our adventures in life, love, faith and adoption

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Last time we left off Andy had built shelving to frame the tv on our black wall:

I knew I wanted to have some lighting on this side of the room, and I wanted to have it on the wall above the tv, but I had no idea what it should look like or where I was going to find it. I also wasn't sure how we were going to install it without having wires running all over the place. A couple weeks ago, we were at Target looking for something completely unrelated to this when Andy spotted some brass spotlights. I knew right then they would be perfect.


The brass on the spotlights ties into the brass that we have on our lamp bases on the other side of the room. I also thought they would be classy without being too traditional. Andy installed them on the wall, and then we ran the cords down and to the back of the tv, then out to the floor on a power strip so we can turn all three on with one button.


We installed some plastic casing around the white cords and then painted it black to blend in with the wall. You can still see the cords popping through a little bit at the top, but everything still looks much more streamlined than if we had just painted the cords themselves. After we had the lights all hooked up, I finally decided to grab some frames to go along each of the top shelves. I found them for $2 and $3 at Dollar General (except for the big ones with the white mattes) and filled them with some pictures we've taken this summer with a few of our excursions.

Wanna see something crazy? I found a picture we took just as we were about to redo the living room with new paint:


^^ That right there is what this wall looked like before the black paint, shelving, lights, and frames. I am so much happier with the "after":


This little wall of ours has come a long way! I literally stared at it for years not knowing what to do to make it more appealing, but it's finally to a place that I love. I'm still working on what to do with the bottom shelves on each side, but I think I have an idea, so I'll be sure to share when I figure it out! For now I'm going to sneak around and see what else I can turn black with my leftover paint ;)

Have a wonderful week!

xo,

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I think creating in any form carries with it a certain unpredictability. I'm finding this to be true both with writing this blog and photography. I have days and weeks where I am bursting with ideas to share, things to say, and images to create. And then I suddenly fall into a slump where I create nothing. I binge-watch netflix and find joy in the mundane without documenting a thing. I think that's ok. Being forced to create all the time would make it more like work and less like inspiration.


Anyway, I think I'm finally coming out of a slump. This last few weeks have left me a little sad and a little drained, but I think I did enough resting and renewing that I have the pep in my step back again. :) I wanted to share our Rose of Sharon tree with you. It's rather monstrous and unruly in person, but it's also quite beautiful. It's bursting with flowers right now, and I scooted out our back porch last night while andy was grilling a quick meal and captured a few shots.


I love that there is so much beauty in our jungle of a backyard. I have to remind myself to look for it sometimes, though.

I hope you are all having a great week!

xo,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

We started the process of updating our home study paperwork so that we can renew our immigration approval when it expires mid-September. Our immigration approval expires every eighteen months, and this is the third time we are renewing. I never thought we'd be so well-versed in this step, but I am thankful that it's at least not as overwhelming the third time around as it was the first.


We have heard no new news from our agency regarding the status of adoptions in Ethiopia. There have been no referrals for nine months, and the signatures needed to approve a child to be matched with a family are few and far between. Admittedly, we are in an emotional season. It seems to come and go, often with a long stretch where we are coping well with waiting, followed by a series of events that bring our emotions back up to the surface. We are ready to be parents, and honestly, the thought of one more Christmas card with our child not in it is hard to swallow.

We have a wonderful series going on at our church right now entitled, "Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe". This past weekend we reflected on the myth that "God won't give you more than you can handle." This phrase is used so often in Christian circles, and yet it is not biblical. (The misconception may come from 1 Cor 10:13 regarding temptation, and that God will not give us more *temptation* than we can handle and will always provide a way out so we do not have to give in.) As Christians, we will often face far more in the form of trials than we could ever handle in our own strength. As a result, we rely on Christ and He sustains us, while also building our character. We certainly could not handle the stress and emotion of this process ourselves, and there have been many days where I am so thankful for God's strength – the encouragement of friends and family, the grace our social workers show us as they answer our millionth question, and our financial blessings throughout this process. When the time comes that we are on the other side of this road, I have no doubt that our story will be one filled with God's miracles that point back to Him and His faithfulness.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
– Psalm 40:1-3 

xo,




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Healthier Eating: Our 5 Baby Steps

So there's about a million articles and blogs out there on "clean eating" and "going organic" and all sorts of do's and don'ts on what we should or should not be consuming. I am definitely no expert, but for the past year and a half or so we've been making slow and steady changes to what food we buy and how we look at an ingredients list. I thought I'd share some of our small steps, mostly for my memory's sake, but also in case there is someone else out there that gets overwhelmed at all those articles and just wants somewhere to start. We've made these changes over the period of 18 months, so sometimes all we do in a month is manage to chop a few vegetables for dinner, and other months we've cleaned out our whole fridge and filled it with better food.

