Friday, June 26, 2015

Introducing my Etsy Shop & a Giveaway!

It's time, y'all.
The wait is OVER and it has been almost one full week of my brand new Etsy shop, Sarah Cason Designs, being open! This has been in the works for a while, and it feels wonderful to be able to share my passion for art with others in a way that is encouraging and inspiring! 

In my shop you'll find lots of whimiscal, inspirational and motivational hand lettered pieces made by yours truly! While I enjoy a wide variety of art forms (my next favorite are portraits!), this shop is right now dedicated to my hand lettering art! 

Over the next few weeks, I will also be adding some new "sections" and series, so be sure to keep checking back in. To get a sneak peak of what's to come, think wedding series (cards for your wedding party, or the bride and groom), wedding decor, and a party series as well! Know that I also love doing custom work, so please do not hesitate to reach out and contact me about a custom piece!

The next exciting piece of news is that there is a really fantastic giveaway happening this weekend in honor of the first week of being open as Sarah Cason Designs! 

Here are the DETAILS! 
Who can enter: Anyone!
What is the PRIZE: Two CUSTOM 5X7s. That's right, you get to pick which 5x7s you want! I am so excited for this, y'all.
How do you enter the giveaway:
Your name can be entered MULTIPLE times for this drawing, based on certain easy things you can do! Here is the breakdown of how you can be entered into the drawing. You can do whichever ones you like, as few or as many as you want! 

1 entry ... Enter your email here (if you haven't already. I don't spam so no worries!)
1 entry ... Favorite 5 of your favorite pieces in my Etsy shop 
2 entries ... Favorite 10 of your favorite pieces in my Etsy shop 
2 entries ... Favorite the Etsy shop 
3 entries ... Make any purchase
3 entries ... Share your favorite piece on Facebook or Instagram (please tag me so I know and can put your entries in!)
3 entries ... Share/pin your favorite piece on Pinterest (you can message me that you did this)
3 entries ... Share my Etsy shop on Facebook (again please tag me so I can give you entries)
4 entries ... Write a review on Etsy (this is only for those who purchase or have purchased) 

Winner will be announced on SUNDAY NIGHT, so stay tuned! 

I also just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all of the love and support that you have shown me during this launch of my Etsy shop. It means the world to me to be able to share the God given passion he has given me with you. Know that it is a piece of my heart, and I treasure being able to encourage and bless you in turn through this! 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Marriage Tip #20

"You always do that!"

"You never do this for me."

"Why do you always have to do that?"

I'm sure that we have heard and said any number of these phrases in our lifetime. I know that I have caught myself with these words rolling of my tongue before. In marriage, they can be extremely damaging. Unfortunately, I have said these words in other relationships, and found them trying to escape off my tongue a few times in marriage too.

A while back I was taking a class that talked about how to conflict well. There were certain rules that they laid out on how to "fight fair" and one thing that has stuck with me since then is that you need to remove the words "always" and "never" completely from your vocabulary in conflict and when confronting others with issues.

That is for very good reason, and because of that, it is my tip to you today as well. Whether you are married or not, we are all in relationships with other people. Our parents, peers, co-workers, spouses, we are surrounded by relationships. And it is inevitable that we will experience conflict in these relationships. How we handle it and what we say is huge, and in marriage, it is so crucial to pay attention to what we are saying.

Zach and I agreed early on that we wanted to keep "always" and "never" from our vocabulary when in conflict and when approaching each other about an issue. Zach does an amazing job of staying true to this, and I know that I am sorry to say that I have found these words escaping from my mouth a few times. Nothing ever detrimentally damaging, but I knew the instant I said it that I shouldn't have.

For one, always and never are strong words. And using them to address an issue paints a picture that just isn't true. For example "oh you ALWAYS do this and it's so annoying!" Well, be honest with yourself. Do they ALWAYS do it? No. Another example "you NEVER do this anymore." Really? NEVER? I think you get the picture that we exaggerate a little bit in our frustrations and emotions and pull out the "big guns" with these words.

In the class that I first learned about these "rules" they gave suggestions for what to do so that you do not use "always" and "never." First was to use the specific example. Explain your heart and how a particular situation made you feel. Don't group everything together. Give the specific situation so that you can both work through it together.

Some other suggestions that I have found to be helpful? Think before you speak. Much easier said than done, but it is vital. Slow down, take a breath. Take stock. Ask yourself what is really happening and what you are really feeling. What is the real issue? Chances are it's not the measly little thing that happened, but a deeper root. Be willing to be vulnerable and truly share your heart in a non threatening way.

In marriage, we are both imperfect people coming together. The Lord gives us so much grace, and we need to extend that to one another. Myself included in this! I have so much work to do on this area. Have patience for one another and be willing to be honest. Share your heart.

And another huge suggestion? Pray together. So many flaming arrows from the enemy can be extinguished when you come together and pray. Lay it all down before the Lord and come together in unity with him. Marriage is such a scared and special covenant, and the Enemy would like nothing more than to tear that apart. So, we must be watchful, and pray continuously!

What is your experience with the words "always" and "never?" Do you ever struggle with this too? What are ways that you try to conflict well with your spouse so you can resolve an issue and love each other the best you can?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Creative Roots

Brush strokes gently glide over a white canvas. Pens sweeping across a blank piece of paper. A clean plate sits ready for a delicious meal to be presented. A story is waiting to be written and told. Creativity is like air to my life. Its been a part of me as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I always loved drawing, creating scrapbooks, and doing anything creative that came my way.

Today I wanted to give you an insight to my heart as an artist. Its a part of me that has always been there, but has ebbed and flowed over the seasons on how it presents itself in my life. I've done a lot of different art pieces and projects over the years, and dabbled in a lot of different areas of creativity. Take a step into my mind and heart as I share some insights into my passion as an artist!

