Simplicity




Each September I choose a new word for myself. A mantra, if you will, to focus on each day. Some people choose words in January at the start of a new year. For me fresh beginnings come in September. Two years ago the word I chose for myself changed my life. It set me on the course of writing a book, opening a store and changing the way I approach each day. What started years ago as something I would casually think about day to day has become something I now take seriously. Instead of asking God to bless the word I chose for myself (Ha! How silly of me) I now ask if he has a word for me. This years word is "Simplicity." Before you rolls your eyes, I acknowledge that simplicity and minimalism are all the rage right now. I am in no way trying to jump on a bandwagon of tiny homes and living off of Netflix only. Although those things do sound wonderful and I understand the draw and maybe those will take place this year, I am coming from a place of yearning and calling to simplify. And not just simplifying my stuff, but my routines and my words.

This stirring really began five years ago. As some may remember when l lead our local moms group our theme was " I Quit."  We dove into quitting listening to what Satan was speaking into our motherhood, we quit comparing ourselves to other moms and we quit using the world as our measuring stick. I didn't see it then, but this was a way of bringing simplicity into my life. I was giving myself permission to quit the things that were bringing me down.

As I set out to be more intentional about bringing simplicity into my life I'd love to know more about you. What areas in your life are the most simple? Where do you long for simplicity? What systems do you have a handle on? What systems do you wish you could simplify? Who do you look to as a model of simplicity? What does simplicity mean to you?

Planning for Fall (and quiet)


I want summer to last as long as the next person. Western Washington summers are close to perfection. Hardly any rain (can I get an Amen?!), few bugs, no humidity and bearable temperatures. There are definitely things I miss about the Midwest summers; lightning bugs and warm nights. We literally live for summers here. We endure the endless amount of rain and everything being wet for nine months of the year. The gray clouds that hang overhead, which seem to never clear, finally give way to blue skies and each July we have to remind ourselves that the bright yellow round thing in the sky is the sun. Then we all jump on our boats, or friends boats, or kayaks. We hit the beaches and stay out for more than our pale skin can handle. We fish, crab, and dig for clams and oysters. We "live like the mountain is out."

So, all that say, I do not want summer to end. Except for maybe one thing: my kids being home all day, every day. That can end. They can go back to school now. I will miss taking them to the beach and grandpas pool. I will miss getting ice cream, just because its summer. I will miss sleeping in and not feeling guilty about the hours of tv my kids have watched by the time I finally roll out of bed.  I will miss grilling out on the back deck and letting the kids run wild, while the adults ask every so often "Have you seen my kid? Are you ok that your kid is going down a zip line made by a nine year old? Where are your shoes?"

But I do miss my days of quiet. I am an introvert with strong "J" tendencies. I thrive off of alone time and structure. All of which goes out the window June through August. I can only handle so much of my daughter sitting on top of me six hours of the day, fits of frustration and squeals of screaming because "he wouldn't stop so I hit him."

With working out of the home again, it has given me some semblance of structure. I have been more attached to my planner than I have been in years. So when my planners last page was the month of July, I was giddy with excitement knowing it was time to purchase a new planner. Any other planner geeks out there?  I have had many brands of planners from Vera Bradley to Erin Condren to good ole' Target. I didn't really start geeking out over planners until we had a cancer scare with my son. That's the best way to say it, I guess. To keep it brief, three and half years ago our sons blood work was wacky and we went through months of elimination diets and blood work. We were sent to a pediatric hematologist only to find out the doctor ordered adult blood work, not child appropriate blood work, and he was just fine. But had he been adult, it would have been a different story. Between all of the paper work, testing dates, diet rules and doctors appointments I needed a way to keep track of it all. That's when I found Kikki.K planners.

A Swedish design company based out of Australia, it was everything I needed at that point in my life. It was an assortment of options that I could choose from to work just right for me. Monthly calendars, daily pages, to-do sheets, meeting notes, personal and project options. The six rings allowed me to add other elements, like a ruler and sticky notes, from other places (thank you Michael's) and then take out months and daily pages when was I done with them. Why did I still need to carry around March in September? And of course a pen holder. Don't get me started on pens. That's another topic I am passionate about but won't bore you with.

