Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oh, This is Gonna Be a Good Life.

"This could really be a good life. "

I was laying in bed after a heartfelt prayer of gratitude, and this song popped in my head. Suddenly, it dawned on me that I really do have a good life (and then I felt impressed to grab my computer, so the following will be the spontaneous, albeit heartfelt expressions of my mind).

It's not that I haven't realized this before. Daily I am awestruck by the quiet, simple, beautiful moments that I'm blessed to experience. Like a tender embrace from my husband after we've both had a long day. His warmth and reassurance envelops me and eases all my tensions. Or, the quiet moments when I am able to sit and think of the life within me--my child to be--and allow the joy of pregnancy to overtake me. And, truth be told, often times my beautiful moments are much louder--full of songs, animal noises, giggling, and squeals of "that tickles!" from my ever-energetic toddler. Basically, I'm tremendously blessed.

But, as this song entered my mind and began playing (without much thought on my part) I was suddenly taken back to another time in my life. In past posts I've mentioned that my dad died when I was a kid. I was 14 to be exact, and the entirety of my universe came to a screeching halt as I watched his monitors flat line one cold and dreary January morning.

I remember that shortly after his passing someone gave me a blessing. Sadly, I don't remember exactly who it was... likely an uncle or a close neighbor... there was a considerable outpouring of love at the time from many we were close to. The priesthood and blessings from amazing men in my life were a great comfort to me. And, honestly, the surrounding weeks around my dad's death are pretty foggy in my mind... likely due to some unintentional yet very real suppression on my part.  Defense mechanisms of the brain I suppose. Anyway, it's not the vessel through which the blessing came that really matters (although I am grateful to whomever it was that gave it) but the fact that words came from my Father in Heaven. Ultimately that's who I remember speaking to me. They were his words, it was his promise to my aching soul.

I remember being told that despite this pain, I would continue on to live a good, happy life.

The line stood out among the rest, and it has survived the past 11 (almost 12) years and my brain's attempts to erase every memory I have of those days. At the time, I couldn't even begin to imagine a happy life. I was too caught up in the grief and despair of losing one of the most important people in my life. I was a young girl, and I had just lost my daddy. Happiness, and the promise of it, seemed unfathomable. Yet, I clung to those words and the promise inherent within them.

Now, more than a decade later, I can say with complete and honest transparency that those prophetic words delivered to a little girl in her time of need were true. My life is good. My life is immensely happy! Is it perfect? Of course not. Am I perfect? Heavens no! Far from it. I am flawed. Life is still often quite hard. But, I have the gospel and all of the hope that comes with it. If, even for a moment, I can stop focusing on the trees in front of me and allow myself to take a step back, gain some perspective, and look at the bigger picture... it's enough to render me speechless and utterly humble. The tapestry of my life is being woven with such beautiful, vibrant, happy threads. In these moments of increased vision there is no room for anything but gratitude for the weaver, each piece bound together by His love.

"If the world could remain within a frame like a painting on a wall then I think we'd see the beauty then, we'd stand staring in awe at our still lives posed like a bowl of oranges, at the beauty told by the fault lines and the soil."- Conor Oberst 

I still have insecurities and fears about the future. It's hard not to in this world. Yet, as our beloved prophet President Monson so eloquently and succinctly put it:


God is good. His gospel--the good news of Christ--is on the earth in its fullness. It gives me strength daily. It affords me the ability to cherish the present, and maintain high hopes for the future. Because of Him, I am able to hold my head up, looking towards the unknown with the utmost certainty that--

"This is gonna be a good life. A good good life."

Friday, October 17, 2014

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Klair's Outfit 
Blazer: Target | Dress: H&M (similar) | Hat: H&M | Boots: Target | Sweater Tights: The Children's Place (Similar)

My Outfit: 
Cardigan: Target | Dress: H&M (similar) | Leggings: Forever 21 | Boots: Pink Blush (They're sold out, here is another pair I love)  

Last Monday we embarked on a family adventure to a nearby pumpkin patch to purchase the orange, seasonal, decorative produce. I told Klair earlier in the day where we would be going, and for the rest of the day she proceeded to inform me very matter-of-factly (and repeatedly) that "we go pumpkin patch!" Her excitement level was off the charts, and it made the experience that much more enjoyable.