What are your current favorite mediums (aka favorite ways to get creative lately)? Hand lettering pieces currently tops the charts! I love getting to do word art because I am a very visual person, so if I can create something that reminds me of great quotes, and inspirational verses and sayings, it means that much more! Some other mediums that I really enjoy right now are: chalkboard designs, charcoal drawings, painting, cooking (Zach really loves that!), and  blogging.

What are other creative ventures that I have dabbled in in the past and enjoy? When I was younger, I was a die hard scrapbooker! I have several albums scattered around of pictures from when I was a kid (also a whole page in my scrapbook dedicated to stickers...I mean, seriously, there are some cool stickers out there!) Card making was another venture that I branched out into. I still do love making my own cards! I also played around with designing and making my own jewelry, and still have some of those pieces! I also love event planning (we planned our own wedding with lots of fun DIY projects), novel writing, and home decorating.

Favorite series of art pieces that I have done? That's a hard one to pick! But, I was extremely blessed with the opportunity to travel around the world from 2011-2012, and I was able to paint eight different murals around the world: two in the Philippines, two in Cambodia, one in Malaysia, two in China, and one in Moldova. It meant a lot to be able to come in and bless another country with my artwork and leave a piece of encouragement with the precious people we met there!

Future artistic and creative adventures I would love to learn? One big one is that I have always wanted to learn how to oil paint! I generally use acrylic for my painting pieces, but I would love ot branch out into oil one day! I also plan on creating a series of children's illustrated books, and it's a dream of mine to get into letter pressing.

Who do I get my artistic talent from? Did I take any formal art classes? My mom is who I get my artistic side from. She is an amazing artist and I am so blessed and thankful to have inherited that creative gene and artistic bent in my life. Growing up I had art class in school in elementary and middle school, and had one or two painting classes. Regrettably, I only took one art class in high school (I think in my mind I was like, oh, well I can already draw so I don't need to take a class..oops!), and just a few art classes in college to continue practicing. But the majority of what I have done is self taught and the result of practice!

(Acrylic painting I did in 8th grade after the tragedy of 9/11)

Why I am passionate about creativity? Y'all. I could go on FOREVER about this. But creativity is just that deeply rooted in my heart. I am passionate about it because we are all so unique, and we all express our creativity in different ways. I love seeing how other people express their creativity! Art and creativity is one thing that can transcend across cultures and break through language barriers quickly. Seeing other people's creativity is a small window into their heart, and what is important to them. I absolutely love getting to share my heart through my art and creativity, and I love inviting others into figuring out what they love to do creatively!

What inspires me? Wow, short list or long list? I could probably write a book about this as well. So many things inspire me. It's probably a much shorter list to describe what doesn't inspire me. My top inspiration is creation around me. Nature and fresh air and sunshine just liven up my soul! A good cup of coffee and a lovely meal prepared by loving hands is also incredibly inspiring. Books, music, sayings, the Bible, and other media sources provide great inspiration! Being around other creative people also is inspiring. Creating in a clean and organized space is also inspiring to me! My experiences in life, the stories of others and the things that I observe are great points of inspiration as well.

How long does it take me to create different artistic pieces? Honestly that just depends on the piece and project. A large painting will take several hours, or over a series of days. Smaller pieces can be completed in a day, etc. So it really depends on the size, medium and detail of each piece! My creative process varies piece to piece. For some paintings, I pencil an outline in first, and other times I just go for it! Same with drawing as well.

What is my favorite work that I've ever done? Too hard to pick one! I have a special place in my heart for each piece that I do. I love doing portraits of people that I know or have met, I love the murals I did around the world, and each saying that I write has a special place in my heart as well! It's impossible to pick just one right now.

Do I sell my artwork or do commissioned custom pieces? Yes and yes! I have an Etsy shop , but currently I do not have my listings up yet. Keep it saved and check back though for when my pieces go up! Right now as I am preparing my listings for Etsy, I do custom pieces and also sell the ones I currently have and share on social media. You are always welcome to reach out and ask for custom pieces, too! I love making a special piece just for one person.

Do I sell original pieces or prints of my work? Right now I only sell my original hand made pieces, and not any prints. I may make multiples of certain pieces (a certain quote, etc), but each piece is hand drawn and made by me! I think it's that much more personal, and I love that you get an original piece straight from me!

There you have it, just a small look into my artist heart and my passion for creativity in my life, and what it means to me! I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my creativity, and I hope that you are digging into creativity in your own life! Be confident and find inspiration in the things around you, then share that with others!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Marriage Tip #19

New Years is traditionally the time that you sit down, write out your goals and figure out what you want to accomplish in the year. While I love that, I know it is very easy to get side tracked throughout the year. And one thing that Zach and I do that helps us focus on what we want to accomplish as a couple relates to this and is today's tip.

Our tip is...set goals together, and set them monthly!

Generally about once a month during one of our coffee or breakfast dates, Zach and I will bring a notebook, pen, and calendar and talk about what we want to do and accomplish in the next month. Breaking down your big goals into monthly goals helps you actually accomplish things, and also allows you to sit and schedule intentional time for each other and brainstorm!

So what do we set goals about? Well, we cover a broad range of areas in life. We set personal goals, spiritual goals, marriage goals, financial, fun, community, and all sorts of things.

When you two are together you can see what big events are coming up, what you need to plan around and what you can plan together.

Here are a few recommendations to get started, and some ideas of what we goal set as well!

1. Plan out and write down your date days! Ideally pick one day or night a week to intentionally set aside as your date night, and protect that time! Take turns planning what your date will be too, if that helps!

