Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

DIY Story Stones

Since Addi was a baby, we've made it a point to read 2-3 books as a family every night. Well, you do that every night for years and years with the same books and they end up memorizing your whole book collection, resulting in lack of enthusiasm for story time. So, on occasion, my husband and I will make up stories. Some are great and some are epic failures...

So to help our creative juices out, the kids and I made story stones.

Not only was it fun making them, but it is a blast using them!

My little helpers.
All you do is pick a few stones out of the bag and make a story around the ones you picked. The girls need a little help at times, but it is awesome to see their little minds come up with some amazing stories!

How To Make Them

Materials Needed:

  • Flat/Smooth Stones
  • Stickers (shapes, animals, scenery, objects, etc..  the thinner the stickers, the better they stick)
  • Mod Podge
  • Clear Gloss Spray (we used Rust-Oleum)

  • Depending on where you get the stones from, its good to give them a good wash to make sure no dirt prevents the stickers from actually sticking. 
  • Once dry, apply the stickers to the flattest part of the stone (my kids did their own, so this step didn't always happen...)
  • After all the stickers have been applied, apply a thin layer of Mod Podge (this will help the stickers stay)
  • Wait 15-20 minutes or until Mod Podge is dry
  • Apply another layer of Mod Podge (if your rocks are like ours, some edges of the stickers need more coats)
  • Dry completely
  • Apply a coat of the gloss (this not only holds everything together a little better, but gives it that nice gloss look)
  • Dry completely
  • You're Done!

Happy Story Telling! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More of My Favorite Things..

Lately, I have found myself using the same products over and over again.  I love them so much, I felt as though I'd be doing a disservice if I didn't share.. So here ya go! 

  • Tazo Chai Concentrate. I absolutely love this stuff. Not only is it easy to make and yummy, but it's way cheaper than going to Starbucks every time I need an iced chai fix! All you do is mix 1/2 concentrate with 1/2 milk, add ice or heat up... and enjoy!
  • Organix Moroccan Argan Oil. My hair has been through a lot these last few years. Between all the highlights and hormones from pregnancies, I'm not sure how I still have hair, but this stuff has definitely helped! 

  • Weiman Cleaning Products. After we got our stainless steel appliances, I quickly found out how easily they get dirtied. I tried everything from a wet cloth to olive oil to remove the streaks, but nothing worked.. that is until I came across the Weiman Stainless Steel Wipes. They have done wonders. The glass cook top cleaner works amazing as well!

  • Urban Decay's Naked 3 Eyeshadow. I'm going to start out by saying, this isn't the cheapest eyeshadow out there. However, it is worth the buck to me. Not only are the colors gorgeous and flattering on most people, but they stay on great! No need to reapply after a few hours. 

  • Plain Chobani Greek Yogurt. This may be in the "Top Five Foods I Need" category. I don't ever eat it by itself, but I use it in a ton of my cooking as a substitute (for butter, mayo, sour cream, oil, etc), as well as in all my mason jar oatmeals and dips. If you don't already use it, you should. Just sayin... Oh, and you can get some awesome recipes using Chobani here.

  • Sanding Sponge. Yes. A rough sanding sponge (60-80 grit).... like one you buy at Home Depot. What do I use it for? My feet. Use it instead of a pumice stone. It doesn't get slimy or slick and is usually a lot cheaper. I'd say thank me later, but I have to give credit to my mother-in-law for this nice tidbit! 
  • Nonni's Biscotti. I basically love all kinds of biscotti, but these are my favorite. They come individually wrapped (which keeps me from eating a whole box) and are each 100-110 calories (depending on the flavor). One of these plus a cup of hot tea... mmmm... heaven. 

That's all I have for now.... Enjoy! 

Want to know more of my favorite things? Check out my "A Few of My Favorite Things" post. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Our Love Story

I am married to my best friend, my love, my everything. JoJo has been a solid foundation for the kids and I for the last 6 1/2 years. I really cannot imagine a life without him. So with it being Valentine's Day and all, I thought it appropriate to share our love story and where it all begin...

