Friday, June 28, 2013

Coffee Date - Keeping it Real

This week I'm keeping it real. Things are tough for incredibly superficial reasons around here and I wanted to let you know. :-) Also, if you haven't signed up to get a free coupon for delicious iced coffee, check it out here! Thanks for having coffee with me today! And thanks to youtube for the awesome screen shot. I swear it was the best of the 3...

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Painted Dresser DIY Adventure {IKEA dresser turns custom night stand}

Jarrod has bugged me about not having a dresser since we got married. I had a drawer (and then two) in his dresser and hung most of my clothes. It wasn't convenient, but the first few apartments we lived in didn't have space for another piece of furniture. We moved and had more space, but I still couldn't decide on what I wanted. All of our furniture is black and from IKEA. I wasn't keen on adding one more piece in the matchy-matchy set. Pair that with our boring matching night stands, and we had a furniture problem in our bedroom. Eventually I decided I wanted a dresser as a nightstand. I loved what John and Sherry did in their bedroom so much that I started to look for something.

I started by checking out craigslist for a dresser I could refinish. I liked the idea of doing something in a bright color. But I needed something small and low enough that it could function as a night stand. I couldn't find anything that I liked for under $200. I wasn't willing to pay more than $200 for something that I was going to essentially redo anyway. In fact, in the back of my mind, I really wanted something for under $100.

Spoiler alert...

I found something perfect for less than $60 and I couldn't be more thrilled! If you follow me on instagram, perhaps you saw this beautiful photo a few weeks ago.

A month or so ago on a trip to IKEA I found this unfinished dresser for $35. It had everything I was looking for:
  • Drawers
  • Easy to repaint
  • Inexpensive
  • Not too tall or wide

We brought it home and it sat in the closet for another week or two while I finished some traveling. During that time I also decided on a color. I was debating between blue, green, and yellow, but I opted for blue. I matched this blue to a picture frame that we have. You can see it below in our picture collage! It is a perfect color.

Once I was done traveling, I took all the pieces out of the box and decided what needed to be painted and what didn't. I didn't want to waste my time painting the inside of the dresser. I primed the pieces that needed paint and left it to dry for 24 hours. Then it was time for the paint. I chose a high gloss paint and bought a quart. This was more than plenty. I think I used about a quarter of the can. Which makes I have plenty of paint left for other projects!

It took about 4 coats of paint before the coverage was perfect. I allowed it to dry for at least 12 hours between each coat. I did very light coats with a foam roller and an angled brush. In the midst of painting, I took the paint swatch to Hobby Lobby to see if I could find knobs to match. I wanted something that looked custom, was girly but not too frilly, and inexpensive.
I saw these and fell in love. They are beautiful. The screws were a little long on the inside so once we got the dresser put together, Jarrod used his hack saw to shorten them.

Cost break-down:
$35 - Dresser from IKEA
$12 - knobs at Hobby Lobby ($3.99/knob and 50% off)
$11 - Quart of high gloss paint in Brilliant Blue
Free - Brushes and primer
$58 total

You can see in the photo above that there are some changes in our pillow cases as well! I was looking for fun, colored sheets to bring some color to the room. It's a challenge to find high tread count sheets in fun colors that aren't too girly. We have high standards! Then it occurred to me that I didn't need sheets, I just needed pillow cases!
I found some pretty grey, white, black, and yellow fabric at Hobby Lobby and sewed a couple of pillow cases. I followed the Amy Butler Just in Case Pillow Case pattern. It was incredibly easy to follow and they turned out perfectly. It's a subtle change, but it makes a huge impact in the room.

I can't say that the room is done yet, but it's definitely coming together!
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blended Coffee Deliciousness! {Seattle's Best Coffee Frozen Coffee Blend GIVEAWAY!}

Before we started the Whole Living Challenge, we received a fantastic present in the mail. Seattle's Best Coffee sent me some of their brand new frozen coffee blend to try out...
Jarrod sent me this photo while I was traveling last week. I was SO excited to get home and give it a try! And the best part? Seattle's Best Coffee is sharing with you too!! I have 50 (right? that's 5-0!) coupons for FREE frozen coffee blend to share with you! There's a form at the bottom of this post. The first 50 people to fill it out will win!
I have to admit, I'm not a big coffee fan. I don't drink coffee ever. I'm more of a coke zero girl. But frozen, blended coffee? Sign me up! I LOVE it. 

