Friday, January 30, 2015

Reaghan's First Birthday!

Well, our sweet Reaghan turned one in November, and I'm just now getting around to blogging about her birthday! It was a sweet day filled with friends and family who love our girl and made us feel so special with their presence. 

I wanted the details to be feminine and sweet, like our little girl! I incorporated two of my favorite colors.....surprise and peach :)

People joined us in reading a dedication of Reaghan to the Lord. Our church is so large that they don't do individual baby dedications, but encourage home groups and communities to participate on their own. We took some scripture we liked from a resource from our church and had everyone read along with us. It was a sweet time. 

There was even a photo booth! One of my favorite parts :) Here's the backdrop I created from a stick I found outside and some yarn. I cut the yarn double long, folded it in half and then looped it around the stick. It was super long for the party to cover an armoire we have for pictures. After the party I cut the yarn much shorter and hung it above her crib.  

Reaghan was much more interested in the markers for the photo booth frames than her toys! Of toddlers... 

We served a few snacks to guests and gave everyone a baggie full of homemade kettle corn as a thank you! I could have eaten that entire basket of kettle corn...mmm...

Photography by the amazing Casandra Hawkins...except for that last one, totally iPhone quality ;)

Did you throw your little one a first birthday? What are your favorite themes? I can't wait for some fun ones in the future: ice cream party, little chefs, tea party, oh my! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gluten-free Dairy-free Cilantro Lime Crock-pot Tacos // Ali Wren

Y'all, I'm so excited for you to hear from my friend Ali today!! I met Ali at the Influence Conference when she hosted a cute little meet-up for gluten-free/dairy-free folks to eat some allergy-free cupcakes from a local bakery! It was so fun and thoughtful. I loved even the short time I got to spend with her in sessions and just talking about failures and hopes. I knew she was a special person with so much to offer! 

Ali blogs about healthy minded eating and whole hearted living, truly being present where you are and loving people well, while being conscious of the food you eat! She has GREAT tips for traveling with allergies and even offers an e-book to her newsletter subscribers (available at the top of her homepage!) with in depth information on national chain restaurants and how they cater to allergy specific needs. It's incredibly helpful. 

Enjoy this recipe from Ali!! I'll definitely be making this for dinner next week! 

 Gluten-free Dairy-free Cilantro Lime Crock-pot Tacos 

Tacos are pretty much the greatest main dish. People with food allergies or special food needs can feast on the same meal as their friends and family. This chicken is a super easy and tasty crock-pot recipe. You can eat the meat hot and ready for dinner one night, and eat it cold on a salad for lunch the next day, or even scoop it up with chips and guacamole. 

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or breast pieces
  • 1 16-ounce jar gluten-free salsa (some gluten-free brands include: Chi Chi’s, Frontera, On the Border, Newman’s Own, Old El Paso, Pace, Taco Bell, and Tostito’s)
  • 1 packet gluten-free taco seasoning (gluten-free brands include: Trader Joe’s, Old El Paso, Ortega, McCormick, Penzey’s, and some Frontera packages)
  • 1/3 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro (feel free to go lighter on the cilantro or eliminate if you are not a fan)
  • gluten-free corn tortillas *optional (gluten-free brands include: Mission, Rudy’s, and La Tortilla)
  • gluten-free corn chips *optional (gluten-free brands include: Snyder of Hanover, most Tostitos, Mission, and Xochil)
  • condiments of your choice
Place chicken in crock pot. Combine salsa, taco seasoning, lime juice, and cilantro. Pour combination over the chicken. Cover and heat on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for approximately 4 hours. Pull the chicken apart with two forks and mix everything together. Scoop into your favorite shell and Enjoy!

grain-free: eat as a taco salad
corn-free: eat on a salad or flour tortilla, or with sweet potato chips
optional add-ons: beans, cheese, sour cream, corn, salsa, guacamole

Monday, January 26, 2015

Guest Post: Elevated Tomato Soup

Yay! I'm so excited to introduce you to my friend Madison! She was my very first friend in this whole blogging world and has been such an awesome influence in my life. She loves to cook and create in the kitchen, so I thought it would be fun for her to share a recipe with you! Here it is, I hope you enjoy it! 

Hi friends! I'm so excited to be sharing with you guys today! My name is Madison and I blog at The Wetherills Say I Do, a faith based lifestyle blog where I share everything from recipes to marriage to blogging tips! When Natasha asked me if I would be interested in guest posting I was all for it! Natasha has become a great blog friend over the last few months. I admire her cooking and life mottos so much!

I have always been a soup and salad kind of girl. It's the perfect lunch combo in my eyes. Personally, my favorite soup of all time is tomato soup. A lot of people may turn to that only when they are sick, but for me it's my go to always.


