Simply Liv: 2015



Hi friends!

I have exciting news- I'll no longer be blogging at this url. I've moved Simply Liv over to where I think I will be better equipped to continue to grow as a blogger and take Simply Liv in the direction I feel it is moving.

I hope you will join me!




How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe - on a budget and with little to no fashion sense (part 1)

I am not a fashionista in any sense of the word and blogging about clothes is completely outside my comfort zone. I've never been one to spend excessive amounts on clothes- in fact I'll usually wear the pieces I have into the ground before I go out and buy new things. I love thrifting and garage sale-ing. Ask my husband- he usually has to tell me to go buy new clothes. Stitch Fix has been my "guilty pleasure" as far as clothes go, but other than that, I don't really shop.

Don't get me wrong, I love dressing up and looking like I put effort in to myself. I love clothes and the way they individuate people and are a little bit like an art canvas that you wear around on your body. BUT clothes are not my "thing" and try as I may I'll never be the girl who has a closet full of brand name pieces that she can effortlessly pull off- to the envy of every one else in the room. Shopping- and all the options and styles out there, kind of stresses me out, honestly.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

When I first heard about the growing trend of creating a capsule wardrobe, I was skeptical. I mean, purposely choosing to wear the same set number of pieces for a whole season seemed a little bit ridiculous and kind of "strict".

But then I read more. As you all know, simplicity and minimalism are both very important to me, as is anything that helps to put the focus onto the immediate moment and away from unimportant things.

That is kind of what capsule wardrobes aim to do.

I read Unfancy, a blog by Caroline Rector who has largely spurred the movement on. She defines a capsule wardrobe as "a mini wardrobe made up of versatile pieces that you totally LOVE to wear". From there, I was hooked. I had never really thought about intentionality and clothes being compatible and the notion of capsule wardrobe completely opened my eyes to something that I think can be very healthy and beneficial.

Rector's capsules are usually around 37 pieces (EVERYTHING. Clothes, pants, dresses, shoes... except workout clothes, accessories, underwear, undershirts and special occasion clothes) that she can easily mix and match to create outfits for an entire season. Some people have even gone as extreme as creating an all seasons capsule, or limiting the number of pieces even more.

The beauty of capsule wardrobes is that they are totally customizable. If you don't like the basic, neutral look that Rector's capsules feature, include clothes that are more your style. It's the premise that stays the same: living with less in every area of life is usually a good thing. Including our clothes. It allows us to be intentional with our purchases, buying things that are not only good quality but pieces we LOVE and feel awesome in.

One day, after looking looking through my closet (which is in two separate rooms in our house for two reasons: I have WAY too many clothes, and we haven't gotten our house organized enough) and feeling like I had nothing to wear, I knew something had to change.
How does it work? 


This is definitely a no brainer. The first things to go were the clothes that I haven't worn in over a year (we all know we have them...). I whittled down my closet to pieces that I couldn't part with that I would wear NOW, not in a few months or next year. I ended up getting rid of probably 75% of my clothes.


This is where the budget piece comes in. I had a garage sale with my mom where I sold not just clothes but other random clutter (which feels SO amazing to get rid of, trust me) and made enough to supplement my new clothes for my capsule. We donated what we didn't sell, so that it wouldn't just be sitting around in boxes creating more clutter.

I also had an Instagram "shop my closet" sale for the items that weren't garage sale material, but that I still wanted to get rid of, which helped downsize even further.

3 // PLAN. 

This was the really fun part for me. It is all about intentionality and buying exactly what you need. I did all my shopping online, since our options are rather limited here.

I used Un-Fancy's free wardrobe planner, which was super helpful. I definitely recommend it if you're considering starting a capsule! I planned out exactly what I wanted my wardrobe to look like, what colors I wanted, what styles, what pieces I've always dreamed of having but never wanted to spend the money on.....

4 // SHOP

I created a secret Pinterest board for all the items I was considering, to keep them all organized. Then, when I'd found everything I needed, I bought them!

That was definitely the most money I'd spent on clothes in one sitting since high school- and it felt great because it wasn't a spur of the moment purchase. I knew that I would actually wear what I was buying and it wouldn't just sit in my closet two months later collecting dust. I bought things that were high quality and a little bit more expensive, because I knew that I couldn't just make impulse purchases whenever I felt like it.

