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?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Y'all. Seriously, this was so good. I tweaked a recipe that I found a bit and made it our own, and absolutely loved it. This recipe is absolutely a keeper and one that we will be having again in the Cason house! Lasagna is such a comfort food, so I love finding ways to clean it up and add some more nutrients in any way that I can. This recipe is dynamite!

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Half of a butternut squash, cubed and COOKED
2 cups ricotta cheese, divided
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 tsp salt, divided into two 1/4 tsp
1/4 tsp nutmeg
10 oz uncooked spinach
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cooking oil
10 oz whole wheat lasagna noodles
4 slices of provolone cheese
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp basil


1. Preheat oven to 375 F

2. Prepare your lasagna noodles! Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook noodles until just tender. Drain and run cool water over them, set aside.

3. Prepare your butternut squash filling! Combine your butternut squash, 1 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp nutmeg in a food processor, and process until creamy. Set aside.

4. Prepare the spinach filling. Heat cooking oil a medium skillet over medium high, add minced garlic and cook about one minute. Add spinach to skillet and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and add to bowl. Combine with 1 cup of ricotta cheese and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Add 1/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp Italian seasoning, and 2 tsp basil. Mix together and set aside.

5. Grease a 9x13 baking dish lightly. Divide your  butternut squash filling into thirds. Put 1/3 of the mixture on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with lasagna noodles.

6. Add 1/2 of your spinach mixture on top of the noodles, and follow with another layer of noodles. Add another layer of butternut squash, followed by noodles and then the rest of the spinach filling and noodles.

7. Finish with the last 1/3 of the butternut squash mixture, top with 1 cup of mozzarella. Cut each piece of provolone in half, and layer across the top.

8. Cover with foil, bake for 30 minutes, uncover and cook for another 10 minutes.

9. Serve and enjoy!! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

5 Benefits of Warm Lemon Water

When you think of lemons, we usually go to images of cool, refreshing lemonade, vibrant decoration, refreshing aroma, and the like. Maybe even just that slice of something to perk up our water at restaurants, or the subject of some hilarious baby videos of them chomping on a lemon and experiencing the tang for the first time.

Whatever image or thoughts you have about lemons, I want to bring a new one to your attention...warm lemon water in the morning!

I have been doing this over the past year and love it! I haven't been as consistent as I would like (read that it has not been consistently every day), but you can bet if I have lemons in my fridge, I'm making warm lemon water in the morning.

On top of lemons being a powerhouse of vitamin c and antioxidants like most citrus fruits, there are numerous other health benefits to squeezing some fresh lemon in warm water in the morning! Some of my top favorites are these...

1. It's a refreshing and energizing start to your day. Think about it. When we want something to smell fresh and clean, lemon is a go to option. Well that natural zesty scent can add a pep to your step in the morning when you start out your day that way!

2. It promotes good oral health. Yup, it's good for your mouth! Know that awful morning breath when you wake up? Warm lemon water can help with that! Lemons eliminate mouth bacteria responsible for bad breath. It is also a natural bleaching agent! Just be sure to brush your teeth after drinking so you don't damage your enamel over time.

3. It's the age old cold buster! Any time you feel that tickle in the back of your throat, honey lemon water is your new best friend. 2 tsp honey, 2 tsp lemon juice in warm water will help you feel better sooner! It helps kill off excess mucus, honey helps sooth the throat, and it also has anti viral properties and the vitamin C boosts your immune system. Before running for a prescription, try this trusted remedy first!

4. It can help get you in a good mood! Vitamin c is a known stress reducer, and the smell of lemon also has shown to help minimize anxiety and depression. Start your day on the right foot and soak in some lemon water and the inviting scent, too!