I've made the copy cat version of Panera's tomato soup, but I wanted to try something a little different. See, you probably would feel weird serving plain old tomato soup for dinner to guests, or at least I feel like I would. However, you can add a few simple ingredients and have an elevated tomato soup recipe that will make them forget about any seemingly "boring" tomato recipe they've had in the past.


Literally by adding two extra ingredients, you've completely changed this dish from the-soup-you-eat-when-you're-sick to a gourmet soup experience.


For clarification, I don't believe that food needs to be showy. Food can be simple, but elegant. Recipes should be easy to make, but have a hard-to-make kind of taste!


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 large super-ripe tomatoes (about 4 pounds), coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
4 leaves fresh basil + 1 tablespoon chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2-3 slices of bacon
1/4 cup crumbled feta


-Warm the oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery, and cook until soft but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
-Add the tomatoes (with juices), sugar, basil leaves, salt, and black pepper.
Increase the heat to high and bring the tomatoes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, skimming off and discarding any foam from the surface.
- While the soup is simmering, cook bacon in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Remove and place on a paper towel to remove any remaining grease, then chop into tiny pieces.
-Puree the soup in a blender or with emersion blender, in batches if necessary; then pass the puree through a medium-mesh strainer, pressing on and discarding the solids. Return the soup to the pot to keep it warm.
-Use a ladle to separate into individual bowls, top with chopped basil, feta and bacon.

I'd love for you to comment below with your favorite soup recipes and stop by my blog to see what it's all about!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Kitchen Basics: Slicing and Dicing an Onion

I've been wanting to put together a series of posts explaining some kitchen basics for a while now, and for some reason I've never gotten around to it! I get a lot of questions regarding some of the easiest skills in the kitchen. For me, these seem basic and easy, but as I've had conversations with many, I've realized that not knowing how to do these tasks keep women out of the kitchen and intimidated of cooking! 

Because of this I'll be sharing some practical how-to's with you through this series! I'll be posting periodically (weekly? bi-weekly?) with simple skills to make your cooking experience more enjoyable and boost your confidence as you learn! 

I know I've had my share of light bulb moments when reading recipes or cookbooks and noticing something being done differently. I've been taught by so many, and have picked up a lot over the years. So let's get started with the first topic: how to slice and dice an onion! 

Here's what you'll need:

A regular ole onion and a large chef knife. I'm using an 8 inch knife. You could use a smaller knife, just be a bit more mindful of your fingers and how close you're getting with the blade ; )


Step 1: Turn onion on it's side and cut off tops. I always save veggie scraps, including onion tops for when I make homemade chicken broth. Just throw them into a plastic bag and freeze them until you need them. 

Step 2: Turn the onion flat on it's top (or bottom) and cut down the middle. 

Step 3: Peel onion. 

Step 4: Lay each onion half on it's flat side and run your knife along it length wise, from right to left. You can differentiate with how thick you would like your slices to be. Just remember, go SLOW, no cook's a happy cook when she slices her me. 

Simply do Steps 1-4, then...

Step 5: When you are slicing, hold each sliced piece together with a free finger so they stay together. Move so the cuts face horizontally, and run your knife through it again in the same manner, creating small diced pieces! 

See, easy peasy! Sliced onions are great sautéed or caramelized and topped on a burger, or used in sauces. Diced onions are great in just about anything else. My forever motto is that anything good always, always, starts with onion and garlic.....In fact, I'll cover garlic next time! 

Share with me in the comments or on Instagram if you have any requests for kitchen skills that you'd like to learn. I want to share what will be helpful for you! : )

Friday, January 9, 2015

Get Dinner on the Table!

I'm super excited to be joining the writing team at Grace for Moms. Y'all know I want to help women get in their kitchens with more joy and less fuss and stress. Because, who wants to sit down to dinner when they are frazzled and mentally spent? Not me. I've gathered up my best and simplest tips for getting dinner on the table. I'd love it if you would hop on over to their blog and be blessed by it. 

PS: Jessica Wolstenholm created a fabulous printable and is offering it for FREE on the blog post....go check it out

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January Goals

So I've shared with you my overarching themes/hopes/goals for the year, and now it's time to narrow down and share a little bit of the practical on how I'm going to make those things happen in the day-to-day. I'll be choosing a handful of goals for each month that fall into my bigger hopes. I love having them written down in my PowerSheets (see previous post for details) so that I can refer back and know exactly what is worth spending my time on for the month. From there I have weekly goals and daily goals. 

It's one thing to set some hopes and dreams for the year and it's another things entirely to see those things comes to life in the hustle and bustle of life. We can choose to get swept away in busy or we can intentionally enter each day to make what matters to us actually happen. So, here's where I'm at for January:

There you have it! Some lofty ones to push myself, but some practical easy ones -- all lined up with the core of where God is leading me in this season. 

