we were married and also at the beginning of this year that we wanted to have at least one person or couple over to our home for dinner. So far we've made most months. One with none, and a few with multiple. It has been such a joyous thing, because for one, I love to cook, and I love being a "hostess." But I was so blown away by the hospitality I experienced overseas, and Zach and I wanted to replicate that here at home. Invite people in, slow down, talk and enjoy a meal together.

2. Get involved. While we are still trying to find our home church and where God is truly calling us (both church wise and actually where we want to live long term), we have been striving to get involved with the church we have regularly been attending. It's a larger church than what I am used to, but the people are genuine, and loving. The pastor truly teaches from the Bible and is not afraid to speak the truth in love, and I love that. But Zach and I have been making it a point to get involved in the Sunday school there with other married couples to meet new people. It's a great way to get out and make new friends! Consider where you can plug in and get involved yourself.

3. Be the initiator. This is something that I'm really passionate about. I feel like so many people just kind of fade away from community because of this- they don't want to initiate. It may be because we feel awkward, or are afraid of rejection, or just don't know how to go about it. But for me, I have learned that if I want something like community, I have to initiate it. Mostly because people today are so busy that they don't realize they can still have community. But, if you are persistent, and you just talk to people and invite them with open hands into your life, you might be surprised by the response.

Even though we are all "busy" in life, we crave community. We crave that wonderful, almost rare now, human face to face connection. I know that it brings me life and joy to connect with people- whether it's over the phone or face to face. Being able to invite people into my home is such a gift to my heart, and I enjoy making it a space of peace and retreat and refreshment.

I encourage you today, that if you are not in community with other people, consider some of these tips and implement just one. Just try one out and see where it leads you. You never know who you may meet, or what God has in store for you. But don't miss out on the valuable community potential that is around you, no matter where you are. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

BBQ Chicken Sweet Potatoes

Since summer is still in swing and it's still incredibly hot in Georgia, I've been craving some barbecue lately! Now when you think of typical BBQ fare, you think ribs, brisket, maybe some fried okra (if you're in the south), some greens (also in the south) and some Mac and cheese.

Now while all these are pretty delicious, we can't eat those all the time unless we are looking for a heart attack before the age of 30. But I still love BBQ! So I decided to experiment a bit and create a healthier version to satisfy my BBQ craving for the summer. 

The good thing about this recipe is thy it is a base and you can dress it up or down according to your taste and your families tastes.

BBQ Chicken Sweet Potatoes 

Ingredients (for 4 servings)
-4 medium sized sweet potatoes
-2 larger chicken breasts or 3 smaller 
-2 medium onions
-1 Tbsp olive oil (or cooking oil of choice) 
-Organic BBQ sauce (to make sure you're not getting overloaded with sodium or sugar)
- Mrs. Dash chicken seasoning (or your chicken seasoning of choice) to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bake your sweet potatoes about 45-60 minutes, or until tender and cooked through.
3. While potatoes cook, you can prepare the chicken. 
4. In large skillet, heat your cooking oil on medium high heat.
5. Slice your onions into thin slices and add to hot oil, cooking until they start to become translucent. Lower the heat to medium, let cook for 5 minutes uncovered, stirring every so often.
6. Coat chicken lightly with your seasoning and add on top of the onions. Cover your skillet and let the chicken cook through (about 7 minutes per side). 
7. After the chicken is cooked, remove from onions onto cutting board and shred with two forks.
8. Keep onions cooking until they start to caramelize a bit and turn yellow.
9. Return chicken to pan and mix with the onions.
10. Add your BBQ sauce, usually about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup, depending on how "saucy" you like it.
11. Remove your potatoes and split open, divide BBQ chicken evenly among the potatoes.
12. Dig in and enjoy! 

Some variations you could do: serve with a side salad or steamed spinach, or garlic roasted broccoli. 

You could also "twice bake" them by scooping out part of the potato, mix it with the chicken, spoon back into potatoes and bake through. 

There are so many options and possibilities! Get creative and enjoy this last bit of summer before its gone! 

What's your favorite BBQ chicken recipe? 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Creative Date Night Ideas

Recently a friend asked me what were some of my date night ideas, and it got my wheels turning from things that Zach and I have done in the past, and ones that we want to do in the future. Since I love being creative and sharing it with you all, I thought I would compile a list of creative date night ideas for you to show you that it doesn't have to cost a lot to spend quality, intentional time with your sweetheart!

I cannot stress enough how important quality time is. In the day and age of technology, iPhones, iPads, iTouch, iMini, iThis and iThat, actual facetime can be hard to come by. But please, carve out time for the loved ones in your life. Real, meaningful, face to face time. I promise the investment is well worth it.

A few of these ideas I may have mentioned in my blog about surprising your spouse, and also a few from my blog about dating your spouse. But today I wanted to dig in a little deeper to make a list of some creative date night (or day) ideas for you and your significant other to try.

So, let's get this started!

1. Dine in at home. This one can be done any number of ways to fit your current budget. But every once in a while, Zach and I like to order take out from a favorite restaurant, fancy up our own table with candles, fancy glasses and dishes, and eat our take out food at home! It's fun to switch up the atmosphere and have a romantic dinner at home that you don't always have to cook!