I was a little skeptical about this blended coffee because it comes in the freezer section. You just toss the contents of this bag into your blender, add 10 oz. of milk, and blend away! Two minutes later (or less!) you have a creamy and delicious beverage!
These are creamy, delicious, and have less calories than the traditional blended coffee. Not only that, they are easier, cheaper, and you don't need to get out of your jammies to have one!
Jarrod's a big fan of chocolate so he added chocolate syrup and some iced coffee to his blended coffee. Then he decorated with chocolate sprinkles on top.

I opted for a more traditional route and drank the Very Vanilla straight. Incredible!
The first 50 people to fill out the following form will get a coupon for a FREE frozen coffee blend!
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Traveling with our boy

I wrote a last week about how hard it is to travel and be away from Wesley. I hate missing his meals, bedtime routine, and silliness. I miss hugging my little man and playing with him. I wonder what he's doing and if he's having fun. It's hard to travel without Wesley.

Occasionally I have the opportunity to travel for work and bring Wesley (and sometimes Jarrod!) along. Two weeks was one of those times. We had a conference in Fort Worth and Jarrod was able to go with me. He had work there as well, but thankfully there was childcare on site. It was absolutely fantastic childcare that loved on my boy. He made crafts and played with new friends. Having him close was wonderful.

It was also impossibly hard. I wanted to leave business sessions to play with him. I wanted to steal him from childcare and take him to lunch with me. I wanted to run down the halls and play on the ramps with my boy. But I couldn't. Not only that, but being a mama and doing my job is so hard. It's hard everyday, but it's especially hard when we're not in our own place. It's challenging to pack his meals from a hotel "kitchen". It's difficult to monitor teenagers at all hours while also making sure that Wesley gets to bed on time. It's hard to make sure that Wesley is having fun and taken care of while worship is happening and quiet is appreciated.

Last week Wesley and I went on an adventure together and left daddy at home. We went to Oklahoma so that I could do some visiting for work. Wesley was with me for some of the visits and folks love him. He loves visiting people and checking things out. He wandered a few churches as if he owned them. He made new friends and had a great time. But it stressed me out. What if he was loud? What if he distracted people? What if folks thought I was unprofessional bringing my kid along?

For two days I traveled around Oklahoma while Wesley had a play date with Aunt Courtney and cousin Luke. He had a GREAT time, took some killer naps, and played contently. I'm sure he also threw a few fits. He broke a glass (sorry, Renee & Mike!), made messes, and ate other people's food. He was a toddler. And I was able to travel and focus on my work without worrying about him.

I raced home at the end of each day to see him. I called my sister far too often to check in on him. I missed him just like I would have if he was at home. I was so thankful that we were able to play before bed. I was able to eat dinner with him and feed him breakfast. It was awesome. And so hard. He was up with teething pains one night. He couldn't sleep. He didn't want to eat anything but peanut butter and bananas. I had INCREDIBLY support around me, but I didn't have Jarrod. Wesley didn't have his daddy. And it was hard.

The grass is always greener, isn't it? We always want things to be perfect, but life is never perfect. Sometimes it's hard to be with your kids and it's hard to be away from them. I don't know that I knew how hard it was going to be before we had Wesley. But I also didn't know how awesome it would be either.

What is the hardest part of parenting? When do you find yourself incredibly stressed with your family?
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Monday, June 24, 2013

Whole Living Challenge - Week 1

A few months ago I talked Jarrod into doing the Whole Living Challenge with me. We both have digestion issues, headaches, allergies, and other issues that I think could be dietary. While we eat a fairly clean diet, I wanted to see what would happen if we really cut things out and went hard core. (If you haven't read my sister's post about me, you really should. It might help you understand really how hard core I am.) I presented it to Jarrod with the idea that he would probably say no. I was shocked when he said yet. We immediately put it on the calendar. We start today so I spent the weekend buying lots of fruits and veggies.

