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What I See

Favorite Things Friday

How is your week going? At any rate, you made it to Friday!

I’m still finding my niche as a stay-at-home mom with a very low maintenance baby. Ha. I have my joyful moments of seeing this time of not working before baby arrives as a short, sweet life season, which I am so very grateful for, and then other moments I feel a bit guilty  or pressured – by the enemy, not by anyone else – to have something fancy to show for my time. More than ever before I see how our culture glorifies busy and how I have totally been buying into it.

But lately, God is showing me that quiet and still is better right now. It’s a time to explore writing, to rest, to prepare for our baby, but ultimately it’s still a time to trust Him with EVERYTHING.

And of course, quiet and still yields fertile soil for enjoying those little gifts in life. Here are three I’m loving:

Library Card: These things are golden. Free books I don’t have to add to our already too big collection? Yes please. I just joined the library here and was so happy to find they have a ton of books on my to-read list.

Gallery Walls: If I can build gallery walls, so can you. I did one in my living room and one in my bedroom using pieces I already had. I didn’t spend a penny. Pinterest has some great ideas and templates. The main “rules” I took away for building a gallery wall is to a) use a mix of mediums like art, photos, shelves, and clocks, and b) use similar frames and colors to visually tie the mix together. I love the finished looks!

1 Pump of Pumpkin Spice at Starbucks:  So, a tall pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks comes with three pumps of sugary pumpkin spice. That’s a lot of sweet. (No judgment you if you like it that way.) And yes, yes, I too understand there is artificial junk in the beloved P Spice syrup. For when we can’t (or aren’t willing) to whip up our own at home, might I suggest the minimalist pumpkin lover’s version? I’ve been enjoying one pump of syrup in my drinks of choice this month, which have thus far been a latte, an Americano, and a steamer. I still taste fall, and I think it’s the perfect amount of sweet.

Happy weekending, friends. What are your favorites this week??

xoxo,

Sar

What I See

Favorite Things Friday: Harvey Relief

www.etsy.com/listing/555024097

My heart aches for those throughout the state who have been displaced from their homes, who have lost decades worth of treasures and tangible memories, and for those who have lost their lives in the hurricane chaos. This is a very real and continuing storm for so many. If you’re like me, it has been gut-wrenching to sit back and watch Hurricane Harvey wreck Houston and other parts of Southeast Texas. Houston was my home three months ago. I’m constantly thinking about my former neighbors, church, co-workers, my community.

One beacon of light we get to see is that, in the middle of all of this brokenness, people are helping people. They are linking arms in the name of community and love. What a sight for sore eyes. So, my favorite things lately are ways that we, ordinary people, perhaps people not physically affected by Harvey, can do extraordinary things. There are tons of ways to reach out and link arms, even if you’re hours or states or continents away. Here are three.

  • Give. Bethel Church of Houston, my former church, has a benevolence fund for Hurricane Harvey relief. If you’d like to give money and ensure it’s going fully to families who need it, this is perfect. Check it out here.
  • Eat lunch at an East TX Whataburger today. From 11 am – 1 pm today, 100% of proceeds at 32 East Texas Whataburger locations will be going to the East TX Food Bank for their Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Click here for info and the list of locations.
  • Purchase a shirt with a purpose. Through the end of September, all proceeds from the sales of Magnolia Market’s “Texas Forever” T-shirt will be donated to Hurricane Harvey disaster relief efforts.

We are praying for you, hurricane victims! Stay strong.

xoxo,
Sar

What I See

My Stitch Fix Experience

Gone are the days I enjoyed clothes shopping. What happened?! Maybe it’s that I feel clueless on what’s trendy or that I’d rather spend extra money on a date night or books or décor. Before I started my job in Houston in 2012, my sweet Aunt Tammy took me on a hunt for professional things – cardigans and belts and skirts.  I still wear a few tried and true items from high school (Is that terrible??), and any new clothes are deals my mom finds at T.J. Maxx.

After considering my last 10 years of clothing sources, it’s clear: I need a personal shopper. Enter Stitch Fix, an online styling service that mails five clothing and accessory items per order directly to your home. Translation: No shopping malls, no sifting through piles for hours, no dressing rooms. {And this is not a paid advertisement. J}

I received two Stitch Fix gift cards for Christmas and as of last month hadn’t used them. When I found out that Stitch Fix offers maternity wear, I placed my order earlier this month to see what they could do, knowing I’d soon need some maternity shorts and pants especially.