Our story started 18 years ago when I was 10 and he was 14. Our families went to the same church and became pretty good friends.  He and my brother were about the same age and ran around with the same group of guys in the youth group. Needless to say, we were around each other... a lot! Not only did we go on several missions trips together, but our families vacationed together in Mexico...  Sounds like a love story in the making, right?

WRONG. You see, at the time, having a gap of four years in age made a HUGE difference. I was a little girl and he was a high school boy. I thought he was "too cool for school" and he saw me as "the little sister." It's funny because I remember liking all of my brother's friends, BUT JoJo. To this day, I couldn't really tell you WHY I didn't like him, I just didn't. It probably didn't help that he dated my best friend at the time.... Either way, there was no doubt that NEITHER of us were interested in the other.

He left for college and it was definitely one of those "out of sight, out of mind" situations. I never thought about him again...

That is... until 7 years later when he re-entered my life...

It was Father's Day of 2007. He was living in New York at the time, but had come back to Colorado to do some work with a few startup companies. His family had headed up to South Dakota for the weekend to visit family, but JoJo decided not to go. Having really nothing to do, he called my brother and decided to go golfing with my family on Father's Day.. And that my friends, is when everything changed. It was the first time I had seen him in years, and it was the first time I had looked at him like THAT... EVER! I actually shocked myself. I could not believe that I was attracted to... JoJo! I mean, JoJo?! Never saw that one coming.

Long story short, for the next few weeks I saw him, a lot. He went golfing with us a few times, visited our church, and was doing some work with my dad. And every time I saw him, the attraction kept growing. I remember there was one time he went to sit next to me on the couch and brushed my hand and the butterflies were OUT OF CONTROL. I knew right then and there that I was hooked. I liked this guy and those feelings weren't going anywhere.

I was completely unsure of myself and what would happen because he was living in New York still and I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship (which JoJo thought I was still in) and I had no desire to jump back into one. And in my mind, I thought he may just be looking at me like "the little sister."

But all that changed with one phone call...

I was leaving work checking my voicemail and was completely floored when I heard JoJo's voice asking me to go to dinner. I was in such disbelief that he was calling me, that I actually started doubting everything. So much so, that my mom had to convince me to go out with him... and I'm so glad she did.  I ended up having a amazing time and really started to get to know who he was, not who I THOUGHT he was when I was 10!

But the reality was that he was still living in New York. So after a couple of "getting to know you dates," he had to head back. We had no idea what would happen between us, but we spent the next few weeks talking on the phone for hours at a time. It was my favorite time of the day... Our conversations were always easy and amazing. But my favorite one was when he told me he was moving back to Colorado. It was just confirmation that what I was feeling was real and we were going to have our conversations forever...

After a few months of officially dating, he proposed in the most romantic way (which may have to be a blog on its own). Of course I said yes. Eight months later we were married and the last 5 1/2 years have been better than I ever could have imagined.

I love you JoJo. Thank you for always supporting me in everything I do. You are an amazing husband, a wonderful father and the man of my dreams. So blessed that I get to grow old with you... 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Celebrating a Life of Love

As the new week approaches, most of us are thinking about the Valentines we have to make for our children or the flowers we need to order for our loved one. But one family's focus is a little different this year... They are looking at the "week of love" in a whole new light... 

At 12:09 pm on July 25, 2013, Miranda and Allen Jennings welcomed Little Miss Joplyn Rochelle to their family. 

Another sweet and perfect addition to their already blessed family of five, with siblings: Bryston, Xannah & Oaklend. 

Like most parents, they were just happy and excited to bring their sweet baby girl home and start this new journey. But that pure excitement quickly dissipated when the doctors started to perform a final assessment for discharge and noticed Joplyn had a heart murmur as well as an alarmingly low blood oxygen level of 70 (should be in the high 90's). Knowing she would not receive the care she needed, and at just two days old, she was flown to University of Minnesota Children's Hospital for emergency medical treatment and a heart condition known as "Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome..." This was just the beginning of this baby girl's journey. She underwent her first open heart surgery (the Norwood Procedure) at seven days old and then had her second one at four months old (the hemi-Fontan Procedure) where she fought for her life.

And as if this sweet girl's body hasn't gone through enough, her blood and oxygen levels are tested every hour and several medications are administered throughout the day. 