It also helped that the pumpkin patch by our house is the coolest ever. Everything was decked out with Halloween decor, play areas for the kids, and their pumpkins were very reasonably priced (comparatively speaking--obviously all pumpkins are ridiculously inflated this time of year). They even had a friendly dog that Klair was able to pet. She was in heaven, and it made me us very happy parents. We loved watching her run around, attempting to pick up giant pumpkins--trying her hardest before giving up and telling us unapologetically "it's heavy." Our choices from the night are now residing on our porch, waiting to be decorated. If Klair thinks they're awesome now, I can't wait to see how she reacts when we paint them next week (we've decided to forgo carving in favor of a more toddler friendly activity).

Oh Klair, my girl you make everything so fun with your bright, happy, ever-enthusiastic personality. I love spending traditions, holidays, and life in general with you!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Easy Pumpkin Hot Chocolate Recipe

When I was younger, I made the connection that my name and the title of the third season of the year were the same. With my rather large imagination and ego, I assumed that this had grand implications. Every time I would see a tree with vibrant autumn colors, I would confidently tell people that it was my tree. Naturally, everything related to the season belonged to me. Even though my self-proclaimed ownership of all things fall subsided as I got older and realized my name was simply something my mom thought sounded cute (not the mark of a noble birthright), my love for autumn remains. It's still my favorite season.

Well, fall is in full swing around here and I couldn't be happier. Our porch is covered in pumpkins (a post detailing our pumpkin patch adventure coming soon) I have my autumn wreath on the door, and our Halloween costumes are coming along nicely. Plus, the weather has been splendidly chilly, allowing me to wear my favorite fashions. I'm a happy woman.

With these events in mind, the drink featured above seemed like the appropriate beverage of choice the other night when we had some friends over. Nothing says autumn like pumpkin spice, and the combination with chocolate is quite heavenly. Luckily, for those of you who are strapped for time this particular recipe goes together quickly:

Pumpkin Hot Chocolate
Recipe adapted from The Frugal Navy Wife- makes 4 one cup servings

Ingredients

-1/2 Cup of Pumpkin Puree
-4 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar
-4 Tablespoons of Whipping Cream
-1/4 Teaspoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice
-1/2 Cup of Hershey Cocoa (add more to taste if desired)
-4 cups of Milk
-Whipped Cream or Marshmallows (or both!) for a topping

Directions 

Whisk all ingredients (except whipped cream and marshmallows) together in a sauce pan over low to medium heat until you reach the desired temperature. (Note: don't let it boil rapidly, this can curdle the milk) Pour the hot chocolate evenly into four mugs and add your desired toppings.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

7 Early Pregnancy Must-Haves for Fall

I'm almost 14 weeks pregnant, and my belly has popped... not to the extent that anyone who doesn't know me would connect the dots, but I can certainly tell. It's a bit of a hard stage to be in because on the one hand I want to declare my pregnancy to the world in excitement, but at the same time I don't really look pregnant to the casual onlooker. I just appear to be a little rounder than usual. So, for me, the flowing/draping/tunic shirts continue. Hence, number one on my list:

1. Oversized flowing/draping/tunic-esque shirts. The one I'm wearing above was actually a thrift store find, but here are links to some I'm currently loving: 

2. Black maternity jeggings from Pink Blush Maternity. I ordered a pair, and when they arrived I couldn't believe how comfortable they are! It's like wearing pajamas... except they look like jeans and they're flattering. Win win win. 

3. Cute scarves. Obviously this isn't exclusive for pregnant women, but if you're in the stage where you don't want to draw attention to your growing waistline then a scarf can help. Plus they're just a fun way to accessorize. Here are some of my favorites: 

4. A spare ring (or two) in bigger sizes for swollen fingers. In my first pregnancy, I didn't have this issue until the last trimester. This time around I've already noticed swelling that comes and goes, and my wedding ring has left marks and sores on my fingers a few times. And, since I can't afford to get a spare diamond ring, a good cz is the next best thing. I have my eye on this Round Halo Cubic Zirconia Ring

5. Comfortable boots. This is another fall necessity for everyone, but when you're pregnant you need to ensure that they are indeed comfortable because feet swell. Everything else already hurts, so the last thing you need is to add feet to your list of woes. I love the Tan Booties I'm wearing above because they are comfy with a slight heel for that elongating/slimming effect. 