1. If we can't pronounce it, we don't buy it.
This one is relatively easy in theory. I'll never forget the first time I made a loaf of bread. I was so proud! My curiosity was peeked after using my own recipe, so when I went to the store, I zoomed down the bread aisle to see what was in some of the fancy artisan breads to see if I could do some copying. Well, when I turned over the package to the ingredients I couldn't pronounce half of what was on there. That was an eye-opening experience, and it made me realize that perhaps some of my food choices aren't the best, and could be better. We are not perfect in this, in fact, we could be a lot better, but we do make the effort each time we go shopping to buy things that have simple and pronounceable ingredients.

2. Eliminate anything with High Fructose Corn Syrup.
You can read articles like this one that explain the details, but in general, it's something we're learning to avoid. My great grandmother's motto was, "everything in moderation", which I still hold to this day. So, do I think putting ketchup that has HFCS in it on my hotdog is going to kill me the next day? No. But when you start watching out for what has HFCS in it, you'll realize it's in almost EVERYTHING and that means we consume a lot more of it than would probably go in the category of "moderation". We started doing this slowly, like with Andy's lunch ingredients. He takes the same lunch to work every day, and one of the things is a PB&J sandwich. We looked at the back of the jelly we bought and realized it had corn syrup in it, as well as a ton of other stuff we couldn't pronounce. So, we looked down the row of jelly's in the store and picked one that had far fewer ingredients, no HFCS, and things we could pronounce. Is making your own from fresh berries out of your garden better? Yes, probably. But we're taking baby steps here. :) Also, just as a side note, I thought I had done pretty well going through our condiments in the fridge and getting rid of or using up the ones with HFCS, so last night I was eating pickles from a jar, turned it over, and there was corn syrup in MY PICKLES! Who puts corn syrup in their pickles?! Ugh. Oh well, I'm happy to report I'm still alive today after snacking on bread and butters last night ;)

3. Make what we can from scratch.
This one involves a little bit of trial and error, and figuring out what you can manage and what drives you insane. For us, making our own bread has really stuck and is something that is do-able and not stressful. Andy loves it, and it's what he uses for his sandwich each day during the school year. I also tried making our own granola bars and yogurt. They were both delicious, however the ingredients to make granola bars cost me about six times more than buying a box, and the the yogurt recipe made enough yogurt to feed a table of 15 people in the morning. Too much yogurt for me to consume alone! We tabled those two things, and maybe some day when we have more mouths to feed it will pay off. I did, however, make my own pickles last summer and I think I might have to do that again after the little pickle incident last night ;)

4. Dinners are mostly meat and lots of veggies.
This is totally just a personal experience and observation for us, but we both tend to feel better after dinner when we do just meat and veggies. Our dinners are high in protein and vitamins, and we don't get full and bloated on carbs. I'm not saying at all that I'm against carbs, but for us we've found that it makes dinner easier, healthier, and more manageable. It also helps us branch out and try new vegetables (like brussel sprouts) that we hadn't tried before.

5. Fruit smoothies for a late night snack. 
I used to gravitate toward the chips and ice cream after dinner, and while I still eat them sometimes, we've started to try and do more with fruit. Since dinner for us is less filling, we both find that we crave something to eat around 8 or 9 at night, so we've been doing fruit smoothies. Our smoothies usually have several different kinds of fresh or frozen fruit, along with some greens, or yogurt, or coconut oil. It's a great way to sneak more fruit and vegetables in for the day, and I've found that when I have them regularly, I crave less "processed" sweet things, like candy or ice cream.


So those are five things we've been working on and making slow progress with. There are a few more things we're learning and working on, but for now these are the ones that are sticking for us.

Also, I just wanted to add that during this process, we realize this is a personal choice for us, but in no way do we want it to be a divisive issue with family or friends. When eating together as a community, there are bound to be different opinions and methods in place concerning food and for us the community aspect of sharing a meal together with other people is far more important than being picky about what is in the food.