2. What activities do you want to do together? Some of our goals for this include hikes, places to visit, and other fun things we want to try to do.

3. Schedule time for community! Zach and I have a goal to have at least one person over for dinner at our home a month. This also can include Bible studies, church time, family and friend time too!

4. If you want to read a book together, or do a specific activity to grow as a couple and learn together, you can make goals like that too!

5. Finances! This will look different for every couple. It could be budgeting together, going over the budget, setting aside a certain amount for tithing or savings, paying off a certain debt. Use your situations and set monthly financial goals!

6. Spiritual growth. This is a big one that can sometimes slip by! We have the best intentions but other seemingly more urgent things come up and it can be pushed aside. Decide what growth together looks like for you, and make a goal! Maybe praying together twice a week, daily asking for prayer requests, reading scripture, etc. Grow together spiritually and individually!

These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Grab a cup-o-joe and get to planning with your spouse! Even if you don't accomplish them all, you and your spouse have a great blueprint of the direction you want to go that month and things you both can do to get them accomplished!

How about you? Do you already set monthly goals with your spouse? What works for you? 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Food Journal Adventure

"Nothing changes until you change it. You must be prepared to do something you have never done."

This quote is so true! I know in my life, sometimes change can be a hard thing. When we attempt something new, or outside of our comfort zone, it can be a challenge. But it might also be the key to lasting change, and that makes it all worth it!

As my health and fitness journey progresses, I am always researching and looking for new tools and resources that might help along the way. Not quick fixes or crash diets or short term things, but habits and routines that can be established for long term results and change.

And I want to invite you into one of my latest experiments with a new tool, that I feel may be very beneficial in my journey, and maybe yours too!

And this journals!

I have done this a few times, but never quite stuck with it. But the benefits have been and are really great! When you first start tracking your food, it can be surprising! Little bites here and there you forget about normally end up adding up in the end.

In an effort to make sure I am staying on track with my nutrition and to see a break down of my daily macro nutrients, I have decided to start a food journal and track everything that goes in for my duration of doing the P90X3 program.

Before I did this with a pen and paper, but I decided this time to try MyFitnessPal because it shows the break down of each food and the specific nutrients in each food.

If you want to join me in tracking your food for a short season, or just dabble in it, here are some tips that I am noticing off the bat that will help you on your way!

1. Decide how you will track it. Whether a notebook you can take with you, or using an app like MyFitnessPal, decide on ONE way to track and stick to it.

2. Create your meal plan. This is something that will help you overall with having healthy options to choose from, and can help you save money because you will use the food you buy!

3. Stay on top of your tracking! Right when you eat a meal, before or after, WRITE IT DOWN. If you wait too long, you may forget those little things you ate. Write it down immediately.

4. Set a timer for yourself to remind you to go over the food you tracked for the day. Make sure you got everything!

5. Have grace for yourself. If you go over or under, or have a cheat day, don't sweat it and do not give up. Be honest with yourself and keep going. Don't let it be the end all, be all.

I am excited to start tracking my food and macro nutrients on a regular basis and see the results from that. Am I going to have a great occasionally? Absolutely! Find what works for you and keeps you healthy. But I do challenge you to try new things to see what works for you! So, if you are interested, join me in doing a food journal, and let me know you are! I would love to swap ideas and brainstorm.

Who else does a food journal? Did it work for you, or did you find something else that worked better? Share your thoughts below! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Marriage Tip #18

Marriage is such a wonderful adventure. Zach and I have been married almost a year and a half now, and we are by no means experts at all. But we have a passion for each other, a passion for marriage, and a desire to see God glorified in our marriage. I love getting to share little things that work for us with you.

Each of us is different, and what jives and works for us might not for you, and that is one hundred percent okay! But these tips are here to share some things that are working for us and give you creative ideas that you can try in your own marriage.

Today's tip comes from something that Zach and I started doing together recently, and that is reading scripture out loud, together.
Starting off we had a goal of each memorizing a verse a week, and we did it for a little while but it became hard to keep up with. We want to get better at it, and we want to be in the scripture together, so we decided to read through it together!

Right now we have started off in Psalms, and we each read two chapters aloud every morning, so four chapters in all per day right now. We read through our chapters and talk about what stood out to us and how it applies to us right now, and what God might be showing us.

It is a simple thing, and generally we do it at breakfast time while we are both around the table. But sometimes the simplest things can mean the most, and I know that we have both been enjoying being in the word together.

Zach and I both still have our own quiet time, but this small addition has given us be topics to talk about , new ways to understand how the other things, and a platform to grow together spiritually.

I would definitely recommend giving it a try! The Psalms or Proverbs are a great place to start out, but you can choose whatever you like! Make your goal doable so you stick to it and see the benefits of it for your life.

How about you? What tips do you have about fostering spiritual growth in your Marriage? I would love to hear your tips and insight! 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Learning From Difficulty

Hard to believe that it's May already! April went by so fast and I feel like I'm learning even more new things about my health and fitness journey than ever before.

To be honest, April was hard at some points because I felt like I waas't far among in my journey as I should be. I work out at least 6 days a week and have been eating healthy, but the results come slow. And I KNOW that is normal, but for whatever reason there were a few days that I felt that discouragement creep in.

Those old feelings of "what's the point" and "no one will know if I slip up." Have you ever felt that way? I know that I am not alone in this.

I changed my mind and changed my mind again.

I'm going to do the 21Day Fix Extreme. Well, maybe I'll go back to T25, the program I started with and lost a good but of weight with (this was after I felt discouraged), and finally I decided I wanted something new.

I was discouraged and then distracted by too many decisions and changing my mind. I kept working out, but I wasn't as focused and I felt scattered.