5 // WEAR IT

I'm still waiting on a few of my packages to come in, but once they all get here, I will share my full capsule with you all! It ended up being WAY smaller than Rector's which surprised me.

Stay tuned for my next post at the beginning of next month where I'll share my capsule AND tips on how to make it work for people who don't have excuses to "dress-up" a lot. You know, those of us who work from home and live in yoga pants and t-shirts. Yep. That's who I am.

Have you heard of capsule wardrobes?  What are your initial reactions to creating one?


Simply Eat // Cheesy Seven-Layer Quinoa Dip

*DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Collective Bias Inc. and its advertiser, but all opinions and words are my own. #NatuallyCheesy #CollectiveBias * 

Have you ever invited people over to your house for dinner only to realize later that you have absolutely no idea what to make? Yeah, me too. Every single time. Last week was no exception. AJ wanted to have some friends over from work- and while I love having company- when the day arrived, I was stressed trying to decide what to make. So I headed to Walmart to look for inspiration. 
I needed something fast, healthy(ish) and simple to make- enter this quinoa dip. Not only is it extremely easy, it can be made with things you most likely have sitting in your pantry right now. It was a success with our guests (though I think AJ and I ate most of it....) and is definitely going in my recipe book of things to make when I'm in a pinch. 

I thought I'd share it with you all so that if/when you're entertaining you can have a quick, go-to appetizer as well!
Here's what you'll need:

-2 cups Kraft Cheese Natural Shreds or Big Slice- I used both because, cheese. (Side note: If you're looking to try some of the cheese for your next recipe or game day snack, be sure to stop by your local Walmart for the demos they're having on the 26th!)
-2 cups cooked quinoa
-1/4 cup sour cream
-3/4 cup black beans
-1/4 cup green onions
-1/4 cup diced fresh tomatoes
-1/4 black olives
-cilantro for garnish
-tortilla chips for dipping

1 // Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine quinoa and sour cream and cheese (reserving some for the top).  

2 // Spread mixture in the bottom of a baking dish or pie plate.

3 // Next, layer the rest of the ingredients on top of the quinoa mixture. It doesn't matter what order you do this in, unless you're super OCD about your dip toppings. Here's what I did:
4 // Top with the rest of the cheese.

5 // Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
6 // Allow to cool and enjoy!

See how ridiculously simple it is? Next time you're in a hurry, try this recipe out using lots of cheesy goodness, I promise it won't disappoint.

*Tip: If you'll really be in a hurry, make the quinoa beforehand, that way you can grab it and go!

What are some of your go-to recipes? I'm all about finding ways to make dinnertime prep easier!


Simply DIY // Easy Paint Chip Calendar

Today I have another DIY that has been on the docket for a long time and I finally got around to doing it. I LOVE finding ways to create cute, practical things for my home that I'll actually use. I can't tell you how many projects I've made that have ended up in the trash a few months later because it wasn't practical or I couldn't find a space for it.

This DIY paint chip calendar is as practical as it is simple- and its pretty cute too. I'm really pleased with how mine turned out (because if you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw my embarrassing fail at version one of this project a few weeks ago....) I'm happy to say that this version actually includes every day of the week AND is much cuter.
Here's what you'll need:

Poster board
Lots and lots of paint chips in whatever colors you prefer
Washi tape
Regular Tape
A frame with glass or plastic
Step 1 // Cut the poster board to size. You could just use the back of the frame, but I chose to create a separate piece just in case it didn't turn out so that my frame wouldn't be ruined.

Step 2 // Cut the paint chips to size. This was the most meticulous part of the project, as I had to measure/eye-ball how big I wanted each day to be and try and cut them all the same size. The non-perfectionist in me was strong in this one, so forgive my crooked lines and (most likely) different sized squares. I recommend measuring and using a paper cutter if you're the "type A" type.

Step 3 // Arrange the paint chips and tape them down. Since your poster board will be held in place by the frame, I don't think it's important to use anything crazy to hold it down. I tried modpodge last time and it wasn't ideal.

Step 4 // Use washi tape (or whatever you want, really) to create your "month writing spot". That's the technical term for it, I think.

Step 5 // Frame and you're done!

I love how this turned out! And it looks pretty cute next to my little mail organizer, if I do say so myself. 
How do you keep yourself organized? Have you made anything similar to this calendar?

