The Perfect Picnic

The Perfect Picnic

IMG_9074Lately we have been packing up and going on picnic at least three times a week. Picnics have become a winner in our family. First, they are budget friendly! Picnics are a great way to feel out and about with out spending a small fortune on brunch or lunch around our house. Second, It’s great for kids. We have recently had a few restaurant melt-downs with our kids when the meal has either taken too long or they just got tired of being contained. So, we have been heading to that park a lot lately with meal in tow. Ben and I end up sitting and able to visit while George runs around and Sport does his thing.

When we went to Europe a few years back we had the most amazing picnic experience. At the advice of Rick Steves book we took a stroll through the market Rue Cler. We wondered through the market getting cheese, meats, chocolate, and a bottle of wine. Next he recommended going to a park in the city and making a picnic. We chose to sit on a bench in front of the Eiffel Tower. We had some amazing meals in Paris, but one of our favorites was the lunch we had in front of the Eiffel Tower.

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When Ben’s parents recently visited, we could not think of a better way to show them Central Park then a picnic in front of the Jackie Kennedy Reservoir.

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We typically just pack up  peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but in an effort to be healthier we have been doing caprese sliders.

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All I did was toast the slider buns with a little bit of olive oil and salt. Then layer thinly sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella, and a piece of basil. Very simple and really good!

How do you like to picnic?

xoxo, Lindsey

If you like this post please leave a comment! I love to get to know my readers!

Weekend Adventures

Weekend Adventures

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 Everyone’s favorite part of the week should be the weekend, right? I had no clue I could love the weekend anymore then I already did until we moved to New York City. Even though we love our house in Alabama, which we still own and rent out, we do not miss the work that was required to keep it up on the weekends. You see we had a large, high maintenance yard and a large house to clean. Since we have been married Saturday mornings for the most part have been work days. So for this season of life it is really nice to be in a low maintenance living situation. We simply wake up on Saturday, drink our coffee and decide where we want to go exploring.

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Right outside our front door.

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As you can see, we spent much of our weekend in Riverside Park.

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Saturday morning we went to the library for toddler story time. Sunday we headed to church with a friend and then spent the afternoon in Greenwich Village.

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One of my biggest worries about moving to New York was that in the hustle and bustle of city life we end up spending less time as a family. What I have found is we get more quality time together in the city. We are having the most amazing experiences and creating memories as a family that will last for a lifetime.

xoxo, Lindsey

Friday Favorites: What We are Watching on Netflix

Friday Favorites: What We are Watching on Netflix

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For the first four years we were married we did not have cable. Since moving to New York we are back to using the digital antenna for local channels and streaming services like Netflix. After a day of hitting the streets with two small children, one of my favorite things to do is cook dinner, put the boys to bed, and curl up with my man to watch a show. Its relaxing for me and while we are just sitting on the couch, it is time together. I am always looking for a new show. So, I love to hear what people are watching ! Here is what we have been watching recently!

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We just finished the first season of Stranger Things. This is not our typical show but I have to say it was captivating. I believe we watched the whole season in a mater of days…not sure what that says about us, but I believe it tells you how the show held our attention. Stranger Things is about a boy who goes missing and the quest to find him. Winona Ryder is the most famous cast member. Winona plays the mother of the missing boy and gives a wonderful performance. The show is very suspenseful. While sci-fi is not my usual forte I give this show two thumbs up.

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Another Netflix original, Chef’s Table is an interesting documentary following five chefs each season and honoring the creativity and artistry in their cooking. We have watched both first and second seasons, I found both to be very interesting. If you do not watch any other episodes watch Francis Mallmann in season one, Ana Ros in season two and Enrique Olvera from season two. Francis Mallmann is a world renowned chef who  cooks almost exclusively with fire. I personally like Ana Ros for the simple reason that most of the chefs on the show are classically french educated and she is self-taught. Not only is Ana a self-made and self-taught chef, but she works with local ingredients in Slovenia where one has to get very creative with scarce culinary resources.  Enrique Olvera is a chef from Mexico who is taking what is preceived to be a relatively basic Mexican food and celebrating the complexity of the sauces and obundance of ingredients. As he said himself he is taking ingredients and presentation that you would find in the finest resturants and presenting it in ways like the taco that celebrate his culture. Enrique mentioned in his episode that he has a restaurant in New York. Let’s just say after watching his Chef’s Table episode I am dying to try it!

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Crazy Ex Girlfriend has been my “go to” lite show lately. It’s what I watch when my husband is working late, or the boys are down for nap. The plot of the show is about a successful lawyer who completely picks up and changes her life to pursue an ex-boyfriend. When she randomly bumps into an ex-boyfriend who casually suggests they should  get together sometime, she quits her job to move across the country to pursue a relationship with him only to find out he has a girlfriend. The show is full of light-hearted humor and will remind you of when we have all let our crazy get the best of us!

So all of this leads me to ask, what are you watching? What should I watch next?

Xoxo, Lindsey

A Day at the Musuem

A Day at the Musuem

Of course there are many reasons to love New York City, but one that I love as a mother of small children are all the wonderful kid-friendly museums! A friend recommended that we get the NYC ID after moving to the city. It is basically an ID for people living in New York City. This is not just any ID though, because it allows you to get into many museums for free! Since getting our ID, we have been hitting up the Museum of Natural History weekly. All I have to do is show my ID and voila, we have our tickets. I went to this museum on a family vacation and a few times since then when visiting the city. I must say I have come a log way from laughing at the naked Indian statues as a preteen with my sister and have a new appreciation for the history of our world as I watch my almost three year old’s eyes light up at each exhibit. We recently took my in-laws to the museum on their visit to the city. They loved it but had to have the mind-set that they would come back because it is far to big to see in one day!

Here are a few pictures from a recent visit.

What are your favorite museums to visit in the city?

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Loaded up and ready to go. Queue… “you see me rollin”

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He watched the whole movie on coral!

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Little man taking it all in.

What’s better than a trip to the museum? A trip to the musuem followed by hot chocolate at Le Pain Quotidien and walking up Central Park West to the Diana Ross Playground!

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I would say we had a great day! See you next week Museum.

Xoxo, Lindsey

P.s. If you plan to visit the city with kids… scope out where the play grounds are. There are tons of playgrounds in the city. It’s a great way for you to people watch and the kiddos to play out some energy for a good stroller nap!

I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City

I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City
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Outside our living room window.

It’s been a little over seven weeks since we packed up our house in Alabama and I boarded a plane for New York City. After an airport send off with family and tears, I was headed to the Big Apple with two children under the age of two in tow and a heart full of anticipation and excitement. Waiting on the other end of our flight was my husband who had just started his new job (which is what brought us to the city) and began to unpack our new two bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side.

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We arrived at LaGuardia, grabbed our suitcases, hopped in a carseatless taxi (Crazy right? The city of New York is exempt from state child restrain laws), and headed for our apartment.  As we turned onto Central Park West, George opened his eyes from a hard sleep in my lap and said, “that’s Central Park.” That little boy was correct; he had placed his eyes for the first time on glorious Central Park, which would soon become a part of our daily routine. Let’s just call it our backyard, in the middle of the city.

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We have had a busy seven weeks with adjusting to living in a small space, not having a car, using public transportation, meeting new people, exploring, walking thousands of steps a day, eating more pizza then I can count and relearning our day to day functions in our new urban jungle. When my husband was initially offered this opportunity we thought the timing was off. We said things like, “our kids are too young, we will do it when they are older.” On the contrary, if we would have waited till our kids were older to make a big move like this, we would have never done it; and also, what an amazing adventure to take as a family.  Secondly we said, “why would we want to leave our large yard and settled house.” I have to say this was the biggest one for me.  I loved our house in Alabama and the thought of leaving it was tough. My outlook on our housing situation has completely changed. First, we do not spend a ton of time in our apartment. We typically wake up, eat breakfast, watch the Today Show and hit the pavement. We have traded space for experience. In a city with so much to see and do it’s hard to stay inside. Last week we had a day we stayed inside all day and I told Ben I had total FOMO (fear of missing out). I think a retired New York City police officer we met in the park playing with his grandson said it best. As I was telling him all the major adjustments we are experiencing and the major differences between Alabama and living here, he stopped me and said, “young lady do you realize you live in the greatest city in the world.”

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I completely stopped talking, sat back and said to myself, “shut up Lindsey, you are living in the greatest city in the world.” As I have shared before we are movers but we have never embarked on anything as life changing and as self growing as this. I look forward to documenting and sharing our experiences with you.

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So while I am not “Strolling Through the South (bear with us, we know we need a new name),”I am embarking on an adventure with my precious husband and two babies in the city that never sleeps and what some call the greatest city in the world.  We are still sisters divided by distance and sharing our experiences together. So for now I will crank up the You’ve Got Mail soundtrack and plan out what new city adventure we will embark on tomorrow. Take a listen to my new city girl theme song below.

XOXO, Lindsey

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

Mini Van Meg

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We are teaming up with Mary over at http://www.minivanmeg.com to give away a fabulous Kylie Jenner lip kit! Check out our Instagram for details! Also, click on over to Mary’s site! I am lucky to call her family! Mary, her husband Sam and their two children live outside of DC. Sadly I have not joined the minivan club like Laura and Mary but when I do I hope I can make it look as cool. Her blog is an encouragement to young mothers like me! She talks about everything from travel to kids crafts. Definitely check her out here!

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Because I have watch this video at least three times…. You are in for some laughs!

“Hey boo boo, what are you thinking club wise?”

Rodan and Fields

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My friend Lillie gave me a sample of this micro-dermabrasion paste a few months ago. I am usually pretty hesitant to switch up my skin care routine! Well let me say, I love this product. It leaves your face with an almost silky feeling! You are only supposed to use it once or twice a week. With that said, it will take me some time to go through this bottle. Initially I thought it would be too pricey for me to justify buying. This product is becoming my favorite splurge! Contact my friend Lillie about your skin care needs! She is a great girl and also has fabulous skin as a testimony to these products!  Check her out: Here

Corkcicle Bottle

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Ever since I had kidney stones I have been trying to drink more water! I found this bottle at a local boutique. It is similar to a Yeti but it comes in the fabulous pink color and is much more affordable! I put ice in it yesterday at 4:00pm. When I opened it this morning at 5:30am to take a sip it was still cold! I gave my mother-in-law one for her birthday and she uses it to take a cup of afternoon coffee to work!

Walmart Grocery Pickup

After seeing several friends post about the convenience of grocery pick up from Walmart, I decided to check it out for myself.  I just googled Walmart grocery pick up and it took me to their website.  I was able to look up by my zip code whether the service was available for my area.  To my delight, it was available and so easy!  You just pick out your groceries online, check out and pick your pickup time at your closest Walmart.  I will point out that you need to order them a day in advance.  I usually spend the night before my grocery shopping making a list anyways.  This is like making an online list and cutting out the shopping part.  I have only done it for two weeks, but it has made my life so much easier.  Also, you just call when you drive up for your pick up time, and they actually come out and load the groceries for you! It doesn’t get much better than that.  Just make sure to check your area.  They don’t have it everywhere yet, but I bet it will keep growing!

 xoxo~ Lindsey and Laura

Easter

Easter

Spring has sprung in our neck of the woods and there is nothing like flowers budding and birds chirping to remind you of the beauty of life. As Laura said last week, life has been busy. With things slowing down this week I am committing to take in each moment and enjoy the longer days with my boys!

