Friday, November 21, 2014

You Are My Greatest Adventure // The Olive Plum Shop!

I'm so excited to introduce you to the amazing Alfa of The Olive Plum shop! 

Alfa is the mommy to her sweet girl Aria who also just turned one this month!! She's a Texas gal living in Austin with her husband and baby. She creates gorgeous prints, stationary and artwork and has such a heart for adorning the walls of nurseries and homes alike with beautiful artwork. She also blogs about her precious life as a mommy over at Lightly Sprinkled

I met Alfa through a blogging community called The Peony Project. If you're a blogger, check it out! The button is on my sidebar :) When she reached out to some bloggers about creating a piece of art for us, I jumped at the chance for her to create a custom piece for Reaghan's first birthday! 

I gave her the quote "you are my greatest adventure" inspired by a scene in The Incredibles where the dad realizes the immense value in his children. I just love the meaning behind this quote, that out of all the fun adventures we could ever (or have ever) gone on, Reaghan is the greatest one Jordan and I have ever ventured into the past year. 

My vision completely came to life in such an amazing way! Alfa knew exactly what I wanted from my description and created a gorgeous one of a kind piece that can grow with Reaghan in her room for years to come. 

How beautiful is this print? All hand painted, with peach botanical flowers and gold lettering to match her party and her room. I love that this canvas is so feminine and light. It perfectly describes Reaghan -- dainty, feminine and sweet! 

It fits perfectly in her newly redone gallery wall above her changing table. I loveee staring at this wall in the early morning or when I'm playing with her in her room. 

The Olive Plum isn't just for nurseries and kid's rooms! She has over 40 pieces of custom artwork ranging from stationary, postcards, canvas art, and more in her shop. She also just listed some gorgeous pieces for Christmas like this pretty canvas!

HOORAY! This weekend The Olive Plum is offering 15% off for YOU with the coupon code NATYRED. So run over to her shop and snag yourself a little happy or stock up on handmade gifts for Christmas this year! Discount code runs until this Sunday night, November 23rd, so hurry! 

More #raeraeturnsone party details coming soon! ;) 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Top Three Trader Joe's Picks

When we lived in New Jersey, we lived in a town nestled close to several other small towns, one of which was the little town of Westfield. Between the quaint movie theatre, eclectic shops and local diners, this was a gem of a town with a happy little downtown square. Right at the entrance of the square is a gorgeous big cathedral that all my girlfriends and I dreamed of getting married in one day. And at the exit? A Trader Joe's, tucked into the corner of a parking lot across the street from a building where I often found myself singing and performing growing up. 

The closest Trader Joe's to me now is at least 30 minutes away if not farther. With a baby who only stays awake for 2 hours at a time, it's just not possible to make the trip out there just for groceries. Especially when two perfectly good grocery stores are within 5 minutes of me (including Natural Grocers!)

BUT on Monday morning Reaghan and I braved the cold temps to meet a friend for a play date, and I found myself in close proximity to a Trader Joe's! Let me be honest, I totally planned this ahead, as I've been obsessing over TJ's for quite some time now and praying that they would open one up in Denton! It's been over 10 years since I last stepped foot in one, and I was wanting the experience all over again. 

Here are my top three favorite items from my grocery haul on Monday:

Sprouted bread // I've heard people talk about this but have yet to find it in our natural food store here in Denton (maybe I'm looking in the wrong place?!) When I glanced at the bread section at TJ's....there it was! Sprouted bread is probably the best kind of bread, if you are going to eat it. The grains have been soaked for optimal nutrition and better digestion. And the rest of the ingredients were pretty clean too. Yay for healthy bread! 

Almond Butter // Just yummy, and only $6.99 for this big jar! That's pretty amazing to me and sort of on the low end of cost for almond butter, from what I've seen at the store. We go through this stuff quick in our house and rely on it for snacks :) 

Organic Bananas // ....for .29 each!!! Really?! Organic banana's are usually about .60 anywhere else. We (and by we, I mean Reaghan) eat a lot of bananas, so I stocked up on 3 bunches. And yes, we'll probably eat them all before they get too ripe. If not I'm slicing them up and freezing them for smoothies! Yay! 

I'm already planning the next time I'll "be in the neighborhood" and can stop by. Have you ever shopped at Trader Joe's? If so, what's your favorite item they carry?

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Truth About the First Year

Reaghan had so much fun at her birthday party! We're so thankful for those who were able to help us celebrate her little life. 

If you're looking for a healthy, grain free, nut free, dairy free, refined sugar and honey free cake, I used this one. Topped with my coconut whipped cream (sweetened with pure maple syrup instead of powdered sugar) and cooked mashed peaches. 

I can't believe my baby girl is one. It seems like yesterday that we were settling into a new house and welcoming Reaghan into our family. I want to share just a glimpse into this past year for me, as I have been reflecting on it quite a bit lately. 