For more DIY's be sure to check out my "DIY" tab at the top of my blog!


How to Establish a Bedtime Routine (and why it's so important)

*DISCLAIMER: This post has been sponsored by Collective Bias inc. and it's advertisers, but all opinions are original and my own. #CollectiveBias #NaturalGoodness * 

When E was around 6 months or so we quickly learned the importance of establishing a good bedtime routine. She was not a good sleeper. She would wake 3-4 times a night for the first 6 or 7 months- until we sleep trained her, and then off an on due to moving several times and lots of schedule changes.

This definitely made for a tired mama- the kind of thing where you dream about having a full night of sleep. You know how it goes.

Eventually I started doing some research, to see if this was "normal" and if there was anything I could do to fix it. I found lots of various sleep training methods and (of course) millions of opinions on everything. (I can discuss what we did for "sleep training" in a different post if anyone thinks that would be helpful!) But there was one common thread throughout most of what I found- creating a solid nighttime routine.

Kids NEED repetition. It helps them feel secure and safe to explore within those boundaries. Setting a loose schedule for Evie every night helped her know what to expect next and got her thinking about going to sleep before we put her in her crib.

Here's what we did: (and still do to this day- though she is a MUCH better sleeper now).
*Note: This can/will look different for every family! There is no right way to do this....I'm just providing an example of what worked for us.*

-Talk about bedtime before its bedtime. This was huge for E who does not do well if we spring things on her. Preparing her an hour or so before (after dinner usually) really helped her cooperate.

- Set a routine and stick to it. Obviously, there are nights when you break the routine, and we are definitely flexible, but at first it is important to be consistent.

- Be patient. If you have a "problem sleeper" like I did, things won't change overnight (literally...). Remembering that they're learning a new skill, so to speak, will help you be more patient when things aren't progressing as fast as you wish.

Now that E is almost 2, things look a little bit differently at night, but we still follow the same guidelines as when she was learning the routine. Here is what an average night looks like in our house:

7:30 // Bath-time and brushing teeth: this is usually after we've all eaten dinner and had time to play and be crazy for a while.
Evie LOVES brushing her teeth. As with all products I use, it's important to me that I use a toothpaste I trust. I need to know that if she eats it like candy (not really, but she loves the taste of it) she will be ok. I use Tom's of Maine®'s all natural children's toothpaste in strawberry for E (they also have a fluoride-free version for babies up to 24 months). There are no dyes, flavors or fragrances in these products, so I'm not worried about letting her brush her own teeth. I picked mine up at Walmart and I'm loving it so far! 
 If you're interested in trying Tom's of Maine® for your kids, they will be hosting demos in select Walmarts on September 19th- lots of free samples and coupons.

8:00 // Wind down and read stories: during this time we keep talking about bed time and *maybe* let her watch one episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Then we let her pick which book she wants to read and who gets to read it to her.
 Lot's of snuggles and pacifier stealing happens during this time. Also, I can't get over Mara's face in this photo....
Goodnight Moon has been her favorite since she was tiny.

8:30 // Go upstairs to bed. Either Aj or I will talk her up to bed, sing her songs and rub her back (she's SO snuggly...) then tell her it's time for sleeping and let her pass out.

That's how we do it at our house. It's pretty simple so far, since Mara isn't big enough to participate yet.

I'm curious, how do those of you with kids do bedtime at your house? I'd love tips for keeping two kids on the same schedule!


A Giveaway with Oakmoss Collective

Guys, its my birthday week! I'm a little bit of a six year old when it comes to my birthday- I get way too excited and force AJ to do nice things for me all week month long. I even have a hard time falling asleep the night before. It's kind of embarrassing.

Today, to celebrate the big 22 (not officially till the 15th though!) I wanted to do a giveaway to say THANK YOU for being so supportive, encouraging and amazing. I love the community I've found in this space- you inspire me to live simply everyday.
I've teamed up with my friends at the Oakmoss Collective who have been kind enough to giveaway one of their gorgeous prints to one of my readers!

But first a little bit about them:

When I discovered Oakmoss a few months ago, I was so inspired by their mission and knew I wanted to get involved somehow. More than just another blog, Oakmoss Collective seeks to take "organic ideas and inspiration from nature, community, food, and faith, (to) encourage dreamers and creators to take steps to living a fuller, simpler life." Sounds pretty familiar right? 