Monday, July 28, 2014



RECIPE/COST BREAKDOWN:

1 Foaming Soap Dispenser*: $0
1/2 C Dr. Bronner's Baby-mild Liquid Castile Soap: $1.97 ($15.75/32oz)
1/2 C Distilled Water: $0
2 tsp Raw Honey: $0.09 ($8.99/32oz)
2 tsp Jojoba Oil: $0.67 ($7.99/4oz)
5 Drops Young Living Lavender Essential Oil**: $0.39 ($23.50/15ml)
5 Drops Young Living Purification Essential Oil Blend**: $0.31 ($18.75/15ml)
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TOTAL: $3.43 for 7.5 fluid oz

Recipe inspiration from The Healthy Chickadee

DIRECTIONS:
Blend all ingredients except the castile soap in a blender. (No really, don't put the soap in the blender just to see if it makes a difference or not. Tried that. Soap exploded out of the blender like dish soap would out of your dishwasher. You're welcome.) Pour ingredients into empty foaming soap dispenser and add castile soap. Shake until blended. Enjoy!

REVIEW:
This is definitely a winner in our house! The first time I made it I just used lavender essential oil, but this time I mixed it up with both lavender and purification, since both are great for the skin. Purification is used for purifying and cleansing bacteria, and with all the breakouts I was getting, I thought this would be a great addition. (I also use it in my homemade deodorant and in my homemade bug spray). I shake the bottle of cleanser before each use and it comes out really smooth and soft. Both Andy and I love it, and it's really easy to mix up when you need more. It also smells quite lovely :) I would say the only downside is that it stings if you get it in your eyes, so be sure to rinse well. The 'feel' of the castile soap has taken a little getting used to for me, as it's not quite the same as other soaps, but it doesn't bother me now, and I love knowing that I can make my own face wash with easy and natural ingredients! As an added bonus, my breakout problems have gotten SO much better.

NOTES:

* I just used an empty foaming soap dispenser we had from one of our hand soaps, but if you don't have an empty one lying around I'm sure you can get them online.

** These are the wholesale prices for the oils. I became a wholesale member by signing up and purchasing a Starter Kit. Now I can order the oils at 24% off retail and there's no pressure to sell. If you would like more info I'd be happy to point you in the right direction.

I bought the castile soap here and the Jojoba oil at Trader Joe's.


Monday, July 21, 2014

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business shots + weekend happenings

Oh man, I have completely sunk into summer mode and I don't know if I'll ever make it out. Beautiful sunny days, no schedule, lounging on porches and swimming in pools… I have loved taking Fridays off this summer, but that only makes it harder for me to snap back to reality when Monday hits. :)


Anyway, we had a great long weekend. I got to try out my new lens by taking some business portraits for my brother. We gallivanted around the city and then he made us a scrumptious "brinner", aka, breakfast for dinner :)

We hung out at the farm, ate meals with friends, scoped out some locations for an upcoming photo session, and worked on some new obedience skills with Chloe. My very old phone finally bit the dust, unfortunately (I was hoping to squeeze some more time out of it), and so now I can only call the last person who called me. So, in the case of an emergency, my long-time high school friend who lives several miles away will be getting my distress call. Ha! :)

Anyway, I hope to pop back in this week with some more essential oil DIY products that I've been making and loving. Stay tuned!

Happy Monday! :)


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Here it is, here it is! Now I need to place a disclaimer that it is definitely not done. This is in-progress and we still have some work to do, but Andy did such an awesome job on these floating shelves that I wanted to share.


This one wall in our living room has been black since we painted a few months ago, but for the longest time it was just a bare blank wall with our old tv hanging on it. Andy's been saving up for a while to upgrade our tv, so we knew once that happened we wanted to build custom shelves to go around it. There are days when I really miss having a full-wall entertainment unit on this wall. It grounded the room so much, but unfortunately that meant no seating on that side of the room. For us, having seating over here was important (so that guests don't have to line up in a row on our couch, haha!), but I still wanted to create that full-wall look above the chairs. 


Our next step is some lighting that will hang above the tv and balance that gap we have going on between the top of our tv and the top of the wall. (In the morning the sun shines so beautifully and lights up the whole room, but at night this side is very dark.) I also need to figure out what I want to put on the shelves, but for now I love just looking at this wall when I'm on the couch and feeling so much better about it!

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