If you missed my previous two goal-setting posts, here's some insight into my hopes and dreams for 2015 & Part Two: Digging deeper into the heart of my goals.

Linked with Goals with Grace

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Goals: Digging Deeper

Setting goals feels like an actual commitment to me. I'm taking a stand and saying "I'm actually going to do this." But here's the thing, there is GRACE and I need it. To the depths of my core I need it. AND I need to know it's okay for my goals to change. I think this is why I love the PowerSheets so darn much. Every 3 months there is a refresh that prompts you to reconsider your goals and refine them further where needed. 

Things can change. So, maybe I'll see you in 3 months with a new pretty graphic of goals. Who knows. Until then...I encourage you to really pursue what God is guiding you in this year. Don't let 2015 be an on purpose for what matters at the core of who you are. Dig deep enough to figure out what that is and then live in it. 

Here are my overarching goals for 2015 with some deeper thoughts fleshing them out:

1. If you text me in the middle of the day with a prayer request, chances are I'm going to stop right then and pray for you. My pastor calls this "shot-gun prayers," the times when we tell God of an urgent need. I wouldn't necessarily consider this a conversation with God, and that's what I want to grow in this year. I want to spend my mornings praying for more specific things. I'm using Val Marie's Prayer Journals to help me with this. 

2. I am working with a branding consultant to create a new website in 2015! Woohoo! I truly believe this site will be a deeper reflection of who I am and of my values. I want to spend the next year building a story around my brand and creating a genuine community of people around my business. 

3. This is three fold -- pursue community with moms in my church, pursue friendships with moms in the community & neighborhood, and invest time in the Embrace Grace mama's. 

4. I hate the feeling when I look at the calendar for the month and every single weekend is packed full with events. I know this is going to be a hard one since my sister in law AND best friend are both getting married this year. Both these events and everything that comes along with them are going to be such blessings in my life, but as an introvert, I know I need to plan to spend time alone. I want to be intentional about saying no to some things so I can say yes to those two relationships and still have time to rest and create memories as a family. 

5. I have been using nap times as crazy work crunch time lately. I enjoy being able to get so much done during these times but I want to be intentional about scheduling at least one of Reaghan's naps per week where I can just "be." For me this includes reading, painting for fun, cooking for fun, have a friend over, or take a nap myself. 

6. This is so important to me. I haven't had anyone speaking into my life on a consistent basis for a couple of years. Since there are so many places where I am pouring myself into others, I have this achy feeling. Like I have no water left in my canteen and I'm parched with thirst. I'm desperate for an older woman who has weathered the roads of marriage and motherhood before who can speak into my confusing and broken places. 

7. I want to be intentional about reading, listening to and just soaking up knowledge on gospel-centered parenting. I also want to be present with Reaghan as she grows to get to know her specific needs and how we can parent her well through them. Jordan and I both want to lead her to Jesus rather than towards perfectionistic obedience. I've got my eye on some Jessica Thompson books but I'm open to resources and book suggestions!

8. I want to have at least one (hopefully more) meet ups with local bloggers and small business owners in the Denton/Dallas/Ft. Worth area. I'd also love to find other Influence Network members in my area and grab coffee. I have been loving this little online community but I crave that face-to-face interaction with these women and want to move forward with making that happen. 

9. I also want to really dig deep into my church community. I honestly don't know how this will play out, so hopefully #1 will help me in this area ;)

10. I want to be available for my husband. So much of 2014 I found myself saying "no" to my husband. Saying no to being available emotionally, spiritually and physically. Sometimes because I just couldn't physically or mentally muster up the energy to be there for him but sometimes, selfishly as well. I want to be available at the end of my day to spend time with him, spontaneously dance in the kitchen, talk about scripture and pray more together as a couple. Our nights (and weekends) are our only times to really work on our relationship, so I hope to structure my days in such a way where I feel freed up to invest in that, rather than being a tired frazzled mess when he comes home from work :) 

Now, most people choose one word to define their hopes for the year, but as I sat on this for a while I really feel like these three words came to mind:

Pride has been a big ugly gross thing in my life for years. I want to look back on this year and see that God really broke that bond for me in many ways. 

I've noticed that much of discontentment or unhappiness in life is centered around my choice to sit in frustration. When I choose joy when Reaghan throws all her food on the floor, or patience when my husband forgets something important I told him, my perspective changes, and I am so much more calm. This isn't meant to be fake, just simply choose (in God's power) to be patient, kind, unselfish, loving, etc :)

I want to be surrendered. I have a lot of plans for the next 6 months specifically, and I want all those plans to be humbly from God as well as constantly sitting in an open hand. 

What are your word(s) for the year? I've loved reading about this on Instagram and other blogs. Cheering you on as we keep each other accountable!