The Whole Living Challenge is 3 weeks (with an optional 4th week) of cleansing your body of toxins and resetting everything. I first heard about this challenge several years ago from Dusty at All Things G&D. It seemed simple enough...
No processed food or beverages, added sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine, and alcohol.
During week 1 we can eat fruits, vegetables, and plant-based fats, including nuts, seeds, and oils. In week 2 we can add in seafood, beans and lentils, and organic soy. Week 3 brings us gluten-free grains and eggs. Week 4 is optional and just continues that diet. I haven't told Jarrod that week 4 is optional...we'll just continue on. :-)

I know it's going to be hard. I eat on the road and out with people a lot for my job. This is going to really challenge me.  I know it's going to be hard on Jarrod too. He loves meat and giving it up during a very stressful season will be challenging. He also drinks a cup of coffee every morning just to get going. It will be hard to give that habit up for 28 days. When someone brings in baked goodies to work or leaves donuts in the break room, it's going to be nearly impossible to steer clear of them. When my stomach is growling and my head is hurting, it will be hard not to grab a chocolate and a diet coke.

But I'm SO excited. I cannot remember the last 24-hour period where my stomach didn't hurt. I cannot remember the last day I didn't see Jarrod take headache medicine. I know we need this. We need to reset and see how our bodies do. We need to focus on putting only good things in and monitoring how we feel. I cannot wait to see how good we feel...after the 3-4 days of detox and getting used to things. Those days are going to suck. I already know that. ;-)

What we will be eating this week:

We are NOT putting Wesley on this cleanse, but he will get to experience some new fruits and veggies with us. He's going to be eating green smoothies, yogurt, quinoa with beans and veggies, healthy muffins, and bread. He doesn't eat much meat, so we will probably keep the house meat-free for a while.

I'll update you at the end of the week, probably at my coffee date, with how we're doing. Have you ever done any detox diets? How did it go? Pray for us! ;-)
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Friday, June 21, 2013

Coffee Date Friday!

Good morning, friends! It's another coffee date Friday! Unfortunately I do not have a vlog for you this morning. I thought about doing one yesterday while I was driving, but that seemed incredibly unsafe. So today you get bullet points. Thanks for joining me for coffee! (And as always, I'm linking up with Alissa from Rags to Stitches!)

If we were having coffee this morning...
  • I'd tell you that I need a break. I've been traveling and not sleeping in my own bed far too much. Since we returned from France I've slept in my own bed about 2/3s of the nights. That's not enough. I miss being home. I love my family and I miss them. But I also miss some Leanne time. I haven't blogged about things I want to blog about and I haven't crafted things I want to craft. I need a break.
  • I'd probably be drinking Seattle's Best Frozen Coffee Blend. I'll be writing more later (with a few AWESOME giveaways!!!) but for now, I'll share this box that arrived at my house yesterday:
  • I'd tell you about the awesome dresser I made, pillow cases for our bed, and new things I dream about doing around the house. Hopefully I'd show you what I've done and get your opinion on what else needs to be done. The windows in our bedroom have half circles on top and I have no idea how to cover them. Seems silly to hang the curtains high enough to cover them...
  • Wesley has new teeth! He has been holding steady at 6 for months. And this week he got two new ones on the bottom and two new molars. The molars are killer. They are currently half in. Traveling with a toddler getting teeth is no fun at all. Poor boy did GREAT but was definitely uncomfortable and unhappy. 
  • Our family is amazing. My sister (and her husband!) watched Wesley in addition to their nephew for two days straight. Two boys on different schedules for two days. Our boys are 10 months apart and it was chaos, but my sister ROCKED it. And her inlaws are awesome and made dinner for us, let us stay in their home, and showed incredible hospitality. We are so blessed. 
  • I'd share with you our weekend plans...They include more travel for Wesley and I while Jarrod starts pastor school all day Saturday. Wesley and I have some work to do but it should be fun. I also plan to spend Saturday purchasing everything we need to begin the Whole Living Challenge on Monday! No meat, dairy, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, grains, etc. for the next few weeks! 
I would have more to share, if we were having coffee, but I'd like to hear about your life. I've been so busy that I probably need a good dose of someone else's experience to snap me out of my funk. I need to be reminded that I'm not alone. 

What is going on in your world this Friday? Do you have any big plans for the weekend?

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Father's Day 2013

I took a few days off. I didn't intend to do it but I ran out of things to write about. Or I lost motivation to write about things that were going on. I have several posts floating around in my head and another few in draft form, but haven't put the energy into writing them.

Anyway, until I find the motivation to write posts with substance (and a few without substance) you'll get a post about Father's Day. Because it was awesome.

It began with Batman jammie jams. Because that's how good days begin. Wesley also learned how to play peek a boo. Epic awesome.