How It Works

After creating an account, you fill out a Style Profile, which not only includes clothing sizes but everything from what type of fit you prefer to your ideal price point to types of clothing you don’t want in your shipment.

Then, you select a delivery date. When your stylist puts together your box, Stitch Fix charges your account a $20 “styling fee.” But the $20 is credited back to you when you make a purchase.

The fun comes of course when the box comes and you get to try everything on! You have three days to buy what you want to keep and send back what you don’t in a prepaid envelope. Lastly, you provide feedback on what you kept or returned and why. If you choose to keep all five items, they give you 25% off your total.

My box arrived 3 days earlier than expected. Here’s what came:

  1. Fossil Crossbody– Oh how I loved this bag. It was priced at $138 though. I entertained the thought of keeping it, but then the practical side of my won over. There’s no place for a diaper, lady.
  2. Campton Maternity Knit Top – Fun shirt, great fit. I’m definitely a pink, black, and white girl but the combo and design was something different, and I liked it a lot. Priced at $48.
  3. Coretta Maternity Cuffed Shorts – This was the only item that didn’t fit perfectly; they seemed a little big and bunched a bit in the front. Still, they weren’t awful, and while I’d never seek out yellow shorts, I really liked the color. Priced at $58.
  4. Worley Maternity Skinny Jeans – These fit like a glove and were so comfy. I loved the dark wash, the skinny feel, and the cute, rough cut at the bottom. And of course, that hidden panel is everything. Priced at $88. That’s a price I usually wouldn’t go for – especially knowing it’s an item I’ll wear short-term. But this was hands down my favorite item and the one I knew I’d wear most into fall and winter.
  5. Kwenuke Short Sleeve Maternity Knit Top – With a solid navy front and a pretty floral back, this maternity top was as cute as could be! Priced at $48.

What I Loved

  1. I could “trust” the items. Again, trends aren’t really on my radar. It took the pressure off to know that every item was not only stylish but also personalized.
  2. I loved trying items that were out of the box for me like pattered shirts, as I tend to wear a lot of solids. And I never would have picked out yellow shorts, but they were so fun!
  3. The prepaid envelope made the return process super convenient. Free shipping always makes me happy.
  4. You don’t have to keep a monthly subscription going. You can simply place an order whenever you want.

What I Didn’t Like

Ultimately, the cost of these items prohibited me from purchasing more. My gift cards totaled $70 and I wanted to stay under $100 total. In the style profile, you can answer how much you’re willing to pay for each item. Price points range from “The cheaper, the better!” to $200+. I requested “The cheaper, the better!” for each category. I felt like my stylist sabotaged my 25% off potential by including that $138 bag. No hard feelings, though. I still love you, Quencie. In a perfect world, I would have purchased every item.

Would I recommend StitchFix? Absolutely, if for no other reason than it is so much fun to try on things that a stylist picked out specifically for you! And Stitch Fix is truly as close to effortless as shopping can be. I’d love to save up and try it one more time with a maternity clothes box.

Have you tried Stitch Fix? Did you like it?

xoxo,

Sar

What I See

Favorite Things Friday

Happy Fri-yay! After such a heavy week in our world, I had to ask myself whether I believe it’s out of line, shallow, or mindless to write about something so frivolous as favorite things. And I have to say I think it’s okay. I believe it’s okay to keep writing about things other than politics and current events. Despite the evil and brokenness around us, there is still beauty and room for fun.

Summer and moving have brought some new favorites my way. I want to share!

1. Grove Collaborative

Grove Collaborative is the perfect one-stop shop for really great natural household products at affordable prices – from Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap to Tom’s Toothpaste and more. Use this link for $10 off your order! You can also sign up for a free 60 day VIP trial (that’s what I did) to get free shipping.

The photo above shows what I bought during a special Grove ran last month – spend $20, get 5 items free. So I spent $22 on Seventh Generation Dishwasher Powder, Method Daily Shower Spray, Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap Refill, Tom’s Mouthwash, and Bon Ami Powder Cleanser, and I received Mrs. Meyer’s Dish Soap, Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap, Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Cleaner, 2 scrubber sponges, and a cute dish towel FOR FREE. I’m telling you these items have been a game changer as I start out in a new apartment and as a mama-to-be. I enjoy using these products knowing they don’t contain icky chemicals.