5. It helps you maintain your bodies proper pH balance! Our bodies have a oh balancr, and based on what we are eating, it can be in good condition or bad. If its in bad condition, that can lead to more serious issues like arthritis, digestive problems and skin diseases to name a few. When your pH balance is in check, it helps your body absorb nutrients better, and keep your health at an overall better level. Lemon water is a great way to getting your gut back in good working order because it addresses one of the roots, your pH level!

I could go on and on with more benefits of drinking warm lemon water in the morning, weight loss aid, heart health, eye health, and so on. But I think you get the picture! Drinking warm lemon water is extremely beneficial for your body!

My favorite way to enjoy it? Boil up some water on the stove, squeeze half a lemon into a cup (I also leave the lemon in), pour hot water over it and enjoy! Adding honey also gives you some great benefits as well! You can also add some cayenne pepper to help rev up the metabolism.

Do you drink warm lemon water at all? Or what is your preference of drink in the morning?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Marriage Tip #14

Opening up a book is like escaping to another world. Adventure awaits, learning is there for the taking, knowledge seeping through words printed on a page. In a culture that loves its iPads, iPhones, tablets, Nooks, eReaders and whatever else is out there, I still much prefer the physical book. Whether you prefer your books in electronic form, or love to sniff and hold a physical book like I do, my marriage tip for today is this...

Read together.

And dare I suggest...out loud?

This is something that Zach and I started doing not long ago, but it is something that I have really come to truly enjoy. It gets you out of your comfort zone a little bit, because I feel like not that many people read out loud any more. If you do, extra kudos to you!

Pick a book, really it can be any book! It could be fiction, non fiction, a series you both love, or something new that you want to learn. Your options are endless!

Right now Zach and I are reading through a book about intimacy in marriage, and I love it. I love learning with my husband, and talking about it. We don't read every night, but try to read often before bed.

It is a great way to wind down from the day together, cuddle, and enjoy time with each other. It is a simple thing, but you might be surprised at what it does! Sometimes those simple little things can mean the most, especially when done intentionally and consistently.

So, grab a book and start reading together! Take turns, open up, and move forward together in a new adventure.

Do you read out loud with your spouse? What are some of your favorite books?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

21 Day Fix Extreme Review

Today is my last day of my first official round of the 21 Day Fix Extreme! So, in celebration of that, I wanted to bring you my official review of the program! This is my fourth Beachbody program, and i must say, they set the bar high, and I love it. My other programs are T25, the original 21 Day Fix, and Les Mills Combat! The 21 Day Fix sets have been fantastic, so let's go ahead and dive into the review!

Here are some specifics about the program, in case you were curious.

21 Day Fix Extreme

Length of program: 21 days, but can be repeated as many times as you want.
How many days do you work out: 7 days a week, one of which is yoga (love it!)
How long are the workouts: 30 minutes
How many workouts are included in the program: 8 full 30 minute workouts, and a ten minute ab
Equipment needed: set of light and heavy free weights and a resistance band
Fitness level needed: You need to have a base level of fitness. If you have completed any other Beachbody program you should be good
Nutrition aspect: portion control containers and an extremely doable eating plan
Helps with: losing that last ten pounds, toning up, getting extreme, getting fit for an upcoming event, and getting healthier!

Alright, so now you have some of the bare basics of the 21DFX (21 Day Fix Extreme) program down. Let's get into the nitty gritty.

-I loved this program even more than the original 21 Day Fix. Specifically I loved the challenge that the workouts gave me.
-I really enjoyed using my weights in most every workout. I feel like it really gave me a lot of great strength training.
-I can do more push ups on my toes now than ever before! For reference, before I started my journey last year I couldn't do a single push up on my toes. After this program I got past 15!
-The eating plan is absolutely doable and sustainable. You do not go hungry with this!
-The principles of the eating plan really nourish your body and give you a good balanced diet. You aren't skipping out whole food categories, and you aren't depriving yourself.
-You have the option of doing the "countdown to competition" eating plan, which is a super clean eating plan to help give you maximum results! I didn't do it this round, but plan on it in the future!
- As with the last program, I love the 30 minute workout length, it's perfect for me.
- I like that they have a modifier on the screen and I could easily follow along if I needed to modify a move.
-I feel like I gained a lot of energy and more over all body strength doing this program!
- Planning ahead and using the eating plan really helps you to succeed with this program.
-I love that it is a 21 day program. It helps you establish a good healthy habit, and gives you a quick win, AND because it is NOT a crash diet, you can continue on with it!