Joplyn will have to have at least a third surgery at the age of two and any other surgery will be determined as time goes on. The long-term prognosis is still unknown and survival rates are dependent on how her body handles the surgeries and treatments over the years..

About 1 in 100 babies are born with CHD. Sweet Joplyn was that 1. But what an amazing story and a testimony she will have one day when she can say, "God's hand, love and mercy have been upon me since the day I was born... And my life is living proof.." 

She has an amazing, loving, and supportive family to come alongside her throughout her journey. Please join me in lifting them up in prayer and support, as well as all those affected by CHD, during this CHD Awareness week. And while you cut out those paper hearts you're making or smell those roses you received, remember that we need to not only celebrate the love we have for each other, but the life that God has given us because of His love.... 

"We love because he first loved us"
-1 John 4:19

Joplyn's mom Miranda summed it up beautifully... 

"What you have to remember with this heart defect is to live each day to the fullest and not worry too much about tomorrow.."

To learn more about this precious family or show your support, please visit the "Prayers for Joplyn Rochelle" Facebook page or their CaringBridge page.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

.: favorite iphone photo apps :.

Lately, I've had a few people ask what apps I use for my iPhone photos... so I thought I'd share some of my favorites with y'all! I'm not an expert on these things, but I'll definitely highlight some pros and cons as well as include an example of a touched up photo from each of them... So let's do this. 

So to start, here is the original photo I took:

1. One of my FAVORITE photo apps is: VSCOCam. This has the cutest filters. I like "old school" looking photos and this app is full of them! The downside is you do have to do in-app purchases if you want all of the filters (and I totally did). But the handful you originally get with the standard app is great! In fact, those are some of my favorite ones. You can also do some minor editing which is nice, but I usually just use basic cropping and the filters.

2. A Beautiful Mess (ABM) is right up there at the top of the list. This app is full of CUTE doodles, borders and sayings. The downside is there aren't too many filters, so I generally touch up my photos in VSCOCam, then open them up in ABM to add some "flare."I love some of the cute sayings they have to add to your photo, as well as the option to write your own text. Definitely a "must have" if you like adding pizzazz to your pictures. 

3. I found OBaby not too long ago. I wish I had known about this before I started having kiddos. This is definitely for those who are expecting or have little kiddos. You can add sayings, pictures, milestones, names, etc to all your pictures throughout pregnancy and then into the early years. There are a TON of in-app purchases if you are looking for specific "stamps," but the standard borders, doodles, dates and texts are good enough for me! So if you are pregnant or just had a baby, I'd look into this one! Would be a great way to document milestones through pictures. 

4. LINE Camera is great for basic filters and frames. You can purchase stamps and other things in the app, but they aren't worth it to me. This is another one I use to touch up the photo, then shoot to a different app to add "flare" to it. My favorite filters are: Clear (used here), Baby, Emerald, Toy, Romance & Lovely (used here).

5. If you are looking for something that does more of photo editing than just filters, you'll like Snapseed. It doesn't have too much of the crazy photo adjustments like other apps. My favorite feature is the "Automatic" touch up. Just like iPhoto or other programs, it automatically adjusts your picture to look better. I also like "Tilt-Shift"feature and the frame options. This app is great just to enhance your photos. 

6. Afterlight is definitely the app you want if you like doing landscape or scenic pictures. It's great for pictures with people as well, but all of its cropping features (letters, numbers, shapes) are best used with scenery. Also, it has a GREAT selection of filters. Like most, there are in-app purchases, but again, the basics are good enough.

7. I absolutely LOVE putting collages together. I've had a few different apps in the past, but InstaCollage is my favorite. I can't stand the ads that pop up all the time, but the fact that you can adjust the frame size within the collage is worth it to me. 

8. Tired of generic filters? BeFunky has anything, but that. It has all of the crazy weird filters that you want. It also has frames, basic editing and cropping. I don't use this one TOO often, but if I'm looking to make some of my pictures "pop" or just look unique, this is what I use.

9. Last but not least, PicLab. This app covers all of your basics from cropping to filters to text. It has a lot of in-app purchases, but the standard definitely gets the job done.

So there you have it! Happy Photo Editing.