Nursing. Did I mention nursing was a major struggle for me? I kind of cringe when I say that too because I have heard many more horrific stories than mine in this department. But it's not about comparing, amen? What was hard for me still was hard. You can read more about that here

She was super sleepy. Well dang, don't I sound like a big complainer?! But guys, this was hard for me because I really wanted that interaction, and it's just not there during the newborn stage. Not only this, but it was near impossible to feed her because she was too ASLEEP! Even rubbing ice all over her naked body wouldn't wake the kid up to eat. This put a pile of stress on my shoulders as a brand new mom, not knowing if she was getting enough milk. It also made 10 minute nursing sessions last an hour or more. 

I was lonely. I went from a busy life filled with lots of meaningful conversations to alone in a house with a screaming infant. In one day flat. Literally, I went to a Thanksgiving potluck with a bunch of international students the night I went into labor (no clue I was about to go into labor, by the way) then BAM, the next morning she was here. That was very shocking for me and I watched as my friends participated in fun activities that I had planned to go to but wasn't able to anymore. I felt like I was the kid at home without a date during the school dance all over again. Like time stopped within the walls of our little home while the rest of the world just kept living their wonderful easy lives. To add insult to injury, it was brutally cold and iced over a couple of times, making an already stir crazy mom even more crazy.

Also? People think you get really busy when you have a baby and don't tend to call. Non-mom people: call your new mom friends. They are overwhelmed and lonely and would probably LOVE to have you sit on the coach or vacuum their carpet while they struggled in said hour long nursing session. Of course there were days where visitors would have sent my stress levels over the moon, but sometimes it just makes it better to not be alone. 

I felt sort of trapped for many of these days. During those first 3 months especially, we were really trying to train her to sleep and give her a consistent schedule to get used to. That kept us home or out of several activities that I would have loved to have been a part of. 

Along with this came lots of guessing. It's incredibly humbling to say the least when you're constantly guessing and never knowing if the decision you're making is "right." Of course, everything during this first year was a guess. In sleeping, eating, facial expressions, noises, developments, etc etc. It just feels like you got thrown in the pool after only listening to lectures about swimming, but never actually trying it for yourself. 

I feel like my head somewhat lifted out of the fog about a month ago. I started waking up at normal times again and living an overall more balanced and healthy life. Breastfeeding got better, then my supply tanked during months 7-8, but with perseverance and a lot of prayer, it went back up again and seemed to turn a corner into easy-ville, finally. 

Our daughter interacts with us more and more each day! What a huge blessing and joy to be able to make her laugh on a whim, see her smile when we come in to get her after a nap, or when she sees something new for the first time. Her joyful spirit just invades any darkness I'm experiencing throughout my day, and I love that so much about our relationship. 

She's constantly on the go, crawling and moving around everywhere. She's not super into harmful things, so our house has been left mostly un-baby-proofed (real confessions) and she has done great. We've been able to use these new skills to start to teach her obedience and safety as well, which gets to the heart of parenting to me. It foreshadows days to come of shaping her conscience and guiding her heart towards the gospel.  

Though the sleep training was difficult, the pay off has been better than imagined. Reaghan does sleep well, and who knows if that is her personality or our efforts, or a mixture of both, but whatever the reason -- I'm thankful. She's able to skip a nap on occasion without completely falling apart. She eats on a routine which is a huge relief to me because I don't find myself guessing if she's hungry. There is a rhythm to our days which I deeply thrive on. This in contrast to the first 6 months when her wake time and sleep time seemed to constantly be changing based on her growing needs. 

She eats food! I realized when I became a mom that bringing a spoon to my baby's mouth while she opened up wide was something I always imagined doing. It brought me so much joy to watch her chomp down and make memorable faces with each new taste. Around 10 months she ditched the purèes and started wanting to feed herself. What a strange and fun new adventure. 

She's growing so much every day. Showing that she understands us, points to things and tries to say the word, waves at strangers. I feel like she just brings people joy everywhere she goes. That is more than my mama heart could ask for. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mexican Chicken Enchiladas

What does family dinner mean to you? Comfort, nourishment, respite from the trials of the day? Or does family dinner appear in your mind as a drive thru window, digging in the back of the freezer for the last TV dinner, alone on the couch?

There is so much hurt and pain in this world. From strained relationships, to sickness, aging, and emotional damage. 

The more I think about meals, dinner in particular, and my current reality, the more I see with clarity the reality of those around me, whether personally or in the larger world who do not have the things I so long for and desire for them. I can talk as much as I want about gathering our closest friends and family around a table, enjoying a meal and sharing life and stories and hurts and joys. But what if that's not your reality? What if you have never experienced that and don't know what it would look like if you saw it? 

