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What I See

Friendships Born in Houston: Celebrating Ashley

As moving day inches closer, I’ve been thinking more and more about the friends God has placed in my life since moving to Houston. I asked some of them a few fun questions, partly because I want the world to know more about how awesome they are and partly because I just want to commemorate their friendship.

Ashley and I met November 11, 2012, and our friendship has become one of my life’s greatest treasures. She recently moved to Illinois, and I miss her deeply, but we are in no danger of losing touch.

This girl is strong, honest, and just so so beautiful inside and out. Her heart for the nations and for refugees is infectious. I wish you all had the chance to know her like I do. She came all the way to Arkansas for my wedding just 6 months after we met. I got to hold both of her boys on their birthdays in the hospital. And for three and a half years, Starbucks meant Ashley. We shared many joys and pains and prayers at Starbucks on Fridays at 7:30 am (usually I was several minutes late and she gave me grace every single time). Now, we share them on the phone.

You’ll see in Ashley’s answers how she builds me up, and that is so her. Ashley is constantly encouraging me. What a gift from God she is! I am so grateful for her life and for the hard, wonderful work she is doing as a mom to two of the cutest boys on the planet. Without further ado, meet Ashley!

Occupation: ESL (English as a second language) instructor

Favorite thing about living in Houston: The diversity!! I love how you can meet people from early every country in the world! I also love how the diversity translates to food and the restaurant scene! I am such a fan of all the ethnic food choices: Lebanese, Indian, Turkish, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Bosnian and the list could go on! I felt like I could travel the world with my palate!

Biggest Houston pet peeve: Well as a northern girl raised in Illinois, I’d have to say the heat. The summers are so brutal. I was not a fan of twice a day showers and having to stay inside most of my summers. I was however a fan of sunny warm Januarys. So it was a trade off I guess!

Currently reading: Right now I’m reading a book I just happened to pick up at the library called Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. So far so good! I also just finished reading She Reads Truth by Amanda Bible Williams and Raechel Myers. I cannot stop recommending it enough. I love how those girls shared their stories of struggle but led me right back to the source of all comfort- Jesus and his Word. Such an encouraging read!

How she recharges: Hmm I would say travel or a trip to the beach but with 2 little boys 2 and under and a recent move back to Illinois, I won’t be recharging like that for a long while. So as a substitute, I love coffee!! Lots and lots of coffee! I also enjoy a short distance run/walk nothing compared to my amazing friend Sarah here, but just a little bit of exercise helps me feel better about life!

3 things she’s loving:
1) Podcasts!! Last fall I discovered podcasts thanks to Sarah Bearden and now I just love them! My favorite by far is the Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. I also am enjoying the Liturgists podcast, Java with Juli and The Sorta Awesome Show.
2) Coconut Oil! I’m loving it for all things cooking but most especially in my coffee! Throw a tablespoon of coconut oil and a fresh hot cup of coffee in the blender add a drop of honey and a dash of cinnamon and I’m in heaven.
3) The CBS TV show Life in Pieces. I was looking for a random comedy to watch on Netflix and came across this show. It is absolutely hilarious. It follows a family with three adult children and their own families. They all have their own drama and bring their own crazy to the table but all in all they are one big loving family. It’s a fun feel good way to wrap up some stressful days.

What I See

My 10 Favorite Recipes for Whole30 Success

Since my last post on Whole30, some friends have asked about recipes I used and loved. I love to cook but am not really one to create my own recipes – sometimes just tweak others’ a bit – so I rounded up 10 favorites I was so thankful to come across during my Whole30. Most of them came from The Whole30 book, which I highly recommend, as the first half describes the program and the second half is full of cooking methods and recipes.

But First . . . 

Even though it may feel like there are a lot of foods that are not allowed during Whole30, just remember there are a ton of foods that are! And in many of these recipes, substitutions work great because it’s just a matter of substituting a starch, meat or veggie. So, if you have white potatoes but not sweet or prefer green beans instead of asparagus, feel free to sub.