6. Maternity tights. Tights are a must-have for fall so that you can transition your favorite skirts into a new season. Regular tights are really uncomfortable on a growing belly. Maternity tights are a must-have if...you know... breathing is a priority. I love this 2 pack of H&M Maternity Tights and these Maroon Merona Brand Tights from Target

7. Lipsticks in fall fall shades. Your body is going through a lot of changes that you don't have much control over. Lipstick is one way you can easily take charge of your look to switch things up... and have fun doing so. Here are a few of my favorites for the season: 
-Classic Red: MAC Matte Red 

What are some of your favorite fall necessities? 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

13 Weeks Pregnant | Fashion & Musings

I am officially out of the first trimester! Well, according to some sources. Others say it's 14 weeks, but I'll take the earlier milestone and just go with it. It feels like an accomplishment, or at least that I've conquered a significant portion of the incline on a very long uphill journey. I'm hopeful that in the next week or so this pregnancy will follow my first and I'll start feeling better soon. Keep your fingers crossed. If I end up being one of those women who keeps the morning sickness throughout pregnancy, then this blog is likely to become a very negative space for me to vent all my woes. I've never handled nauseousness very well. I need this to end soon.

Oh well, at least I can comfort myself with new clothes. I just got these black maternity jeans from Pink Blush in the mail and they certainly brightened my day. They are ridiculously soft. It's like wearing pajamas... only they are socially acceptable to wear outside the house. Expect more posts with them. My black and gold jewelry also came from Pink Blush, and the my blue tunic shirt was a thrift store steal. Here is a similar chiffon tunic for an awesome deal. 

All maternity fashion aside, what really propels me forward is this little girl. Daily. Multiple times a day. When I'm tempted to succumb to self pity, she smiles at me. Or kisses me. Or demands "Mama, Dance!" so we dance around the kitchen. She is my light, and my constant reminder that what I'm doing will bring me more joy into my life than I can currently fathom. That's what happened with her, and I couldn't be more excited to experience that same pure joy again... only better. Because it will have doubled, and this time I'll be able to see the excitement of a new baby through her eyes too. I'll have another child that I will love as much as her, and she will have the priceless gift of a sibling. Life is good. It's beautiful, like her. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Whipped Cinnamon Pumpkin Honey Butter & Homemade Rolls

For us Mormons,  conference weekend took place this past weekend. You may have noticed an increase in posts (or a flood of them depending on how many Mormons you follow) from LDS people with hashtags such as #LDSconf and quotes from #Elder or #Sister so and so. Basically, twice a year (in April and October to be exact) all of the leadership of the church--both male and female--gather in Salt Lake and select speakers address a live congregation and Mormons everywhere. Their talks are broadcast through various media outlets throughout the world, and many members are able to watch in the comfort of their own living rooms. Most notably, the Prophet and his Apostles address believers, giving talks on issues and topics relevant to our current day.

A major belief that sets Mormons apart from other Christians is the idea that, like in times of old, we have a prophet--Thomas S. Monson. He is designated as the head (or President) of the church, and receives direct, modern-day revelation from God. The same organization that Christ created during his mortal ministry--i.e. a prophet, apostles, seventies, etc.-- exists in the Mormon church, and we believe that the heavens are indeed open and that God does speak to his servants. And, General Conference is a specific time designated for us to hear the Lord's words through his chosen vessels.

So, hopefully that helps put things into perspective if you've seen all the Mormon bloggers posting pictures of themselves lounging in their pajamas and talking about how much they love #PresMonson.

If you're curious and interested in viewing any of it for yourself, you can go here to select talks or watch entire sessions.