 

2. e.l.f. Brow Pencil

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After

This is the best makeup purchase I’ve made in years. I heard one too many times about how filling in eyebrows (but not overdoing it) provides a polished look and is easy to do, so I decided to try it out. I found that I’m no pro yet, but I like it a lot! One end is a brow brush and the other is a pencil. The best part: This puppy is a super sweet $2 at Target!

3. Triplus Fineliner Pens 

These pens were actually a pre-summer find and birthday present from Alex, but I really started to use and enjoy them this summer. I love pretty pens. These are so fun for bullet journaling, and I tried them out in this little hand lettering project, which now hangs in my bedroom:

What are some of your favorites lately?? I’d love to know!

What I See

Australia Recap + Top 5 International Travel Tips

Happy summer! I’m still pinching myself after our Australia trip. I want to remember every city we drove through, every hug, every sense of “Ahhh THIS is what I missed,” every good meal, every adventurous day.

I’d been aching to return to Australia since I left in 2012, and we decided this summer would be the right time for a big trip in celebration of Alex’s graduation and before moving to Tyler for Alex’s new job.

At 8 weeks pregnant, 20+ hours of travel didn’t seem ideal, but I have a hunch our baby bear enjoyed the trip. Though I definitely tired more easily, I never got sick and felt mostly great throughout the whole three weeks! All praise and glory to God for that. The trip went smoothly and was so much fun – minus missing our flight from Brisbane to Melbourne the day before we left Melbourne for the U.S. Then I lost my Kindle later that day. No one was hurt or hospitalized though, so I call that a win.

After staying the first week in Mornington catching up with friends, we went on a two-week road trip across Victoria to Adelaide, through Wagga Wagga to Sydney and up to Brisbane with stops along the way in amazing, picturesque little towns . . . totaling 2,500 miles on the road! This map shows where we drove:

From Brisbane, we flew back to Melbourne, stayed in Mornington one final night, and then Sue and Rod took us to the airport in Melbourne the next morning. Whew! We made it back to LA exhausted and elated.

Looking back a few weeks later, the trip was as memorable and as meaningful as I prayed for. And now that our family is growing, I am all the more thankful we were able to get away for the journey. While all international trips are different, and I am by no means a travel expert, here are 5 tips I wanted to share to help make your next trip smooth, safe, and tons of fun – wherever you go!

1. Get your hands on a guidebook. We purchased Lonely Planet’s Australia guide at Barnes and Noble in the spring to start getting ideas. It was a huge help in finding restaurants and things to do once we arrived in a particular city.

2. Plan ahead, but not too much. While we booked things like plane tickets in advance, called our bank, and researched the best way to pay for things so there wasn’t an exchange fee, we planned and booked almost everything else while in Australia – usually just a day or two before. Maybe it had to do with visiting in winter instead of summer, but there were plenty of Airbnb options in our price range that we booked the day before. And Alex and I aren’t into a super structured vacation schedule, so this worked well for us.

3. Treat yourself right during an international flight. One of the best things to do before and during a flight is drink LOTS of water and little to no coffee or soda. If this means you have to get up several times to go to the bathroom, just think of it as bonus stretching time. I also try to avoid bread and other foods that make me feel less than light on long flights. And when the cabin lights go off, I brush my teeth in the bathroom to make it feel like bedtime, then put on my eye mask and try to sleep several hours. My sweet husband let me wear his compression running socks, and I didn’t have any swelling in my feet or ankles. (He did. Sorry Al.)

4. Pack purposefully. I didn’t do this well and packed way more clothes and shoes than I needed. And I realized 2 weeks into the trip that those skinny jeans didn’t appeal nearly as much as yoga pants while 10 weeks pregnant. When we arrived at the airport, our friend Ian gawked at our large suitcases. “What’d you bring all that for??” he asked. He had the same reaction six years ago. Ha.

Along those lines, be sure to look up the maximum weight per checked bag allowed by your airlines. We ended up paying extra on top of the original fee in Dallas because one of our bags was over Spirit’s 40 lb. limit. We only checked Air New Zealand’s 50 lb. limit. But if you’re packing minimally in the first place, you’ll probably avoid this issue.

5. Choose to relax and have fun. Enjoy the time off work exploring a different part of the world. Take a chance on that Airbnb on a banana farm. Wander to the nearest park for some exercise and views of the gum trees you don’t have at home. Talk to locals. Everything won’t go perfectly, but if you choose to be content and grateful despite whatever bumps come along the way, you will truly be able to unwind and create memories to last your whole life!


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