One more tip: Adding eggs was my favorite way to round out a meal, and I surprised myself by not tiring of them.

The Recipes

1. Banger Sausage Patties with Sweet Potato Mash & Carmelized Onions 

2. Pulled Tandoori Chicken  – Make this in the crock pot! I served it with kale sautéed in coconut oil and minced garlic and a roasted sweet potato also cooked in the crock pot. Love that thing.

3. Chicken Cacciatore

4. Ratatouille – This is a good one to top with fried eggs for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

5. Chicken Hash

6. Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken – This recipe opens up a whole new world of ease and thriftiness in the kitchen. I sometimes find organic whole chickens half off at Aldi, and If you want to feel like a dollar stretching rock star, make bone broth using the carcass.

7. Scrambled, Over Easy or Poached Eggs with Sautéed Plantains and Sweet Potato Rounds – Ok, there’s no recipe for this one. Scramble 2 eggs; sautée a thinly sliced plantain in coconut oil over medium-high heat, and repeat with sliced sweet potato rounds. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. This meal is simple and incredible!

8. Chili – I used the first one in this link and didn’t miss beans or shredded cheese one bit. I’m sure they are all delicious! {In my photo below, it’s topped with a dollop of Whole30 Ranch, which didn’t really dollop because it was really runny. That is one recipe I didn’t ace.}

9. Pulled Pork Carnitas – This is my new favorite way to prepare pork AND it’s a crock pot recipe. Serve with sweet potato rounds, sautéed spinach and top with sliced jalapeños for a kick!

10. Banana Chews – This recipe is from Run Fast. Eat Slow. and is incredibly simple:

(1) Thinly slice a banana and place on Silpat or greased baking pan

(2) Melt 2 teaspoons coconut oil in microwave and stir together with 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. cinnamon and a dash of sea salt

(3) brush 1/2 of the mixture evenly over slices

(4) Bake for 2 hours at 250 degrees, flipping halfway through and brushing the second half of mixture on the other side.

Wrap a handful in Saran wrap for the PERFECT long run fuel instead of Gu or Gatorade.

BONUS:
Roasted Veggies – The possibilities are wide ranging. Pair with a grilled burger patty or other protein for a complete and delicious meal. Some of my favorites: Brussels sprouts, potatoes, asparagus, carrots, green beans, mushrooms, red, orange or yellow peppers, onions, kale.

Wishing you the best for your Whole30 success!

xoxo,

Sar

What I See

5 Great Books to Read Now

When I spent a year in Australia, Casie and I became BFFs with the local library and soooooaked up reading time. On my last day there, I expressed my thanks to the front desk for the refuge they provided to a bookless foreigner like me – and all for free! But once I moved to Texas and began working full time, reading books other than the Bible or articles for the sake of proofing became much less of a priority. Between 2012 and 2015, leisurely reading became almost non-existent for me.

So at the beginning of 2016, I resolved to read two books a month, which sounded like a totally realistic goal, right? 24. I could do that.

I read 13 books last year. I’m glad I read those 13 books. It meant I spent less time scrolling Instagram (when will I understand that Instagram is actually not very fulfilling?) and more time getting lost in the words others wrote to be shared and loved.

But this year, I want to read more. So here’s to carrying over that 2016 goal to 2017. Do you want to read more this year too? Here are 5 recent reads that I absolutely loved:

1. Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon • Ed Caesar
This is about long distance running, elite marathoners, and the possibility of someone someday breaking two hours in the marathon. This book is well researched and a good, easy read. And, it provides a great backdrop for the SUB2 project Nike is now working on with 3 elite runners. (The current marathon WR is 2:02:57.)