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A week ago I had the honor of hosting some of my family for Easter. With the passing of our grandmother two weeks ago, this year was a little different. After weeks of company and family around my mom said I could host to switch things up with this year being different. Hosting seemed a little daunting considering I come from a family of wonderful hostesses! But nevertheless I pulled out my China, set the table, and began to plan my menu. In our family, the staples are ham, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, and strawberry cake. All of that mixed with an assortment of casseroles and desserts makes for full bellies and good naps.

Here are a few pictures taken the night before.

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This Easter was different but no less meaningful! It may have been a smaller gathering in a different place but the joy we have in the resurrection was more prevalent then ever. Though it was another day where we were reminded of the sadness on being separated with our love one in death, it also reminded me that because of the resurrection we have the hope of being together again one day!

xoxo, Lindsey

Lessons Learned From My Grandmother

Lessons Learned From My Grandmother

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Lindsey and I have been out of the blogging world the last few weeks.  Some of this was due to sickness.  A lot of it is due to the failing health and loss of our grandmother last week.  I, Laura, was traveling back and forth to Montgomery over the last couple of weeks to spend some time with my grandmother and be there when she passed.  Lindsey has been tirelessly serving her and family.

Everyone thinks their grandmother is the best.  I could spend a whole blog post telling you about ours.  As I laid awake thinking about her the other night, I started to think more of the lessons I learned from her.  There are so many, but I boiled it down to three.  Although this isn’t your grandmother, I hope you can learn a little bit more about mine and what is important to take from her life.

1. It’s Ok To Be A Lady and Be Smart

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My grandmother eloped at 16 and never really worked much of a job the rest of her life.  She did finish high school, but never got to go to college like her parents wanted her to because she started having babies young.  She was a housewife her whole life to five boys.  So many people last weekend described her as the ultimate housewife, Southern lady, hostess, etc.  I will get to that in number two, but there was one aspect about her that I kept thinking about.

Although she was this proper Southern lady, my grandmother was an avid reader about everything.  She was analytical and always sharing with me something about a recent book she read.  Although she spent hours perusing magazines looking at house decorations, she also read biographies, fiction, nonfiction and Christian books.  When I was at her house last month, although her health was horrible, she still had a book out about habits that she was about to start reading.  I thought “How many people are still worried about changing their habits when they are facing the end of their lives?”

She also was passionate about college football and politics.  No, she didn’t just watch Alabama football games and pretend to know what was going on.  She had the depth chart out and tended to know more then the men in the room.  She also knew a lot about politics and current events.  She knew everything about candidates and what was going on in government.  Although we didn’t always agree on everything, Ganma loved politics.  I think that is why her sons and grandkids are all knowledgable about current events/politics.  We just grew up talking about it like it was normal.

My grandmother taught me that you could be a proper lady and still be passionate and smart.  You can be all things feminine and also care about analyzing things and reading.  This may sound simple, but for someone like me that was wired a lot like my grandmother,  seeing her was a real example for me.

2. The Gift of Hospitality and Caring About The Details

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Her hospitality was probably the thing talked about the most over the last week at her visitation and funeral.  My grandmother loved hosting her big family, as well as friends and parties.  I looked to her growing up as the perfect hostess.  She knew exactly how to arrange fresh flowers, always had some new treat on hand to try when you came to her house, and she always had a pot of coffee on.  I remember sitting around the table with her and her best friends as a child while they drank coffee and I got to have my “coffee milk” (1/4 coffee, 3/4 milk).  Her house was beautiful and inviting, yet she hosted people from all walks of life and made them feel comfortable.  She was a cook like no other.  Until she recently couldn’t walk, she was still always trying a new recipe and telling me about it.  When you came over, she always had fresh sweet tea and lemonade in beautiful pitchers out on the counter.  Somehow, even her lemonade just tasted better than the average lemonade.  My brother put it this way: “She was Martha Stewart on steroids.”  My husband said staying at her house was like staying at a  bed and breakfast.

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About a year ago, Lindsey and I went out to the house with George and Tays.  She had made us some amazing strawberry pie.  She had saved some of the pie pastry and topped it with butter, cinnamon and sugar for George and Tays.  As they ate it and loved it, her face lit up.  I remember sitting there thinking that it was little things like special treats that made my childhood at her house so special.  They were small and subtle, but she put time and thought into everything she made or did.  She made Lindsey and I numerous dresses, Christmas stockings for our whole family, and special gowns for the boys to come home from the hospital in.  She wasn’t an over the top grandmother with gifts, but what she gave you was special with thought and time put into it.  If you stayed at her home, you woke up to homemade pancakes or some kind of treat.

So much of my love for hosting or the need to want to make my family feel special at my house comes from her, as well as my mom and other grandmother.  She might be gone, but I will think about her every time I put on a pot of coffee on for guests, cook one of her many recipes I have, use her China she gave me, arrange fresh flowers or throw a shower.  These might seem like subtle things, but they made a long term impact on everyone around her.  The little things and details do matter.  I will never forget this.  My dad said at her funeral the famous quote, “People will forget what you said and what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”  When you were at Ganma’s house your felt loved and special.

3. The Gift of Time Spent

Although so many talked about my grandmother’s gift of hospitality and cooking, I think her biggest gift was time spent.  One of her friends said that she was never too busy to listen.  When you were at her house, everything stopped and she expected to sit with you and have a real conversation.  She was warm and a great conversationalist.  She still continued to be a great phone conversationalist up until the end of her life.  If she met you once, she would remember you and ask about you.  I could honestly tell everyone I knew at her visitation, “She always asked about you.”  Although she could subtly tell you how she felt about someone (a Southern lady would never come right out with it), most of her conversations did not revolve around talking bad about people.  She just showed genuine interest in people.

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When I was in college at The University of Alabama, her and Papa had season tickets and took their motor home up for home games.  I was in college but still valued going over to their motor home on a Friday afternoon and just talking.  Of course, she always brought me cookies or homemade bread.  She was still hosting even in their motor home.  If I called her, she was never too busy to have a long conversation.  She was so happy just to talk.  There didn’t have to be an agenda.  She just really enjoyed being with people and conversing with them.  My dad said dish duty with her was even special as a teenager because he got to have great conversations with his mom.  I think that is what I will miss the most – just picking up the phone and calling Ganma.

Instead of just tearing up (which I am currently doing), I hope I learn this lesson with my own children and friends.  I hope I am never too busy to listen, have someone in my home and enter into a great conversation.  Speaking of conversations, we had an analytical conversation a couple of years ago about the book “Heaven Is For Real.”  I know she is now experiencing the ultimate form of hospitality.  I am glad she is out of pain and seeing things I cannot imagine.  Thank you for reading about my grandmother and the lessons I learned from her.

~ Laura

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

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Man, what a crazy week!  I think Jen Hatmaker’s status said it best: Taking Care of Ourselves.  We have also had a lot going on with the health of our grandmother this week.  Even though our Friday Favorites can seem trivial right now, it is important to remember the fun, small things that bring a smile to our face this week.

Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

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I decided to make a cake last month for the Super Bowl.  I searched the internet for the best chocolate icing to put with the yellow cake my husband requested.  I found this recipe, and it is to die for.  I also love that it makes more than enough icing for a cake.  I hate when I make icing and it is not quite enough to cover the mistakes I inevitably make while icing the cake.  This recipe makes plenty, and you will be glad to have that much to eat!  Here is the link: Buttercream Chocolate Frosting.

Chatbooks

Chatbooks is an app that makes pictures books.  They are only $8 and you get 30 pages (one picture per page).  The great thing is that you can use pictures from social media.  I started out by doing some pictures of my son’s first year of life. It turned out so cute!  This is a great way to document when I don’t have a lot of time.

Metal Letters

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We are redoing our den to get our house ready to sell.  I needed something to go on a wall where I got rid of a dark, heavy picture.  I found big metal letters at Hobby Lobby last week half off (you can pretty much find anything there half off if your timing is right).  I got enough letters to spell out HOME.  I really love them and plan on taking them to our next house too.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation

Well, my husband and I have been into this show for a while now.  This is not a new discovery.  However, we quickly watched the first six seasons on Netflix last year.  We just started watching the seventh season this week, because they released it later.  With all the political and social turmoil going on right now, this show has been a little sunshine this week.  We haven’t watched a good comedy in a while, and I forgot how good it can be for the soul.  Side note:  Don’t judge the whole series on the short first season.  It gets so much better from the second season on.  If you don’t know who Little Sebastian is, you are missing out!

Favorite Things Party

I went to a party this week at a friend’s house, and I thought it was the cutest idea.  You had to bring something that was a favorite for you.  I just had to share.  Below are the rules:

Per Katy…This is how the fave things swap goes:

1. We each bring three of the same item ($5-10).
2. Keep the items unwrapped.
3. Everyone is assigned a number. You’ll put the same number on each of your items. I’ll bring stickers to number the items.
4. One at a time, draw a number and whatever item is assigned to that number is the item you get!
5. Repeat step 4, two more times until everyone has three different items!

During the first round, as your item gets picked, you’ll explain what you brought and why it’s your favorite.

It was so much fun! I came home with a bottle of street relieving lotion, a ring and nail polish.

Have a happy Friday!

~ Laura and Lindsey

My Friend Maribeth And Why You Need to Read Her Story

My Friend Maribeth And Why You Need to Read Her Story

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Today’s post is not really meant to highlight my writing, but it is more to direct you to my friend’s blog so you can hear her story for yourself.  My friend Maribeth (a special friend since high school) has the strongest faith of anyone I know.  A couple of year ago I got to be apart of her wedding weekend, and my husband and I both left saying that it was the most uplifting wedding we had ever been part of.  You cannot be around her or her husband Kyle without having a sense that you just encountered someone who really got what faith is all about.  Maribeth has been a missionary, spent her Friday nights praying with strippers and prostitutes in Atlanta, and has a huge heart for underprivileged children.

This past November she had something happen that shouldn’t happen to any mother.  She lost her baby girl at full term.  I could spend my blog going through the story, but it is better coming from her own words.  I am leaving a link to her blog.  Please read the first post “Opal’s Birth Story”  and the second post about what caused this.  I think it is important to read both because 1. Maribeth and Kyle are inspirations to me and a testament of real faith.  Also, Opal’s story deserves to be heard.  2. It is important to bring awareness to what caused this, and Maribeth so eloquently explains everything.  Here is a link to her blog: My Mamas Heart.

I cried through her post, but I learned so much about what faith looks like in the face of adversity.  I hope you can read and learn about her heart.  Every word I have heard from Maribeth since going through this has blown me away.  From her texts about gratitude for this experience to her beautiful words about grief, she has set an amazing example.  This is really a beautiful story that I am sharing from my heart today.

~ Laura

P.S. I went pretty old school with this picture…

Can moms dream too?

Can moms dream too?

