Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

I'm not going to lie, most of my favorite meals are made in my crockpot. There's something about leaving your house in the morning for work/errands/a day full of shopping and fun (in my dreams!) and knowing that dinner is waiting for you at home with little to no prep left. Am I right?! :)

One of my most favorite recipes for this time of year is chili, and it's given a new twist in this recipe, adapted from one I found on The Architect & The Artist.


The Perfect Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients:

1 bag frozen tri-color pepper mix
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can solid-pack pumpkin
1 can Italian-style diced tomatoes
2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin



Directions:

Place all ingredients (except peppers) in your slow cooker. 

Stir, then cook on low for as few as 4 hours or as many as 8 hours. (The longer your chili simmers, the better it will be!) Add the peppers 30 mins to an hour before serving to help them retain their color and a bit of "crunch."

You can serve this chili over tortilla chips, spaghetti, or corn bread and top with shredded cheese and sour cream. This makes 8-10 servings in our house, and let me tell you, it's even better the second day than it is the first!

Enjoy!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Great Songs to Start Your Day Off Right!

I'm not gonna lie... I used to be a MySpace fanatic. There are a LOT of things that I don't miss about MySpace. However, I do miss the cool little music player you could put on your page to bombard your friends with your favorite music every time they viewed your page.

I recently found myself with a little bit of extra iTunes money. (Isn't that just the best?) After much debate about whether to buy myself some new camera apps or some fun new music, the idea of new music won out. I've been listening to the radio for days and searching the internet to find just the right songs with an upbeat tempo and positive lyrics, and I think I finally figured it out!

If you're looking for some new music for your iThingamabob (or if you just want something fun to listen to while you work or clean) here are 10 of my new favorite songs! Click the underlined hyperlinks to check them out on YouTube!

1. Good Morning - Mandisa
2. God's Great Dance Floor - Chris Tomlin
3. Nothing's Gonna Stop Us - Sidewalk Prophets
4. We Are The Free - Matt Redman
5. Make Some Noise - Krystal Meyers
6.  That's How We Roll - Britt Nicole
7. Overcomer - Mandisa
8. Burning in My Soul - Matt Maher
9. Steal My Show - TobyMac
10. Lord, I Need You - Matt Maher

Let's hear it friends - what are YOUR favorite songs for starting the day off right?! Leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, September 19, 2014

On Being a Mess




There are some days that I'd rather not admit that my chosen profession is writing. 


After all, I studied writing in college. I teach writing classes. I write homeschool curriculum.

Still, sometimes I forget to write on my blog for weeks in a row. I frequently make spelling mistakes on the board in front of my students. I submit drafts of my books only to find out that I made a bajillion grammar mistakes. 

My life is a lot like that, too. 

I make an awful lot of mistakes. There are some days that my temper is short, my attitude is negative, and I just want to be selfish. I've made more than my fair share of bad decisions.

On those days, I would rather not admit that I am a Christ Follower.

Thankfully, being a Christ Follower doesn't mean that I have to be perfect 100% of the time... Being a Christ Follower means that I am forgiven.

When I make mistakes, when I react too quickly out of my frustrations and anger, and when I make poor decisions... His forgiveness is always there. All I have to do is admit that I need Him and ask his forgiveness and healing. How beautiful is that?

But honestly, friends, that's not the best part. The best part is that God takes those broken and messy places and after he heals them, he uses them for His Glory. 

Romans 8:28 says "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."* I especially love the way that it is written in The Message: "we can be sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good."

Or, as Lysa TerKeurst states in What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, "a MESS, when touched by the MESSIAH, can become a beautiful MESSAGE."

Can I get an AMEN?!

I am so thankful that God doesn't give up on me. I am so thankful for God's mercy and forgiveness. But most of all, I am so thankful that He doesn't let a single moment of my life go to waste.

Lord, I make so many mistakes! I am so thankful for your amazing forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Thank you for your promise that you will take the broken and messy places in my life, touch them, and turn them around to be used for your glory. Help me to be a shining light for you, even in my messy moments. Amen.