2. Cook your own gourmet meal (or any kind of meal!). On the same coin, try cooking a gourmet meal together! Zach and I love to cook together. Find a few recipes that you want to try. Make an appetizer, a salad, a main course, side dish, and of course, dessert. You can have as many courses as you want, just get creative! Although, if you make a lot of courses, I recommend small portions, otherwise you will stuff yourself! But plan your menu, go shopping together for the ingredients, come home and cook, and make your own candle light dinner!

3. Take a hike. This is another one of our favorites. We both love to be outdoors, and Georgia has a lot of beautiful state parks. We have our favorite parks, and ones we haven't been to yet. Zach and I try to find the quiet places and just sit and talk after we've walked around, and breath in the fresh air and be at peace. Most state parks only cost a few dollars to park, so check what's around you and go explore!

4. Go swimming! Quick, while the warm weather is still holding out, go for a dip with your honey! I love the water, and it's always more fun to me to swim with someone else instead of just floating around by yourself. Find a lake, a community pool, or if you live near the beach, go there!

5. Visit the place that you first met or went on a date to. Zach and I try to do this every so often and return to the place that we met and had our first date. It's a fun way to look back at how far we have come, and ask each other what we can do better to love one another going forward.

6. Have a coffee date at home! Speaking of first dates, ours was at a coffee shop. We try to still have coffee dates often, but sometimes it's better to save money. So, create your own coffee shop at home! Get two cups of joe brewing and set up the fixings. You can clear off your kitchen table, grab your favorite pastries or loaf of fresh bread from the store, or make your own treat, put on a coffee shop station from Pandora or Spotify, and have fun with it!

7. Sweat together. Get active together! Do a workout together, or go on that hike, play a game outside, go for a long walk, or anything to get your heart pumping. Getting active is important in your individual life, and it's a lot of fun doing it with your spouse too!

8. Visit a nearby town and find a new spot you've never explored before. Living in Atlanta there are quite a few little suburb towns around, and it's fun to go exploring in them every once in a while. We've found a lot of great hole in the wall places that way, and it always makes for fun adventures. Take silly pictures and walk around the town, make some memories!

9. Play a board game, or have a game night together! Zach and I love some board games. Our favorite is probably Scrabble, and we play it quite a bit. It's always a lot of fun to play a game with someone you love. Make a night of it by having a picnic on the floor while you play, and have a prize for whoever wins at the end.

10. Visit a library or bookstore together and learn something new! Go to a bookstore or the library and each find a few books on things that interest you. Come together and learn something new together while you're there! There's always tons of great things to see in bookstores, and learning together is a lot of fun.

There you have it. Just a very few ideas that you can take and make your own memories with! Honestly, there are so many things you can do together. Consider your interests, and that of your spouses and find ways to incorporate those into your date nights! They don't have to be expensive or extravagant- those are nice to have- but the key is quality time spent with the one you love.

So let's hear from you now! What are some of your go to favorite date night ideas? Let me know below!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Men and Women Think

Recently my husband and I watched a video clip by a pastor who was talking about the differences between men’s brains and women’s brains. Now, of course, we all know that we are different. We know that men tend to act and think one way, and women tend to act and think another way. Subconsciously we know that. But I have found that even though we know that, we still expect the opposite sex to act and think the way we do.
At least that is what I have found in our first year of marriage. Thankfully we have been able to work through these differences and laugh about the times that we have gotten worked up over it. It’s a lesson that I’m still learning and trying to understand.

Take a few minutes and watch the clip that we saw “The Tale of Two Brains.” The pastor is really funny, and presents the information in a way that just made me go “YES! EXACTLY!” to everything he said about women’s brains, and made Zach say yes about all he said in regards to men’s brains.

Whether or not you are married, this is an important lesson to grasp on, because we all deal with people of the opposite sex. But this is especially key in marriage, in communicating and understanding our spouses.
The thing that I have the hardest time understanding is the “nothing box.” As a woman, and as a creative mind, I tend to be thinking about everything. And like he said, it’s all connected. It’s normal for me, and it doesn’t stress me out. It’s just how it is. And on the flip side, that is hard for my husband to understand- that I could always be thinking about something.
Honestly, it makes me laugh. God created us so uniquely as men and women. In marriage, you notice the differences more drastically, and it forces you to take on the selflessness of Christ and love your spouse and work to understand them.
Zach and I have both said that one thing marriage exposes is selfishness. It is a constant, daily battle to lay down our own right and agenda and be selfless. Do we always get it right? No. Do we strive to do better than the day before? Absolutely.
Being different is not a bad thing. God gave us differences on purpose, and really, we complement one another. If you take away anything from this, hear this- don’t try to fight to change the other to your way of thinking as a man or a woman. Instead, be selfless and learn to see things through their eyes and be understanding.

Work together. God has intended for us to be a team, so find a way to act like it. It’s hard, but it’s worth it!
Now let’s hear what your favorite part of the clip was! What was surprising to you?