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Last Friday and Saturday, my husband and I attended a marriage conference through our church.  The guest speakers were Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley. To be completely honest, we were excited about the conference but we were more excited because my parents got us a babysitter to make sure we could attend. When leading up to the weekend, I kept thinking about all the things we needed to do around our house or all of the things we could be doing as a family as opposed to being at the marriage conference. Knowing my parents had already booked the babysitter, I reluctantly showed up Friday night and I am so glad I did.

We were sitting in the audience Friday night listening to the Smalley’s when they started to talk about dreaming together. They asked us to pause and turn to our partner and tell them what was on our bucket list. As I turned to Ben, my mind went blank.  I told Ben to go first to give me a second to think. He told me his bucket list and then asked me mine. I sat there drawing a blank. Had my mind turned to mush from having two small children, or had I truly forgotten the dreams I once had for myself?  I could sit and name “administrative dreams” such as save for our children to go to college or pay off our house early, but I legitimately could not think of dreams I had for myself. Not my dreams for my family or my children, but for me. After staring at Ben and drawing a blank, I could begin to see the disappointment in his eyes. Usually “dreaming together” has been one of my favorite parts about marriage. Dreaming for myself had also always been a huge part of who I am. Somehow in the hustle and bustle of life and giving my all to my famil,y I realized I had lost a part of me and I wondered, “can I still have dreams for me?”

We got in the car and began to make our way to my parents to pick up my son. As soon as we got in the car, my husband turned to me and asked if I could really not think of things I wanted for myself. I could tell he was really sad for me. He had told me wonderful things on his bucket list such as write a book and learn another language. How has he maintained his dreams and somehow I had become a shell of my old self? There was a part of me that felt like in I was so overwhelmed dreaming of what I wanted for my children and my husband that I did not have the right to dream for myself.

We went on with the conference and learned some wonderfully practical things for our marriage. The only thing that was still lurking in my mind was, “what are my dreams for ME?” After going through stupid questions like, “can I still have aspirations for myself outside of being a good mom?” Or even “what am I even good at anymore?” I sadly know they are the insecurities I have grown to feel as I have devoted myself to being a stay at home mom. When I worked I had something that was mine, something that I was good at.

Before becoming a mom I worked at a University in Nashville. In both of my positions there my main job was to work with people – whether that was helping them figure out their financial aid or working in the President’s Office. I love to communicate, solve problems and help people and I knew I was good at it. I recognize that raising my children is the hardest work I will ever do and let me say I love my job, but somewhere in the day to day I have let my own self doubt creep in and it has left me forgetting my passions.

Over the past few days since returning to “mom life,” I have tried to carve out time each day to remember who I am and what I am passionate about. I am trying to make time to stay sharpe and stay passionate about things I like. While rocking a baby, I downloaded the book Former People by Douglas Smith.  Former People is a book about the fall of the Russian aristocracy durning the Bolshevik Revolution. In my former life I liked history (lol). While I should be finishing my latest parenting book, something about reading something that truly interest me made me feel sharp. I have also began praying that God would help me to become more confident in him. He is revealing in various ways that becoming more confident in Him will allow be to be a better parent and wife.

In a effort to be transparent and to do my own “homework,” I decided to come up with a list of 5 things to start my bucket list! So here they are…

1. Learn French
2. Take a trip to the Holy land.
3. Learn to successfully ballroom dance.
4. Run a race. (I am not a runner, but always wished I was. Surely I could do a half marathon or at least a 5k one day!)
5. Live in a foreign country. (I have always thought it would be cool to live abroad for a large or small amount of time. If not in our “young life,” maybe in retirement.)

Well there you have it! A start to my bucket list. So the answer to my opening question, “can moms have dreams too?” I am learning we absolutely can. I know raising my children and being a good wife is the best thing I can do in this life, but I can never be successful at those if I do not tend to myself first.

So, I raise my half drank coffee cup to remembering who I am and the ways He has gifted me and the ways he has gifted you!

~xoxo, Lindsey

Do my homework with me and list 5 things on your bucket list with the hashtag #momscandreamtoo

A Kid Friendly Trip to Chattanooga

A Kid Friendly Trip to Chattanooga

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My sister in law asked us a few weeks ago if we would like to go with them to the Chattanooga Aquarium.  We were excited to say yes because we have been wanting to take Tays to the aquarium for a while.  We decided to go spend the night Sunday before going to the aquarium Monday (a really romantic Valentine’s Day, right?).

We have seen a Groupon for a while for the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel downtown.  We booked it because it was convenient and my son is obsessed with trains.  Would I recommend it?  Yes and no.  It is very cool and interesting.  It is the old train station turned into a hotel.  We got a regular hotel room, but you can actually stay in one of the old train cars that has been converted into a room.

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They also had a nice indoor pool, which was also a plus with a 2 year old.  Why would I recommend it?  It is so convenient and affordable!  We were able to take the downtown shuttle (kudos to Chattanooga for a having a great shuttle system) to dinner Sunday night and the aquarium Monday morning.  The shuttle runs right by the hotel.  We were also convenient to great eating downtown.  We did not pay a lot because of the groupon, and our son really enjoyed the train cars and indoor pool.

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However, the hotel is really old.  They said the rooms were recently updated, but we still dealt with drafty hallways and bad water pressure.  The room itself was good for the price, but getting our family and luggage in the tiny elevator was a problem.  I am sure that is what you get when you deal with an old hotel.  Overall, it was a neat experience and we could not have asked for a better location.  Just know when you book the hotel that you have to take the old amenities.  Staying in the train car might be a totally different experience.  Also, definitely get the groupon.  I check travel groupon deals often and they always seem to have a groupon available.

I wish I had better pictures for this post, but it was very cold and rainy the whole time, plus we were dealing with two young kids.  Restaurant shout outs:  Big River Grill for dinner and Chattz Coffee for breakfast.  We met my sister in law and her family at Big River Grill Sunday night.  We all got the fish tacos (my sister in law had them before on a work trip).  They were amazing! I would highly recommend that dish.  We also went to Chattz Coffee and Wine Bar for breakfast the next morning.  It was right by the aquarium.  The coffee was good, but we especially liked their oatmeal breakfast bars.  Big River Grill and Chattz are both on the same street as the aquarium.

Finally, we went to the aquarium, and I will leave you with some pictures.  I have only been to the Atlanta aquarium before, and it was a while ago so it is hard to compare.  I liked that the Chattanooga aquarium was divided into two buildings for fresh water and salt water. That gave us a good break to take lunch.  The kids loved it!  It is also very convenient for us.  The staff was great and it was not too crowded (which I’ve heard can be a problem in Atlanta).  Plus, if you have never been to Chattanooga, it is a beautiful place.  Downtown is on the river and surrounded by mountains.  The aquarium is right on the river.  You cannot go wrong.

These cousins had fun looking at fish together.

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The dive show was one of our favorite things in the salt water building.  I felt like a little kid.  I think the parents were having just as much fun as the kids.

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When Tays saw the turtles and alligators, he said “I want to get in.”  No you don’t buddy, no you don’t!

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One of my favorite things to see were all the jelly fish.  I know, they are really pretty until they sting you…

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I love when we take a trip that makes my son so happy.  He loves his cousins, trains and fish, so he was in heaven.  We took this last picture in our hotel room Sunday night.  I mentioned on Facebook that my husband said (as we changed two poppy diapers in our hotel room) “It’s just another day in paradise.”  There is some sarcasm and a lot of truth in that statement.  We will have many other Valentine’s focused on us, but it was fun this year to have some good family time.  Just gotta embrace it!

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~ Laura

The Stress of Needing More

The Stress of Needing More

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I started off 2016 by saying I wanted 2016 to be the year my life became more minimal. With the materialistic world we live in, I wanted 2016 to be the year I had less stuff and more special moments. I made the resolution, told those close to me, bought the how-to book, and here I am over a month into the new year with very little change. I guess life has happened and in the process I have forgotten my resolution.

So here I sit looking at a pile of clean laundry on my dining room table and clueless to how I am going to stuff it into my full dresser and crammed closet. My drawers are stuffed to the brim with old t-shirts I have kept for “memories,” that old dress I might be able to fit into after I lose the baby weight, and outfits I some how thought were appropriate many moons and many pounds ago. Oh and not just the pile of clothes, let’s talk about the kids “stuff.” I could go on and on.

The other night my husband and I were talking about our “prekid” life. The life where we traveled more and dreamed of moving to a big city. We talked about the time we dreamed about selling our cars and our furniture and moving to Europe! It was such a fantasy we had that we looked for months for jobs. We joked we could never do that now because we have kids but also it would be such an adjustment to not have all of our “stuff” (aka the things we have accumulated in our quest for the “American Dream”).

It starts out very innocently. For us it started out with now we have big boy and big girl jobs, we need better cars. Then we need a house. Now we have a house, we need to redo it to make it better. Now that we have a kid, we need a bigger house so we have a place to put all the toys. Now that we have a bigger yard, we need more stuff to keep it up. Now that we have a bigger house, we need new furniture to fill it. Now that we have a second kid, we need a bigger house so we can still have a guest room. Wait, now all of a sudden my car is not big enough because we have more children and need more space. Isn’t that exhausting? More more more. Always looking to the next big thing we think or society tells us we need.

Our church recently had our Missions Sunday. It was such an encouragement to me and my husband and a reminder of what is really important. We heard a story of a couple that has moved themselves and their three children to Turkey to spread the good news of Jesus to the people of Turkey. I walked away feeling challenged to step out in faith but also to give up some of the “stuff” so we can give more.

We have been so blessed and I want to be more giving from that blessing, but to also cherish more moments with my children rather then being so tied down to my to do lists and stuff.

This is a little something that has been on my heart lately. I know it is not a bad thing to have nice things or the house we want, but I do not want to be so tied down to my things and the dreams I have for my life that I do not miss if God is calling us to something bigger or different.

So I sit here over a month into the new year and really wanting to hit the restart button on my New Years resolution! This week I start with getting rid of the clothing clutter! Onto more moments and less things…. Coffee is brewing, babies are napping and momma is dreaming! So today I am one step closer to letting go of the stress of needing more. Instead, I want to step out in faith and say, “God I am not sure why you are stirring my heart in this way, but I want to trust more in you and less in my abilities to ‘build’ our life.”

Xoxo, Lindsey

How are you doing with your new year resolutions?

Making Valentine’s Day Fun For Kids

Making Valentine’s Day Fun For Kids

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Lindsey and I got together last weekend.  We were working on our own Valentine’s Day decor when we decided to take some of the fabric at Hobby Lobby and make the boys their own table cloth and fun Valentine’s Day party.  We even bought flameless candles for their table.

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They helped us decorate sugar cookies and were super excited to dig in.  I wish I could describe the cuteness going on at their table.

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Later on in the week Tays made Valentine’s Day cards for his grandparents that we were going to see that week.  All it took was some card stock, crayons, and stamps to give him an afternoon activity.  He was so proud of his handprint inside the card.  Although these weren’t super crafty cards, his pride in showing them to his grandparents made them all worth it.  And, it was time well spent.

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We tried to give the boys some activities from cookie decorating to card making.  We hope this gave them more of a sense of ownership in the new holiday.  How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day with your kids?