After a walk and play time we went to church. First Sunday school and then to worship. Jarrod preached and made Wesley and I look really good. Which is awesome because Wesley was running around the room like a crazy person and not really making us look good.

After worship Wesley and I took Jarrod to sushi for Father's Day. Wesley didn't want any edamame, but he did eat soy sauce. Awesome. 

We had a wonderful time. It was short because we didn't get to lunch until after noon and Wesley hadn't had a nap... When we got home he went down for a nap and Jarrod put together my new dresser! I will write a post with the details and better pictures soon, but for now, she's amazing and gorgeous! 
After Wesley's nap, we decided to check out the splash park not far from our house. Wesley loves bath time so we thought he'd enjoy the park. 
Wrong. He hated every second of it. He wouldn't let me put him down and screamed the whole time. We'll probably try again sometime when it isn't so crowded, but this time was an incredible failure.

So instead we blew bubbles in the bath and that was a win! Ultimately we celebrated Jarrod as the best Daddy Wesley could ever have! It was a wonderful day!

How did you celebrate the dads in your life?
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Coffee Date Friday

Well, it's time for another coffee date! I'm really tired this week and I think this video reflects that. Here's my tired coffee date! Happy Friday!

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Memories and a world without (breast) cancer

My dad’s mom died just a couple of years before I was born. She was in her 50s, got breast cancer, and died. I’ve heard stories that she was an energetic and vibrant woman. It makes me so sad that I never met her. It makes me sad that she never knew her 8 grand children and 3 great-grandchildren. Her name was Shirley Adele. My sister is Courtney Adele and someday, God willing, I’ll have a baby girl with the middle name Adele as well. The ironic thing is that Grandma Shirley never liked her middle name. But I think it’s beautiful and a great way to honor her memory.

Jarrod’s grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly the exact same time that Grandma Shirley was. Grandma Jo underwent treatment that was radical and innovative. She is now around to love on her five grandchildren and three great-grand boys. She has lovingly adopted her three grand daughters-in-love and is a beautiful model of God’s love in my life. I am so thankful that breast cancer didn’t get the last word in her life. I’m especially thankful for her in my life and in my son’s life because I never knew my grandmother.

It is because of these two women, and countless others, that I walk 60 miles over 3 days in November. Each year I commit to raising funds, awareness, and covering the DFW metroplex in pink. I do this because I want to be part of my grandchildren’s lives. I want them to know my hugs and not just hear stories about me.

 It is for this reason that I invite you to join me in fighting for a world without (breast) cancer. I hope that each of you reading this to take a virtual envelope. Imagine a wall of envelopes, each with a number on it from $6-$60 on them. I’d like you to consider taking an envelope and making a donation for that amount. That means 55 people making donations for $60 or less. Can’t donate much? Pick a low envelope and donate today! Want to make a big impact, pick a larger envelope or even choose to donate more than $60!
Just click on the envelope you'd like to take and enter that number in the box next to, "Enter an amount that's meaningful for you." Having trouble? Click here and that will take you directly to the donation page. I will update the image above each day so check back often to see what envelopes are left!

Thank you for believing in a world without breast cancer!
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France in Photos

I've shared some photos from France that help tell the story, but for this post, I want to focus on the pictures that I took and how I was able to capture them. I've said before that I need to give all the credit to Better Mom Shots. This is not an endorsement that I give lightly. I've read hundreds of photography tutorials and nothing has ever influenced the quality of the photos I've taken. More than that, nothing has ever influenced my happiness in taking pictures. If you're looking to take your photography to the next level, stop shooting in Automatic, or turn off your flash, check this out!

Here are some of my favorite photos and what I did to achieve the shot.
This is my absolutely favorite shot that I took. I knew I wanted the back to be blurry and the front to be completely in focus. This is called bokeh. I have a nifty fifty that could help achieve this but did not bring more than one lens with me to France. Because of what Monica taught, I got really close to the flower, set my aperture as low as possible, and balanced the light. This photo is hanging in our room because I adore it. It looks absolutely fantastic as an 8x10 in our bedroom.