I want to share all of this with you to remind you that I'm the same as you. I have good days and hard days. I feel those discouragements you feel. I know how hard this journey can be.

This month though, is different, and I want to share some of my big take aways after April.

1. Decide and commit. Whatever program you are in, decide to that one and stick to it for that amount of time. Whether 21 days, or 90. Do yourself a favor and pick one and stick to it.

2. Make a clear and uncluttered calendar. I don't know about you, but I am a visual person, and I like things to be organized. If things are in disarray, it is harder for me to focus. Make your plan, then write it clearly on your calendar with a place to mark off. Give yourself room for accomplishment.

3. Don't overwhelm yourself. Don't try to do too much at once, or nothing will work. It is easy to get burned out or overwhelmed if there is too much change at once. Take it one day at a time.

4. Get accountable. I am so thankful for my challenge group ladies because it gives me s place to be accountable to and hero's me stay on track.

5. Don't give up. Even when discouragement comes, do not give up. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other, move forward.

Those are some big lessons I leaned again in April. And even though there are hard days, I am thankful for them because if gives me an opportunity to help others who struggle with the same things I have or do struggle with.

You are not alone, and you can do this. If you want some direction for your own faith and fitness, and a group of remarkable ladies to be accountable to and motivated by, contact me for more information about our upcoming exclusive group this month to get you ready for summer and get you feeling fantastic no matter where you are in your health and fitness.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

One Bowl Banana Bread

Is there anything as heavenly as the smell of freshly baking bread in the oven? It is one of life's grandest smells to me. And, it is not as hard to make some home made banana bread as you might think!

I experimented with a new easy, one bowl banana bread recipe this past weekend and the verdict is in, it was delicious! 100% husband approved, too. We will definitely be making this again.

Here's the recipe if you want to try it too!

One Bowl Banana Bread
(Makes two loaves)

2/3 cup melted butter, or vegetable oil
6 over ripe bananas
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. In a large mixing bowl, mash bananas with butter (or oil), eggs and brown sugar.
2. Add seasonings, flour, baking soda and salt and stir until just combined.
3. Grease two 8x4 inch loaf pans, divide batter between the two and smooth out the top.
4. Bake at 350 for one hour or until top is springy to touch.
5. Remove from pan onto wire rack and let cool.

Enjoy with your morning coffee or as dessert! Or even make your own banana bread French toast!

Who likes a good, simple banana bread as much as I do? What kind of home made bread is your favorite?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Easy Turkey Burgers

I won't lie, I am the queen of bargain hunting. Zach, my dear husband, can definitely attest to this. And one area that my bargain hunting goes into overdrive is during meal planning and grocery shopping. I love a good deal, and I love seeing our money be able to stretch while still providing good, nutritious meals for us.

One fantastic recipe that I experimented with and loved that meets the standard of being nutritious and budget saavy are turkey burgers! I have absolutely nothing against beef, and I will admit I love a good hamburger. But sometimes, beef, especially the beef you want to eat (farm raised and extra lean) is pricier. So most of the time, we stick to options like chicken, turkey and fish. At our local Sam's, we can get a great deal on ground turkey, which is where this recipe starts!

Feel free to use this recipe as a base and build on with what you and your family love, and of course experiment with all those yummy toppings, too!

Easy Turkey Burgers

- 1lb ground turkey
- 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
-2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp salt

1. Heat a griddle to 350 degrees, or use a heavy bottomed skillet heated over medium high heat
2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Mix gently with hands (don't overwork it), make sure everything is incorporated.
4. Form into 4 to 6 patties, depending on your size preference.
5. Flatten out with your hand into a patty shape, place on griddle or skillet.
6. Cook through, about 6 minutes per side, until juices are clear and it is no longer oink in the middle.
7. Place on a toasted whole wheat bun and top with things like sliced tomato, onion, avocado, crispy bacon, etc!
8. Enjoy!

What is your favorite thing to top a burger with? Do you love something on the inside of your burger too? 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

French Date Night

"Je t'aime Mon chéri."

Or in other words, I love you my sweetheart, in French. I mean, who hasn't dreamt about a romantic week in Paris, the city of lights? Walking down ancient cobblestone treats, sipping cafe au late, eating warm croissants and tasting French wine? I know we have toyed with the idea of flying to Paris for dinner and some romance! 

While we can't always jump on a plane for a romantic date on the whimsical streets of Paris, I will strongly recommend making your own date in home! 

I am all about themed date nights. I have been known to come up with some really interesting ones. And a French themed date night is one we have done to some extent before, and I plan on doing another in the near future, so I wanted to share my ideas with y'all, too! 

These are a few different French Date Night themed ideas that you can use! 

The French Outdoor Picnic

With spring in the air and weather getting nicer, it is fun to get outside and pretend you're out in France enjoying a spring day. 

Location: At your home on the lawn with a big blanket, or if you have a patio table, do that up! Or you can go to a nearby park, but be careful if you are having wine (most public places you CAN'T drink at all, plus there's the driving bit).

What you need:
- A picnic blanket, or a table done up with a table cloth
- Classic French foods, bread, cheeses, "small bites" sorts of foods (see below for ideas!)
- Your phone or some sort of device to listen to music on
- Maybe even some fresh flowers to decorate with! (Get creative!)
- Picnic supplies (Plates, silverware, cups, etc)

What to eat: French baguettes, grapes, apples, a few cheeses (one of my favorites is brie), honey, salami or other dried meats, a favorite bottle of wine, and chocolate truffles for dessert. Or, if you have a local place around that makes them, have macaroons! 

