Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Home Tour

Merry Christmas!!

Our Christmas card this year...

A few people have asked me about a Christmas house tour this year.  If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen most of these corners of my home, but I thought I'd pop in here and post a few more pictures. 

 I kept it really simple this year.  I'm still loving neutral colors and greenery, like wreaths and garland, as well as lots of textured blankets, furry things, and candles.  I want my home to feel warm and cozy.

This year, we got a Balsam Hill tree for the living room and I've really enjoyed having it upstairs.  Our real tree is downstairs by the fireplace.  I decorated the upstairs tree and the kids decorated the downstairs one.  

Lately, I've decided that I'm really liking gold.  So I'm starting to add splashes of gold around my home.

I've been loving this Ballard Designs mirror for quite some time now.  So recently, when they ran a big sale and I had some store credit, we splurged on it.  I love how it reflects light and makes our small entryway feel a bit bigger. 

The view from the other direction.

The mudroom

My desk area

The kitchen

If you throw some garland on top of anything, it instantly looks festive and Christmasy.

Our hot chocolate stand this year.  The tiered stand is from Magnolia Market.

Several months ago, I painted the buffet a dark charcoal black (Benjamin Moore's Black Panther).  I was wanting something more neutral than turquoise for the dining area.  I'm loving how classy the black looks.  It's also much more versatile now when it comes to decorating for the different seasons. 

And lastly, the bedroom because it got a furry wreath and some garland.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Good Morning America

The craziest thing happened last week….

Five years ago, I turned my leftover pumpkins into a snowman.  Do any of you remember Frosty the Pumpkinman?

He sure was cute!  I just never dreamed that one day he would have me making an appearance on Good Morning America!!

Well, hold on… let me back up.

Last Sunday night around 9:30, Tim and I were just casually sitting on the couch watching t.v. when my email dinged.  I don't normally check my email immediately, but I was waiting to hear back from a company about an order I had made, so hoping it was from them, I checked my email.  But the email was actually from a producer at Good Morning America asking me if I would be interested in coming on their show on Friday (5 days later) for a segment called, Holiday Hacks, and showing America how to turn their leftover pumpkins into a snowman. 

I was completely taken off guard.  Shocked.  Mind-blown.  Speechless.  Terrified.  All the feelings.  I shoved my phone in Tim's face and asked him what he thought.  He googled the producer's name to make sure it wasn't a hoax.  It wasn't.  So he said, "You should do it."  Just like that.  So casual.  Meanwhile, I couldn't wrap my brain around standing in front of millions of people and showing them how to make a pumpkin snowman.  If you know me at all, you probably know that public speaking of any kind is not my thing.  As in, I'm terrified of it.  I changed my major from elementary education in college because I didn't want to stand in front of my classmates and do practice class lessons.  I would much prefer to be on this side of the screen writing blogs or taking pictures. 

That night, I forwarded the email to two close friends and then Tim and I called his parents and mine.  Of course, we all agreed that it was an unbelievable, once in a lifetime opportunity.  And I knew in my gut that I couldn't just pass it up because I was scared or I would always regret it.  It felt like God was opening a door for me and He wanted me to walk through it.  He seems to be having fun lately showing me that He can do absolutely anything in my life that He wants to.     

The email said if I was interested, to please make a video that explains and shows how to make the pumpkin snowman, upload it to youtube, and then send them the link by early afternoon the next day.  These videos are how the bosses approve which guests get to be on the show.  Talk about a time crunch and tad bit of pressure!! I'm not a video person. I'm a blogger.  So all of a sudden, I went from looking forward to an easy week in which to finish up all my last minute Christmas stuff before my kids got out of school for Christmas Break to being completely stressed out, overwhelmed, can't sleep, can't hardly eat, scared out of my mind.  

