Top 5 Favorite Links of February! (Or: Pretty Things)

Sometimes, you just need to go see some beauty, instead of creating it yourself. Even (and especially) as a creative. That’s what I did today.

I linked up at my first link party in the blogosphere today. (Like a real, live blogger! Do bloggers even admit to that sort of thing?) Woohoo! What a rush… And when I say “rush” I mean “trip down the vortex of all things lovely via diy, recipe, and decor blogs.”

Persia Lou

– See more at: http://clubnarwhal.blogspot.com/#sthash.e5h1RQ3z.dpuf

As if I don’t already have enough in that online treasure trove of Pinterest (that great enabler of online hoarding through which I so voraciously gather eye candy), I am now following an extra gajillion people on there. (Because I just can’t resist the pretties!!!) 

So. Here are a gajillion- ok, five- of my new favorite links. If you just need some beauty in your life, go check these people out!

1. For St. Patrick’s day decor- I found this super cute DIY banner (that is on my level, which is not to say I’ll do it, but I’d think about doing it. Which is pretty big for me) on crafty Kelly’s blog called typicallysimple.com.

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2. Then I found Amanda’s blog at dwellinginhappiness.com. (Doesn’t the name alone sound like drinking a lovely beverage on a porch in summer time? Maybe I’m just tired of winter…) She had done this ridiculously cute and stylish entryway makeover.

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3. Next, I found Fotini’s blog (Fotini is her name. For real. Aren’t you jealous that your name isn’t more interesting?? Or fun to say?) at glamorousaffordablelife.com and this fabulous chair makeover!

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Okay. Other pretty things that are not from the link party… Just from Pinterest,

4. Someday. Someday, I’ll have a beautiful, intentionally-for-creating space. Someplace with room for coffee, for my piano, for all the song-writing notebooks I have, sketchbooks, art supplies, and plenty of light. This little lovely I found on Pinterest (because where else?) looks like a pretty good option.

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(I mean, chandelier, people.)

5. Last but not least, I found this gem (or gems) through thenester.com the other day. Have you heard of Noonday Collection? Or Justina Blakeney? Because they are creating beauty that does real, beautiful, intentional good. Here’s a teaser, but you should really click the pic and go see for yourself.

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Have you experienced any beauty lately that really must be shared? Please do so!!!

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Reclaiming Abundance: Blueberry French Toast Day!

Hi there! Did you have a happy Blueberry French Toast Day? Oh. I mean- Valentine’s Day?

We certainly did. I myself got confused about what we were celebrating, because my (amazing, wonderful, manly, & magnanimous)  husband made blueberry french toast and turkey bacon for us for Valentine’s Day brunch on Saturday. We stayed with my parents all weekend, which was positively loverly, and because it was just easier, we bought groceries for the weekend there on Friday afternoon and managed not to go astray of our meal plan. Huzza!

But I digress. (My utmost apologies to you, Blueberry French Toast.) I don’t know if it’s because brunch is my favorite EVER, or because I felt like I was eating pastries for the first time in over a month, or because there’s something innately happy about Saturday mornings and brunch and pastries together, but I was positively brimming with giddy delight as I savored every bite of the deliciousness.

And of course, I had to capture the moment as best as my little iPhone 4 can (which is basically like having Windows 98: The Phone… and now Apple people are cringing at such a blasphemous comparison.) So- here are some brunch-tastic pictures!

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Aaaand now, for the finished gloriousness:

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I am almost licking my computer screen right now, people… But seriously. It was SO good! You’d think that without butter and maple syrup, french toast would just be- well- toast. But this sprouted grain bread made by Food for Life is awesome! And plus, after you make the blueberry “syrup” (aka put blueberries, coconut oil, raw honey, and lemon juice into a pan, bring to boil, then simmer for 10 minutes until it’s all delicious, blueberry goodness… though the recipe might give slightly better specifics) you get to top it off with all kinds of fixins’ if you want! Like coconut flakes, almonds, strawberries and bananas!

And the thing is, I didn’t want to devour like, 8 slices after I finished the first two, which is how I normally feel when eating french toast. I mean, I totally thought I’d want at least four or something, but once I finished that first plate and the two slices of turkey bacon, I was completely contented.

So. Go get you some blueberry french toast ASAP! You can find the recipe we used in The Daniel Plan Cookbook.