As fall approaches, a new business blooming, and everyone healthy, I find I am needing something simpler.  I don't need pockets for X-ray cds or appointment cards. My meeting notes with my business partner don't coincide with a schedule like they did with doctors when I was trying to remember what time of night and how many times on what day our son was getting sick. Simple is a word that has been resonating with me a lot these last few months. When I saw the Simplified Planner by Emily Ley i knew I had to look into it further.

I was not ready to let go of my beautiful Kikki.K planner but knowing I would need a change I kept my eye on the Simplified Planner. I finally pulled the trigger when I was really needing to begin scheduling out the fall with work schedules, tutoring times and gymnastics practice. I have been so happy with it. It really is as it sounds, simple. But not so simple that I am left wanting more. All I need at this point is monthly pages, daily pages and a to-do list. Emily has a great story and I admire the way she built the company. I'll let you read or listen to it from her perspective.

I will definitely keep my Kikki.K planner and use it more for meeting notes, project ideas and brainstorming. It is something I can continue to use, but I will most likely just keep it in my office or take to work. With four weeks to go before school starts I am going to savor these last days of summer, while leaving plenty of blank space in my planner for quiet.

What about you? Do you love planners (and pens?). Which brand have you found to work best for you? I really would love to know.

*Please note that this post may contain affiliate links, and I may earn a commission if you make a purchase through them. This is at no cost to you and will not effect your shopping experience. I only recommend products that I love and use myself.*

Favorite Cookbooks

When my kitchen is clean I love to cook. When it is not, I want nothing to do with it. I hardly ever eat meat, but don't consider myself a vegetarian. I love fresh, clean food, but I can't say no to a Kit Kat or anything salted caramel. I get sick when I eat a of lot dairy and gluten, but pizza is delicious. I don't like to label myself or eliminate an entire food group because well, I like food. I cook from cookbooks and Pinterest. I tried a food delivery service for a few months and some weeks I'm at the grocery store every single day. I love to host friends and family and other times I'm a hermit and just want to eat popcorn for dinner. Despite all of my contradictions when it comes to food these cookbooks are my tried and true favorites. I've chosen three recipes from each book that you should definitely try. (Although I could definitely choose more from each.) What are your favorite cookbooks and recipes?



Bread & Wine: Shauna Niequist
A favorite in our home. Bread and Wine is more than a cookbook, it's filled with stories as well. It is one that has been passed around and gifted many times. 

Nigella's Brownies
Bacon Wrapped Dates
Mexican Grilled Corn




Everyday Food: Great Food Fast 
My copy is filled with grease splatters, drips of this and that and many ear marked pages. One of the first cookbooks I bought and one I always go back to. This has the mashed potato recipe everyone asks for and I know by heart. 

Crisp Goat Cheese
Flank Steak
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes



Chicken and Egg
With eight chickens roaming our property this book is essential. Although I could never eat Thelma and Louise, I'll purchase their distant cousins at the grocery for the rest of my family to consume. We do eat their eggs and they are delicious. Thank you ladies. 


Toasted Pecan Apple Pie (Because when two pies are served, I always take a small slice of both.)
Cinnamon Breakfast Popovers
Garlicky Butterflied Chicken



Help Yourself: Cookbook for Kids
Because my kids need to eat more plants. 

Dino Rolls
Power Towers
Pink Cous Cous






The Gardener & The Grill
I purchased this after I stopped eating meat but wanted to still enjoy food from The Big Green Egg when my husband grills. 

Grill Roasted Edamame
Baja Fish Tacos
Warm Blackberries with Grilled Pound Cake





Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. 
Have you seen Laura Miller on Tastemade? She is hilarious! In attempt to cut out not have anything processed I dig into this one. 

Nutty Butter Cups
Brussel Sprout Chips
Iced Brownies





Fast, Fresh & Green
The name says it all and thats why I bought it. 