-You eat a lot of protein, (or red containers), especially if you do the countdown to competition. It's not bad, but I personally struggle with my red containers anyway, there's only so much chicken and fish I want to eat in a day. But, it is healthy!
-It's not so much a con, but a challenge that I worked through. There is a plyo workout that includes a lot of jumping. I definitely grew in strength but boy did it challenge me!
-It was an extremely comical "con" but I definitely had to get used to using a resistance band for the pilates workout. I wouldn't say it's a con, more something you have to get used to and be careful not to snap yourself in the face with the band while changing positions.
- Not personally a con for me, but I know for others it can be a challenge when you start out to meal plan. If it's something you are not used to doing, it can take time, BUT it is absolutely worth it, and I love helping people through that process.

Overall thoughts about my experience with 21DFX
As I stated before, I really enjoyed this program. If you haven't been doing a higher intensity program or working out at all in a while, I would suggest doing the 21 Day Fix as a god start up point. But people who have been working out can absolutely jump in on this. It is a fantastic program and has taught me so much about nutrition and how key and critical it is to overall health.

Nutrition brings about 80% of your results, so it really is that important. With the 21DFX (and the original) you are focusing on eating clean and nourishing your body with foods that fuel you. That in turn helps you gain more momentum on the fitness side of things and helps you just shred out your physique! I have become more and more aware of just how important nutrition is and I want to shout that from the rooftops.

Using the 21DFX helps you learn those principles and gives you a great foundation to continue that on past the 21 days, and also gives you great workouts that are doable and build your energy and strength. This program is a 10++ in my book!

Who wants to join in another round of the 21DFX with me and get some results of your own?? I have several groups starting soon, so if you are curious at all, or want more information, please don't hesitate to ask or reach out for more information! I would love to help any way I can.

Who is ready to get Extreme?? Stay tuned for my results too!

Friday, March 20, 2015

DIY Strawberry Ice Cream

Today is the first day of spring, and what better way to ring that in and the approaching warmer weather than with super easy and delicious strawberry ice cream? This was incredibly easy, and I loved it! I have made ice cream with frozen bananas before, which is also very good, but sometimes I want something with less of a banana-y flavor.

Enter strawberry ice cream.

It's like an ice cream meets a yogurt, meets a sorbet, meet a sherbet. All delicious. So be sure to give this recipe a try!

DIY Strawberry Ice Cream
(Makes 4 servings)

4 cups frozen strawberries
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek, you could probably even use a vanilla greek yogurt if you like it a little sweeter!)
3 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor (or blender), blend until smooth.
2. Divide into 4 servings, or dip out yours and save the rest for later, and ENJOY!

So easy, so refreshing, and best of all, GUILT FREE! Who is going to try this delectable treat? 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Date Ideas

April showers bring May flowers. Or in this case, I am really hoping that these March showers will bring April flowers! Regardless of when the flowers come, the coming of spring means a whole new world of opportunity to get out and date your mate!

Oh yes, indeed it does. The world will soon be in blossom, and after being cooped up during cold winter months, you are definitely going to want to try some of these date ideas with your spouse or significant other!

These dates don't have to cost a lot, and that is the beauty of it. Finding intentional time to get creative and have fun with your spouse is what is important! Celebrate life with them this spring!

Here are our top ten spring date ideas to get out and have some fun!