~ Laura

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

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After sick kids and a crazy-busy week (another post coming soon), we are finally back to blogging about our Friday favorites.  We have been saving up some things that we are currently crazy about.  What are you loving this week?  Happy Friday!

1. Fixer Upper

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Okay, I know this show has been around for a while.  I watched one episode on HGTV one time.  Then, Netflix recently posted the whole first season.  I am kind of obsessed.  This show is giving me delusional dreams about redoing a house.  The main couple that fixes up these houses is also adorable.  A very good Netflix find!

2.Chi Rocket Low EMF

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My mother in law bought me this blow dryer for Christmas, and oh my goodness!  I have extremely thick hair and blow drying my hair is usually a long chore.  I never thought to buy a nicer blow dryer.  This has pretty much cut my blow drying time in half.  It’s not a cheap buy, but I would argue it is worth every penny.  I am so glad I have been introduced  to a nicer hair dryer.

3. The Smocking Bug

There aren’t many things we like better in the South than a cute smocked outfit on our child.  There are a lot of Facebook groups out there where you can order outfits, but we think The Smocking Bug (right out of South Alabama) has the cutest options.  Not to mention, they are also affordable.  They had their first summer pre-order going on this past week.  Although that order is closed, the next summer pre-order is in March.  It makes me happy just scrolling through these adorable clothes!  Here’s the link to the Facebook page: The Smocking Bug

4. Georgette Heyer Books

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I read last year on a book blog that if you liked Jane Austen, you would like Georgette Heyer.  I have actually heard her name in the book community for years.  I decided to read the book recommended on the blog “The Grand Sophy.”  It was so good, and I now have read five Georgette Heyer books in the last six months.  Her books are, for the most part, set in Regency England (she was considered an expert on the time period) even though she wrote most of them in the 1930’s – 1960’s.  Her books are fast-paced, funny and clean.  I wanted some fun reading over the holidays and read a couple of her books.  My grandmother is now on a Georgette Heyer kick too.  I had to share for anyone who enjoys funny and romantic books.  The good news is that there are plenty of her books to keep you entertained for a while.  My new favorite is “Cotillion.”  I laughed the whole way through.

5. The Handmade Home

We actually know who the author of this blog is because she is based in our hometown of Montgomery, Alabama.  Although The Handmade Home has been a phenomenon for a while, we have recently really enjoyed their store and sales.  I am obsessed with this print they are selling Across America Map for a kid’s room.  Their blog is all about how they made their home special for them.  It has been featured on countless websites and shows.  It has given me some good ideas about sprucing up my home and serves as inspiration.  Once you click on the website, you won’t be able to stop looking.  Enjoy: The Handmade Home.

~ Laura and Lindsey

The Biggest Differences in Going From 1 to 2 Kids

The Biggest Differences in Going From 1 to 2 Kids

Lindsey and I both went from having one to two kids in the last year (both two and under). We have both been talking recently about the differences we have seen, and we thought we would share some of those with you.

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1. The Time It Takes to Get Out of the House

I am pretty much late all the time these days.  I was not prepared for how much more time and effort it would take just to get out of the house with two little ones.  I now have to get two kids dressed and two diaper bags/back packs properly packed.  I feel like I am constantly remembering something I forgot…Juice cup, extra diapers, extra outfits, etc.  Add that right when we are ready to leave, the baby is ready to nurse.  Yep, it doesn’t matter how early I get started, there is always something that pops up (my son spitting his milk out on his outfit for fun) that keeps me from getting out the door on time.  Now that my nine month old is going through the attachment phase, things are even crazier.  The other morning my son woke up in a bad mood and had to go to time out.  I had to sit the nine month old down to put him in time out.  She started losing it while he lost it because he was in time out.  Never a dull moment.  Sometimes I just have to laugh!

2. The Lack of Sleep/Down Time

Sure, there was a lack of sleep with one child.  The main difference was that I could sleep when he slept.  If he woke up at 4:00 in the morning and went back to sleep, I would go back to sleep until he woke up.  Now, when my daughter wakes up at 5 to nurse, I barely fall back asleep before my two year old is up.  Someone has to get up and get his breakfast. And nap time, well that’s a different story.  I love the days when they both go down at the same time and one does not wake the other one up.  I used to count on my son’s nap time for my down town/get things done time.  Now, it seems like once one falls asleep, sometimes the other wakes up or has trouble going down.  I do have some good days where both take naps and that is getting better.  Although I do fear that now that my daughter has a solid afternoon nap, my son will soon grow out of his.

3. Double Everything

I know this is a given, but it still hits me in waves.  We buy double the diapers (we are in the midst of trying to potty train), double the clothes, and double the food.  It gives me even more respect for single parents because of the time it takes to feed two little ones and bath two little ones.

4. I’ve Developed More Compassion For Other Parents

I had this wonderful schedule with my son his first year of life.  He was a great sleeper and I thought I had it all figured out.  It is all about schedule.  Then he became two (no explanation necessary) and I had a baby that isn’t as good of a sleeper.  Although she has had a little bit more of a flexible schedule because we are out of the house more, I have done a lot of the same things.  I now believe in the phrase that “every child is different.”  I definitely do not have it together.  Some days I am lucky to survive.  I look at other parents and I don’t judge.  I feel what they are going through.  I also became less rigid with my second.  Although I don’t always remember her milestones as well as I did her brothers, I don’t worry that her schedule will completely fall apart if I hold her through nap time every now and then.

5. Double the Love

I’ve listed a lot of hard things about having two kids, but there is also double the snuggles and kisses.  I love when they make each other laugh, or my son acts concerned for his sister.  They keep me busy, and I love marveling at their different personalities.  Plus, they take really cute pictures together.  I cannot wait for the day they can play together.  Also, I finally felt like I had an excuse to buy a minivan.  Does it get much better than that?

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6. It Is Survivable

I was so scared in the last few weeks of my second pregnancy that my son would feel a lack of attention, that I would never leave the house again, that I would feel too overwhelmed by two to ever get anything done, etc.  However, just like with one, it becomes totally normal.  You adjust and learn you can survive (and we get out of the house a lot).  We know we want more, so two hasn’t completely scared me off.  However, I now know why people stop at two kids all the time.  It is hard work!

~ Laura

The Perfect Party Bunting!

The Perfect Party Bunting!

Last week I blogged about a baby shower I recently hosted at my house. When planning decorations for the party, I took to Pinterest for some inspiration. After seeing a picture with a similar ribbon bunting, I got a slight crafty hair and decided to head to Hobby Lobby. With my sister in law in toe to help, we found some really cute fabrics to make our ribbon bunting for the party.

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First, we cut a little slit every one inch on the fabric.

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Then we began tearing the fabric to give the right look to the strips.

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I cut a long strip  of burlap fabric I used for another project to tie the fabric onto.

Next, we began tying the fabric onto the burlap strip.

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(and momma needs a manicure….badly)

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And the end result! I pinned the bunting all the way around my dining room table, and it was the perfect shabby chic accessory! Check out the table here.

xoxo, Lindsey

These photos were taken by Lex & Lee Photography.

A Healthier 2016: Weight Watchers and My Favorite Recipes

A Healthier 2016: Weight Watchers and My Favorite Recipes

IMG_5095While Lindsey is doing Whole 30, I decided to go back to something I have done before.  My daughter is nine months old and now supplementing with baby food.  It is hard to really diet in the beginning when they nurse so much!  When my son was around this age, I decided to take my first shot at weight watchers to lose that extra 15 pounds.  With both of my kids, I seem to lose a lot fast and then get stuck with that extra weight that doesn’t seem to come off as easy.

Weight watchers worked for me with my son.  I lost 10 pounds, but I had to stop when I got pregnant with my daughter.  I decided to wait until after the holidays to start, and then I wanted to jump in hard core.  The thing I love about weight watchers is that it will develop a plan for nursing moms and give you some extra points.  That way I do not worry about my milk supply going down.  It is the only “diet” that I have ever stuck with more than a couple of weeks.

I am definitely not getting paid by weight watchers to share this.  This is just the honest truth for me.  The tracking system, delicious healthy recipes and accountability are what keep me on track.  I am doing it completely online, and I love the weight watchers app on my phone where you can scan bar codes to get points and track throughout the day.  A friend of mine and I also discovered that you can connect with other people on the app to show your profile for accountability.  My mom and grandmother are also doing it with me this time, so that gives me a lot of encouragement.  I have only done it for a couple of weeks, and I have already lost five pounds!

Oh, and one other reason I love weight watchers:  all of the recipes you can find online and in their cookbooks!  When you sign up, they give you starter meal recipes.  That is my survival guide.  I could not do it without following their recipes!  They give you creative ways to eat healthy (they even give you healthy dessert options).  Trying to do weight watchers and eat out all the time can be hard.  So, I meal plan and try to stick with their recipes at least during the first couple of weeks to get my mind in the right place.  Here are my favorite that I eat throughout the day (all come from the weight watchers website):

Breakfast: Whole Wheat toast with peanut butter and sliced bananas (one slice is 4 points).

Lunch: Vegetable Soup with “grilled cheese” (6 points)

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1 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/3 cup chopped celery

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup canned tomatoes

1 cup low sodium vegetable broth

(Brown the garlic in the olive oil on medium heat.  Add the celery, onions, and carrots.  Cook until tender.  Add the tomatoes and vegetable broth and simmer until warmed through).

For the grilled cheese:

1 light english muffin

sliced tomato

low fat mozzarella cheese

(Top the english muffin with tomato slices and cheese.  Bake until the cheese melts)

My other favorite lunch also includes an english muffin.  I put avocado, turkey deli meat, low fat swiss cheese and whatever veggies you want (I do cucumber and tomato) on a light english muffin.  It is only 6 points and actually delicious!

Snack:  Peanut Butter and sliced strawberries on low sodium rice cake (3 points)

I think you can tell I like peanut butter.  I absolutely love this snack!

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Dinner: Barbecue Chicken Pizza (8 points)

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This was my husband’s favorite recipe so far.  We each got a pizza.  I just doubled the recipe below to make two.

1/2 cup chopped roasted boneless/skinless chicken (I just used rotisserie chicken)

1/4 cup black beans

1 1/2 Tbsp. barbecue sauce

low fat shredded cheddar cheese (about 1/4 cup)

1 regular size whole wheat tortilla

Lay your tortilla out on a baking sheet and set your oven at 350 degrees.  Mix together the chicken, black beans and barbecue sauce.  Spoon out onto the tortilla and spread out evenly.  Top with cheese and bake until cheese melts.  So, so good!

Like I said, all of these recipes come from the weight watchers website.  There are so many more.  These are just some of my favorites!  Because I am nursing, I often double my portions since I get more points.  However, these recipes really keep me going!  I cannot wait to meet my goal.

~ Laura

The House on Park, The Boy’s Room

The House on Park, The Boy’s Room

 

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November and December were very busy months for our family. January is proving to be less eventful, and that is a welcome change as we adjust to being a family of four. In anticipation of the baby’s arrival, we began to work on George’s “big boy room.” We heard mixed things about transitioning a two year old to a big boy bed, but in an effort to not buy a second crib we thought we would give it a try. The process then began of turning the spare room into the “boys room.”