Like many, we also stayed home and watched conference on our own comfy couch today. And, yesterday I finally bought a bread maker (a purchase I've been wanting to make for awhile now) so while we watched conference I threw some rolls together and literally whipped up some cinnamon pumpkin honey butter to accompany them. The rolls turned out perfectly, and the fall-inspired butter was a wonderful compliment to our cozy Saturday spent indoors.

Even my pickiest of little eaters, Miss Klair Marie, gobbled the rolls and butter up. I was elated to say the least.

So, here are my recipes. The Bread Machine significantly helped the process of making rolls, and the pumpkin butter literally came together in minutes. I felt like a rock star homemaker kind of mom, but my actual effort was pretty minimal--the best possible cooking scenario if you ask me.

Also, this pumpkin honey butter would make an excellent gift for the holidays! Just put it in a mason jar with some cute twine or ribbon and you'll look like a Martha Stewart protege, certainly bringing smiles to the faces of your recipients.

Okay, Recipes:

Perfect Bread Machine Rolls

http://www.food.com/recipe/buttery-bread-machine-rolls-65340

*Note: I live at a high altitude, and this recipe turned out wonderfully

Whipped Cinnamon Pumpkin Butter
(this recipe is adapted from The Kitchen McCabe)

Ingredients:

2 sticks of Butter (1 C. or 8 oz.), softened (to soften butter from the fridge microwave for 9-12 seconds)
3/4 teaspoon of Cinnamon (I decreased this to a 1/2 teaspoon, it simply depends on how strong you want the cinnamon flavor to be)
6 tablespoons Pumpkin Puree
4 tablespoons Honey
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Instructions:

1. Beat the softened butter with an electric mixer until smooth.
2. Add the cinnamon and 1 Tablespoon of the pumpkin puree. Beat until well combined. Continue beating, adding 1 Tablespoon of pumpkin puree every 30 seconds.
3. Add the honey and vanilla and beat until thick and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
4. Keep refrigerated in a sealed container.

If you're craving something that tastes like fall, this recipe is perfect. Enjoy on rolls, muffins, toast, croissants, bagels, etc.

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What are some of your favorite recipes for fall? I've recently filled up my Pinterest board with recipes I want to try. Something about the colder weather demands cooking and baking. 
Basically, I'm feeling inspired. 
Expect lots of food posts in the weeks to come!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

$350 Nordstrom Gift Card Giveaway


Hello lovelies! Today I am really excited to be co-hosting an amazing giveaway with the gorgeous Lauren of Dressing Dallas and a group of fabulous bloggers. And the prize? $350 dollars to Nordstrom! I'm actually pretty jealous. I really wish I could enter and win this giveaway. The possibilities of what I could spend a chunk of change like that on in Nordstrom is endless...

This giveaway runs for 6 more days, it is open to you international readers, and it's killer awesome. 
Oh and the best part? If you follow my blog and/or social media channels, then you already have entry into this thing. Just click away on the rafflecopter widget to your heart's content and follow some new faces in the process. 

Happy Tuesday! Good luck!


















Friday, September 26, 2014

Wake Me Up, When September Ends... | What I Wish I had Known My First Pregnancy

September has not been my month. If you missed it, in my last post I made an announcement: I'm pregnant. Due April 15th of next year. I of course couldn't be more excited about this, and I feel extremely blessed to have a tiny life inside me. There is something profoundly beautiful about pregnancy and the gift of being able to create, carry, and nurture life within you--it's both amazing and completely mysterious. The miracle of it all is not lost on me.

That being said, pregnancy is also really trying for me, especially in the first trimester. It was with Klair, and so far this pregnancy has followed suit. My "morning" sickness is an all day affair. I constantly feel like I've spent the day at an amusement park with no lines... ride after ride after ride. And, at random and unpredictable times (making it impossible to plan much) I get sick enough to spend some time with my old porcelain friend. Luckily for me, taking Zofran usually helps me keep my food down. Usually. But it doesn't take away the constant sensation that everything is spinning. It's as if my body has tuned in to the fact that we're spinning incessantly and hurtling through space at 67,000 miles per hour. (Yeah, I looked that up.)