Sweet Potato Mini Fries
Brown Butter Asparagus with Pine Nuts
Brown Butter Summer Squash "Linguine"






Love & Lemons
This is one of my favorite cookbooks ever. It is compiled by ingredient. Have an avocado that needs to get eaten up, Jeanine will tell you different things you can do with it. 

Dutch Baby
Curried Parsnip and White Bean Soup
Quick Pickled Onions




Grow Cook Eat
For the times I actually have something growing on our property. Not only are there recipes, but instructions on how to care for your plants and store produce

Shaved Summer Squash with Pecorino
All about blueberries
Lemony Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes




Epicurious Fresh Magazine
If I could hire someone to cook for me, I would hand them this magazine and tell them to cook everything in it!

Pea Asparagus Salad
Sauteed Lemon Maple Frisee
Maidstone Chowder





Bountiful
This is another I dig into when I actually have food growing outside. 

Blueberry Frangipane Tarts
Potatoes Au Gratin
Mixed Berry Chocolate Slab Pie

*Please note that this post may contain affiliate links, and I may earn a commission if you make a purchase through them. This is at no cost to you and will not effect your shopping experience. I only recommend products that I love and use myself.*

Teaching Kids Hospitality



Salad and drinks, prepared, styled and arranged by my son. Two years after posting this article, he continues to amaze us with the way he welcomes people into our home. 


One of my mothers many gifts is making people feel special. She never just throws a party, she welcomes each person in expectation. She never just leads someone to their room for the summer, she puts their name on the door, has the light on in anticipation, with fresh flowers on the nightstand. When you step foot in my childhood home there is no doubt my mom is excited for your visit. You can’t help but feel welcomed.
There were always people in our home. It felt strange when it was just my parents and siblings around our dining room table. I remember helping my mother set up the dining room table. Folding the napkins just so, sprinkling m&m’s on the table for birthday celebrations, writing out names on place cards and filling water pitchers. I was involved in many aspects of hosting our friends, family and guests. I didn’t always enjoy it; I’m sure in my teenage years I would have rather been doing something else. But now as an adult I find myself setting up for parties and guests just as my mother would, as well as bringing my own ideas.
One of my most embarrassing moments as a parent was also the moment I realized my son was learning how to be a proper host. At just three years old, my sweet boy looked up to his great grandmother and asked, “Can I get you some wine? Maybe a beer?” I wouldn’t normally be embarrassed by such a gesture except for the fact that my son’s great grandparents do not drink. In the midst of my embarrassment I couldn’t help but also be proud. It has been a joy watching him help set up, but he is already adding his own ideas. At only seven we have seen him chalk out parking lines on the driveway, add pictures to the guest room, create a treasure hunt for kids, post a sign directing guests where to go and so much more.

If you want to teach your child hospitality, lead by example. Try not to stifle their creativity. It takes a lot of restraint on my part as a perfectionist not to tell him his ideas don’t match the theme or style I am going for. Trust me, it was not easy when he buried that treasure right in the middle of the flowerbed. But to see the joy on his face when he led those kids on his own treasure hunt was priceless. We have also taught him to ask guests “Can I get you anything to drink?” And leave the choice up the guest.  

Dressember




Peppermint white mochas, fireplaces, Christmas carols, presents, snow, Jesus. These are the images that come to mind when I think of December.  A dress is the last thing on my mind. Maybe for an occasional holiday party or fancy New Years celebration, but not for an everyday outfit. That is what I am thinking about again this December; wearing a dress everyday in December. It’s known as Dressember. Started by a woman named Blythe Hill. I’ll let the words straight from the Dressember website tell you more…

Dressember uses fashion to advocate for women who've been exploited for their femininity. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women. 

The Dressember Foundation exists to inspire and empower a global community of like-minded women who are locking arms to face one of the greatest injustices of our time. 
THE HEART OF DRESSEMBER IS FREEDOM-- THAT EVERY WOMAN HAS THE RIGHT TO LIVE A VIBRANT AND AUTONOMOUS LIFE.
What began in 2009 as a quirky style challenge with a clever name spread like wildfire. Dressember is a month of wearing dresses, but it is so much more. At its core, Dressember is an embracing of the inherent freedom and feminity of all women.