2. Bird by Bird • Anne Lamott
“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.”

I adore this book filled with practical tips and wisdom on writing. Now, Lamott sprinkles in some language that I wouldn’t use and theology that I don’t agree with, but that doesn’t stop me from loving the gift she gives me a the reader of her insight on the craft of writing.
3. Hinds’ Feet on High Places • Hannah Hurnard
In this allegory of the Christian faith, the loving Shepherd invites crippled, trembling Much Afraid on a journey to the High Places, where she is promised swift hinds’ feet and restoration. He helps her through the journey as she overcomes fears and the temptation to quit. I first read this in college, and the reminder for me both times of reading was this: The Christian’s journey is not easy. Life is hard, but God is faithful. He will never leave us or forsake us.

4. Hope Heals • Katherine and Jay Wolf
Have a box of tissues near for this one. At the age of 26, Katherine had a massive stroke, changing the trajectory of her, her husband and her baby boy’s lives drastically. The thread that weaves through this memoir of sorts is hope – an overwhelming, anchoring hope in Christ in the midst of what truly seems like one of the most tragic circumstance imaginable. I am grateful Katherine and Jay were brave enough to share their very hard story. It made me – and three months later still makes me – stop and remember Jesus truly is the one who brings hope and healing to our broken souls.

5. The Kite Runner • Khalid Hosseini
This novel captured my attention from the start. It features themes of guilt and redemption and explores the relationship between and father and son with lots of twists in the plot. I didn’t want to put it down.

What’s on your to-read list?
xoxo, Sar

What I See

Favorite Things Friday

Christmas is nine days away. Whew! Are you feeling the magic of the season yet? I had a harrowing few minutes the other day looking down my list of gifts to buy, but I’m okay now. Thank goodness for online shopping.

On this Favorite Things Friday, here are three of my Christmastime favorites this year:

JJ Heller’s Unto Us: I want to hug JJ a million times for creating this beautiful album. I first started listing to her music in college and have never gotten over her beautifully thoughtful lyrics and pure, graceful voice.

Jamie Ivy’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide: I adore The Happy Hour podcast, and Jamie’s Holiday Gift Guide was such a fun episode. She shared 13 companies whose products are not your run of the mill Old Navy mittens or Amazon books. Some of the promo codes have expired by now, but there is still time to order gifts from these places before Christmas. I bought from Dear Mushka and can’t wait to give my gift!

Trader Joe’s Mistletoe: There’s not a whole lot to say about this except Trader Joe’s. Real mistletoe. $1.99.

Enjoy this season!

xoxo,

Sar

What I See

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Here we are: Thanksgiving 2016! I’m counting my blessings today and hope you get a chance to as well. Here are 16 things I’m grateful for:

1. My family – their support and love and how wonderful it is to spend time with them.

2. My husband who knows me best and loves me so well.

3. This season of life.

4. Friends far and near.

5. Running and the meaningful outlet it is to me.

6. A reliable car that took us to Arkansas last night.

7. Our church home and brothers and sisters there.

8. Good health.

9. An apartment I feel safe in and for a short commute.

10. A warm bed and the ability to fall asleep fast.

11. A piping hot cup of coffee.

12. My job and all that I get to learn there.

13. The sunshine.

14. Laughter – especially that of my friends’ babies and our 2-year-olds class at church.

15. Rich experiences from childhood, college and Australia that have shaped me and the memories that still bring me joy.

16. God, who has made a way for me through Jesus Christ to experience life to the fullest here on earth and forevermore with Him.

What are you grateful for? 

Here are some of my favorite quotes on gratitude to give you inspiration.

“Thanksgiving is a time of quiet reflection . . . An annual reminder that God has, again, been ever so faithful. The solid and simple things of life are brought into clear focus.” – Charles Swindoll

“Gratitude. More aware of what you have than what you don’t. Recognizing the treasure in the simple – a child’s hug, fertile soil, a golden sunset. Relishing the comfort of the common – a warm bed, a hot meal, a clean shirt.” – Max Lucado

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1.17

“Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant is a seed – this plants the giant miracle.” – Ann Voskamp

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5.18

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What I See

Favorite Things Friday

We made it through the week! I hope you thrived.