Their website has a blog with posts from some seriously talented writers, some tasty recipes, swoon-worthy playlists, and a shop with lovely prints and the mug you saw above (I just got mine in the mail yesterday and I'm enjoying my daily chai in it as we speak ;). 

Here's a little video that explains their mission:

I'm so excited to support such an awesome group of creatives and hope you're as inspired by them as I am!

Here is a photo of the print you could win. It would make an adorable addition to a gallery wall or a new piece to frame by your bedside.
The giveaway ends at midnight on Friday the 18th. Good luck, friends!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


You are more than your job title

Any other Monday, we would all be getting dressed and ready for our jobs, chasing kids trying to ready them for school or doing whatever it is we "do" on a regular basis. But today is Labor Day, so we take a break, a day of rest from our normal.

Which got me thinking about the role our jobs play in our lives. 

The amount of job titles out there is kind of staggering. It's amazing that we have the freedom to pursue our dreams, work towards goals and even get paid for working.

But sometimes in the midst of going to and from work and home, the delicate balancing act we all play in some way or another, we can get lost in that job title. 

At some point- whenever we cross the gap from childhood into adulthood- people stop asking us what we want to be and instead as us what we do. As if everything we are is encompassed in this one word that we get paid to do- waitress, teacher, ceo, lawyer, stay at home mom or perhaps even (God-forbid) unemployed. All our lives we are encouraged to dream about who we want to be when we grow up but once you are handed that diploma, or if you don't get one of those it's even sooner, we are expected to know who we are and stop dreaming- most of who we are is wrapped up in a job title. 

But in reality we are so much more than that. I'm not just a stay at home mom or a writer. I'm a friend, a daughter, a wife, an introvert, someone who dreams of owning her own coffee shop, someone who really wants to travel the world, and someone who has a really immature sense of humor sometimes. 

You're not just a teacher or a student or a writer or the drive through guy at Wendy's. 

I think it is a little disheartening that we unknowingly place ourselves in the limiting box of "what do you do?" Our job title is only a small piece of the complexities and intricacies that make us up. 

So this Labor Day, as you're taking a break from what you do, pause to think about who you really are. So that next time someone asks you what you do, you can answer with more than a job title. 

So tell me, friends. What do you do? 


Letters to Mara: 2 Months

Sweet Mara,

First of all, look how big you are! When did that happen?! For just two months you're quite the chunk, and I'm loving it :)

It's hard to tell exactly what you'll be like as you grow, but I'm already getting to know you in little ways everyday. If I'm right, you're nothing like your sister- at least not so far. It will be so fun to see your personality blossom in the coming months. But from what I can tell, I'm guessing you'll be my laid back, easy going girl.

You already sleep in 6-7 hour stretches at night, which makes your momma super happy. If you're not hungry or tired, you're usually content to just sit in your swing or boppy (which you will NOT be sleeping in- we learned that lesson the hard way with your sister who wouldn't sleep anywhere else...) and look around.

You LOVE smiling and will sometimes give the biggest grin just from hearing my voice, which of course melts my heart. Your hair is dark brown and your eyes are brownish greyish, but I'm assuming they'll be brown ;) I keep hearing how much you look like me, which is nice, since I never hear that about E- she got your daddy's genes I think.

I'm so impressed with your patience. Evie loves to "help" me take care of you, which usually ends up with her accidentally kicking you or taking your paci or hugging you too hard. She is so in love with you though. Every morning when you wake up (much later than E) she likes to run into your room and yell "Hiiiiiii" and give you kisses.

I love you sweet baby and thank you for letting me get some sleep.




Simply Disconnect // Week 4

Well friends, we did it! Four entire weeks of intentional social media use. I can't decide if it was the quickest or longest month of my life, but one thing is certain- I learned A LOT through this challenge and I hope you all have some stories to send my way.

In case you missed it, here are the week one, two and three recaps in which I talk about some failures and some exciting successes.

As I'm bringing this challenge to a close, I want to share what I'm taking away from the whole experience and I hope you'll share the same with me. I was so encouraged by each and every one of you who joined me and I hope you enjoyed/grew from the experience. I connected with some awesome bloggers these past four weeks, built relationships, lived in the moment and failed a lot- things I think I value more now than ever.