1. Grown up Easter egg hunt! Have your own Easter egg hunt...grown up style! Who says kids get to have all the fun? Get a bag of empty Easter eggs, and divide them between the two of you. You can fill them however you want! Big or small, you get creative! You can do their favorite candy, a personal coupon they can redeem, a gift card (if you have a bigger budget), LOVR notes....anything! Hide them outside or around the house and have fun!

2. Scavenger hunt! Use those eggs again for good purpose! Have a fun scavenger hunt. Again, could be around the house, or outside! Fill your Easter eggs with the clues, and lead it to a fun surprise!

3. Go have a picnic! This is the perfect time of year to have a picnic before the bugs and heat come out in full force. Go to your favorite park and have a bite to eat together!

4. Play a game outside! This could be a board game or an actual outdoor game. But there is something so fun about getting out in the fresh air and playing! Zach and I have gone to a local state park and brought a board game and just played on a picnic table. So fun!

5. Take a day hike together. Look online to find what state or national parks may be near you! They are usually very reasonably and cheaply priced to get into for the day. Fill up your water bottles, bring some snacks and hit the trails! Discover s new Area together!

6. Have a "wine and cheese" picnic. Now this you have to be careful with if you use actual wine and if you are outside your own home. Most parks prohibit open containers of any alcohol. But you could do this in your own backyard with wine, or get sparkling wine and go to a park. But go to yourblocsl grocery store, pick out a few fun cheeses to try, some crusty bread, fruit, nuts and maybe a jam, and have a very fun and sophisticated picnic together!

7. Go camping! If you don't have the time or location to fully camp for one or two nights, consider breaking out your tent in your own backyard! Make some s'mores and camp food fare and have fun. This is the perfect time of year to break out the tents.

8. Have dinner by candlelight on your patio. One of my favorite memories as a kid were the nights that we got to eat dinner out on our porch. It's a blast to change up the scenery and enjoy each others company over dinner in the delightful spring air! Don't forget the candles, and remember that Pandora and Spotify have some great playlists to accompany as well! Our most recent favorite: New Orleans Jazz!

9. Paint Easter eggs. Well, you've already hidden the plastic ones, time to hard boil some eggs, buy a dye kit, and paint Easter eggs! It may seems silly, but these fun activities get us out of the normal routine and let us have fun together. Talk about your Easter traditions as a child!

10. Take a day trip to somewhere you haven't been before, and walk around and explore. Don't plan anything except where you are going. Grab your map to get there, and just explore a new place together! Walk around, enjoy the sunshine and find unique places to come back to.

There you have, ten super fun, cheap date night ideas that you can use this spring! Take advantage of this glorious weather, get outside and have fun with each other. It is not all about what you do, but being with your spouse and spending that intentional time with them. Showing them you care by being present and enjoying life with them!

What is your favorite date idea for spring?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ready For a Challenge

March has been a stretching month for me so far. It has been a struggle to be in between seasons, to be honest. I am craving warm sunshine on a daily basis, only to be met with a lot of clouds lately. You wouldn't think that would have that big of an effect on my attitude and motivation, but it has. This desert girl needs her sun!

But the struggle has been more than the physical change of seasons. It is as if my spirit is also in a transition as well, and I can't quite put my finger on it. In spite of the struggle, I am also finding new ways to be intentional about motivating myself, and encouraging others along the way too.

I know that I can't be the only one fighting the winter blues, ready for the warmth of the spring sun and the welcoming change of seasons. So, I am putting out a challenge. For myself, and for you. The question is, will you join in and find the motivation for yourself this month as we brace to enter the spring?

Many of you know that I lead monthly accountability groups online to help people with their health and fitness. It has been such a blessing in my life, let me tell you! To see others come alive the way I have experienced it too, through improving our health and fitness. It is absolutely priceless. Especially as we shed our winter layers, I know it can be hard to try and refit into clothes that may have gotten tight over the holidays and cold winter months.

But you know what? It doesn't have to be that way. I know I want to feel confident and comfortable in all my clothes and in my own skin this summer and spring, and I want the same for you too!