What to listen to: A French inspired Pandora station (you can do Spotify as well but I have found Pandora to be better for me personally when listening to this sort of mix station)

What to do: Put the music on, get some fresh flowers, do up your picnic blanket or table and enjoy your food and wine while listening to French music! Set it up together, sit, and take your time enjoying the outdoors together while sharing a meal.

Questions to ask: (Here are some fun questions to get the conversation going too!)
-If you could plan the ultimate Paris vacation (cost no limit), what would you do, what would you see, stay, eat, etc?
-If you could learn one other language, what would it be and why?
-If you could travel anywhere in the states for an ultimate vacation, where would it be and why?
-What was the one place you always dreamt about going as a kid? Have you ever been there?
-What would be your goal or dream for a realistic adventure for us in the next year that we could do together?

Cook Your Way Through France

Two of my favorite French inspired cooking movies are Ratatouille and Julie and Julia. Ah, classics! Another GREAT one that we watched not long ago is The Hundred Foot Journey. If you have one of Julia Child's cookbooks (which are FANTASTIC), pick out a recipe or two to make together (and if you don't, Google is great!), shop for the ingredients, cook, enjoy and then watch one of those movies to top off the night! 

Location: Your home and your kitchen! (Except when getting your ingredients)

What you need: 
-A few French recipes from a cookbook or google (Julia Child's cookbooks are wonderful!)
-Your ingredients for your recipes (Go out and shop together!)
-Aprons (if you get messy in the kitchen!)
-Fresh flowers if you so desire to spruce your table up
-A beautiful set table, complete with candlelight! 
-A French inspired movie (our favorites are Julie and Julia, Ratatouille, and The Hundred Foot Journey)
-French music for the background of your dinner

What to do: Grab your aprons and getting to cooking...together! Taste as you go, and enjoy! Grab some wine or make your own lemonade or a favorite beverage while you cook. Talk and enjoy the process. Set the table, do it up big! It's fun to make everything look beautiful for your time together.
Put on a French inspired station on Pandora, and enjoy your romantic meal together! Then, eat dessert while watching your French movie! You could even top the night off with some cafe au lait (coffee with milk)!

Questions to ask: (Again, some more questions you could ask at dinner to get things going!)
-If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
-What was your favorite meal as a child? What is it now?
-If you could have any chef cook you a top of the line, gourmet dinner, who would cook it for you, and what would you have?
-If you could eat your way through any country in the world, which would it be?
-Where is one place that we can explore together in the near future? 

So, our challenge, try your own French themed date night! Or perhaps another international location. A few great places to find French foods are Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and even check your local farmers markets! 

What is your favorite date night theme? 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Funday (3 Tips for a Productive Week)

Sundays are one of my favorite days of the week. As is Monday! But both for different reasons. Mondays are the fresh start, the new beginning, the starting line. You have the chance to set the pace and tone for the week on Mondays.

Sundays? That's the cap of the week. The cherry on the sundae, icing on the cake. It's a chance for me to simultaneously look back at the week, see what worked, and what didn't, as well as look ahead and prepare myself for success in the week to come.

It's a day that I love to use to plan and prepare while I relax. It leaves me refreshed and peaceful instead of scrambling on a Monday morning. And I want to share with you some of my top tips on how I use Sundays to plan ahead!

1. I write down 3 things that need to happen each day of the week. I generally break down my big goals into manageable daily goals, and distribute these throughout the week. Things like meal planning, blogging, and business goals make it onto my daily goals. They can be big or small, but keeping it to three helps me accomplish them and stay on track!

2. I schedule out my workouts. Life can vary week to week, and while I love a consistent routine, sometimes that isn't always possible. So I look ahead at what the week holds and make sure that I have planned out when and what workouts I will do for the upcoming week.

3. Meal prep! This is one that really helps out. Whether I can get all of my meals prepped or not, at least knowing what meals we will be having and getting my vegetables prepped helps a ton! If I have a healthy option available to eat on the go, I'm much more likely to choose that than the unhealthy option. Get as much of your vegetables and fresh produce ready as you can! You can even batch cook chicken and ground turkey to use in recipes throughout the week.

While there are a lot more tips that I could give you on how to use your Sunday to your advantage and prep for the week ahead, I will keep it to these top three! Spending even a little bit of time looking ahead at your week, or even the next few days can ease the stress of the upcoming week and help you break bigger tasks into manageable pieces.

How do you use your Sunday? Do you do any preparations of your own on the weekend? I would love to hear what works for you!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Meal Plan For YOU

Meal planning can seem overwhelming and daunting when you start on a journey towards health or if you aren't used to it. So many options, so many opinions, so little time. My biggest piece of advice? Find something that works for you in your life! 

You want to make sure that your meal plan follows these rules:
1. Allows you to get good, dense nutrition into your body. 
2. Do something that you can make a lifestyle! Avoid crash diets like the plauge.
3. Consider your schedule. Allow for something that will give you options while also keeping you healthy. 
4. Evaluate and reevaluate! Try different ways and see if it works for you or not.
5. Save time, money and food by PLANNING! Even if it doesn't go 100% according to plan, creating any type of plan will help you save in these area. 

There are many ways to meal plan! You can plan out all your big meals, snacks, etc. You can write down all your dinner options but leave the day you have them open. You can rotate through a few choices for the whole week. You can have the same lunch or breakfast all week. The options are limitless. And I have tried a fair few different ways to meal plan! I have found that different types of meal plans work better for different seasons.

A season that I'm trying to be more totally focused in nutrition, I will plan out all meals and snacks. Sometimes I make a list of different options to rotate through if we have a busy week! Find what works for you, reevaluate and if its working, keep it. If not, try another approach!

This model is more loose and leaves you room to choose what you want for the specific day, but gives you structure so you save money and stay on track with your health!