I had some hard moments this week and had to remind myself – and have friends remind me – of God’s sovereignty and generosity. There are so many blessings to count. My plan is to dwell on those blessings this next week and coming up with a big ole gratitude list for Thanksgiving. Want to join?

In the meantime, here are three of my faves, all perfect for fall:

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Emergen-C: B vitamins, electrolytes, antioxidants . . . What else do we need? Like many of my favorite things, my mom introduced me to Emergen-C. While it’s not the tastiest (think fizzy and tart), some flavors are better than others. My favorites are Tropical and Cranberry-Pomegranate. It’s the best after a run or if with the first symptoms of a cold. Get a free sample here.

Gardenia Tea Body Serum:  This little bottle is like the final answer to getting soft skin. It has a sweet floral scent that’s not too perfumey. Put it on after a shower, and you’ll go “ahhh” because your skin will be glowing and incredibly soft.

Seasonal Napkins: Owls are one of my favorite emblems of fall because my friend Liz and I bonded over finding so many cute owl things like pillows and salt and pepper shakers my junior year of college. HomeGoods has a slew of cute napkins for all occasions. Give as a gift or use at your very own dinner table.

Have the happiest weekend!
xoxo,
Sarah

“Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord? Who can ever praise him enough?” Psalm 106.1-2

 

What I See

Favorite Things Friday

I don’t know about you, but between the election and work and life, it’s been a big week. And we made it through! Thank you to our veterans on this Veterans Day. Thank you for helping hold us together as you served our country. I am so grateful to live in this nation.

Now on to this week’s favorite things! Here are four things I’m loving lately:

In the midst of this week’s social media jibber jabber, I really enjoyed reading Anne Voskamp’s post “win or lose, the way forward through this messy brokenness.” What a beautiful job she did at describing how, in the aftermath of the election and also as generally broken people, we can “be the gift to each other.”

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Roasted Dandelion Root: This product  may sound hippie, but just go with it. I’ve been trying to drink more tea lately. It’s calming and better in the afternoon or evening than a cup of coffee. This caffeine-free herbal tea is so interesting in the loveliest way. Its list of ingredients is literally just “organic dandelion root,” and it tastes good on its own – no honey needed. My sweet mom gave me this, but it is available at most grocery stores.

“Balance” Necklace: Remember when gold jewelry was all that in the 90s and then silver became the trend? Gold is back it seems, and I’m loving it. This necklace came in my Fall Causebox, and I adore its simplicity and versatility. Dogeared’s jewelry is handcrafted in the USA, and as a certified B corporation, it is ethically made – an even better reason to love it.

Botanical Notebook Collection: Oh my, how cute are these notebooks? I have been savoring this three-pack of notebooks since landing them at our friends’ Christmas party last year. The decadent, foil-stamped covers are feminine and floral. Don’t you love writing in pretty spaces?

xoxo,

Sar

What I See

Favorite Things Friday

Happy Fri-yay! I’m thinking about my favorite things again. These three things have stood the test of at least a few months’ time in my life, and I can honestly say I love them.

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Garmin Forerunner 25 Running Watch: My sweet husband gave me this for my birthday after I started eying his a little too closely (his isn’t pink though). A year ago I would have said I had no desire for a fancy GPS watch and may have even looked down on you for having one, because I was convinced the information it provided was superfluous and that it overestimated the distance. Please forgive me, because I understand now. This watch has motivated me to run faster and longer. It tracks pace and distance on runs and counts steps and calories burned throughout the day. And it is accurate!

Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky: Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan and her former college roommate and chef Elyse Kopecky have done something generous for the world by publishing this cookbook. The whole mindset behind the book is to nourish your body – any body, not just a runner’s – with unprocessed, whole foods. Every recipe I’ve tried so far – Energizing Chai, Banana Chews, Superhero Muffins, Broccoli Chèvre Soup, Chicken and Rice Soup, Charred Cauliflower and Pecan Butter Chocolate Truffles with Sea Salt – were really, truly delish and uncomplicated. I’m talking Alex-approved delish. It’s fun to have a cookbook I can open and know that whatever I decide to try is both nutritious and tasty. I bought it for Kindle because they had a $3.99 special, but now it is still just $9.99 on Amazon.