But I also knew I just needed to take things one step at a time.  And the first step was the video. So on Monday, I made the video, just doing the best I could on such short notice.  I emailed it to GMA around 1:00 pm like they requested. And I prayed they would pick someone else.  The producer called later that afternoon and said she still needed an official okay from the bosses, but she wanted to go ahead and get all my information to start making the travel reservations.  I begged God to slam this crazy door closed.  I waited and waited.  On Tuesday evening I got the official green light email that I had been dreading.  I immediately called Tim and told him that we were going to NYC!  I couldn't believe that I was going to be on Good Morning America talking to millions of people on live television in just a few more days.  This was not my dream come true, this was a nightmare I was going to have to face. 

People kept asking me if I was excited and I kept saying, "No! I'm terrified!"  Like in every sense of the word.  I am not exaggerating for drama here.  I was seriously terrified.  There were times when God gave me a calmness that I couldn't explain and didn't make sense.  But there were other times when the fear was so overwhelming that I felt like I just wanted to throw up.  I spent a lot of time praying and listening to God, asking for His peace, needing to hear His voice and be reminded that He would get me through.  This was not something I could do on my own.  I  needed him to show up for me big time.

I just kept asking, why me Lord?.. of all the people that would love to get up in front of millions, why are you choosing me? This is not my thing!!  I'm not ready for this! I can't do this.  Please, please choose someone else!!

As I sat with the Lord and listened, some of the impressions I felt on my heart was that this was all His plan and even though I never imagined (or wanted) anything like this, He wanted me to surrender, to flow with Him, trusting that He was the current in my life, taking me where He wanted me to go.  This was something He was doing and He wanted me to let go of trying to control my life and relax, allow Him to work, and trust that wherever He takes me, He will get me through.  He said that His timing was perfect and that He had prepared me. He reminded me that I was His and that He would be faithful to me.

All of that was very encouraging, but the fear was still so loud and overwhelming, making me feel sick to my stomach and anxious almost constantly over the coming days.

An interesting side note : A few weeks back, Tyson has asked me when we could to to New York.  At the time, we had no real plans to go, so I just told him that we would go one day, but I didn't know when.  Now here we had such a unique opportunity to take the kids to see NYC at Christmastime.  I told Tyson that God had heard his heart's desire to go to NY and He was making it happen.  I want my kids to recognize when the hand of God moves in their lives and He does something extra special for them just to show them He loves them.

On Thursday afternoon, we loaded up the kids, dropped the pets off with neighbors and drove up to NYC.  I cannot even tell you guys how nervous I was.  I didn't sleep a wink that night.  I had to be at the studio at 5:15 in the morning, so I got out of bed at 4:15 to get ready.  There were times when I honestly didn't know if I would be able to go through with it.  This was the hardest/scariest thing I have ever had to do.

Tim prayed for me before I left the hotel and then texted me this verse a few minutes later which encouraged me "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you… "1 Chron. 28:20

Thankfully, the staff at GMA were all so nice and put me more at ease.  They reminded me that it was just a fun segment and I didn't need to worry about stumbling over words or forgetting what to say.  They said to just try to forget about the cameras and have fun.  And they reminded me not to overthink it. Obviously that's easier said than done, but it took some of the pressure off.  We still practiced several times so we knew what we wanted to say, but the atmosphere was very laid back. I went to hair and makeup while someone went and got me a Starbucks and I felt a little bit like a movie star in that moment.  So surreal.  Then we did a few teasers where we were told to stand in front of the camera and dance with our props for all of America to see.  I was thankful that I had a snowman to dance in front of the camera.  One lady had garland and the other had a box, so I feel like that would have been a lot more awkward if on of those were my props.  The teasers ended up being fun and actually helped me relax a little bit as I realized it wasn't so awful to be in front of a camera.

Here we are getting ready to do a teaser.

Tim brought the kids down to the studio just after 8 a.m.  My segment was scheduled to be on at about 8:45.  So we hung out in the green room for a few minutes then headed outside to wait for our turn.  It was freezing outside and I couldn't stop shivering, partly from the cold, but I'm sure partly from nerves too.