So here is my challenge, are you ready?

March 23rd I will be launching my second 21 Day Fix Extreme Test Group! The first group has been a huge hit, and it has been a blessing to work with the ladies in the group and help them reach some of their health and fitness goals the past month. I'm ready to start again with a new group of ladies! This will be a 30 day group that uses the brand new and amazing program, the 21 Day Fix Extreme. We will meal plan (which I help with the process), do daily 30 minute workouts, fuel our bodies with dense nutrition, and keep each other accountable.

The accountability and motivation is the biggest part for me! Accountability has been the absolute key to keeping me on track for the past year. Without it, I know that I would have failed long ago and given up and quit. But I don't want you to quit, I want to see all of my clients succeed!

You can check out all the details and get even more information by adding yourself to the event I created for the Test Group here.

My second challenge will begin the following week, on March 30th. It will also be another 30 day group, but our focus will be using a brand new tool that Beachbody just launched...Beachbody On Demand! I am pumped about this tool, because it is something that we have been asking for for a while, and Beachbody has delivered.

Beachbody On Demand is like Netflix for your workouts. They created a catalog of some of their most popular, top of the line workout programs (the WHOLE program!), and you get complete access to it, 24/7, from anywhere that you have an internet connection. That means you can workout when you travel, you can workout if you don't have a DVD player, and it means that there is no excuse. The technology and availability and value in this is incredible.

Like the 21 Day Fix Extreme Test Group, we will also be keeping each other accountable every day for 30 days, making sure we stay on track and reach our goals! I help with meal planning, picking the right program to fit your goals, and keeping you accountable along the way. More details coming soon about it, so keep your eyes open!

So, are you ready to shed the winter pounds and feel confident, radiant and comfortable in your own skin this spring and summer? Perfection isn't the goal, progress is, and I promise you it is worth it. When you have more energy to play with your family, to do life with those you love, and you feel comfortable while you are doing it? It's absolutely priceless. I know from experience and I want you to feel that too.

Let me help you stay motivated and accountable this month! Please reach out to me if you have any questions at all, or want more information. I would love to help you in any way that I can! So, who is up for the challenge?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Green Machine Pancakes

Pancakes, one of the classic American breakfast options. Unfortunately, I have never been their biggest fan. Mostly because I don't like eating sweet foods for breakfast. But, when I got married, I discovered that my husband loves pancakes.

So I end up making them quite a bit around here for him. I don't usually eat them myself, again, because I don't like sweet foods for breakfast. But when I found a clean recipe of panckes , I had to try them!

I have made several variations of these healthy pancakes for Zach and he definitely approves! The recipe is simple to vary based on your tastes, so I will include the base recipe as well as the green machine version.

Base Recipe - Clean Eating Pancakes (makes about 4-5 pancakes) 
1/3 cup rolled or steel cut oats, uncooked
2 eggs
1 banana

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor, blend until smooth.
2. Use a 1/4 cup to measure out pancake batter.
3. Cook over medium to medium high heat as regular pancakes

1/3 cup rolled or steel cut oats, uncooked
3 eggs
1 banana
1 loose scoop of Greenberry Shakeology

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor, blend until smooth.
2. Use a 1/4 cup to measure out pancake batter.
3. Cook over medium to medium high heat as regular pancakes

And there you have it! Clean eating pancakes that you don't have to feel guilty about eating. They will fill you up and leave you satisfied and nourished! You can also vary the vase recipe to include any fruits or other things you want to put in, or even top them with!  Have fun with the recipe!

What is your favorite pancake combo? 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Motivate Your March


Not quite winter, not quite spring. The weather can be extremely bi-polar (at least in the south), where we swing from a beautiful almost 70 degrees and then plunge into an ice storm, literally. Add in the lovely Daylight Savings Time change to the mix and you have one awkward cocktail mixture.