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Both of the images above were taken by Allison Hilyer Photography.

First we selected the paint color for the walls. We chose Tapestry Beige by Benjamin Moore. Knowing that the decor in this room will probably evolve with the boys, I wanted a true neutral. This color has proved to be just that! The color is warm and yet light, it also goes well with grey and tan. It really is a perfect neutral!

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The beds were purchased from a local antique store. I love the the traditional look of the beds and thought they would be pieces we could use for many years to come. They could transition well to a guest room or even a girls room one day. Also, in anticipation of George and William Sport sharing a room one day, two matching beds would be just lovely!

The bedding was bought at TJ Maxx. There is nothing better then walking into TJ Maxx and finding something you actually need for a great price. Each bedding set was only $29.99. Can I get a woo hoo?

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The plane prints were found on Etsy and the frames and matting were purchased from Target. The table between the beds was found on sale at Target along with the lamp!

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This room is becoming one of my favorite rooms in the house. Some of my sweetest moments with George unfold in this room. From singing songs while he gets dressed after bath, to reading to him in the bed, to me inching out of the bed as he fall asleep at night. It’s a room special to my heart and the memories made in it are what make a house a home!

xoxo, Lindsey

The Art of Waking Up Early (and why I have to stop failing at it)

The Art of Waking Up Early (and why I have to stop failing at it)

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We said we would spend some time in January blogging about resolutions.  Well, I didn’t originally put waking up earlier on my resolution list.  However, I did put making my bed, being more consistent with my quiet time and being more productive on those lists.  Waking up early seems to help with all of those things.

At the beginning of last week, I decided one morning to wake up an hour before everyone because I had some things I had to get done before taking my son to preschool.  I even made my coffee the night before.  I know some of you do this every morning.  It is really easy as a stay at home mom to assume you have all the time in the world to get yourself together when you wake up with the kids.  Most mornings when I wake up when my son wakes up I am still groggy, and I do not turn into a productive person until after my coffee sets in 30 minutes later (that is if I feel like making the coffee as soon as I get up).

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Waking up an hour earlier than my household last week was an epiphany for me.  I felt ready to go and give my children the things they needed when they woke up because I had some quiet time of my own and my coffee had fully kicked in.  Plus, I was completely ready to get started on the day.

This time is something I desperately need and want to work on.  The past few days have been much harder.  It is hard to make yourself go to bed early, and it is hard to get up when that one hour of sleep sounds so good in the moment.  However, I have noticed that my day seems to start so much slower on the days I sleep in.  Breakfast in front of the tv? Sure. Taking my time to get moving? You bet!

Although I stay at home, we have to get ready to go either to preschool or our Bible study three mornings out of the work week.  Sometimes it feels like I am barely making it with two young kids and getting them out of the house on time (clothed, fed and diaper bag/back pack properly packed).  It’s a miracle if I actually fix my hair.  I know that making waking up early a regular practice can make a huge difference in just the sense of peace and organization I feel every day.  So, I’m putting it out there on the blog and hope to get back on the band wagon tomorrow.  This went from not being on my resolution radar to maybe being my number one resolution.  Yes, this is so simple, but I need to make it a habit.  21 days of practice makes a habit, right?  I need to make that commitment starting tomorrow!

Any tips for how you make yourself get moving in the morning?  Making the pot of coffee beforehand did help.  I’m all ears!

~Laura

A Southern Party: Amy’s Baby Shower

A Southern Party: Amy’s Baby Shower

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With the name of our blog being “Stroll Through The South,” we cannot help but talk about the ultimate Southern experience, a shower! With everything being bigger in the South, we typically go all out for most occasions and having babies are no exception.  My husband’s family is a testament to this. Among my husbands cousins, we are about to welcome the 5th baby in a year, Ivey Cross Cassady! So, what better way to celebrate sweet Ivey then to shower her mommy with sweet baby essentials?

Because I love a good shower and I am excited to entertain in the new house, I gladly volunteered to host when we started planning.

Last Wednesday Papa James, the grandfather of the father to be, passed away. We considered canceling the shower on Saturday.  However, after getting the ok from the matriarch, Mama Hedy, the shower was on. While it was a sad weekend for the family, it was also a reminder of the Lord’s glorious thoughtfulness when he created the cycle of life. With the death of an elder, comes the joy of a new baby. And, oh what joy Luke and Amy have coming as they welcome their new love in a few short months.

Here are a few snaps of the party!

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Sweet Ivey,

We cannot wait to meet you and welcome you to this family! Your mommy and daddy love you more then you know. Thank you in advance for bringing so much happiness and joy to so many.

xoxo, Lindsey

A Healthier 2016: Whole 30 Week 1

A Healthier 2016: Whole 30 Week 1

After wrapping up a wonderful holiday season with family and our new sweet baby Sport, Ben and I started to look to 2016. As we were discussing the new year ahead, we talked about getting healthier. A group of our friends discussed doing the whole 30 challenge starting January 1st. Needing a jumpstart to losing this baby weight I was thrilled to make a plan.

I began reading everything I could find on Whole 30; thats when I got discouraged! I felt like there was nothing I would be able to eat for 30 days. You can find the Whole 30 guidelines here. After going back and forth on weather we would actually do it, we decided this was just what we needed to start 2016 on a healthier foot. With me breastfeeding I did not need to diet, I just needed to pick healthier foods. After some research and careful planning we came up with a meal plan for the first week, and I must say it has gone pretty well. While I have not been perfect (after day 3 I had to have a little coffee creamer), overall we have done well.

I can now say a few days in, that it has not been easy but it has been easier then expected. I think the key has been the meal planning.

Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash

For breakfast we have been eating Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash with Whole 30 compliant sausage. Here is the recipe, just be sure to use Whole 30 compliant sausage. We found a great italian sausage at Earth Fare in the fresh meat section. The sausage has no added sugar! The hash has been really filling me up and making it easier to start the day off with a full belly.

For a mid morning snack I have been blending a cup of frozen berries (no added sugar), a banana, and a quarter cup of unsweetened coconut milk. It is quite the tasty combination and it helps you power through a sugar craving.

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For lunch we meal prepped over the weekend!

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We have been calling these little containers of goodness our “adult lunch able.” We made enough for each of us to have one for lunch this week. The containers include carrots, cucumber, dump ranch (Whole 30 compliant from Whole Sisters here), an orange, a boiled egg, and a grilled chicken apple sausage. We found the Sausage at Costco and it is delicious and completely Whole 30 approved! We ordered the containers from Amazon. Click here to find the containers.

For dinner we have done a few different things but the tastiest thing we have made so far were these turkey burgers!

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Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey

1 egg

1/4 cup dijon mustard

salt

pepper

Combine ingredients and grill in a nonstick skillet! Serve wrapped in lettuce with dijon mustard, bacon and avocado!

I will try to update you guys as we go, but for now here is to eating healthier in 2016 (picture us toasting with our berry smoothie in hand).

Cheers,

Lindsey

Budgeting Tips For 2016

Budgeting Tips For 2016

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We are one day away from 2016, and one thing we can agree on that we both want to work at is budgeting.  We are sharing some tips we are taking to heart in 2016.  Some of these are super simple, but we need reminders!  What are your tips?  Please tell us!

Meal Planning

Food is a big one for both of us!  It is one of the most obvious ways to save money.  For us, meal planning for each week eliminates the inevitable money you spend eating out when you don’t know what to fix each night.  One thing that helps me is meal planning for the whole week (not just a few days).  When my husband and I plan out the times we will go out to eat and we plan for meals to fix at home through the weekend, we find that we save money.  One thing we also both agree on, don’t go to the grocery store without a list.  Plan out your meals, make a list and don’t stray from the list at the grocery store.  You will save by not buying random items that you might not eat.  And, you will stop eating out so much. This has worked for us in the past (and it is so simple), but it is time to kick it into high gear!

Buy Timeless, Quality Pieces

Not so many years ago, I used to be the queen of the impulse outfit purchase. I could be strolling the isles of Target and grab a few outfits I thought were cute, or I would have a dinner and run to my favorite affordable clothing boutique and grab a top. Since having children my outings have become fewer but I have also become into timeless, quality pieces. Instead of 5 mediocre blouses I have started paying a little more for one blouse that will last longer and be timeless. A few years ago my sister and I both bought the same yellow dress from J Crew. We paid a little more for it and it still fits perfectly and look as new as it did on the day we bought it. In the long run I have started to save money because I am not impulsively buying clothes I will wear a few times but pieces that will be wearable for years to come.

Take a Food Inventory Before Grocery Shopping

I cleaned my pantry and refrigerator out yesterday and had the thought that so many have: “Why didn’t we use this?”  My husband and I decided next week we will look in the pantry and try to use some of the things we already have with our meal planning.  We will also look in the freezer.  For instance, we have frozen chicken and a yummy chicken marinade that will go bad in a few months.  So, we are having grilled chicken next week!

Stay At Home More

Okay, another simple tip, but one we need to practice this year: stay home more.  It seems like the more time I spend “running errands” or on the road, the more money I inevitably spend.  Now, you know we love traveling.  This doesn’t mean we will cut that out, but we will try to spend more time at home over the next month or two to jump start our savings plan.  At the end of the day, saving money is about contentment with what you have.  We want to be more content with being at home and using what we already have.  It also might cause us to be more creative with how we entertain ourselves!

Budget With a Separate Account Or Cash

Something that has helped me and my husband budget better is having a separate bank account for spending. We got together and decided we would have $800 a month drafted into  a completely separate bank account with a debit card linked to it. All of our purchases including food, eating out, hair cuts, all pharmacy purchases, hygiene products and any household items have to come out of this account. When the money is gone, it is gone. We call this our modified cash system. When we were first married we withdrew cash every month for our monthly spending. We have found having a debit card is more convenient. All of our spending comes out of one account and our other account is strictly for bills. After all of our bills come out of our account, any remaining money is put into a saving account or tucked away for our retirement.

Use Your Credit Card Less

I don’t consider us to be people who cannot handle a credit card.  We have always used one to get the cash back rewards of a credit card, and we pay it off every month.  However, we still swipe that card way too easily.  It sometimes keeps us from being truly aware of what we are spending.  When I was in college, I had a checking account.  That was it.  When that money was gone, it was gone.  It was very black and white: either I had the money to do something or I didn’t.  We are going to try to use our debit card more than our credit card this year, so that we have a more realistic take on our account and we may stop and think before we make a big purchase.

Pick One Thing to Pay Off Early

You can’t pay everything off at one time, so if you have some things you want to get paid off (maybe a car or student loans), try and pick one thing that you will give an extra $50 – $100 to every month.  That may sound like a lot, but if you think about it, you can probably find a way to pay a little extra on something.  That might mean one less outfit, but Dave Ramsey says these small victories will help you get on the right track financially.  If you don’t have any debt, try and put that little extra in savings.