*English Standard Version

Monday, August 19, 2013

Two Mini Makeovers

Sometimes in the midst of major home makeovers, you have to stop and work on some smaller tasks to keep yourself from going crazy.

... Or, at least I do!

I thought I'd dedicate today's blog to two of the mini-makeovers I've worked on over the last couple of weeks. These were relatively simple afternoon projects I completed that had a tremendous impact on the way I feel about my house. Hopefully they will inspire you to do the same.


The first project I worked on was my laundry room. I'm fortunate to have a large laundry room, but to be honest, it used to end up being a "junk room" that I tossed things into when company came over. Those days are OVER now! 

The shelf you see in the picture was a white shelf that used to be in my apartment's entryway. It had seen better days, so when we moved into this house, I relegated it to the laundry room. On a rainy afternoon, I shelf-papered the shelves with cute chevron striped paper I found on clearance (thank you T.J. Maxx) and added some Sterilite plastic drawers to serve as junk drawers. I try to keep the drawers relatively organized by giving each of them a "theme" (i.e. kitchen, office, craft, first aid, etc.) 

Once the bulk of the work was done, I bought some inexpensive decorations and a few bargain priced baskets at Hobby Lobby to finish the look! I also threw a large gray bathmat (found on clearance at Target) onto the floor to keep my feet "comfy" while doing laundry. 

Quick and CHEAP! (My second favorite word, right after FREE!)


I'm not even sure if this next project technically counts as a makeover, since it was so easy, but I'm still claiming it! Here's one important principle I've discovered in home decor:

When you get bored with a room, mix it up! 

Seriously, what's the fun in furniture if you don't rearrange it once in a while?!

The wall above used to house my computer on a high "pub" table. It looked lovely for a while, but I noticed that it was catching a lot of clutter and wasn't the style I was going for anymore. Because I use my laptop more often, I moved the desktop computer to my desk in the "guest" bedroom, and asked Dustin and my Dad to move the table into our "bonus" room for use in a future makeover. Then, we slid my piano over a few feet into it's new home! I pulled in a lamp from across the room, and gathered a few pictures from around the house to spruce the area up. This was an easy fix and changed the entire room - my living room feels so much larger now!

So there you have it - makeovers don't have to be major and time consuming. Mix up your furniture, artwork, and trinkets once in a while. Little changes can make a big difference!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Five Tips for Vacation Survival


I've never considered myself much of a traveler, and I don't frequently find myself struck with wanderlust. However, after our May trip to Seattle, I've been bitten by the travel bug! Over the weekend, we took a short road trip to the not-so-distant city of St. Augustine, and on the way home, I put together these 5 quick tips that I learned this summer. Hopefully they'll be of help to you, too!

1. Check Groupon for deals and steals on local attractions.
This tip never dawned on me, until I made a quick little purchase on Groupon a few weeks before our trip to Seattle. I started searching Groupon Seattle on a weekly basis to see what I could find and scored some half-price tour tickets! I did the same for our trip to St. Augustine and was able to get some discounted museum tickets. You never know what you'll find!


2. Make a travel itinerary, but don't be afraid to ditch it.

I hate to say it, but my Prince Charming and I are some of the most indecisive people I know. A few days before our trip, we sat down and picked out 1-2 museums or tours to do each day... and then ditched most of them when we got to our destination in favor of more exciting adventures! Pre-planning was vital, though. If we hadn't chosen anything, we most likely would have spent half the day in our hotel room trying to decide what to do!


3. Find hotels you're comfy with, and stick with them.

If you're an adventurous traveler, you can go ahead and ditch this tip - but for me, it's key! If you aren't comfortable in your hotel room, you aren't going to get good sleep... and if you don't get good sleep, it's gonna be a rough trip! To be entirely honest, I'm a fancy resort kinda gal, but that's just not practical most of the time. I've never been dissatisfied with a Courtyard Marriott or La Quinta, so I usually try to seek those out!