Here are a few things I learned:

1 // It's ok to be bored. I talked about this in the first week recap, but one of the first things I realized after limiting myself in pulling out my phone was that I was bored a lot more often. But that is ok. Our minds are constantly stimulated by our incessant phone use and putting it away for even a few hours left me feeling like I needed to be "doing" something. But by the end of the challenge I learned to embrace those moments of "boredom," realizing that even just sitting doing nothing can be beneficial sometime.

2 // Social media is an amazing tool. We all already knew this, but for me, it was important for me to push myself to use it more intentionally instead of as something I check and scroll through for hours each day. I researched other bloggers in my niche, found some exciting online communities and even found a meet up in my area (which is super rare) next month that I'm SO excited about.

3 // Disconnecting doesn't have to be dramatic. Meaning that it doesn't have to take a "30 day challenge" or media fast for us to be intentional. Sometimes that is the boost we need to get started though- as it was in my case. I think it is more of a lifestyle change, a reworking of old habits slowly morphing into new, healthier ones. I'm trying to make small choices in my normal everyday life that help me move towards this goal.

4 // We shouldn't use it as a replacement. This one may seem totally obvious and lame that I even struggled with this. But I did. By the end of the challenge it was really obvious to me that I often use the online communities I'm part of and the "connectedness" I feel there as an excuse not to get out and meet people "in real life". This phase of life has been difficult for me as I don't have many people with the same interests or who I truly connect with for the first time in my life. Making friends in this phase is hard, but I'm determined to make it happen. This was a lesson that I didn't expect to learn this month, but I definitely needed to.

So, at the end of the month, with all my failures and habits glaring me right in the face, I'm beginning the new journey of implementing this into my day to day. A 30 day lesson doesn't mean anything if we don't take it beyond that period. I hope you all join me in applying whatever lessons you learned, small of big. And please please share them with me in the comments or via our hashtag!

Here are some awesome posts from other bloggers who took the challenge with me- they have some awesome insight:

-Gema from Beloved Gems talks about how it took going to Mexico for her to learn the value of setting aside specific time to use her phone.

-Adriana on how she felt like she failed.

- Emilie on her Facebook Hiatus

(If you posted on this challenge or a similar topic, send me the link and I'll add it!)


What is a Simple Life? // Five things every minimalist should cultivate

This is definitely a post I should have written a long time ago. Since it's the whole theme of my blog and all...but I just write when the words come, I suppose.

Here at Simply Liv, my goal is to inspire you to live a life that you're excited about. A life that is simple and beautiful, even in the mundane. I strive to do that through not only practical tips and challenges, but through peeks into my own life as well, where I hope I am leading by example. I want to create a community around this idea that simplicity is better.

The problem is, the culture we live in instills in us a "more" mindset from a very young age. In order to be happy, we are told (both directly and indirectly) that we need more- more money, more friends, more stuff, more letters behind our name...just more.

But we know, either through cold, hard experience or through a kind voice who taught us, that more never really satisfies us. The pressure to have more is overwhelming and all consuming and if you're immersed in that mindset for a while, it can be very hard to break. But the desire for more (except where healthy ambition and goals are concerned), often leads to a downward spiral. We get consumed by our quest for more, eventually leaving us with less than we started with.

While I haven't considered myself a "true minimalist" yet, I have way more things than I should and often catch myself longing for more- I believe there are ways we all can and should live, if simplicity is our goal. These five points are my "definition" for simplicity- it's not an exhaustive list or a textbook description, just what I have learned is important to live a life that is simple and full.
A Simple Life is: 

1// Intentional: to live a life that is simple, you must be trying to. Duh, Olivia. But really, simplicity doesn't come naturally for most of us. We have to look at our lives, our mindset and our heart to make sure we are cultivating the right attitude, and that requires a lot of intentionality. Be intentional about your relationships, what you bring into your home- everything.

2// Uncluttered: this is the "stuff" point in the list. There isn't a right or wrong answer here, friends. Like most of these points, it will vary from one person to the next. But acquiring more things shouldn't be the goal of any minimalist. That's not to say don't treat yourself, or buy nice things- but don't hoard or buy more than you need.

3// Authentic: Authenticity is one of my favorite words. I love being around people who are real. We all know them- the one's who don't put on a mask. They're genuine, whether they're having the worst day of their life or are on cloud nine. Have authentic friends and be an authentic friend. It's at the heart of simple living.