-Shakeology (with PB and a serving of fruit)
-Sauteed kale and scrambled eggs
-Egg "muffins"

-Dinner leftovers
-Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with sliced tomato, avocado and mustard with fresh veggies
-Spinach salad with grilled chicken, feta cheese, cranberries, nuts and vinaigrette

-One unplanned or cheat meal (because sometimes you need to work that in!)
-Chicken sausage with sweet peppers and onions over hot brown rice, with steamed broccoli
-Turkey burgers on whole wheat bread with avocado, tomato, and sweet potato fries with steamed broccoli
-Zucchini noodle pasta with ground turkey spaghetti sauce, whole wheat garlic bread
-BBQ chicken stuffed sweet potatoes with spinach salad
-Stuffed bell peppers with veggies, ground turkey, and pepper jack cheese, with hot brown rice
-Leftovers night

-Cheese and apples
-Fresh fruit serving
-Fresh veggies with ricotta cheese
-Greek yogurt with fruit

-DIY Strawberry Ice cream
-Revamped "cookie dough"
-Shakeology chocolate bars

Monday, April 20, 2015

Turkey and Veggie Soup

Summer is quickly approaching and that means soon warmer weather will be the normal. But, as we have experienced this past week in Atlanta, we can still have a few cold days left before the heat fully arrives.

What does that weather mean? One last chance for a hearty soup before the cool soups make their appearance on the dinner table.

This last week I experimented with the ingredients I had around the house to make our hearty turkey and veggie soup. The great thing about this recipe is that it can definitely be made to what YOU have in your kitchen and what YOU like.

But for a base recipe, here is what we used!

1lb ground turkey
2 tsp cooking oil or butter
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet potato, cubed
4 cups raw kale, chopped
1 cup baby carrots
4 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp basil
1 basil leaf
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika

1. In a large heavy bottomed pot (such as a dutch oven) over medium high heat, heat up your cooking oil or butter 
2. Add you chopped onions, sautee until soft and translucent. Add your garlic in and cook for one minute. 
3. Add in the chopped green peppers, and potatoes.
4. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. 
5. Add kale, bay leaf and diced tomatoes and reduce heat to medium low. Let cook for about 10 minutes, covered. 
6. As that cooks, brown your turkey with all of the seasonings mentioned above added in with it.
7. After turkey is browned, add to soup, mix and cover. 
8. Let cook over medium low, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes. 
9. Garnish with cheese and plain Greek yogurt if desired! 

Enjoy these last few days of warm soup weather before the fall. This is an easy and yummy way to get veggies in! Experiment with what you have and make it fun. 

What's your favorite soup? 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Marriage Tip #17

Really, this should be called life tip #17, because whether you are married, or single, this tip applies to you. To all of us. Myself and Zach included.

It is something that has come up recently when Zach and I talk about how we can love each other better and what we can do for our marriage.

The tip?


I have talked about this topic before, but it really is that important and it also has been in our hearts lately so I wanted to share the tip with you, too!

In our culture, everything is at our fingertips, so it seems. In even writing this blog post from my phone. We have more access to knowledge and information than ever before. We have more "connections" than ever before.

But that advantage so often becomes our disadvantage. And it can be damaging on relationships.

You can see it practically everywhere you go. People "multitasking" while on their phone. Go to a restaurant and count how many times you see people looking at their phones while in conversation with someone else.

And I am just as guilty, mind you! Though because I am aware of it, Zach and I are both very intentional about our time together.

Our tip is to take time to unplug. Put your phone away while on a date. In fact, leave it at home. Remember how we used to get along fine without a phone on us when we went out? It is possible.

This week Zach and I are taking a week off of TV and not watching and shows or movies. Just a personal choice, we never watch it excessively, but we want to be intentional about our time together.

Removing the distraction of technology gives way to more creativity together! Explore and adventure together. Discover new things, find things out the old fashioned way. Communicate face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart.

Take a bath together, read a book, build a fire. Go camp for a night or just set up your tent in the backyard. Have an uninterrupted coffee date. Make dinner together.

Technology is not evil by any means. It is a fantastic tool. But we have to be intentional in our lives and especially in our marriages, and make way for intentional, face to face, uninterrupted time for each other.

Will you unplug?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

5 Healthy Lunch Ideas

Let's talk about lunch time. That sometimes skipped over meal, or the meal that we forget to pack so we end up  eating a less than nutrious meal and paying extra for it. But it doesn't have to be that way! There are so many great lunch options that you can prepare at home either the night before, or prep them all at the beginning of the week!

This saves you time, money, and helps ensure that you are getting good nutrition for the whole day, which helps you be more productive and healthy.

If you are in a lunch rut, or just need some new ideas for your lunch time to spice things up, here are some fantastic recipes and ideas that I found on Pinterest (one of my favorite resources). Be sure to follow me on Pinterest and save these on your own page as well!

1. Grilled Chicken Veggie Bowls
Grilled chicken and veggie bowls are a fantastic option for a whole week of lunches. It is cheaper and easier to prepare in bulk, and you can vary things just a little so that you don't get bored of your food! Memberships to places like Sam's Club or Costco are great for the food supplies for these and save you money too.

2. Mason Jar Salad
These beautiful salads have been super popular lately, especially in their fun container option using a mason jar. Its hard to prep a salad for lunch sometimes because things get soggy. But this idea actually helps keep everything crisp because of the way the salad. Give these a try to pep up your lunch time salads!