And then it was time!  I said a desperate prayer of, "Jesus, Help Me!!" right before we started.  And he did.  Because I stood up there and said just what I needed to say and the words came out smoothly.  It went fast.  The two anchors did such a great job of keeping things moving and helping me get through it.  And I was so so relieved when it was over.

This picture below is just a screen shot.  Scroll down for a link to the video.

I could not figure out how to get the video up on my blog,  but you can watch it by clicking the link below

GMA Holiday Hacks

Afterwards, we showed the kids around NYC.  It was such a special blessing to be able to do this.  We had already decided to stay Friday night in the hotel so we wouldn't have to rush back home.  We wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity the Lord had given us.

We thought this gingerbread house at Anthropologie was awesome!

We took the kids to Central Park.  They had a lot of fun running around and climbing on the big rocks.

About eight years ago, when I was pregnant with Peyton, Tim had a work trip to NYC and I got to join him for a few days.  We took a picture (which I can't find or I would post it) sitting on a rock in Central Park, so here we are again eight years later.  We think it's the same rock, but we're not really sure!

We ate a really early dinner that night and were back in our hotel room by about 5:30.  I was so exhausted that I was in bed just after 6.  Tim and the kids watched t.v. until about 8:00 and then everyone went right to sleep.  It felt so good to sleep without feeling a pit of nerves in my stomach every time I rolled over.

On Saturday morning, we walked to Rockefeller Center because we thought we might take the kids ice skating, but the rink was so crowded (and it was so expensive) that we decided it wasn't worth it.  We took some pictures in front of the tree and did a little shopping.

Back at Anthropologie because they have the best window displays (and they were having a great sale!).  I'm always amazed at what they can do with things like, oh, I don't know… cardboard!  

We had to take several different pictures because now each kid wants to take a picture.

Of course the kids had to check out that Lego store too!

After that it was time to head back to the hotel and finish packing so we could check out on time.

I'm glad I did it, but mostly, I'm just really relieved it's over and that the Lord got me through it without me making a complete fool of myself on national tv. I'm also thankful for the time we got to be in NYC with our family at Christmastime. We made some special family memories. And I hope my kids remember that time their mom did something that was hard and scary but the Lord upheld her. I can't even say how much it meant to me to have people supporting me and praying for me through all of this. I'm not sure if I would have done it without the support of Tim and our families and friends. I was really reminded of how blessed I am to have so many people who love and care for me and cheer me on.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Outdoor Dining

Welcome Fall!  It's my absolute favorite time of the year, as I'm sure you know by now! The weather is slowly turning cooler around here and it's so nice to be outside enjoying it.  All summer long, we've been working hard to get our back deck in shape, as well as our yard and the patio underneath the deck.  Tim sanded and stained our deck and I painted the rails white.  We love the difference this has made!  It was such a large undertaking and it took quite a bit longer than we had anticipated, but we are so glad we did it.  We're still not quite finished,  but we're finally at a point where the hardest part is done and we can relax and enjoy it.

Max and I spend most mornings out here sipping coffee and watching the birds.

The small table is perfect for our family of five when want to eat outside, but it's really not large enough when we are hosting guests.

So we decided to make better use of the space underneath our deck and turn it into an outside dining area.  Tim took an old work table and made it into a farmhouse style table.  Then we hung up strings of lights to give the space a nice ambience. 

Over the past year, we've also been removing unwanted plants and bushes that were scattered throughout our back yard and have planted grass in their place.  We've found that we really enjoy having friends and neighbors over for a casual dinner out back or s'mores around the fire pit.  And it's nice to have a yard for the kids to run around and play games, while the grownups talk. 

Last weekend, Tim got a smoker, which we are so excited about.  Now we can smoke large cuts of meat like ribs, brisket and pork loins.  We are looking forward to weekends spent smoking meat, inviting friends over to share our meals with, and making memories out back.  So fun!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Closet turned Art Space

Remember my new table?