4// Content: This is along the lines of being uncluttered, though this aims more at the heart than at physical possessions. Contentment is something I have always struggled with, which is why it is so important to me. I have to be very intentional about cultivating a heart of contentment, with lots of prayer, because I tend to always want more. If I'm not happy in the now, then I'm bound to live a very sad life. I'm striving to be the best I can be where I am planted, knowing that when it is time to move on, God will lead us when and where we are meant to go. It is a hard attitude to have.

5// Creative: I believe a simple life is essentially a creative life. It isn't "by the book". It often leads you into rugged, uncharted territory, perhaps physically but more often mentally and spiritually. Whether you're an artist or don't consider yourself to be a creative type- this will apply to you. You are creating the life you live, the choices you make in this moment affect where your day, week, month will go. Let's create lives that we are proud of. Be original and don't be afraid to break the mold.

Which of these do you focus on in your life? Why is living a simple life important to you?

Have a happy new week friends!




Simply Disconnect // Week 3

Hi friends! How was everyone's week?

There's only one week left of the #simplydisconnect challenge and I (a.) can't believe how fast this month has gone and (b.) am learning so much from just reining in my social media use.

I won't go over the whole challenge here, for the sake of those of you who have been with me the whole time, but if you're just joining me (and you should! It's never too late.) you can read about the challenge here and the week one and two recaps here and here.

Last week I talked about how I had an "off" week. I wasn't on top of the challenge and honestly, not very motivated to put the boundaries on myself that I set up earlier. I gave myself grace, because we all have times when our goals seem like more of a burden, but I kept going.
This week, however, has been much better. We've rounded the halfway point and I think my habits (incessant phone checking, aimless scrolling, using SM as a distraction...) are slowly starting to break. I'm more aware of when I'm doing these things and have the self control to put the device down to focus on what's in front of me. Because that's what the challenge is really about- real life. I don't want to miss out on it. The coming of Fall, the fading of Summer, my daughter's last months as a one year old- I don't want any of it to be clouded by wasted time.

When I have used social media, it has been very intentionally. I'm working on building relationships, connecting with people and finding others who inspire me to create. I'm learning the importance of adding something of value to what others are posting, more than just a "like" - if we are to create true community, it's vital to take the time to comment and start an actual conversation. Even something as simple as "I appreciate what you've created" or "this really meant something to me" goes a (very) long way.

This week's challenge was to get outside and disconnect. And I'm happy to say I did a lot of it. While I couldn't go anywhere remote and exciting like I wish, I was able to take my girls outside several times and went running in the crisp, early morning hours. Both Evie and Mara love being outside, so it wasn't hard to get them outside. We played at the park, found sticks (Evie's favorite), swam, ran through the sprinkler.

How did you get outside this week?

For the fourth and final week- the challenge is up to you! Do something exciting, challenging and maybe a little bit scary. Get creative. And don't forget to share via the hashtag simplydisconnect.

Thank you all for joining me in this challenge! You inspire me.

Here are a few of the photos from the challenge that I'm loving so far. Thanks for sharing ladies!


Five Ways to De-Stress (that actually work)

This morning has been a rough one so far. It's not even 9 am and I already want a nap. It's one of those mornings where I've been spit up on one too many times to be cute and have snapped "no", "stop",  and "don't" at my toddler more times than I'd like to admit. AJ has been working extra long days this weekend (he works Saturday-Monday...) and the days are long at home by myself with the babies. I have a to-do list as long as my kitchen table and I'll be lucky to cross one thing off it today. And we are out of coffee. Anyone else feeling the "monday-ness" of today?

It's a new week which means new to-do lists (or maybe the same list you've been procrastinating/working on for weeks), new goals and more often than not, new stresses.

As moms, bloggers, students...whatever we are, we usually tend to have way too much on our plates. It's easy to get overwhelmed as the list grows and our motivation shrinks. In our efforts to live simply, it's important to set aside time to unwind, even in the smallest ways. So today, I thought I would share a few of the ways I've learned to take a step back and de-stress when the to-do lists overwhelm me. Because I need them today too.

1 // Take a Break. When I'm in the middle of a project that overwhelms me- mountains of dishes, a daunting article for work- stepping back to focus my energy somewhere else helps re-inspire me to get back to work with fresh eyes. Except when the problem is dishes. I've never felt inspired to tackle that project.