In 2013, Dressember took on new meaning: opposing the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women. In its first year as a fundraising campaign, Dressember aligned with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. Those who participate in Dressember are supporting the abolition of modern day slavery. Beginning in 2015, the Dressember campaign will expand to partner with other anti-trafficking organizations.


In committing to a month of wearing dresses, I am also committing to raising awareness and allowing the opportunity for others to give to these amazing organizations.  Would you be willing to walk along side me and support me as I do this? If anything, please check out Dressember.org  IJM.org and A21.org to learn more. If you would like to give you can go directly to my page to donate.  Thank you so much!!

Define Enough


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I think it's because it is such a time for pause, reflection and gratitude. Life seems to slow down for a bit that long weekend. The focus turns to the food, taking time to cook knowing the bites will be savored a little longer. Families linger and friends are welcomed in as part of the family. For me it is a set up for Christmas. A beginning of the slow down from the hurried pace of fall. It seems that Thanksgiving can get hurried over in society. Today I will set out to look for some decorations for our Friendsgiving this weekend and I already know I will be sadly disappointed by the lack of decor for this holiday, yet be bombarded by Christmas everywhere and Halloween sales in the back.

With all that to say, I want to talk about Christmas today. Not to look over Thanksgiving and not to rush towards Christmas, but as an effort to make Christmas more meaningful and less harmful, if you will.  I get it. We live in a consumerist society. While my kids know the true meaning of Christmas, let's face it, they are already talking about what they want. The toys, the gifts, their wants they've held out for all year may just happen. I have no one to blame but myself. I get it.  But right now, with 44 days left until Christmas I have the opportunity to pause and really think about what I want for my kids and family this year. Do I want to stay in step with society or do I want to do things differently? Don't get me wrong, I don’t think things are in and of themselves bad. Jeff Shinabarger says in his book More or Less “When I define enough, I step off the conveyor belt of consumerism and create my own rhythm of life.” I have a chance to step off the conveyor belt. My kids have enough, more than enough.  When asking my daughter to put her clothes away last week she said with authority “I have too many clothes!” I am already burdening my children with stuff.

I’ve stepped off the conveyor belt and I am taking a look around, thinking about how do I want to spend Christmas and how do I want to give? Now what? Here are some ideas.

-Take the next 44 days to really give items away. Thoughtfully. I don’t want to just throw my stuff at Goodwill to make them deal with it. Is there a pregnancy center that could use our unused baby items? Is there a furniture bank that can take the chairs gathering dust in the garage? Is there a local women's shelter that can take my “I’ll wear these someday” clothes? I want to make room for the pause. I want the holidays to be filled with more than rearranging, cleaning and managing my stuff.
-What do my kids need? Socks. My kids need socks. How can the gift of socks mean something more? I could buy them a pair of Bombas socks. For every pair purchased a pair is donated to a homeless shelter. To my kids a sock is a sock. But if I tell them the story of those socks it means more to them and they begin to learn about the power of our purchases.
- Order items online, be ahead of the game as much as possible. This allows me to make purchases like the one above.
- Get the kids involved. The World Vision catalog came in the mail and my husband suggested we show the kids and let them pick something out for someone. Teaching them along the way.
- Ask yourself: Who made this? Where was it made?  When we take the time to really think about our purchases we realize that someone is behind that product, yes an actual person. Am I promoting slave labor? Is someone sitting in a factory with failing health putting this item together? Is this item helping or hurting someone? Do your research.
-Define for yourself what is enough. Yes, it tends to be more expensive to buy ethical items. But when we say this is enough, we step off the cycle of never ending spending of cheap crap and end up spending less in the long run.
-Give yourself and others grace. It is really difficult to step back and change spending habits. It takes time and you have to re-train your brain to ask new and different questions. The definition of enough is different for every person.

I want to create a new rhythm for ourselves this Christmas. When my kids run downstairs early Christmas morning in anticipation of seeing stockings filled and gifts wrapped under the tree, I want them to be excited for not only what they received but how those gifts have positively impacted someone else’s life as well.