Well, since I love it so much, and although I don't mind if it gets normal wear and tear from eating on it, I don't exactly want my kids doing art projects on it.  I want to keep markers, paint, and glitter glue as far away as possible.  But I love that my kids do art, so I knew I needed to figure out a way to still have an art space in our home.  One night around 3:30a.m., as I was laying wide awake after one of the kids had woken me up from a nice sound sleep, I was brainstorming what to do about this dilemma.  I actually love figuring out ways to make the spaces in our home work extra hard for us.  Our house is not large, the bedrooms are on the smaller side, and every inch counts.  I knew there was a lot of wasted space in Peyton's closet and it was not being used to it's full capacity.  She is also the one who does the most art, so it made the most sense to me to convert her closet into an art space.   

My original idea was that Tim would build a desk into the closet, but then we decided that it would be easiest and quickest to buy a desk and just put it in there.  Then we measured my desk (below) and realized that it actually fit perfectly.  

So rather than buying a new desk for her that would get covered in messy art projects, we decided to give her my old desk and get an update for me.  Although you can't see it in the pictures, there are spots that are less shiny and even a bit splotchy from when I spray painted it white a year ago (it used to be yellow). 

We found this cute Josephine desk on sale at World Market for me.   

I love the X for the legs.  It gives it a little more style and sophistication than my simple parsons desk.  It's definitely an upgrade.

Here is the before picture of Peyton's closet (after we removed everything)

And here's the after picture:

We painted the inside a soft shade of blue so that it would stand out from her gray walls.  Getting that desk in there was quite the wrestling match, but Tim squished and squeezed and pounded it in there.  Since it fits so snugly, it kind of looks like a built in. Then I made a list of everything we needed to store and organize (crayons, markers, stamps, paper, glitter glue, play doh, watercolor paints, brushes, etc…) and I hit up Marshalls and Ikea.  

If you're wondering what we did with all her clothes, everything fit into her dresser, except for a few nicer dresses that I hung up in our closet.  And the kids keep their shoes either on a shelf in the garage right outside our kitchen door or under their beds. This arrangement may not work forever, but that's okay.  It won't be a big deal to pull the desk out and convert it back into a closet if the day comes where we feel that that would be the best use of the space.  For the time being though, this is just what we need. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Balls

Hi there!

I just wanted to pop in today and share a quick recipe with you guys.  I do hope to be back in this space more often.  All my kiddos are in school these days, so I want to get back to blogging more.  I miss it.

You may have already seen these Peanut Butter Balls on Pinterest, but if not, I wanted to share the recipe with you.  It's one of our favorite snacks around here.  I will warn you that they are very addicting though and you won't want to stop eating them.  I started making them two years ago and haven't stopped yet.  As soon as we run out, I find myself making another batch.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned these to a friend and she accused me of holding out on her for all this time.  So I apologize because I've been holding out on all of you guys too. But I'm here to share the recipe with you today... so better late than never!!

The recipe is super simple:

1 cup oatmeal
1 cup shredded coconut (I buy unsweetened)
1 cup Peanut Butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I actually never measure these, I just dump some in)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp chia seeds (this is optional and you can also use flax seeds or something else you want to sneak in to the mix)

I try to buy good quality, pure ingredients so that they are as healthy as possible and I can feel good about letting my kids eat these.  

Basically, you just measure everything out and mix it all up in a bowl.  And this is where you must show some restraint because you will end up wanting to eat the entire bowl.  

Then you roll them into balls for easy snacks.  Put them in a sealable container and keep them in the refrigerator. We like them best when they're cold. 

Super simple.  Plus it's healthy.  And they're delicious too.  

Hope you like them!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Salvaged Farmhouse Table

Well, Hello!  Does anyone still come to this space anymore?  It's been awhile since I've sat down to blog.  There are many reasons for this and right now I won't go into them, but today I wanted to pop back in and share something that recently happened and left me so encouraged. 

I'll begin by saying that over the course of the last few years, God has been changing my perspective of him.  He's teaching me to come to him as a beloved child instead of an orphan. He's teaching me to trust him with the desires of my heart, however big or small. He's been taking me by the hand and walking me out of guilt and fear and leading me into the love and freedom that can only be found in him. It's taking time and the change is slower than I would like, but I can look back and see how he's led me so kindly into trusting his goodness and faithfulness to me. He doesn't always give me what I ask for, but sometimes he does!  And this is a story about one of those times that he surprised me and made a little one of my dreams come true.