True family, true community, and true love is found only in one place, through a relationship with Jesus. His name may not make an appearance on this blog in every post, but the heart of everything about this blog all boils down to Him. If you're reading I want you to know how loved and adored by God you are, and how desperately He longs to sit at a table and be with you. To share a meal together, breaking bread, listening to the words leave your lips and comforting you in your loneliness. That is true family dinner. One that doesn't have an end, but will actually live on into eternity. That's the kind of family that I cling to, knowing it will never fade. 

Serves: 4


2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil, for cooking
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cumin
1-2 chicken breasts
1 (16 ounce) bottle medium heat enchilada sauce
2 cups spinach or kale
juice of 1 lime
a handful of chopped cilantro
20 count bag of flour tortillas
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1-2 tablespoon taco seasoning
1 (10 ounce) block Monterey Jack vegan cheese, shredded (or any kind of cheese you prefer!)

Feel free to leave out the chicken and make this totally vegetarian! We're adding chicken and cheese in our family because my husband can't stand the thought of enchiladas without chicken and cheese. I tried to win him over on the vegetarian route, but sometimes there's just some marital battles you have to lose! ;) 

Preheat oven to 350 f

Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat in a 3 qt. sauté pan (or pot). Sauté onions until translucent. Turn down the heat and add garlic, corn and black beans, continuing to sauté for 1 minute. Add salt and cumin and stir to combine. Allow everything to sizzle over medium heat for about 5 minutes. 

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Push bean mixture to one side of the pan, adding more coconut oil to the empty space, then add chicken breast. Allow to brown, about 5 minutes on each side. 

Pour just enough enchilada sauce to cover the bottom of two 9x13 baking dishes (or one 9x13 and one 9x9 dish). Mix beans and chicken together and pour in the remaining enchilada sauce. Cover and allow everything to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Using two forks, shred the chicken. You may need to transfer to a cutting board to shred, or give a fine chop with a chef knife (if you're lazy like me), then add back into the sauce. Throw in your greens (kale or spinach) and cover the pot again to allow the steam to help it wilt.

Stir in lime juice and cilantro. Fill each tortilla with stuffing and roll up, placing in your baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine crushed tomatoes and taco seasoning, mix together well then pour over top of the tortillas. 

Shred cheese over top and bake for 20 minutes.

Co-hosting with the Bread and Wine Project today! Join us by linking up your recipe below! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Creamy Pumpkin Apple Pasta

Ever wonder what the heck you're going to make for Thanksgiving?! Maybe you're not hosting the whole shibang, but you've been asked to bring a side dish. 

With lots of fun holiday parties coming up, I've shared a perfect Thanksgiving side (or fall inspired dinner!) on My Cooking Spot this morning! Find the recipe here and make sure to check back in on My Cooking Spot for more Thanksgiving inspired recipes this week! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Nourishing Baby Food

I've had some requests for recipes of some of the baby food I've made Rae. I can't believe it's taken me this long to share a couple on the blog, but I wanted to do it for any who might need some new ideas! 

We introduced Reaghan to solids at 6 months. Research has found that 6 months is a good age as it allows more time for their gut to seal. Gut sealing is important because it keeps food from getting into the blood stream, causing an allergic reaction. We also decided to start slow and with foods that were high in nutrition. Some of her first foods were: homemade bone broth, soft boiled egg yolk (the white is what causes allergies in babies, the yolk is full of nutrients!), coconut oil mixed with probiotics (CO has a lot of similar nutrients to breast milk). 

After that we followed the guidelines from the Weston A Price Foundation and got some help from the Wholesome Baby Food site as well. Both were super helpful in just listing out recipes as well as ages for each food to be introduced, when to buy organic, etc. 

Reaghan really needed something closer to the texture of milk at first, so we started with purées. At about 10 months she started wanting to pick up her own small chunks of food, so we're doing that now. Here are a couple of "recipes" I came up with that she really enjoyed! 

Blueberry Sage Purée


1 cup frozen organic blueberries 
1 teaspoon rubbed or fresh sage

Cook about a cup of frozen blueberries in just a few tablespoons of water over medium heat. Allow to bubble and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. If sage is dried, just measure out with a teaspoon and add to the blueberries. If fresh, chop finely and add. Mix together then pour into a blender and blend until smooth. 

We stored all of our purées in ice cube trays then popped them out into plastic baggies when they were frozen. For traveling, we used these handy Infantino pouches

I think she liked it.....

Fall Medley Purée 


3 sweet potatoes
1 butternut squash
3 apples, any variety
2 tablespoons coconut oil 
pumpkin pie spice
ground ginger
pinch of sea salt*

*refined table salt is terrible for babies, but they can have a small amount of real sea salt. I am not a pediatrician or doctor, just made this judgement call based on my own personal research. I always encourage mama's to do your own research. 