This photo is not perfect, but I am pretty excited about it. I took it on the street very quickly after we left the bakery where I purchased it. I did it as quickly as possible because I was ready to eat it! I used the same technique as I did with the flowers. That's the bakery in the background. The lighting is a little dark because I adjusted the settings very quickly before finishing that delicious macaroon in 2 bites.
The Church of Reconciliation in Taize has gorgeous stained glass. They are about 12"x12" set about 2 feet back in a dark cavern. The church was dark when I took the pictures and it was an overcast day outside. I hoped it was sunny when I could take the photos, but it wasn't. I had to set the ISO really high to capture as much light as possible. I also set the shutter speed a little slower and steadied my arms on the shelf under the stained glass. This one is my favorite because it's Mary and Elizabeth both pregnant with Jesus and John. It's a beautiful reminder of such a precious story.
This is another one that took a high ISO and slow shutter. It was in a beautiful church and I loved this light. I steadied myself and tried to take in as much of the detail as possible.
This photo was taken from the top of a hill at a church in Taize. The sky was so white and gray, which made it difficult to get the details in the hills. I wish the sky was blue, but you get what you get. :-) To capture all of the details in the landscape I set the aperture very high. I wanted to get as much detail as I could and that's the best way to do it! Thankfully, the light was good because it was overcast.
This is another favorite. Like the photo above, I set the aperture as high as possible. I wanted to get every detail of Notre Dame from up there that I could. It was very bright and the day was gorgeous. Because of the light, the shutter speed was still very quick. This is an awesome shot, I think.
The Eiffel Tower sparkles at night. Thankfully, the sky stays light for a while after the Eiffel Tower starts with the twinkle lights. I had to set the shutter really fast to capture the twinkling so I set the ISO high so it was bright enough to do that. It's not a perfect, but I like it!

This photo was taken quite a bit later so the sky was very dark. I had to set the shutter much slower in order to get any light at all, even with ISO set high. It looks slightly fuzzy, but I was drinking wine on a boat, so that's about the best I could do. It's interesting to see how different the photo can be with just a few hours in between!

There you have it - some of my favorite shots from France!

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Leaving Our Boy

I found out that I'd be going to France when Wesley was just 2 weeks old. I remember receiving the text message that I'd been asked to go while I was still home caring for my tiny little man. The thought of leaving him for 20 minutes terrified me, but I thought that by the time he was 16 months old I'd be ready for a break.

Wrong. Leaving Wesley for nearly 2 weeks was harder than giving birth to him.

I cried whenever I thought about leaving him. Although the trip was a dream, I couldn't wrap my brain around leaving Wes. As the trip was planned, participants were selected, and details started coming together, I got even more anxious. I couldn't explain it to anyone and even Jarrod didn't understand. I knew he'd be fine and I'd be fine...but what if things we're fine?

I actually leave Wesley for work fairly frequently. It's not uncommon for me to have a night away each month and at least one full Saturday. But this was different. Not only was Jarrod going with me and we'd be gone a long time, but we would be mostly inaccessible. We were in a remote part of France for 7 days and weren't sure if we would have any cell service. Talking on the phone was $1.50/minute (which we did not use!) and texting was $.05 to receive and $.50 to send texts. The time different was 7 hours, making it even more challenging to communicate with our family.

To handle the anxiety, the 6 weeks or so leading up to the trip I spent my free time compiling lists and writing everything down. Couple this trip with a big move made me even more frantic! I made lists to tell family about our pediatrician, what to pack for school, what Wesley likes to eat, where all of his things are located, and several schedules, depending on the day. Once we moved, I marked everything, created a kitchen drawer for Wesley, and stocked the freezer with Wesley-friendly foods. I taped emergency contact numbers on the fridge, left the Tylenol dosage chart in a folder, and tried to be sure that everything in our house was child-proof. I also hoped that our animals would survive the chaos and left lots of notes about them. I even left my sister with instructions about how to handle Sophie, in case she got sick again. I left our will, copies of our life insurance (and other insurance), and other documents.

One night a week or so before I left, I woke up in the middle of the night completely panicked about leaving Wesley. I asked God to watch over my boy and remove the anxiety I had about leaving him. I had been doing this on and off over the months, but this was the first time I actually let go of my fears. A sense of peace washed over me. I was still worried, but the deep pain left and I was able to leave Wesley in the care of our family and go to France.

Overall, we did just fine. I cried a few times, worried a lot, and prayed for God's protection over my family. I sang to a sweet baby on the plane and showed pictures of Wesley to everyone I could get to look at my phone. He threw temper tantrums, refused to eat vegetables, and ran into a wall. But he had a wonderful time and I think everyone else did too!