March can sort of be like the awkward phase of middle school. Not in elementary school, but not junior high yet. Awkward.

I don't know about you, but I was struggling last week. I was sleepy after the time change (and still am), I am yearning for consistent nice weather so Zach and I can hike and play outadie. I'm ready for it to be light all day long. March so far, has been an in between seasons. And last week, I was dreading that. Truly dreading.

But God gave me a new perspective, and revealed to me the deeper issues that I needed to address in my life. Therefore I am determined to use this in between season and beyond to get motivated, sharpen my confidence, and be a light.

I know that I am not the only one who has to feel this way. There is nothing new under the sun. So, as I embark on this "motivate your March," I want to bring you along.

Here is what I am focusing on and working on this month, and why.

1. Setting attainable and realistic goals for myself. I am dreaming big, but I am also allowing myself to set goals for "quick wins", too, to help keep me motivated.

2. Making a consistent effort to get dressed professionally every day. I am not a fashionista. I love comfy clothes. But, I know that for myself, if I sit in my PJs all day (which there is nothing wrong with that), I will not feel as motivated. So I am raiding my own closet and putting on clothes I haven't worn in a while and doing it up!

3. Exercising every day. I already do this, but I am putting a particular emphasis on it. Exercise gives me a lot of great energy and confidence through the whole day!

4. Writing out personal affirmations. This can be hard. Positive self talk can seem awkward, and make can make you feel uncomfortable at first. But it helps! Speak positively about who you are and your goals and write it down daily.

5. Do something three times a week that brings me joy. This could be reading a fiction book, making a piece of art, or even cooking for me. I want to dive into the things that enrich my life.

So why am I going to do these things the rest of this month? I am going to put intentional effort into my life. Life is too precious not to. Too precious to get caught up, too precious not to slow down and enjoy the process.

#motivateyourmarch, here I come. And I would love for YOU to join with me. If you feel like you want to ignite a fire in your heart this month and find confidence and motivation, join me in this challenge for the remainder of this month!

I will be documenting my journey over these next weeks and sharing it via Instagram and Facebook, and most likely a blog or two as well. Each day I will feature at least one aspect of this #motivateyourmarch.

Let me know that you are joining in by tagging me @sarahfcason on Instagram and tagging your photo with #motivateyourmarch, or tagging me at Sarah Cason on Facebook. Be sure to follow along and find some joy and inspiration for your month too!

Who's with me?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Marriage Tip #13

Ephesians 4:25-27New International Version (NIV)

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

We have all heard it a thousand times before, whether we are married or not. Don't let the sun go down on your anger. I think in our marriage advice book, that was probably one of the more common pieces of advice. 

And there is a reason for that, and a reason why this is the topic of our marriage tip today. 

When you bring two imperfect, sinful people into a relationship of one, under one roof, and in covenant, you are guaranteed conflict. That is a fact of life (married or not) that you will inevitably face conflict with those you are close to. 

The key lies in how we handle that conflict, how we manage our anger, and how we work to resolve conflict. Conflict in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is the way we handle it. And this is a lesson I began learning even before I was married. 

In our short experience of marriage, Zach and I have realized just how crucial communication and honesty is. Of course we always know that, but we always strive to practice that in our marriage, and that plays into how we handle conflict. 

I agree that we should not let the sun go down on our anger. Honestly, there are little worse feelings to me in the world than going to bed angry with the one I love most. Thankfully Zach and I have not really had it happen, but we have definitely stayed up late at times to talk through issues at hand that need to be addressed. 

Of course, it may not always be the hard and fast rule. At times, we must take into account whether or not we are in a place where we can respond instead of react. We must keep in mind the ones we love and be willing to listen. 

I think the key is to not use it as an "out" or an excuse to NOT address or or talk about it. In marriage, you have to address hard things together, and it is better to take care of it sooner instead of letting anger, sadness, hurt and emotion build up slowly over time. 