Don’t Plan Any Big Purchases for Six Months

This can go with staying at home more.  Our family has some big things we would like to do in 2016, but we are going to try and hold off on those things for six months.  That means not talking about it or planning for it.  This goes back to contentment.  We need six months to get more content with what we have and get a jump start on saving more.  We are dreamers, and I cannot tell you how many times savings plans get off course because of some new idea or purchase we think we have to have.  So, we want the first half of the year to teach us restraint and what we can live without.  Do we have to have it?  If the answer is no, let’s wait!

~ Laura and Lindsey

Changing Is Hard

Changing Is Hard

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I am sitting on my computer a few days out from New Year’s thinking about resolutions.  My family was home this weekend at my parents’  church.  My dad interviewed my husband and another member about the leadership training they went through with different programs with their jobs.  My husband, Charlie, went through many personality assessments, coaching sessions and group activities as part of his year long program.  He says “It is all about learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

He sat through feedback which had a lot of positivity.  However, he also had to face his weaknesses head on and make real plans to try and work on those weaknesses.  It has been really challenging for him to have to daily think about these things.  His coach told him at the end of his program “This is the hardest thing you will ever have to do in your career, but it will be the best thing you have ever done for your career.”

After church Sunday, we sat around talking about my dad’s lesson (which talked about practical ways we can change our lives spiritually) and Charlie’s interview.  My dad said the thing that hit him listening to Charlie and Trey talk about their leadership programs is that real and lasting change is hard.  It takes self-awareness and daily dedication to your goals.  It means being humble enough to admit your weaknesses and that you need help.

I am a sucker for resolutions!  I love growing and self help (although I am not always the best at carrying it out).  That is the problem.  How do you practically improve and not just talk about it?  I want to make some firm goals for 2016 before it sneaks up on me.  Instead of just making goals this year, I want to make some practical plans for making them happen.

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Lindsey mentioned that we are both starting to read The Happiness Project (the link leads to the book on Amazon) by Gretchen Rubin.  A title like that would usually not be appealing to me.  It sounds cheesy and new agey (I know that’s not a word).  I saw Gretchen Rubin in an interview recently while flipping through channels.  What stood out to me is that she talked about how little effort we make to practically change habits.  We do not associate our habits with our happiness.  We just say “I want to be more happy”, yet sometimes not making our bed in the morning is contributing to our lack of peace.  She decided to focus on something different for each month of the year and have practical things to do to meet those goals.  For instance, she decided she wanted to be a more laid back parent one month, so one of her practices that month was singing in the morning.

I have just started it, and I can say that it is making me think about the things I want to work on this year.  I want to make some practical steps to get there.  So, if you want to join me and Lindsey, buy the book and share with us some of your goals!  This will be an ongoing thing throughout the year for us.  Also, look this week for some of our practical ideas about how we plan to get healthier (physically and mentally) and save money.  We said that this blog is a way for us to dream together.  Well, the posts this week are exactly a fruit of those conversations.  We hope you enjoy.  You don’t have to take our advice.  We are definitely not experts.  However, we hope it helps you think about what changes you want to make in 2016!

~ Laura

3 Ingredient Holiday Appetizers

3 Ingredient Holiday Appetizers

Holiday Appetizers

Christmas is only a few days away! There is nothing I love more then holiday finger foods! We recently hosted two Christmas parties at our house. Here are some of the simple appetizers I made for my husbands coworkers who came last Thursday night! So grab your grocery list and add one of these three ingredient appetizers to your last holiday get-together.

Baked Brie

Ingredients:

Pie Crust (check out our favorite recipe in a recent Friday Favorites)

Apricot Preserves

Brie

Roll out your favorite pastry dough. Then place three tablespoons of apricot preserves onto the center of the dough. Place the Brie on top of the preserves and wrap the pastry dough around the Brie until is is fully covered. Place the wrapped Brie smooth side up onto a baking dish and brush with an egg wash. Bake for 20 mins on 350 degrees. I served it with slices of baguette that we toasted.


Swedish Meatballs

Ingredients:

 2.5 lbs Frozen Fully Cooked Meatballs (we got ours from Costco)

3/4 Cup Grape Jelly

3/4 Cup Ketchup

Combine the grape jelly and ketchup. Pour meatballs into a crockpot. Spoon the jelly/ketchup mixture over the top. Put the crockpot on low and allow to cook for 2 hours while stirring occasionally.


Bacon Parmesean Appetizer 

This recipe came from Ree Drummond on the Food Network! Find the recipe here.


Cream Cheese with Pepper Jelly

Super Simple. Pour pepper jelly over a block of cream cheese. Serve with club crackers.


Champagne Fizz

Ingredients:

Cranberry/Raspberry Juice

Champagne

Chambord

I Fill a glass with equal parts champagne to juice. I then pour in a splash of Chambord. A pretty touch is to put a frozen raspberry in the bottom of the glass.


Sausage Balls

Ingredients:

1 lb Hot Sausage

8 Ounces Grated Cheddar Cheese

3.5 Cups Bisquick

Combine the ingredients. Shape a tablespoon of mixture into a small ball. Place on nonstick baking dish and bake for 15 minutes on 375 degrees.


Merry Christmas!!

~xoxo, Lindsey

A Day In New Orleans

A Day In New Orleans

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Last week I met my husband down near New Orleans for his graduation from the NASA First Leadership Program (did I mention he works for NASA?).  He got selected for this program last year, and we have been so proud of him.  It is such a huge honor, and I was so glad to be there last week and see their hard work rewarded.

We also decided to spend an extra day down in Louisiana while we were kid free.  Isn’t it funny how you cannot wait to have some kid free time, but then you spend half of the time missing the kids?  With only one day to explore New Orleans, we decided to try a restaurant that was recommended by Southern Lady Magazine.  It was in the Uptown area of New Orleans.  We parked about a mile away and walked around.  The houses were so cute and looked like what you would expect to see in New Orleans.

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Domilise’s was the perfect place for a shrimp po-boy after walking around for a while.  We discovered that this restaurant has been graced by the likes of Anderson Cooper and the Manning’s.  It was crowded the day we were there, but we were told by another local that there is usually a line out the door.

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We love good food and hole in the wall restaurants, and this hit the spot.

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The shrimp was crispy and delicious, and the bread tasted so fresh.  After doing some inquiring, I discover that the bread is delivered fresh every moving from Leidenheimer Baking Company.

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Next, we went down to the French Quarter and the famous Jackson Square.

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This was my first time in New Orleans since I was a kid and we visited the Aquarium.  New Orleans is such a mix of culture and history.  It truly is a unique place.  We could have spent days exploring New Orleans.  Next on my list for a visit: the Garden District and the World War II museum.  I loved the architecture and beauty of downtown and the French Quarter.

Our last stop before we hit the road was the famous Cafe Du Monde.

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I told my husband that I got hungry just looking at the picture of the po-boys and beignets.  The beignets were so yummy and the coffee was strong and perfect before a long drive.

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We got a beautiful view of the city on our walk back to the car.

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~ Laura

Welcoming Baby Sport and My VBAC Experience

Welcoming Baby Sport and My VBAC Experience

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On Sunday, November 22 we welcomed our second precious boy into the world, William Sport Starkie. I was fortunate to have him by a successful Vaginal Birth After C-section (VBAC). Sport turned three weeks old on Sunday and all I can say is it has been a crazy adjustment going from one child to two, but we would not change a thing. The only true way to describe how we feel is blessed. I feel like my husband and I have been walking around in a tired daze filled with happiness. Even when we wake up at 5:30 am and our two year old has somehow wondered into our bed and I have been nursing a baby for what feels like hours, all we can do is look at each other and smile. Our bed and hearts are fuller these days.

Like I said earlier, we welcomed Sport through a successful VBAC. After we announced his birth and that I had a successful VBAC, I was surprised at the private messages and text messages I received from friends who were curious about my experience.  So, I decided to share my experiences with a c-section and a regular delivery. Let me start by sharing my birth experience with my first son, George.

We decided to go to the hospital one evening with George because I had begun to experience decreased movement. We checked into the hospital and after an ultrasound, I was induced because my amniotic fluid was low. Although we were a little hesitant to get induced our philosophy all along had been we wanted a healthy baby, so whatever steps that meant we would do. After laboring for several hours, I reached 10 cm and began to push. After starting to push the nurse checked me and could not tell which way he was facing. My doctor, knowing I was determined to have a vaginal delivery, allowed me to push for a little longer. After pushing for another 30-45 minutes, George’s heart rate began to drop as I had contractions and pushed. That is when my doctor told us she thought the best plan of action was to have a c-section. Our hearts dropped. Like I am sure many of you have felt, I was pretty sad that I would not be able to have my son by normal means. As we were wheeled back to the operating room I remember thinking, “we need to pull it together, today is an exciting day no matter how he gets here.” I glanced up at my husband and said, “we are going to be happy.” I am sure many of you have felt this feeling when learning you would have a c-section. And let me say after experiencing both, having a c-section gives you no less of a birth experience as having a vaginal delivery. As women we are lucky if we get to experience childbirth but nothing can take away from your birth experience or make it less special. You have carried a life for nine months and that is a miracle within itself. Thank the good Lord that because of modern medicine we have low infant and mother mortality in childbirth because of interventions like c-sections. I feel fortunate that my doctor called a c-section. It turned out the cord was wrapped twice around his neck and he was also positioned transverse.

With all of that said, when we learned we were pregnant with Sport I did some research and decided I wanted to attempt a vaginal delivery, even if that meant at the end of the day I ended up with another c-section. After speaking with my OBGYN, I was a good candidate and happy to learn she was very supportive of VBACs.

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Early in the morning hours of November 22 I work up having light contractions. After walking around and doing a few things around the house the contractions kept getting stronger and closer together. I phoned my doctors office and was told to proceed to the hospital to get checked out. After being checked out, our nurse informed me I was in the early stages of labor. We were both happy and relieved that I had began labor on my own. Everything we had read said you have a better chance for a successful VBAC if you go into labor naturally. After an hour or so my doctor came in and broke my water to speed along the process. After my progress had slowed down I received an epidural and low dose pitocin. I have to be honest, I was a little hesitant to receive pitocin after reading mixed things online about pitocin with VBACs. I am so glad I have a wonderful doctor and that I put my trust in her. The pitocin was just what my body needed to speed things along and the epidural helped my body relax to progress. After napping and resting for a few hours the nurse came in to check me and I had dilated from 6cm to 9.5cm. She said it was time to notify my doctor so I could begin pushing. I have to say I have a wonderful doctor. She stayed near the hospital all day to monitor my progress and was also present the whole time I pushed. The nurse told me to notify them if I felt pain on my c-section scar while pushing, as that could be a sign of hemorrhage. Luckily I never felt any pain on my scar. I am happy to say I experienced a very low drama delivery! The most dramatic moment was when my husband nearly passed out. I have to say I found it pretty humorous to look over and see my mother and a nurse putting cool rags on him as I am pushing out our child, haha. My sister and I lost it laughing as the doctor told him to breath.