2 // Write it Down. Not everyone is a list maker, but man oh man, I definitely am. Making a physical list of things I need to get done not only helps simplify my day in my mind, but it motivates me to work. Is there anything more satisfying than crossing off your to-do list? Maybe, like, two things...but list-crossing-off is definitely top three.

3 // Do Something Active. Take a walk, do a few yoga poses, go run a marathon- whatever you're into and whatever helps clear your mind for a little while. Physical activity literally refreshes your body, giving you an awesome chance to jump back into what was stressing you out before.

4 // Talk it Out. Usually when I'm stressed out it's because I've spent too much time over-thinking one thing, blowing it way out of proportion. Can I get an "amen", fellow over-thinkers? Talking with someone who can help reason with me and bring calm in to the situation inspires me to keep working with fresh eyes.

5 // Get Rested. Our crazy, hectic schedules mean less rest, and less rest means more stress. See the vicious cycle we trap ourselves in? Something as simple as a nap or a bath or just sitting down to have a quiet time...whatever relaxes your soul...will refresh you. I promise.
I'll leave you with this quote from George MacDonald, because rest truly is sacred. If you're stressed about anything on this Monday morning, and most of us probably are, take a few minutes and try one of these tips. Rest. Take a quick break so that you can pour your full self into your work.

What are you stressing about this morning? Do you have a favorite way to relax and refresh? Tell me about it!


Simply Disconnect // Week 2

Happy (almost) Weekend, everyone! Today I'm going to share my week two recap of the #simplydisconnect 30 day social media challenge. If you're just joining me, you can see the first week's recap here.

It's a challenge where we focus on intentionality with our social media use- steering away from aimless scrolling and other ways we waste time and instead try to use it for the purpose it was made for, to enhance and create relationships.

But, in the spirit of authenticity and hoping that this will make me seem more "real", I need to be honest for a second. I failed a lot this week. Sometimes I flat out forgot and caught myself scrolling Facebook in the middle of a conversation or logging on to Insta for the 49853th time. Yikes, talk about setting the example....

In fairness to myself, this week was a crazy one at home. We're finishing up a bathroom remodel, AJ is in the middle of starting his first semester of college and I just started a new job writing from home. It was far too easy to sit down during my down time and browse hashtags instead of connecting with my girls, or even responding to emails or comments on my blog.

There were definitely days where I was on top of it, but this week (for me) was a little bit of a let down after the awesomeness of week one. BUT- there are still two more weeks of the challenge and you can bet that I'll be on top of my business for the next two.

How did you all handle the second week? Were you more successful than I was??

The challenge for the week was to write a letter and send it via snail mail. And guess what? Yep- I forgot to do it.

I'm embarrassed to even say that. It was my idea in the first place!

But I can promise you that after this post goes live, I'll will cozy up in my letter writing spot and make up for it!

This post was a little bit pointless and not really as inspiring as I had hoped my weekly recaps would go, but I want to be open and not pretend like I have it all together all the time, especially online where it's so easy to do just that. Thank you all for joining me! I'm honored to have such an awesome community of people to live intentionally with!

The challenge for week 3 is to GET OUTSIDE (sans device...). Go for a hike, go camping, swimming, sky diving, long boarding, running. Heck, just sit outside in the grass. Anything that gets you out there.

Have fun and be creative with it! I can't wait to see what you all do. Don't forget to hashtag any pictures you upload with #simplydisconnect to contribute to our little community of intentionality :)


Letters to Evie // 20 Months

Sweet Evie,

You doubled in size and maturity this last month, or that's what it's felt like to me. Since becoming a big sister, you've learned what it is to love and protect and I couldn't be more proud of you.
You love baby Mara more than anything. It has been amazing to watch you with her- being a big sister came naturally. You're so gentle with her. You love to "hold" her and give her kisses and steal her pacifier. If anyone else besides mommy or daddy tries to hold her, you get very angry and throw a fit- but I know it's just your way of trying to keep her safe. 

This has been a hard month for you, and I'm sorry for all the changes you've had to adapt to so quickly. You're not the only baby anymore and you've definitely felt the change. Sleeping has been a rough adjustment, as well as hearing "no" so much more often. Your dad and I have tried to make some things all about you and tell you "yes" as much as possible, but be patient with us- we're new at this too. 
You're such a burst of sunshine and I'm lucky to be your mama. 