I tried to explain it to my husband, because accurately conveying my ailments somehow makes me feel better. I told him it's like getting the stomach flu, except it doesn't go away after 24 hours or so. Instead, when the morning sickness hit me around week 6 the reality that my flu-like symptoms would likely last at least 7 weeks or so (with Klair it ended around 13 weeks) hit me like a ton of bricks. 24 hour flu? No way. More like, 2 month flu with the added benefit of digestive issues, heartburn, exhaustion, and crazy hormones. And weight gain. And acne. Awesome.

So, in September I've had these things against me. Combine that with a traveling husband and a relentless cold I contracted that lasted for about 2 weeks... and it's safe to say that September and I aren't really getting along. (If you've noticed that my blog has been quieter than usual... this is why.) I have higher hopes for October. If this pregnancy is like the last, my symptoms will likely improve once I'm in the second trimester. Hence the Green Day reference. If I could sleep my way through the rest of September, I most certainly would.

...Unfortunately the demands of raising a toddler aren't conducive to sleeping all day. It was so much easier the first pregnancy. Every free moment was spent resting, something that's just not possible with a teething toddler who also came down with a cold.

September, we used to be friends. It's going to take some time for me to get over this one. I'll give you a chance to make it up to me next year...

Alright, enough complaining. I recently read a post that said how blogging is cheaper than therapy. How true. Now that I've sufficiently complained, I'm going to try and make something positive out of this collection of words and share my own ten cents on the first trimester. I've learned a thing or two in my pregnancies--things that I wish I would have known all along. So here you go, hopefully it will be helpful to someone.

1. Babycenter.com is awesome. Seriously. Both for pregnancy and questions related to actually raising babies. Their articles follow all of the latest research, and I've found that they're always in line with what my doctors tell me. That's not to say that you shouldn't also talk to your doctor, but it is a great at-home resource to educate yourself before discussing things further with your practitioner. They even have a free app for pregnancy and one for the first year of your baby's life! (I sound like an advertisement, but I promise this post isn't sponsored in any way. It's just my opinion.)

2. Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about (a) particular ailment(s). Maybe you're like me, and week 6 comes along and suddenly you're throwing up constantly. You refer to Baby Center, What to Expect, or some other resource and see that this is textbook behavior for an average pregnancy. It's "normal," so you should just suffer through it like everyone else... right? Wrong. In my first pregnancy I was so hesitant to talk to my doctor or ask for medicine, that I let myself go about a week without keeping much of anything down. I chalked it up to normal "morning sickness" (which by the way is a misnomer, it's rarely just a morning thing) and feared any drugs or supplements because I didn't want to unnecessarily ingest anything but pure organic goodness from heaven. Only the best for my baby.

What I failed to realize in my thinking was that not keeping any food or drink down was not only bad for me, but it certainly wasn't conducive to... you know... growing a baby. We both needed the nutrients that I was starved for. Finally I caved in, and called my doctor. I expected her to grill me, to evaluate whether or not I really needed anti nausea medicine. Instead, I started to explain that I wasn't keeping anything down and she immediately called me in a prescription for Zofran. After that I wasn't nearly so hesitant to ask for help and advice. This go around, at the first sign of sickness I had her call me in Zofran, and Phenigrin, and I'm also on Prevacid for some serious heartburn. You may feel annoying calling with your questions and concerns... but it's their job, and they are happy to help. Your health, and the health of your baby comes first. You aren't doing anyone any favors by suffering through unnecessary pain and sickness.

3. Find someone you can confide in. Now I know that some may be hesitant to tell anyone that they're pregnant. You might want to wait until you are outside of the danger zone of miscarriage in the first trimester. Or, you might just be a very private person. But it's important to find someone that you can talk to about your pregnancy, especially if you're suffering through different ailments. I am really lucky in the husband department. He listens to and comforts me constantly. He is my go-to guy. Yet, there are some things that he, as a guy, just doesn't understand. He can't. So I turn to females in my life who have actually experienced pregnancy--My older sister, and one friend in particular who has been pregnant with me both times. Sometimes, it's just nice to talk to someone who is not only sympathetic, but can actually be empathetic due to experience. If you don't have a fellow mom-friend, there are message boards and online support communities. Find someone, it really does help.