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William Sport Starkie arrived perfectly. After being asked by several people how to have a successful VBAC, I give all of the credit to my wonderful healthcare providers. After expressing to the nurse that I wanted to give this my best try she replied, “we are going to do this girl!” This biggest key was having a supportive doctor. From the very beginning of my pregnancy she acted so calm and confident about me attempting a VBAC. I also think I was more calm this time as well. I had made up my mind that even if this ended with another c-section, nothing would steal my joy. I have some friends who have been a little bitter when they ended up with a c-section. We have all asked the same questions, “did I end up with a c-section because I was induced?” or “what if I had not gotten an epidural?” Those are all valid questions and believe me after my c-section I asked them too. Then I think about my great grandmother died in the 1040’s during. It’s crazy to think if modern medicine existed then her life could have been saved by a c-section.  So, I want to say that me having a VBAC is no slight to c-sections. Having a VBAC was a personal decision for me. Its hard to explain but i wanted to give it a try. I do have to say my recovery from a regular delivery has been so much easier then that of a c-section.

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We have our own birth experiences. Wheather you are the woman giving birth naturally at home, getting induced, or having a c-section nothing about your experience makes you more or less of a mother. At the end of the day giving life is a miracle and we have to stop and celebrate that fact. I have to say I am grateful for my VBAC experience. It is something I wanted to experience and I feel fortunate to have been able to have it happen. It was truly amazing to experience my body do exactly what God designed it to do. We feel so fortunate to have a healthy baby boy and I hope that me sharing my experience can help empower women to share their experience and find joy no matter the circumstances.

xoxo, Lindsey

Mooresville, AL

Mooresville, AL

My husband and I moved to Huntsville, Alabama five and a half years ago.  We have been told for five and a half years that we should visit the quaint town of Mooresville, Alabama (about 30 minutes outside of Huntsville).

When you live in a town that is not your hometown, it is always nice when someone from home moves near you.  My friend from high school, Kara, recently moved to North Alabama.  It is always so nice to get together with someone who brings a little piece of home to my new home.  Plus, we have kids around the same age, so there is a mutual understanding that chaos will probably ensue (and we can enjoy our time with no judgment).

Kara called me recently and suggested we go meet for coffee with the kids in Mooresville.  I was all too happy to oblige, because I had been wanting to really explore it for so long!  Kara and her mom had spent a Saturday there recently and loved it.

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Mooresville was founded in 1818, and not much about the small little town has changed.  Kara and I met at the JaVa coffee shop on a beautiful Fall day.  It had the small town charm you would expect.

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It got the hazelnut latte, which was tasty and pretty.  Kara and I also got the croissant with apple and gouda.  It was so good!  This was the perfect place to spend time with a friend in good conversation.

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After getting coffee, we walked around the small, shaded town with our double strollers.  Mooresville has some beautiful old churches and homes. The whole town looks like you took a step back in time.

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Our last stop was “Lyla’s Little House.”  This adorable house is full of baked goods and an ice cream parlor, as well as a few gifts.  Lyla herself was there, and gave our kids a sweet treat.  I bought one of the miniature pound cake and biscotti.  They were both delicious.  This was a really nice stop and good way to end the morning.

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Mooresville has a Holiday Home Tour and Progressive Dinner every year around Christmas.  Here is the link with information: Holiday Home Tour. The tour for 2015 is this Saturday.  If you have a free afternoon or day, head over to Mooresville.  You will not regret it!

~ Laura

3 Ingredient Breakfast: Sausage and Cream Cheese Roll

3 Ingredient Breakfast: Sausage and Cream Cheese Roll

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Way back in the good old days of college and easy meals, one of my roommates introduced me to her mom’s sausage and cream cheese roll that she fixed for breakfast.  We immediately became obsessed and hooked.  We made this easy three ingredient breakfast often, and I have continued to make it now for my family.

Our brother, who was recently in London, called me internationally just to get this recipe because he was craving it overseas.  This is so simple, yet so good!

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Ingredients:

1 package of Crescent Rolls

1 (8 oz.) Block of Cream Cheese

1 Package of Mild Pork Sausage (1 lb.)

Roll out the package of crescent rolls as one big crescent roll on your greased baking sheet (or, in my case, baking plate).  I try to stretch the roll out as much as I can without tearing it.

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Brown your sausage until it is cooked through and drain.  After you drain your sausage, return it to the pan and add your cream cheese to the sausage broken up in pieces.  I usually turn the stove onto low heat and stir until the sausage and cream cheese are incorporated.  You do not want the cream cheese to melt too much, so turn the heat off as soon as it is stirred together to your liking.

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Spoon the sausage and cream cheese into the center of the crescent roll, and pull the sides of the crescent roll over the mixture.

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Bake the roll on 350 degrees according to the directions on the package of the crescent roll (which is usually around 12 to 14 minutes) or until golden brown.

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Cut off a slice and enjoy!  I like to serve my sausage and cream cheese roll with some light fruit.  It is a nice compliment.

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This is perfect for a brunch, and it is a good way to satisfy the bellies of overnight guests without slaving away in the kitchen.

~ Laura

Kress on Dexter Holiday Pop-Up Shop

Kress on Dexter Holiday Pop-Up Shop

It’s been almost two weeks since Ben and I were busy trying to walk out sweet baby Sport! My parents had George, so we decided to venture out and explore downtown Montgomery. As we set out I remembered I had seen information about the Holiday Kress on Dexter Pop-Up Shop featuring Southern Makers on my Instagram feed.

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We made our way down to Dexter Avenue in the shadow of the Alabama State Capital and Martin Luther King’s Church, Dexter Memorial Baptist Church.

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The “pop up shop” is right behind the Court Street Fountain, One Court Street Suite 102.

We walked into this lovely little shop and were greeted by Steven Lambert of Cotton & Pine and the smell of the Market Town Coffee stand.

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We glanced around and even picked up a few locally-made goods for our families for Christmas. Their goods are not just from the Montgomery area but are sourced from all over the South. This little shop is the perfect way to support the local economy and also pick up some unique Christmas gifts!

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Join the Holiday Kress On Dexter Pop-Up Shop for an Opening Celebration!

When: Friday, December 4, 5pm – 7pm

Where: One Court Square, Suite 102 Montgomery, AL 36104

Check out this shop and pick up some wonderful gifts for the holidays!

~Lindsey

What We Are Thankful For: William Sport Starkie

What We Are Thankful For: William Sport Starkie

I got a call at 2:30 am Sunday from Lindsey.  She was having contractions and thinking about going to the hospital.  I rushed down to Montgomery Sunday afternoon to make it to the birth of Lindsey and Ben’s second child.  I found a calm and serene Lindsey at 5:00 pm.

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An hour later, she was ready to push.  I was honored to be in the room with the proud parents to see the miracle of birth.  Soon William Sport Starkie made his debut in the world after his mom worked really hard to have a successful vbac.

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He weighed 7 pounds and 4 ounces (just an ounce lighter than his brother George was when he was born).  He was also 19 and a half inches long.

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He is perfect.  Is there anything sweeter than a newborn baby?  We are thanking God for this little angel and his safe arrival.

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So, on this Thanksgiving week, this is what we are most thankful for in our family.  William Sport Starkie is a family name, and this precious baby will be called Sport.

Lindsey will have a vbac post coming soon.  Thank you for reading.  Happy Thanksgiving week!

~ Laura

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites 3

Our New Logo

We are excited to debut our new logo today.  We have wanted a logo for a while, and it has just become a reality recently.  Thank you to Jenna Bell for the idea about the placement and look of the words, and thank you to Cheree Moore who is an awesome graphic designer and made it happen.  She has been so patient with us over the last few weeks and gave us a lot of different options.  We are just excited to see it up!

Adele 

Adele

Adele’s new album “25”  drops today.  I preordered it a couple of weeks ago, so it was a nice surprise to get a message from iTunes this morning that it was dropped into my music today.  We are those people, like so many others, that belted out “21”  with a ridiculous amount of passion.  We have already been singing “Hello”  (the first single from the album) all the time, so if the rest of the album brings that much joy we will be happy.

Nerium

Nerium

A friend of mine (Abbie Greer) is selling Nerium, and I have been using the Age-Defying Night Cream for the last couple of weeks.  I have to say that I can already see a difference in my skin.  The thing I really like about Nerium is that it helps with skin discoloration, as well as tightens the skin.  I inherited sun spots from my grandmother, and I can tell that it has already helped to smooth out the color in my face a little.  Plus, it’s never too early to prevent wrinkles.  You can check it out or contact Abbie through this site: beneriumbeautiful.com.

The Cartwheel App

Many of you probably already know about the Target Cartwheel App.  We are new to the band wagon, but we had to talk about it on the blog.  There are so many great deals and coupons you can get from this app.  For instance, we got a coupon there today for 50% off kids’ toys.  That kind of stuff will come in handy this time of the year!  Check it out: Cartwheel App.

Helping Paris

Paris

Like so many of you, our hearts have been broken over the Paris attacks.  We sat glued to our TV screens Friday night as we watched this terror play out.  I saw this article on Facebook Saturday: How To Help The Paris Attack Victims from bustle.com.  Our humanity causes us to want to reach out in some way.  These ideas are small but they can go a long ways.  Our prayers continue to be with Paris.

~ Laura and Lindsey

How To Recognize Child Abuse

How To Recognize Child Abuse

Childrens Safety Spotlight

We are excited to be partnering with the Alabama Network of Child Advocacy Centers to bring important information about child safety to our readers once a month.  Today, we are bringing you information about how to recognize child abuse.


Recognizing Child Abuse by Gina South and Cristie DeLaVega

When my first son was a new baby, I made all kinds of resolutions. I would read to him every day, he would only eat healthy foods, he would not see a television until he was 5, I would only play classical music for him, and of course, I would keep him safe. Nobody would ever hurt him. It probably didn’t take me 6 weeks to realize that some of those rules might be a bit…excessive, to say the least.

Today, as a mother raising 4 children, I have gradually let go of most of my own strict parenting guidelines – all except one: child safety. As the State Director of Alabama’s Child Advocacy Centers, I am reminded on a daily basis that my vigilance in the child safety department is so important to protecting my children.

There are 33 Child Advocacy Centers (“CACs”) in the state of Alabama. When someone suspects that a child is being abused (sexual or physical abuse), neglected, or if the child is a witness to a violent crime, a social worker or law enforcement officer will refer the child to the closest CAC. The CAC is a child-friendly place where children are able to tell their story in a non-threatening manner to a trained forensic interviewer. Children who are determined to be victims are eligible for free counseling. Sadly, the vast majority of our cases are cases of child sex abuse. None of us ever want our kids to need a CAC, but when our children do need them, parents are so thankful that they exist!

Here ‘s the first thing you need to know as a mom when it comes to child abuse. Most of the time, your child will not tell you about sex abuse right away. In fact, some children may not ever mention it at all. We know that 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before she turns 18, and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. On average, only 1 in 10 children EVER reveal that they have been abused.

The signs of child abuse and neglect can often go unrecognized. That is why it is important to familiarize yourself with possible indicators of abuse. These indicators can be divided up into three areas- child behaviors, parent (adult) behaviors and finally, behaviors between the parent and child.