Here are a few new things you've been up to this month: 

Words // You've been adding lots of new ones lately!
- Clock
-Juice ("jewww")
-Cup (Coop)
-Truck/car ("Cuhk")
-Tigers say "drrrrrr"
-Lions, dinosaurs and bears say "raaaaawr"

-You love going outside for walks or to swim in your pool/throw dirt in it.
-You figured out how to take your diaper off.
-You know pink, blue and yellow (I think).
-And you can count to two ;)
-You won't let me touch your hair.
-You've watched WAY too much Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood this month.
-While I was painting my nails the other day, you kept watching and saying "woooow", so I painted one of your big toes for you (because you couldn't hold still for them all) and you sat and looked at it for a solid twenty minutes.
You loved spending time with Uncle Sammy after Mara was born!
 Watching you handle all the transitions this past month has been one of the hardest yet most rewarding experiences I've had parenting you. I'm so proud of the sweet, adventurous girl you are.




Simply Disconnect // Week 1

Happy Friday friends! We did it. One week down, three to go.

If you're just joining me, today I'm sharing about my 30 Day Social Media Challenge that we started last week. Read more about it here- and please join us! It's never too late :)

I've been so encouraged and excited by how many of you have joined me in this journey to take back our social media. There have been some wonderful posts shared under our hashtag #simplydisconnect- one friend even challenged her husband to do 40 days of reading the Bible together before bed instead of watching tv. What a worthwhile challenge!

I've had a lot of people respond to this as a "social media fast"- where you completely cut out social media for a month. And while that is definitely an awesome challenge, it's not really what I'm aiming for here. My goal is to use social media during the 30 days- but with limits and intentionality. I want to cut out the aimless scrolling and random creeping (you know we all do it...). It's confusing, but I really think that we can/should retrain ourselves to use SM as it was intended to be used- as a tool to connect with others, not compare/stalk/waste time.

And so far so good.

Here are a few things that happened during one week of intentional social media use:

1// I was bored. This one shocked me after the first few days. I realized that when I didn't have anything better to do, I automatically reach for my phone to fill the time. I'm learning that it's ok to be bored- some of my best writing has come out of times when I'm "bored". I'm challenging myself to fill those spaces with things that matter- a game with E, writing in my journal, reading a book...something other than hopping on Facebook or Insta.

2// I was super productive. You guys, I somehow managed to keep two children alive, cook multiple meals, clean the house, get ahead on blog posts and other articles and do other normal life things all without the help of my phone. With all this new found downtime, I may take up a new hobby. Any suggestions? I'm thinking maybe wine tasting? ;)

3// I had "withdrawals". As with any addiction, there is a withdrawal period. Like most of us, I have this weird need to keep up with everyone on my Instagram feed and everyone I'm friends with on Facebook. I don't want to miss anything. Breaking that was hard. I've had to tell myself that I'll miss somethings and that's ok- people are living their lives and I'm busy living mine.

4// I made connections. During the times I posted on social media- which happened quite often actually, I was really intentional about connecting with the people who liked/commented on my posts and adding something of value to their feed or comment. I know that social media has the potential to form amazing relationships and connections, especially in the blogging world, and being intentional is the easiest way to form those relationships.

This week's challenge was to connect with someone over coffee- not a hypothetical/online coffee date, because I'm pretty sure that's a thing, but in a "real life", face-to-face, sit down and talk kind of way. Because I'm really original and because we haven't had a date since Mara was born, I decided to take my man out for Qdoba (because we're classy) and coffee. It was a great (baby free!) time of connection. We talked about plans for our future, goals, jobs, school and encouraged each other to be content with where we're at now. It was definitely a needed moment- it's easy to let the opportunities to connect with your spouse slip by in the bustle of everyday.

Here are a few cheesy photos, in case you needed proof:
See how happy and connected we look? ;)

How did your coffee dates go?! Whether you did my challenge for the week or tweaked it- I want to hear about it! Tell me about it in the comments below, write a post about it or use our hashtag (#simplydisconnect) to share. Seriously- I want to see.

Good luck with week number two, friends. Our challenge for the week is to write and actual letter to someone and send it the old fashioned way. I'm really excited about this one, because hand written letters are some of my very favorite things.

Happy weekend, loves.


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