If you're a mama or dad have you ever had to leave your children? Were you a mess like me? How did you manage?
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Arlington, Texas Farmers Market Review

I'm excited to be linking up with Diana at Saving By Making this week. We're all sharing reviews of our local farmers markets. I'm really excited to share mine with you! We just signed up for our very first CSA and I'm so excited to share that experience with you too! Our first pick-up is the first week in July and I'll definitely be writing about our experiences!

We recently moved to a new community which means the opportunity to explore new Farmers Markets! We've explored the large market in Dallas and have begun to explore the smaller local markets in our area. Today I'm writing about the Arlington Farmers Market.

The website for the Farmers Market is helpful. From the website I was able to get the address and hours - two incredibly important pieces of information! The address is 215 Front Street Arlington, Texas 76011 and we open every Friday and Saturday from 8AM to 1PM.

The vendor information is incomplete and doesn't provide any details about the vendors. I was mostly interested to go, see what it was all about, and review some of the vendors. I don't know what I was expecting, but I will say this is a very small market with just a handful of vendors. Jarrod actually wanted to drive right by without getting out after seeing how small it was. I encouraged him to hang in there.
We arrived at the market around 8:30am on Saturday morning. We parked on the side street - there was plenty of parking. The front area of the Farmers Market was set up with fruit and vegetables. I can only assume these were local garden veggies and fruits. The only person working was busy and didn't speak with us.
They had a variety of berries, a few other fruits, and some vegetables. These pictures capture literally every inch of the produce available outside.

Those squash were absolutely beautiful! We actually just bought squash yesterday. Had we not, I these would definitely had come home with us! They were huge and bright.

After checking things outside, we went inside to see what was there. We first entered a small hallway full of local honey, salsa and vinegar.

Although the market was very quiet - I don't know that there were other customers - no one really spoke with us. I had a camera and was feverishly snapping away while Jarrod entertained Wesley. We were definitely conspicuous! We were interested in the honey because we all suffer from seasonal allergies and have heard that local honey can really help with that. We quickly lost interest when there was no one there to help us. We will definitely try to go back and get some though because the prices were incredibly reasonable! 

Our next stop was a large room that housed several vendors. The first was homemade tamales and meat. There was also a freezer with a variety of items - some for sale and some not. The homemade frozen pizzas looked delicious! 
The tamales looked incredible as well, but didn't photograph well at all. Frozen food usually looks and tastes better warm! We are big tamale fans and love that these are locally made. Again, no idea who was selling these, but we'll try again sometime soon! 

Next up was these soaps. There were several handmade shops, but this was the most pretty. 
These soaps were definitely organic and definitely gorgeous. Pretty soaps really appeal to me and especially because they are handmade and safe, but I didn't get any today.

Our final vendor stop was definitely the best! We first noticed all of the delicious baked goods...

All of these are homemade, organic, and looked incredible! Lindy of UnHinged Homestead immediately introduced herself and asked if I was from the newspaper. I was snapping pictures like a crazy person but was thrilled to talk to her! She shared samples, taught me about amaranth, and talked to us about recipes. She even sent us home with amaranth seeds to grow some in our yard! We talked about how amaranth is even more nutrient packed than kale!
Next to the baked goods, Lindy also had canned veggies from her garden and homemade pastas, including dessert pasta like cinnamon and chocolate! She also jars butters like apple butter. She was incredibly helpful and friendly. I love that she grows everything in her garden.

We bought a bag of amaranth chips with organic powdered cheddar baked with sunflower oil. They were delicious and Wesley ate them without any fuss at all. In fact, one day I sent them with him to school and on his report sheet they wrote, "leaf (?)" next to his snack. We're definitely the hippies in his class!

I'm sure that we'll be back and hopefully next time there will be more people. I'm already regretting that we didn't get organic honey. I'm hoping we can add some of that to our diet soon to help with allergies. Buying it, even in bulk and eating it by the spoonful, will be cheaper than Jarrod's allergy medicines!