So in short, the marriage tip today is to not let the sun go down on your anger. Be open and honest with your spouse. Even if that looks like telling them that you would like to talk on the morning. Give yourself the 24 hour rule to address it. Take time to pray, separately and together, and take time to respond to the situation instead of reacting.

What is your take on it? What works for you and your spouse?

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Inn at Christmas Place

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.

Snow was falling softly, but quickly from the darkened night sky above. Sounds were muffled from the streets below as people hurried home to their warm beds. An orange glow filled the night sky, and everything was peaceful. Inside, a Christmas movie playing, and Christmas lights blinking. It was peaceful, and magical.

It would sound like Christmas was here, but in fact, this scene was set last week, in February. Zach and I found ourselves completely in raptures during our adventure to a new to us town, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Our destination, the Inn at Christmas Place. Where the spirit of Christmas is held all year round!

For those of you who know us, you know we love Christmas. It is our absolute most favorite time of year. We may have put up our tree right after Halloween last year. And we got married around Christmas! It is a special time of year that we love to spend time with friends and family and spread joy and cheer.

So when we found out about the Inn at Christmas Place, we knew we had to visit. And finally, our time came to have a weekend getaway at the Inn! We booked our two nights, and drove up early (read er arrived at 3am) to Pigeon Forge because we knew snow was coming the next day.

The Inn at Christmas Place was everything we expected and so much more. From first glance to when we drove off, it was an exceptional experience, and I just had to share it with you all!

Christmas Place is a beautiful hotel, and reminds me of a Bavarian building, all decked out in Christmas lights, wreaths, garlands and bows. And of course, it was even more picturesque because snow was on the roof and ground!

The customer service at the Inn is second to none. When we walked in, we were greeted by some really friendly doormen, and then checked in to our room. We were even given some ornaments since it was our first time at the Inn! We were also informed at every night they put out fresh, homemade cookies for free for the guests. Yes, please!

Walking through the hotel to our room we were taking in every detail. Christmas paintings and art, every floor with a themed center desk at the opening of the elevator, there is even a Charlie Brown Christmas themed area playing the movie all day long!

If we thought everything was amazing to that point, our breath was taken away opening the door to our room. We had a mini kitchen area, cabinets, a spacious, clean bathroom with granite countertops. The beds were decked with a lucious red cover and fluffly white pillows. The TV armiorre was topped with a mino Christmas tree, and the walls adorned with winter paintings.

We were blown away. Never have I ever been to such a unique and special hotel!

Our stay only continued to get better as we took morning dips in the pool and hot tub. We also watched the snow fall from the indoor hot tub! We definitely enjoyed our nightly cookies, an incredible hot breakfast included in the mornings, and to top it all off, time with singing Santa on Thursday night!

If you love Christmas, and especially if you love near Tennessee, the Inn at Christmas place is absolutely worth your visit. The customer service that we received alone was well worth our stay. In our culture these days, you don't always find such great service. But the Inn went the extra mile to make sure our stay was incredible, and boy was it!

We will absolutely be back to visit the Inn at Christmas Place.

Some fun places to visit around the Inn:
-The Christmas Place store! Across from the Inn is a huge, amazing Christmas store! Well worth the visit, even if just to look.
-The Old Mill- a working mill from the 1800's, complete with fun country store and restaurant! Very picturesque.
-The Island- an upbeat section of town with some arcades and even a ferris wheel!
-Smokey Mountain National Park is less than ten miles away! A beautiful place for sure.
-Blue Moose Burger and Wings. Zach and I ate here and it was so good! A sports bar and grill feel, but they have some incredible burgers!

Pigeon Forge itself has lots of dinner and theater shows, Dollywood, and lots of fun seasonal outdoor race tracks, putt putt places, and the like!

So if you are near the area and looking for a fun quick getaway, Zach and I can highly recommend the Inn at Christmas Place!

Who else loves Christmas?