And that was just brunch… Of course, it was Lucy’s first Valentine’s Day, so here is some additional sweetness (if you can even handle it after that description of the french toast):

Bleary-eyed and wondering why the heck Momma needs a picture of her in her bib... But Grandma got it for her and how stinking cute?!
Bleary-eyed and wondering why the heck Momma needs a picture of her in her bib… But Grandma got it for her and how stinking cute?!
Being EVER so good playing with the 3 polka-dot heart duckies Grandma also sent her at Starbucks while I did some work for ITM.
Being EVER so good playing with the 3 polka-dot heart duckies Grandma also sent her at Starbucks while I did some work for ITM. (Maybe this is her intellectual-conversation-over-fancy-lattes face?)
"Grandma's Little Valentine" ... Are you sensing a theme here?
“Grandma’s Little Valentine” … Are you sensing a theme here?

Okay, okay… That’s enough of that. I don’t want anyone to go into shock from Adorable Overload.

What else did we do for V-Day weekend? Weeeeeell, after the husband’s meeting Friday morning, we had to stop at the fancy-schmancy mall on the way back to Mom and Dad’s, because they had a Baby Gap, and we had a gift card- woot! And after I finally found something resembling reasonable on their clearance rack (Baby Gap = freaking expensive!) we needed food, so we went to the world’s schmanciest food court. (Or at least, Indiana’s schmanciest food court.) 

Because I know you’re dying to know, we ended up getting Chipotle:

Of course, I waited until after it looked the prettiest to take a picture of it...
Of course, I waited until after it didn’t look pretty and pristine anymore to take a picture of it… Good thing this isn’t a food blog. (Though the subject does come up a lot…)

Because a) we could actually eat there (the only thing we couldn’t have was cheese or sour cream… so we just added a big helping of guac. Aaaahhh guac. How I love thee) and b) they were one of the cheapest things in the food court. I mean, no one usually thinks of Chipotle as “low-brow” necessarily (if we’re traveling, it’s normally- “Ok, what has a dollar menu around here?”) but here, it kind of was in comparison to what seemed to be a crunchy homage to (not that they are bad, just that they’d all eat here) nutritionists, dieticians, and hipsters everywhere, called “freshii” which I just had to take a picture of:

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Because Kale. And Quinoa. It’s not that it didn’t have anything that sounded good- it looked pretty gourmet-ish actually! But we just didn’t want to pay $15 for a salad when Chipotle opened it’s familiar, burrito-bowly, welcoming arms to us for half that price. (And also, we were starving and Chipotle didn’t require us to google any of the ingredients to see what they were.)

But other than that, two exciting things happened:

1. My new twin niece and nephew were born on Friday!!!! EEEK!!! However, because they are 5 weeks early, we didn’t get to see them. (And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth…) But of course, we’d prefer healthy babies, so we shall submit to the crazy hospital authorities that want us to not spread our germs around… (The nerve…)

2. Ryan and I got to share a little bit at the church I grew up in about doing The Daniel Plan on Sunday! It was their kick-off Sunday for the entire church embarking on studying and implementing The Daniel Plan together. So, we ever so humbly shared our wisdom (and by “humbly shared our wisdom” I mean “demonstrated our lack of communication- or possibly just my bad listening skills” since Ryan had to remind me right there what I was supposed to talk about) regarding the Daniel Plan, along with our experiences so far. Some experiences being of a more dramatic variety, you may remember…

Hopefully, what we shared was actually helpful and enlightening to someone, in spite of our (my) discombobulation. Maybe it was insightful for someone who, like me, hasn’t the foggiest what tempeh is, or who looks upon kale with a suspicious eye because it makes them think of kelp instead and that’s just weird! Or who just makes pasta 3 times a week… and then has pasta leftovers…

Anyway, we felt totally spoiled because we got to eat some of the YUMMIEST pizza  ever- also on the Daniel Plan- including Goat Cheese and Turkey Bacon pizza and BBQ Chicken pizza (that has pineapples on it!!) on Valentine’s night.

And then… after a day of splurging (but on healthy things, so whatevs), because we have a baby… and were staying at her grandparents house… we got to go on…

[Insert drum roll here]

A DATE!!! Huzza! It’s kind of like this:

But change “steak” to “date” and “eat it right” to “date it right” and… Well, suffice it to say, we have our own version of this song for date nights. (They’re kind of a big deal.)

What was our big date night you ask??? Barnes & Noble!!! Because we’re old people, and because a couple hours of quiet sitting, reading, and soy-latte-drinking is my favorite. (You know, along with brunch.) It was epic. And I didn’t spend half my time picking puffs and/or toys of the floor.