Do you have a local farmers market near you? Do you live in the DFW area and have a good local farmers market for me to try? 
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Friday, June 7, 2013

Coffee Date post-France edition

I'm vlogging again! Here's 10 minutes of random from me to you.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Overseas Travel Tips

I've traveled internationally, but until a few weeks ago, I'd never traveled to Europe or overseas. I was nervous about a variety of things. I searched the internet for anything I could find about travel tips and things to know. I found very little, so I wanted to put something together for you. I am by no means an expert, but here are a few things that I learned after 11 days traveling in France.
The first thing I was concerned with was jet lag! A seasoned traveler recommended a homeopathic remedy called No Jet Lag. I bought it at Vitamin Shoppe near our home. It's a small pill that you begin taking 2 hours before you take off and continue taking every few hours until you land. I took it the whole way to Paris and although I was tired, I didn't have any trouble getting on Paris time when we arrived. We arrived (after 2 plans, a few layovers, a 4 hour bus ride, and a long walk dragging my suitcase) at our final destination around 7pm. We got settled, ate dinner, went to prayers, showered, and went to bed. It was easy to go to sleep, but I did use earplugs and Tylenol PM. When I woke up in the morning I felt normal. No jet lag at all. I cannot say that the trip back was as easy, but I think it was as good as it could possibly be. I would definitely recommend No Jet Lag if you're traveling even just a few time zones away. There were zero side effects and it doesn't not interact with any other medications.
Arriving in Paris after 16 hours of travel with 6 hours left to go!

If you've traveled internationally you know that the outlet situation is a concern. I'm thankful that I have curly hair so a hairdryer or curling iron wasn't a huge deal for me. My computer and phone were important and Jarrod needed his kindle and phone charged. We bought a basic converter and adapter for the trip, but actually didn't use it much. Because our phones didn't have service, they held a charge for 3 days or so. After that, we used the New Trent: Easypak NT70T. I actually won this exact charger just a week or so before I left for the trip. (Thanks, Candy!) This charger could charge my iphone in about an hour from 2% to fully charged. And that only used about 1/4 of the charge. Meaning I could charge my phone 4 times before the battery died. Amazing! It also charged Jarrod's droid phone and his kindle. Amazing! The charger was charged by plugging into a USB outlet (which many of the outlets in France had) or my computer. In the future, we'll probably invest in a converter/adapter with a USB connector. If you're traveling and will be without a phone charger, I highly recommend the New Trent: Easypak NT70T! (Yes, I received the charger for free, but it was because I won a giveaway, not to review on this blog. I'm writing about it because it was awesome.)

I have told you have all how much I adore my GPS. If I could have used a GPS in Paris, I would have. But we traveled mostly by Metro and I'm not the best at navigating the Metro. Thankfully, one of our friends downloaded the Ulmon Paris Maps before we left. Ulmon has maps for Paris, London, Rome, and New York City. The app was free and didn't use data or minutes. It was literally like getting into the map because it tracked where you were using cell towers. We could plug in an address and follow the dots on the map right to where we needed to be. Honestly, we would have been completely lost without it. Downloading this app should be mandatory before leaving the country. Seriously.

Those are the big things I learned. Of course there are other things I would want you to know if traveling internationally or across our country. Here they are:
  1. Bring anti-bacterial gel.
  2. Wear comfy clothing.
  3. Contact your bank and let them know you will be traveling so that they know and don't put a fraud victim report on your account.
  4. Figure out if your phone will work - mine did and Jarrod's didn't - and make sure you know how much it will cost to use it. 
  5. Buy a metro pass, museum passes, etc. if you plan on using them. It's a great way to save money.
  6. Exchange currency at least a week in advance with your bank. Our bank didn't have any Euros because we waited until just a few days before we left. We exchanged them at the airport, but paid a service fee higher than we would have at the bank. We also used our debit card at restaurants and to get cash, but again paid service fees. 
  7. Check the weather. 
  8. Bring necessary medicine. Not just prescriptions (that you should pack in your carry-on!) but also any over-the-counter stuff you use regularly. France is a very homeopathic place and we couldn't get anything like Dayquil for Jarrod when he was sick. If we'd packed it we could have saved a lot of time, money, and at least a day of feeling bad for Jarrod.
  9. Carry your money close to you. Either keep it in your front pockets or have a special pack you can strap to your body. I put money in my front pockets and in the bottom of my purse. I carried a purse that I could put across my body and keep very close to me. Jarrod and I also split money and didn't both carry debit cards at the same time. We kept our passports and everything but one debit card in the hotel safe.
  10. Walk, bike, and take a tour. We took a bike tour and it was worth every Euro we paid for it! 
Have you traveled internationally or across country? What are some tips you'd add to my list?
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Exploring Paris