3. Avocado and Turkey Wrap
Or any kind of wrap, really! Wraps are a fun way to pack your lunch and vary things up. You can batch cook your ingredients, and have them ready to go for the week. Wraps offer a lot of variety and personalization options too!
(Image from Pinterest and blog linked on Pinterest)

4. Traveling Lunch Noodles
For an Asian twist on your lunch, try this beefed up noodle lunch option! Turn boring noodles into a fun lunch packed with veggies and other things you love. I also love how they packed these!

5. The classic (or not so classic) healthy lunch sandwich!
Here is an array of healthy sandwich ideas for you to bring to work with you. The sandwhich is such a classic lunch option, bit it can absolutely be jazzed up and kept healthy as well! These are some fantastic recipes to check out and try if you like a good sammy.

There are five great lunch options that you can try for your work week this week. Do your prep work, it will save you time and money! I love to prepare as much for the week as much as possible so that lunch can be a grab and go and stay healthy! 

What is your favorite healthy lunch option? 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Need a Fresh Start?

New Years always starts on such a high note. Everyone and their mother are setting goals and resolutions, bound and determined to actually keep them this year. I know, because I have been there so many times, too. Made resolutions, broken them. Remade resolutions, and had to again, restart them. It can be discouraging and disheartening.

I want you to know though, it's okay to have a fresh start. You are allowed to start over. And you can start over and SUCCEED.

Something great that I have heard and keep in my mind is "if you're tired of starting over, stop quitting." So go ahead, take that leap of faith, start over and commit to sticking with it.

I know that I have had to start over with my fitness in many ways on this journe . Whether intentionally starting a new day over after a rougher day before, or beginning a workout program again, or redoing a program and giving it 110% of my effort, or even starting a new nutrition plan again and eating cleaner.

I have been through it. And more importantly, I know how difficult it can be, especially if you are going in on your own, or no one is keeping you accountable. It can be easy to stop and say "no one will know." But then you're right back where you started.

That is exactly where I was last January before I started focusing for real on my health. Of course I still have had to refocus since starting, but I have not gone back to my old unhealthy habits of not working out and not watching what I eat. Before I started, I was a serial quitter. Doing something for two weeks and hanging up the towel.

A fresh start was exactly what I needed. And what made me stick with it was accountability and motivation. That is why I am so passionate about leading the accountability groups that I do every month. It is my way to pay it forward and help others begin THEIR fresh start and establish healthy habits in their life.

My group this month is putting an extra special focus on just that. Making this our fresh start and establishing those healthy habits in our lives. Another really exciting part of this group is going to be a Biblical perspective on taking care of our bodies and how we can find balance in our lives while moving towards health overall.

If you haven't ever heard about my groups, have no fear! Here is a basic outline of what this group (and most of my groups are like):

-We begin April 20, and go for 30 days
-There are ten spaces available in my group (I like to keep it small to keep it close knit)
-Our group is held via a closed online Facebook group, so you can participate from anywhere in the country
-Daily motivational posts and tips from me, your personal and group coach.
-You check in daily and rate how your workout, nutrition and water intake was to keep you accountable.
-I help you meal plan and get recipe ideas that fit your life
-I help you find the perfect workout program for your fitness level, goals and preferences.
-You commit to working out and eating healthy for 30 days
- You participate in our group and find encouragement and community
-We will also have a few contests and prizes for this group!
-When you finish your workout program and submit your results, you get a free T-shirt (who doesn't like free??)
-Personal access to me and weekly check ins to see how things are going

And that is just the overview! Really this format has been the thing to keep me on track for over a year, which has never happened before ever in my life. Its a big deal to me to be able to find something that works. And maybe an online group isn't your thing, BUT I know what is working for me, and I can't NOT share it and lead others who need accountability just like I did.

So if you are interested at all, please message me, email, comment, however you want to reach out to me, and I can give you more information.

You can also invite yourself and add yourself to my group event on Facebook here .

Are you ready for a fresh start, too? Join us! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Marriage Tip #16

Let's talk about something for a minute here. Now, I realize that this is a very hot button topic. Very taboo, especially in certain circles. It can be awkward to talk about. But these are some of the reasons that I am passionate about it.

Let's talk about sex.

Yikes. Yup, I said SEX.

It's more than a three letter word, it's more than a one night stand, and it is absolutely more than a physical act. And I wish it was talked about more in the right context and in the right light. I wish the truth was shed on it more.

I heard a fantastic quote, I can't remember where or who said it, but it stuck with me, and it is the topic of our marriage tip tonight. The quote is this...

"Satan tries everything to get you to have sex before marriage, and he tries everything to get you to not have sex when you are married."

Y'all. Let's be real. I could write a book about my feelings on what "sex" is in our culture and how it has been hijacked to mean something totally different. Ask people and many will say that sex is just Intercourse. Two people in a physical act. It's really not a big deal, everyone does it.

How has something so beautiful been so marred?

In marriage, sex and INTIMACY have been dumbed down. Sex in marriage has been made to be this boring thing, something that husbands grumble about because their wives are "too tired." Intimacy is overlooked in favor of other distractions. True vulnerability, intimacy and closeness is being lost. And the consequences of that can be huge.

Now we are not going to get into the nitty gritty details here. I believe what happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom, because it is a safe place, and that is true for Zach and I's marriage. The bedroom is our place, and our intimacy is sacred and special to us.

But the whole point of this tip is to challenge you to really look at your intimate life with your spouse. Do you find yourself shying away from sex and intimacy? Or do you delight in its joys?

Put a top priority on intimacy with your spouse! This doesn't always mean sex, like I said, intimacy is much more than just the physical aspect of sex, although that is an important key. Intimacy is being open, vulnerable and connected with your spouse, and that can happen through many things, sex included.