A few years ago, we had a lot of family coming up to visit us and we needed a bigger dining room table to host them, as well as room to host friends when they came over. At that time, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted in a table and we didn't want to spend a lot of money, so we found a good solid table on Craigslist and hauled it home.  It was nice enough and it worked for what we needed.  

(our craigslist table)

But then a few months ago, I just fell in love with the salvaged farmhouse table from Restoration Hardware.  We're pretty frugal and careful with how we spend our money, so a RH table was far beyond what we would even consider spending on a table.  But because God has shown me how he delights to bless his kids, I asked him for it anyway.  I would talk about it with him and even allow myself to dream just a bit that maybe one day I would get one.  I scoured craigslist almost everyday looking to see if someone posted one for sale.  

Then one day, we were out at the Leesburg outlets and we stopped in the RH outlet to look around.  I asked them if they ever got the salvaged farmhouse table in their store.  They replied that it was pretty rare, but that every once in a while, they do get one.  They added my name to a preferred customer waiting list and promised to call me if one ever came in to the store.  

One Friday a few weeks later, I got the call that I had been waiting for from the RH outlet.  They informed me that they were expecting to get a salvaged farmhouse table into the store on Sunday.  They were having a 25% off sale at the time, so not only would the table be marked down to the outlet price, but I would get another 25% off of that price.  I was so excited, but my excitement quickly deflated when the sales rep informed me that someone else had already put it on hold.  She offered to put in on a second hold for me, meaning if the guy that had it on the first hold didn't get it between 10am - 12pm on Sunday, then they would call me and hold it for me for two hours.

I was hopeful and even had a little feeling that this was God answering my prayers, but I was also trying not to get too excited about it.  I didn't want to be devastated if it didn't work out.  I knew I just needed to wait, trust him, and see what happened.  In the meantime, I talked to him about it, but promised him I wouldn't beg (cause I just hate it when my kids beg me!).  

And then around 11:30 on Sunday morning, RH outlet called to let me know that the guy decided not to get the table.  I was stunned!  Really?!!  They told me the reason he didn't want it was because there were oil spots on the table.  After asking the RH rep to describe them to me, I wasn't too concerned because the table is a very rustic table and I don't mind some imperfections.  I always just call those kinds of things "character".  And after all, there is nothing perfect about the table to begin with.  I also knew that we weren't going to be keeping the table in pristine condition or anything, because we have three kids who spill and drip stuff all the time.  

I quickly called a neighbor and asked if my kids could come over to their house to play for a few hours so Tim and I could drive to the outlets, which are about 45 minutes aways.  We needed to be able to use the entire back of the van to get the table home.  The funny (or not funny) thing was that the air conditioner in the van had just stopped working a day or so before this and it was blazing hot outside, so Tim and I had to drive the entire way in an un-airconditioned van in the middle of summer with windows down.  I promised Tim I would treat him to a starbucks frappuccino on the way home.  Our little drive to the outlets, windows down, music blaring, felt a bit like a fun date in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. 

Upon arriving to the store, we went straight to look at the table and honestly, I couldn't even find the oil spots.  I had to ask the sales rep where they were.  After she pointed them out, I could see them, but they blended in so much with the salvaged, rustic look of the wood that they were just barely noticeable.  I could not believe that someone passed the table up because of them.  Yet, deep in my heart, I knew that God had orchestrated the whole thing for me because he loves me!  Seeing those oil spots bring joy to my heart.  I look at them as God's fingerprints, put there by him to make sure I got my table. 

This table is such a reminder to me of God's love, how very personal he is with each one of us, how he delights to bless his kids, and his ability to maneuver events and bring His purposes to pass in our lives. 

I am hoping to be back in this space blogging more soon, so don't give up on my just yet!