After 7 days in Taize, we took a 4 hour bus ride to Paris. We arrived in Paris on Sunday in the early evening and spent the rest of the evening walking the steps to Sacré-Coeur, exploring Montmarte, and having a fantastic time.
Because Monday was the only day we were in France where the weather was supposed to be nice, we packed as much in as possible! Our day began walking each dark, steep, winding stair all the way to the very top of Notre Dame!
From there we went to the Louvre. I felt like I was in the Di Vinci Code! Honestly, I'm not a huge art fan and had heard that there is absolutely no way to get through the Louvre in one day, let alone just a few hours. We ate lunch, wandered around a little bit, and sat at Starbucks just long enough to facetime with Wesley and organize the rest of our day! We walked through a park, tried to go to a few places that were closed, snapped a lot of photos, ate food from carts on the street, rode the Metro, had dinner of cheese, bread and wine, and ended our day at the Eifel Tower for a bike tour!

The weather could not have been better. After a week of temperatures in the low 40s (that's the HIGH!) and lots of rain, it was absolutely wonderful to have so much sunshine! The bike tour was incredible and I highly recommend it. After walking what we estimate as about 12 miles, we were all worried about the bike tour. How would our legs manage biking for 3 hours?! Turns out, we had nothing to worry about!

The bike tour was a glorious pace and we got to see so much of Paris. One of the best moments was biking straight through the courtyard at the Louvre and up to the Pyramid just as the sun was setting. This was just one moment where I was so thankful for Better Mom Shots because of the strange lighting situation!
After our bike tour, we ended up on a boat floating up and down the Seine. We got to see the Eifel tower lit up. Absolutely incredible and another moment I was thankful for Better Mom Shots. Because Monica taught me how to use the light meter, how to set ISO for really dark situations, and how to get the shutter speed really fast, I was able to capture this gorgeous shot of the tower mid-twinkle.

After the boat, we got back on the bikes and went to the office to drop the bikes. We then had to walk to the subway and take 2 trains back to the hotel. We arrived home sometime near 1am. It was a VERY long day, but absolutely incredible! The weather couldn't have been better and we really took advantage of the city!

Our second full day in Paris was supposed to be cold and rainy. We opted to take it very easy. We met the group for breakfast in the hotel around 8:30am, but then we went back up to the room. Jarrod rested and I worked. The wifi was actually worked fairly well and I was able to finish up some projects, send some emails, and get a grasp on some things I had going on back at home. I also spent a good bit of time working on a few articles for work about the trip.

We met some friends in the lobby around 10:30am and set out to explore again. One of the places we really wanted to visit was Saint Chappelle. We went twice the day before but the first time the line was too long and the second time we weren't allowed in because we're American.
Yeah, that happened. We made it through security, even though the security guard didn't want to let us in. We weren't really sure why because we were there a full 30 minutes before it closed and a French woman went in after we arrived. We walked through the courtyard to the church and were not allowed in. A French couple behind us were permitted to enter. Even after explaining that we would be just 5 minutes, we weren't allowed in. The woman working the gate was absolutely one of the most rude people I've ever encountered. We were incensed. But then it occurred to me that it's really only the first time I've ever been on the receiving end of prejudice. I suppose I have nothing to complain about.
Our first stop was Saint Chappelle. The line was long and it was raining, but we opted to wait. We had fantastic conversations and got incredibly wet while we waited. By the time we got in, we knew it was well worth the wait!

We spent the rest of the day exploring. The weather was rainy and cold, so we did our best to enjoy ourselves. We visited a few churches, a museum, and wandered the streets of Paris. We ate a nutella crepe and cookies from a bakery. It was romantic, picturesque, and incredibly fun!
We ended our day with dinner as a whole group. It was at this quaint little bistro and we ate in the back room. The brick walls and wood ceiling was gorgeous. Our waiter was wonderful and even offered to snap a few pictures of our group. 
On our way home from the restaurant, I snapped this photo...
This is France and it is gorgeous! This was also taken around 9:30pm or so. It doesn't get dark until much later in France as compared to Dallas! We walked to the subway and took a few trains back to the hotel. Jarrod and I went to our room to finish packing and get to bed. We were asleep sometime after midnight and the alarm was set for 5:30am. Our last night in France was short!

Overall, we had an absolutely incredible time in Paris. We loved traveling the Metro with dear friends, eating incredible food, and exploring beautiful places. Don't worry, I'll be sharing more pictures over the next few weeks. I'll also be sharing other aspects of our travel and things that have nothing to do with France too.
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