What was YOUR big date night? Anyone do anything super unique and/or exciting?? (And it doesn’t have to be romantical. Maybe you hung out with friends, or maybe you stayed in with Netflix for the evening… equally exciting endeavors to be sure.)

Reclaiming Abundance: So Love Can Fill (free printables!)

I think I must be a much worse person than my husband. (That just feels weird. Worser? Much Worser? Worster? Many much moosen??Or at least, more gluttonous. Because today, at the preschool, the kids ate chicken nuggets, tater tots, green beans, and oranges. Guess which two of those I was ca-raving?? And then I thought of french fries, bread from panera, and for some strange reason- donuts- all with the utmost longing.

Meanwhile, the husband says he doesn’t even really want any of that now! I’m like, are you for real? Because I could go crazy on some pastries right about now… Especially that chocolate croissant from Panera… But let’s not think about that.

And with the taut, quiet tones of someone trying to talk a crazy person out of jumping off a building, I told myself to calm down. To stop and think- to stop and be thankful. Thankfulness is like the coconut oil of virtues- it’s uses are seemingly endless! And it worked, sort of. (I know this shocks you, but in spite of how often I write about thankfulness, abundance, and Ann Voskamp, my skills of living gratitud-inally often remain mediocre at best.)

Mostly I just had to tell myself to wait until nap time- aka coffee time– when I would get to eat one of these delish No-Bake Power Bites (which deserve a much saucier name- “Power Bites” makes me think you took protein powder, got it wet,  rolled it into balls, and attempted to serve it as a cake pop or something). Sure enough, friends, it was decidedly yummy. And the cravings subsided (mostly).

But I have to frequently remind myself that the whole eat-whatever-we-want thing was the old way of doing things. That there is a reason why we take these steps to change our bad habits. And not just for the general reasons of feeling better and living long lives. We long for a greater abundance than just physical health- one that reaches that place where physical and spiritual meet. We empty the space in our kitchen of the junk so we can fill it with good things. We’re training the daily hunger to submit, so that we can learn to taste a greater hunger- an awareness of what our souls long for. Those hungers- both the temporal craving for food and the eternal longing for more- will not find themselves satisfied with anything less than glory- with the weight of His glory.

Somehow, we are made to bear it. All at once, it’s a monstrous, heavy thing and yet- paradoxically- light. I see it in my life; those things which seem to gratify instantly and promise ease and convenience only reward me with confusion and chaos. Does it seem heavy-handed to jump from afternoon cravings into the soul cravings? Maybe.

But maybe it shouldn’t be. Especially with Valentine’s Day approaching- that sometimes dreaded, sometimes delighted in day of love (remember last year, friends? and my elation over that fabulous $3 Banner from Target??). 

Love Banner

I know it can be a hard day for some, though I’m looking forward to it with increasing excitement (in spite of the unexciting lack of sugar in-take it promises for us this year). But isn’t it really wonderful to have an opportunity to share love with someone? Even and especially if it’s not romantic love! How many of us know the feeling of an empty heart? Or one that has only dregs left to give?

Love Will Fill

Maybe it’s a chance for us all to be brave, stave off our own cravings to fill up someone else with love. And pretty please (I ask myself), can we silence our own internal eye-rolling and try not to treat love as the greeting card companies sometimes paint it? As a maudlin, faulty feeling or merely a marketable commodity?

Love is fierce. Love is unafraid to give itself. It isn’t concerned with ulterior motives. Love gives and gives when everything else runs out, runs down, or runs away. Love fights like an indomitable warrior. Love wins battles. Love conquers all.

Love Conquers All

And if it does all those things, maybe this Day of Love can be something much greater than the commercialized, shrink-wrapped, mass-produced knock-off Love we’ve been sold before. Maybe it can be about the One who is love.

This week, I’m working on letting the hunger pangs prompt me to pray- to ask God  to help me hunger for Him, to fill me up with something better. I want to clear out and clear up the fear that so often fogs my vision. May God’s love fill the empty heart!

There are two little love printables here in this post- they are free! Just click on them and they’ll come up in a new tab (they’ll be much bigger, obvs), and print them off on cardstock (this is seriously like, 1.75 or something at Kinko’s) and frame, pin, or give your own small banner of love this week!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Reclaiming Abundance: The Internet’s Top 3 “Substitutes” for Half & Half in Coffee

I cheated, everyone. I confess- freely and openly- I cheated. I ate crackers. Saltine crackers. On Monday. But it was ONLY to stay alive. I promise.