4. Fiber, fiber and more fiber. I didn't even know what constipation was until my first pregnancy. I was educated really quickly. Do yourself a favor, and increase your fiber intake, even if it means turning to supplements... especially if you take an anti-nausea medicine like Zofran. Additionally, you'll need to drink water like it's going out of style. It can be difficult to drink when you're constantly nauseous and making frequent trips to the bathroom, but it is so imperative for feeling well. In my first pregnancy plain water suddenly seemed disgusting to me, so I would dress it up with lemon or lime and that helped me get it down.

5. Invest in some flowy shirts, yoga pants, and (cute) maternity jeans. The initial weight gain of pregnancy is hard. Even though you know you're creating life and that gaining weight is healthy, it's still unnerving to watch the scale go up and to find that your wardrobe is shrinking due to an ever expanding waistline. Furthermore, the weight you gain at first does not equate to a nice, round, obvious baby bump for... awhile. At first it just feels/looks like you're bloated and putting on weight. That's when the flowy shirts come in handy. Once your belly is obviously pregnant, you can embrace the form fitted tees again... but until then a shirt that doesn't cling to your stomach is a welcome relief. And yoga pants? They are a dream. I prefer to buy the skinny yoga pants to wearing leggings--they look like leggings, but they have that nice thick waistband that's essentially a maternity pant. Wonderful.

When it comes to maternity jeans, I remember trying to put them off for as long as possible the first time around. I tried to make my normal jeans last as long as possible--to the point of discomfort and utter silliness. It was like a contest with other girls that I knew who were pregnant. "Are you wearing maternity jeans yet? I'm still in my regular pants" or "I was able to wear my normal jeans with an elastic throughout my entire pregnancy." I felt pressure. Then, one day I caved and I (gasp) got some maternity jeans. Rather than defeat, I was elated. They were so comfortable! And there were plenty of styles, including skinny jeans that fit me like a glove. I was sad I had missed out for so long. Even though I can still fit into my regular pants, I'm already wearing my old maternity jeans because they're just so much more comfortable on my growing stomach. Why torture myself? Certainly not so I can compete with other women.

6. Which brings me to my next point. Don't fall into the trap of competing with other women. I don't mind that every woman who has ever been pregnant wants to offer their ten cents of advice. I mean, that would be pretty hypocritical of me considering this post, right? You don't have to take their advice, but sometimes you do get some good info that you appreciate. What bothers me is when the conversation turns into some sort of competition. "At what point did you start wearing maternity clothes?" or "How much weight have you gained" or "You're how many weeks? I never got that big when I was pregnant." An old lady actually said that to me last time. Your body is unique. Make good, healthy choices and forget what anyone else thinks or what their experience was. I'm short and I have a small torso. There is nowhere for my babies to go but out, and I married a tall guy. Klair was 22 inches long at birth... I'm going to look a lot bigger than some other pregnant girls. I wasn't okay with this for awhile, but now I am. You might have the opposite problem. People might accuse you of not taking care of yourself and your baby if you look "too small." Forget them. Everyone has an opinion, and some women just want to lift themselves up while tearing others down in the process. Frankly, they aren't worth your time.

7. And lastly, I'm going to quote Alcoholics Anonymous because I love these words and I think they're extremely applicable to pregnancy:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." 

There are so many variables in pregnancy and childbirth that you can't control. Don't get caught up in those. Don't get caught up in the "what ifs." In my first pregnancy I was constantly fretting over the unknown. "What if I miscarry," "What if my baby is diagnosed with [insert every possible disease]," or "what if I end up with this complication?" This time around I'm trying to be a lot more... calm in my approach. The fears of what could happen can drown you if you let them, especially when those raging pregnancy hormones get involved. Instead, take things one day at a time and control what you can. Take your prenatal vitamin, go to your doctor appointments, and take care of yourself. Leave the rest up to God. You'll be happier for it.
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If you've been pregnant before, what are some things you wish you would have known the first time around?