When you place a priority on intimacy, that openness creates trust, safety, and connection. Isn't it just the most relieving feeling in the world to be balanced and on the same page with your spouse? That feeling of calm and peace? Intimacy creates that. Intimacy fosters that, grows it, and nurtures that.

Honestly, I really could go on and on on this topic of sex. I could take it a thousand different topical directions. But the bottom line is that sex and intimacy in marriage is absolutely vital. Find a way to make it a priority in your marriage and protect that time. It's not something dirty or to be hidden in the dark, or a chore to be checked off and completed. God created it to be a sacred and special time for a husband and wife to connect and be one. One in body, heart, spirit and life.

Don't wait for a time to present itself. Make time.

How do you protect intimate time with your spouse? Brainstorm some ways you can put boundaries around the time you have together and guard that time jealously!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

3 Tips to Help Get More Focus

Time. Seriously, is there anything in the world that we want more of but use worse than time? I would argue that there are little things. Especially in our culture these days. We talk a big talk, scheduling our calendars until they are overflowing, always stating that things are "busy and good" when people ask us how we are (I am guilty of this too, by the way!).

In a culture that is captured by screens and constantly on the go and getting things done, it's time to get something new. FOCUS. Distraction free, real, genuine, productive FOCUS.

Let me tell you, it can be hard to come by. Like I said, our schedules are full. Add in five thousand notifications of every one of our phone apps dinging constantly, text messages and emails being received, a running grocery list bouncing through our head, an alarm clock blaring for some reason, the TV mumbling in the background, music playing from our computer.....stressed out yet?

I mean, really narrow in your mind what it feels like to have all of these going on in your life all at once. I know for me, it's stressful. I like moments of peace and quiet, I like my inbox to be sorted and replied to, and I like some organization and clarity.

But a lot of times, my life feels like the other paragraph, garbled, over saturated with notifications and noises and distractions. So lately, something that I have been trying to do is get more focus in my life. Real focus, like no distractions, no dinging, no notifications, no multi tasking, no noise, just concentrated focus.

While it takes effort, the times that I have gotten it right, it is so helpful, and definitely has increased my peace and productivity. I want to share the three top tips that I have from that with you to encourage you and challenge you to maybe try some of these on your own!

1. Work in 45 minute spurts without distraction, and then take a 15 minute break. Studies are showing now that people who work with this sort of schedule, and have focused work with no distractions and then take a 15 minute break are more productive. I have been trying this method and it helps keep me from mentally burning out or sidetracking and losing time. When you enter into this 45 minute/15 minute model, get yourself away from distractions. No scrolling, no multi tasking, just focus in and get it done. Then take an active 15 minute break. Walk around, start at nature, doodle, get away from screens and take a break.

2. Turn your phone on silent, put it in another room, or even put it on airplane mode! It may seem unnatural at first, and you might try to check your phone for notifications, but DON'T. While you are on your 45 minutes of working, make sure that your phone is on silent. So many times it can just be habit to pick up our phones and check, but then get sucked into scrolling and responding and getting distracted.

3. Don't look at your phone after the first hour you are awake, or the last hour before you go to bed. This one has been a challenge, but also very rewarding for me. It used to be that after I woke up, I would scroll through my newsfeed for a little bit and then get to work or do my quiet time. But, time can sometimes slip by way too fast doing this. We get caught up. Same goes for at night! Even more importantly at night, taking time away from screens for the last hour that you are awake will help your body prepare for rest better, thus allowing you to sleep better!

Do you do any of these tips already? Which ones help you focus in the best?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Marriage Tip #15

Date night. Dinner and a movie. Five star restaurant. Drive in movie. A round of putt putt golf. A picnic in the park. Romantic candle light dinner. All of these ideas are some pretty standard date night ideas, and ones that I love, in fact! Honestly, the more ideas, the better. You can get so creative when it comes to date night.

But today, my tip is going to challenge you to get out of the date night box. I'm calling you to date DAY. And more specific, a romantic breakfast date. Yes, breakfast.

Our marriage tip for today is to plan a breakfast date with your spouse, and if you have time, make it a whole date day.

Zach and I have actually done a lot of breakfast dates over the course of our dating, engagement and marriage. We especially had a lot during our early dating days because we were about an hour and a half apart, and met in the middle of Atlanta for breakfast more than a few times. It also helps that my honey absolutely loves breakfast foods (pancakes in particular) so convincing him to go on a breakfast date it pretty easy.

But, if you have never tried to have a breakfast date with your spouse, or a date day, I challenge you to break out of the box of date night and switch things up. Great things happen when you get out of your normal routine and try something new, and who knows, maybe this is the spark that ignites something great and begins a new tradition for you.

I mean really, how fantastic is it to start the day on the right foot with your spouse? Starting the day over a long conversation over morning coffee, lingering over a tasty bowl of oatmeal, or a warm plate of bacon and eggs, or a towering stack of pancakes? There is so much creativity that can happen even within breakfast.

If you don't want to cook it yourself, go out to a fun breakfast place nearby! Discover a whole new breakfast restaurant you haven't tried, or visit an old favorite. If you do enjoy cooking (And we do) it is also a lot of fun to cook breakfast together!

Zach and I have even gone on an early morning shopping trip together to get some ingredients and then come back and prepare breakfast while listening to some fun jazz and just relaxing together. Seriously, there is so much greatness that can happen over a breakfast table, particularly if you have time to linger together.

So, my challenge to you is this....plan and have a breakfast date with your spouse! Decide if you will go out for breakfast, or if you will stay in and make a special breakfast together! You could even have breakfast in bed and read a book together or watch your favorite show after breakfast. Personally my favorite is at the kitchen table, but there is so much creativity to be had.

Who else has experienced the amazingness of a breakfast date before? What's your favorite date DAY activity?