Saltines- what are they made of? I have no idea, but they are definitely not on the Daniel Plan. However, when your body has finally surrendered to the evil stomach bug which has burninated its way through your workplace, like Trogdor, it is impossible to stomach even the idea of wheat bulgur… which turns out is a pretty yummy oatmeal-ish type thing. (Props if you know who Trogdor is…)

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Anyway, after 36-ish hours of awfullest awfulness I am recovered {huzza!}, but it did require saltine crackers and the staying power of their blandness. (It also required viewing the 5-hour-long BBC Pride & Prejudice.)

(Yes, the Colin Firth one, because it has healing properties…) 

Now, all us peasants are praying the beast stays vanquished…

In other news, my husband and I (who are never wrong on anything, which can be a challenge when our opinions differ), debated the health value (or lack thereof) in half & half the other night. I was just saying that I thought in the future it would likely make a reappearance in our lives. (My coffee is lonely with only watery- in comparison to half & half- unsweetened almond milk!!) And he had the gaul to suggest that half & half isn’t the healthiest option. The effrontery.

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This then necessitated a duel of the Google, which- by an astonishing and appalling turn of events- betrayed me to him by revealing that half & half is ***wait for it*** half cream and half whole milk. [Insert my utter chagrin here.] I’m not even going into the specifics of the sugar/fat breakdown. Let’s not add insult to injury. My psyche is fragile as it is.

It isn’t that I didn’t know that. But I had sort of forgotten it and felt like it was better. Because doesn’t everything with the words “half & half” in the title suggest (with a sort of aloof superiority) that it is healthier than the full-fledged version, while avoiding being the totally un-fun buzzkill of the alternative??? Half & half tea? Which shows that you aren’t a crazy head who doesn’t like sugar at all. Or Half caf? Which shows that, hey, at least you’ll be a little jazzed to be alive…

Somehow I have, from the deep, sweet, sugary goodness of my heart managed to forgive Google for this egregious sin. And I may yet forgive that husband of mine… Ok. I already forgave him… Mostly because he totally took care of me, Lucy, and making lots of foods for the Burnination Period of my sickness. So, we’ll let him off. (THIS TIME.)

So, all this to say that, for now I shall endeavor to find healthy (ish) alternatives to half & half. Coconut milk is pretty good. The sweetened vanilla coconut milk I accidentally bought yesterday is pretty darn good… (For real!! It was totally an accident. I got home and the ever-vigilant hubs pointed out to me that I’d neglected to buy unsweetened regular kind.) 

But Google did steer me wrong in one major way… In an attempt to nutrify my beverage, I looked up some of the interwebs’ suggestions for healthy half & half substitutes. Here were the top 3 results:

1. Soy Milk- It makes a super yummy latte, so I picked some of that up too, yesterday. (Why didn’t I use that this morning? Because we were in a monstrous hurry, and the contraband sweetened coconut milk was already opened.)

2. Honey- Um, Internet? Honey is not remotely like half & half. I don’t even put sweetener in my coffee 90% of the time… I don’t even super love flavored creamers! (Vanilla and Hazelnut are fun on occasion, but mostly I just like fabulous, creamy half & half.) This is just wrong. And it gives a complete different taste to coffee.

3. Greek Yogurt- This was by far THE ABSOLUTE WORST recommended substitute for half & half. It was hateful and nasty, like a sneaky conman who swindles your coffee goodness out from under your nose and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I might as well have put sour cream in there.

So. Soy Milk it is. (Or at least that yummy coconut milk I bought… Hey, we can’t waste it! Plus, it’s still way better for us than dairy products.) 

All in all, I will probably still drink coffee with half & half at some point in the future. Probably. But I am perfectly open and willing to try other things. You never know- I may find something that’s really delish! I’ll be sure to let you know. (Because I know you value half & half and coffee as much as I do.) I mean, everything in moderation, right? It’s not like I put a cup of half & half in my coffee every time… If I only did it once a day, I’m pretty sure that would be ok.

P.S. Aside from the Saltine Emergency of 2015, I (and it goes without saying, my husband) haven’t diverged from the plan, even though we ended up having to eat the same things for a couple days for lack of time for food prep. Not gonna lie, I’m pretty proud of us.

Have you had any Saltine Emergencies yet this year?? And/or do you have some secret, magical, elixir-of-life healthy substitute for half & half??? (Tell me now, peasant, or I’ll have Trogdor burninate your thatched roof cottages.)

P.P.S. Just fyi! I happen to be running a big, lovely Share the Love MK Sale! You can check it out at: https://www.facebook.com/HaylieAllcottMK

Share the Love MK Sale