Preheat oven to 425 f

Peel and chop sweet potatoes and butternut squash into small bite-size pieces. Core and slice apples and toss everything into a large bowl with a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil. Sprinkle evenly with spices and a pinch of sea salt and toss around with a wooden spoon to coat everything evenly. Spread out on a large baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. 

I think for this one I ended up serving some of the veggies with our dinner that night since it made quite a lot! Of course, you could blend it all up and make a big batch of food for your baby. 

Allow to cool for a few minutes then blend in a blender along with a little filtered water. 

What have you fed your little ones? Did they like purées or jump straight to finger foods? What foods do your babies like best? I love learning and trying new things with Reaghan and would love to hear from YOU! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Family Photos!

We had a fun shoot with my incredibly talented friend Casey. She has the most wonderful photography business and has recently become super passionate about photographing births. Her gorgeous photos make me want to give birth all over again!! They are so beautiful and move my heart so deeply when I see those images. 

She carries that same passion into all her shoots and that totally came through in our family photos! I could not love them more and kind of want to use all of them for our Christmas card. Is that possible? Well, I don't think I'll settle for sharing them on the blog with you! 

For the record, Reaghan was super frustrated and screaming almost the entire time. I'd say it was a tad cold that morning, which she probably didn't appreciate. I was nervous there wouldn't be any pictures showing off her precious smile, but Casey managed to capture some! 

I love how these photos capture the joy in our family since welcoming Reaghan into our lives. The older she gets the more I realize I just love being around her, regardless of what she's going through or if she's cranky, I just want to hold her, make her laugh and enjoy her presence. 

There's really nothing like seeing my husband with my daughter. I love watching him with her on a daily basis, but seeing these moments captured warms my soul in a different way. I will always be able to have these memories captured to look back on when she's older!

Our little thumb-sucker. She doesn't suck her thumb crazy often but gosh, when she does, I completely melt. These next few have to be some of my favorites. 

Time reading as a family is a really sweet time for us. I will admit that I have struggled to read to Reaghan this year. It was just plain hard when she was too teeny to care that I was talking to her at all. Over the past couple of weeks she has really taken to books and will flip through them and babble like she's reading them! Her new-found interest in books has gotten me excited to read to her more and see her interacting with the characters and pictures on the pages.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Let's Be Thankful

I had an unusual day of thankfulness despite my circumstances on Halloween night, and it was really refreshing. One tiny example of that was that we decided to sit on the front porch and pass out candy to the trick or treaters and hot apple cider to the parents as they made their rounds on a chilly night. I was super excited about it all week and anticipating all the precious/scary kiddos! 

Of course, all the kids on our block must have gone to their own private Halloween parties, because we got a whopping 3 groups of kids and only a couple of parents at our door. As we sat there drinking our apple cider, we processed together how we could feel like our attempt to serve and meet our neighbors was a huge flop. Surprisingly, we felt super thankful for the neighbors who came by and texted later saying they loved the cider. And we were just thankful to start a tradition in our own little family of getting outside on this holiday that usually brings all your neighbors to your front door. 

Photo by Hawkins Photography

Regardless, we've turned a corner after Halloween, and I caught myself thinking "on to Christmas!" When I woke up this morning I was hit with the realization that there is another holiday coming......Thanksgiving. Why skip it? Since getting married, I've been looking for ways to incorporate new traditions into our family. The unusual and uplifting bout of thankfulness from Halloween got me thinking -- let's share as a family what we are thankful for each day of the month leading up to Thanksgiving. We'll write them down in a special journal. Through the years as we repeat this tradition, we'll be able to look back on previous years and remember all God has done in each season of our lives. 

I know this isn't the most earth-shattering thing you've ever read, and I know for sure that we are not the first family to do it! BUT, this is definitely new to us and I think it will be a heart check on a daily basis throughout the month. It will help us to see where we are putting our hope and where we are slumping into the dark hole of complaining when we have an abundance all around us to be thankful for. 

I'm thinking this simple tradition will only get better throughout the years when Reaghan (and hopefully future babies) are old enough to participate themselves. 

Here's a perfect example of how I fell into the slump of ungratefulness this week: 

(Jordan and I were talking about our budget and some changes with it in the near future...)

Me: "But how are we going to have the money to afford fulfilling my dreams?"

Jordan: "The little girl on the Compassion Magazine cover wants to punch you in the face right now."

Point taken. 

My husband was lovingly pointing me to the reality that I have everything I need for life right in front of me, yet here is a little girl who just wants a rooster for her family so they can afford food. Ouch. My thankful eyes had temporarily gone blind and I wasn't able to see the reality of my life versus so many other lives around the world. And in the most selfish, I'm-a-5-year-old-again kind of way, I totally whined about "my dreams." 

What areas are you most tempted to be ungrateful for in your life? How are you going to use this month of Thanksgiving to spring board your own heart and family towards thankfulness? I'd love to hear and learn from each other!