4. Stay hydrated!

Travel adds a lot of extra stress to your body, so combat some of it by staying hydrated! When we travel by car, we usually grab a case of bottled water on our way out of town. When traveling by plane, you can either pick one up once you arrive at your destination, or use our preferred method, which is to carry one of these awesome Brita soft-sided water bottles that contain a handy filter!


5. Eat well!

I used to be a "stick with the chains" girl, but where's the fun in that?! Ask around and find out some of the popular places, remembering that your tour guides, the front desk staff at your hotel, etc. are all locals! I've discovered, though, that you may have to ask twice! Listen to the places that they are forced to recommend due to partnerships, etc... and then ask where THEY would go for a nice meal. I usually take these results and filter them through websites like Urban Spoon, Zagat, or Trip Advisor. After all of this feedback, you're bound to end up someplace great!

Now it's your turn! I'd love to hear some of your tried and true vacation tips. Share them in the comments, or leave a link to your blog! :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Master Bedroom Makeover

When we purchased our house in December, we knew that it would need a little (read: a lot) of love. While the previous owners had done a relatively good job of keeping it up, it was looking pretty dated! Unfortunately, some of the big projects that we wanted to do, like gutting the kitchen, were - and still are - not in the budget. So we went to the metaphorical drawing board!

December 21, 2012 - Right after closing! Note the plants in the front flowerbed.
Thinking about which project would make the biggest impact on the "comfort level" of our house, without making the biggest dent in our budget led us to remodeling the master bedroom. Naively, we expected the project to be quick and easy. Gorgeous, easy-to-install, laminate flooring, a couple of coats of "Thin Ice" colored paint, and the replacement of some flimsy closet doors and discolored blinds. Sounds simple, right?

Wrong.

Step one was to take out the flimsy old closet doors. No problem!

Step two involved us ripping up the old laminate flooring. Actually, it involved my Dad ripping up the old laminate flooring, with a little assistance from Dustin. This is where we made a "lovely" discovery. Shocking to all of us, there were little tiny roots from the plants GROWING THROUGH THE CONCRETE BLOCK WALL to soak up moisture, which had seeped into the concrete because the soil level in the flowerbed was higher than the foundation of the house.

Beautiful, yes? Cellphone photo courtesy of Dustin.
Thankfully, Dustin has an uncle who has worked in the construction business for many years. After some conferring between Dustin's uncle and my Dad, they determined that the best course of action was to rip out the garden, relocate all of the excess dirt, and replace the bed with rocks. You might be surprised to find out that I was all for it! Replacing the bushes with a container garden was already on my list of "Things To Do Someday!"

While front garden demolition was in progress, we had time to repaint the bedroom with the help of Dustin's dad and replace all of the blinds. Immediately after that, the new flooring was purchased and installed by my Dad. (He's great! I'm so thankful that he lives around the corner and is willing to help with projects that Dustin and I aren't handy enough to do ourselves.)


It's taken a few months (and several trips to IKEA) to get everything arranged "just so," but I couldn't be happier with the final result.


Behold, our master bedroom!

June 9, 2013 - Finished at long last!
More projects to come soon, but for now, it's time for a little nap on my comfy bed in our beautiful new room!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Going Through the Archives

Recently, on a quest to find 50 pictures of my aunt to celebrate her birthday, my Mom and sister dug up a BUNCH of old family photos. I've seen several of them, but can't wait to get my hands on the boxes and help sort through them!

Meanwhile, in the spirit of "capturing memories," here are a few of my favorite photos - photos that include...

The quintessential school photos...

My senior picture. Note the feather boa.
Ninth grade. Wal-Mart portrait studio, and the most painful earrings ever.
Memories of autumns past...

At the corn maze just outside of Indianapolis.
Same vacation, at the pumpkin patch. I was freezing!
Family portraits throughout time...
1994
2008
2010
2011
2012
And awkward moments you never even knew existed on film...
I've been informed that we are singing, not screaming in this picture.
I encourage you to go dig out old family photos this week if you have access to them. You never know what you might find, or what hilarious memories you might recall. :)