Tom’s Long Lasting Deodorant: I’ll keep the explanation on this short, lest I bore you. Deodorant is a must, especially in hot and humid Houston where we’re staring summer in the face for a solid six months. As in it currently still feels like summer. With no artificial fragrance, preservatives or aluminum and “odor-fighting hops to provide 24-hour odor protection,” Toms has convinced me that deodorant is one of those things worth putting a few extra cents toward. I’m not really sure what odor fighting hops are, but I decided I like them.

Enjoy your weekend! xoxo, Sar

What I See

The Last of October

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Happy Halloween! I’ve seen some good costumes this year so far, but I have laughed the hardest at my eight-month-old niece’s little old lady costume. Props to my brother and sister-in-law on pulling off such a spectacular first Halloween. They are rocking this parenthood thing!

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Alex and I dusted off our hillbilly “costumes” for a costume party at church.

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Anyway, the end of another month has me reflecting on some of my favorite October moments…

• I spent a weekend in Phoenix with five of my best friends from college and Casie’s baby, Addy, as well as the other littles who have come along. The Lord has been so kind to sustain our friendships. Five years ago, we couldn’t see all that’s happened since college coming. Now, with husbands and careers and [for some] babies, it’s awesome to see God’s gracious hand in getting us to where we are as 27-year-olds. Lord willing, we still have a whole lot of life to live together.

• Alex and I started going to a track Tuesday evenings to do speed work with a local running group. This has been a big brave step for me, as I’ve been terrified of running with other people and especially pushing my pace limits with them. It has been so good for me mentally and physically. When Coach Andy tells me to run 800 meter repeats at 3:40 pace, I just file in with the people in my group and get it done. It’s not quite that simple I guess, but then again it kind of is.

• I ran in the Houston Half Marathon Sunday, and even though the weather was very unfallish – humid and 70ish degrees – I felt good and enjoyed it so much! I shaved a mere 2 seconds off my PR with a time of 1:48:11. I’ll take it!

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What do you want to remember from this month?

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1.17

What I See

Favorite Things Friday

Who doesn’t love a solid recommendation? And on a Friday? “Favorite Things Friday” is an established thing according to the Internet. Here are three things I’m loving lately that are either free or cheap. I feel like it’s unfair to hold them back any longer. They’re that good. I hope you love them too.

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The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey: Go subscribe to this podcast TODAY. Whether you’re a mom, a single girl, married without kids, whatever, this podcast will encourage you to no end! Each week, host Jamie Ivey invites a guest to chat during a “happy hour” style conversation. She . The guests are entrepreneurs, writers, speakers, artists, wives and moms. They are normal women who are living out their dreams, saying yes to God, and seeing where it takes them. Two of my favorite episodes so far are #90 with Lauren Chandler and #98 with Katherine Wolf, but really I have enjoyed each one. The content is true to real life and at the same time opens my eyes to new businesses, issues and books. Jamie is funny and kind and just so real. I listen to a couple each week while running and is always a bright spot in my week.

 

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Cucumber slices with lime and salt: Yes, for real. I partly love this simple snack because my friend Lindsay served it when I was at her house one grand summer day. Wash, peel and slice a cucumber. Arrange slices on a plate, sprinkle with sea salt and then squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime over the top. So refreshing!

 

 

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Starbucks 2016 Fall Blend “Hearty with Spice Notes” K-cups: My sweet stepmom sent me a fall package in the mail chock full of fall goodies, including these k-cups. The taste is bold, smooth and harvesty. A sip from your favorite mug will make you go, “Ahh, fall.”

xoxo,
Sar