Possible indicators of abuse and neglect in children:
• Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
• Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention
• Child has unexplained bruises, cuts and/or fractures or old injuries that are in the healing stages
• Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
• Is unbathed for extended periods of time, wears dirty clothes or clothes that are the wrong size
• Blood in undergarments
• Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
• Lacks adult supervision
• Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
• Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home

Possible indicators of abuse demonstrated by parents or caregivers:
• Shows little concern for the child
• Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child’s problems in school or at home
• Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
• Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
• Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve
• Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs

Possible indicators of abuse demonstrated in the parent/child relationship:
• Rarely touch or look at each other
• Consider their relationship entirely negative
• State that they do not like each other

Possible indicators of abuse demonstrated by non-caregiving adult and child relationship:
• Give the child extra attention, build a friendship with the child. Make them feel special and loved to have an adult friend that encourages and flatters them.
• Tickle, wrestle, hug, kiss, hold, and touch a child even if they do not want to.
• “Accidentally” touch a child’s private parts to see how they react.
• Lack respect for privacy – walk in on them while they’re using the bathroom or dressing.
• Make inappropriate/sexual comments or jokes to the child or even to others, regarding the child.
• Give gifts for no apparent reason, allow the child special privileges or treatment
• May spend more time with children than adults, so much that it seems odd to other adults.

So what should you do if you have a suspicion that your child has been abused? At the Alabama CACs, we recommend that you call your county DHR or law enforcement and file a report. A social worker or law enforcement officer will ask your child just enough questions to determine if a forensic interview is needed.

It is important that you refrain from questioning your child, because you don’t want to plant ideas in your child’s mind, and you don’t want to say anything that will change the child’s story and prevent prosecution from taking place, if necessary. There is a big difference between asking your child, “did Mr. Smith touch you there,” and “did something happen that made you feel worried?”

If you ever have questions about abuse, please know that your local CAC or our state office is always willing to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. You can find out more about the Alabama Network of Child Advocacy Centers at http://www.alabamacacs.org.

About the Authors:

Gina M. South, J.D.
Gina lives in Montgomery, Alabama. She and her husband have 4 children at home, and 1 waiting in heaven. Gina is the State Director for the Alabama Network of Child Advocacy Centers (ANCAC), and an attorney. Previously, she was a professor at Faulkner University for 8 years.
Cristie De La Vega, B.S., M.P.A.
Cristie lives in Woodstock, Georgia with her dog Bob. She is certified in Nonprofit Management. Cristie is a Program Manager for ANCAC and has 5 years of experience working at Child Protect, the CAC for Autauga, Elmore and Montgomery Counties.

A Holiday Excursion: Opryland Hotel

A Holiday Excursion: Opryland Hotel

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Looking for somewhere to visit around the holidays for beautiful decorations and comfort?  If you leave in the Southeast, you have to visit the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.  Those of you who have been know that this is not your ordinary hotel.  This is a complex with restaurants, waterfalls, sweeping atriums and gorgeous plants.  You could spend your whole day just walking around with no need to leave the hotel. I have known friends who drive to the hotel during this time of the year just to walk around.

My husband and most of his immediate family work for the government in some form or another, and they all had Veteran’s Day off (yes, my husband gets amazing time off and I’m not complaining).  So, my sister in law planned a trip for all of us to go to the Opryland Hotel for a night.  We were excited because many of the Christmas decorations were already out!

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The official Opryland Christmas “A Country Christmas” starts in a couple of days on November 20th.  This is when all of the lights will be turned on and you can attend different live Christmas shows.  There is also an area with ice sculptors and ice slides that your kids will love!

Even without the lights all turned on, there were still plenty of Christmas decorations to look at.  Our two year old had a blast running around with his cousins and looking at all of the decorations and fountains.

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This place is so huge that they even have a boat ride in the middle of the resort.  As you can see below, there was some serious cousin love going on during that boat tour.

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We will definitely be going back to the Opryland Hotel in the future to enjoy the holidays.  If you love to shop, the Opry Mills Mall is right next door, plus there is always plenty of fun to be had in Nashville!  Also, just an FYI, if you also work for the government, there is a discount you can receive when you stay at the hotel if you bring your badge.

I’ll leave you with a link to the video from the Opryland Hotel website featuring their Christmas festivities:  A Country Christmas.

~ Laura

The Best Oven-Roasted Whole Chicken

The Best Oven-Roasted Whole Chicken

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This Rustic Roast Chicken recipe is loved at our house. We have tried cooking whole chickens before with a very little success. My husband has tried on the grill, and I have tried it in the crock-pot. I decided to switch things up and try  it butterflied in the oven. Butterflying the chicken helps it to cook more evenly. Roasting it helps the skin to be crispy while leaving the meat juicy and tender.

Ingredients: 

1 whole chicken

2 cloves garlic

1 whole lemon

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

salt

pepper

Open chicken and remove insides. Butterfly the chicken. I used kitchen sheers and simply cut along the back of the chicken. I placed mine flat on a cutting board and used a meat gavel to make sure the chicken was laying flat.

For the marinade:

In a blender combine the peeled garlic, juice of one lemon, white wine, olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and fresh oregano. Puree until all ingredients are combined (garlic should be finely minced).

Lay chicken in a dish flat to marinade. Pour the marinade over chicken and cover. Allow chicken to marinade for 3 hours. From time to time I would spoon the liquid over the chicken to make sure it was covered in the glorious marinade. You can also do this overnight!

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Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place mardinated chicken on a commercial baking sheet with a rack. I lined my baking sheet with tinfoil to make for easy clean up.

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Bake at 450 degrees on the middle rack for 45 mins. After 45 minutes remove from the oven and cover in tinfoil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

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Enjoy!!

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites 2

After the fun we had coming up with our Friday favorites last week, we decided to bring it back.  So, here are our favorites for this week:

CMA Awards

Unless you been living under a rock this week, I am sure you have heard people talking about the CMA awards! The CMA’s always leave us with something to talk about. If you are like me you watched feeling slightly sad to see Miranda and Blake sitting separately…. ah we had such hope for them. Or maybe your sadness has turned to anger after reading the tabloids that Blake Shelton is not only dating Gwin Stefani, but they are expecting a child together! Ok, enough of my rant and on to my favorite part of the show! I have not been able to stop listening to this song!! While I am not a promoter of drinking away your sorrows, something about this song is just awesome! I love how he starts out with, “can we get a little Memphis up in here?” I just felt like this performance brought a depth to the show. Justin is just fabulous and we were all blown away by Chris Stapleton. The music was really good, and let’s just say I watch wishing I was in his band by the end of it.  If you have not seen it already watch the link above and you will be singing along like me.

Affordable Booties

Booties

I am a little obsessed with booties right now.  I want a pair in every color to go with every outfit.  Like a lot of you, I cannot go out and spend high dollar on every pair I want.  That is why I am so thankful for the internet and affordable booties.  I recently found the booties above ranging from $23.74 to $39.95.  Whether you like these booties or not, there are plenty of other affordable options on Amazon right now.  Here is the link to these booties: Bella Marie Brenda.

Babylit 8 Book Bundle

Baby Lit books

We have both been checking out the Babylit classic books for children and have been discussing buying them for our babies for Christmas.  We are so excited that for the next couple of days you can buy a groupon for for an eight book bundle that gives you 50% off.  The books take classic works and turn them into lessons for young children.  This is such a cool idea!  We had to share the groupon, so grab them while they last.  This will be one of my kid’s Christmas presents.  Here is the groupon link: BabyLit 8-Book Bundle.

Perfect Pasty Crust

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As much as we love to put original recipes on our blog, when you find the perfect pie crust recipe you have to share it. I have been making this crust for a little while now and it is amazing. I do it in the food processor, like the recipe instructs, and it always turns out so well. When feeling in a “get things done” mood recently, I made up several crusts and froze them in anticipation of the upcoming holidays! Why reinvent the wheel when you find something so good? Why buy premade crusts when it is this simple? Make this your holiday pie crust recipe this Thanksgiving or Christmas and you will be a hit!  Thank you Southern Living.  Here is the link: Perfect Pastry Crust Recipe.

Holiday Pajamas

Target Holiday Pajamas

With the holidays just around the corner, my husband and I have been trying to think of fun ways to create our own family traditions for our little crew. While browsing on my Target App, I stumbled upon these Christmas pajamas that come in sizes for the whole family. After a little negotiating with my husband, I ordered them for our little family. I think it will be fun to all open our matching pajamas on Christmas Eve! I picture us cozied up on the couch, fireplace lit, in our pajamas watching a Christmas movie while drinking hot chocolate. With a two year old it will probably look more like mayhem, but at least we will all be wearing our fabulous pajamas!  Here is the link: Holiday Pajamas.

World Adoption Day

While we are not adopted, we have so many friends who are, as well as friends who are now adopting.  Our hearts are so touched by those who do the selfless act of adoption.  Monday was World Adoption Day, and we are glad that there is now a day dedicated to adoption that is celebrated on social media.  One adoptive mother I know posted this quote from Jody Landers on Facebook: “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”  How beautiful!

Happy Friday! What made you happy this week?

~ Lindsey and Laura

Thursday Book Review, The Bronte Plot

Thursday Book Review, The Bronte Plot

The Bronte Plot

Today I am sharing a book I just read, but I am also sharing an author that I have recently come to enjoy.  I love to read and mostly buy my books on Amazon.  I am one of those people who pays attention to the “books you may like” part of my Amazon account.  Well, I stumbled upon the author Katherine Reay and read her book Dear Mr. Knightley last month at the beach.  I enjoyed that experience so much that I pre-ordered her November release of The Bronte Plot.  I have devoured this book over this week and cannot wait to tell you about this author and this book!

She has written three books, but what I love about the two books of hers that I have read:  They involve women with issues and hurdles to overcome, and they ultimately find redemption.  Yes, there is some romance, but it is clean and never too overpowering or sappy.  You come to her books for the romance and titles that hint at a British Literature link, but you stay for the character development and growth that you see take place with these women over the course of the book.

The Bronte Plot is about a young lady named Lucy working for a high end furniture store and designer in Chicago.  Lucy has made some mistakes along the way with her business dealings and the discovery of these mistakes by her boyfriend causes her to lose her relationship and re-examine her life.  Through a trip with an older lady (who happens to be the grandmother of her ex-boyfriend, you can figure that one out in the book) to England, Lucy discovers her calling and herself.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Lindsey and I are a little obsessed with all things British.  Maybe we should change the title of the blog to “Stroll Through The South With British Wannabes.”  This book gives you detailed descriptions of their trip to London and Haworth, the home of the Bronte sisters (hence the title).  Reay weaves classic British literature into her plots and stories.  Any Jane Austen or Jane Eyre nerds like me will eat up her books.  However, her books are so much more than just references to Pride and Prejudice.  They are real coming of age stories with heart and gravitas.  Her books are very easy reads and would be good for some holiday reading.  If you are looking for something clean, heartwarming and ultimately romantic, give The Bronte Plot and Katherine Reay a try.

You can get the book by clicking on this link: The Bronte Plot.

~ Laura

A Little Memphis and Muddy’s

A Little Memphis and Muddy’s

I love a good road trip, and I have been determined to still travel and explore after having babies.  We may make it seem seamless on the blog (traveling with kids), however, it has gotten tough.  There are many stops on the side of the road to find a paci or nurse, as well as many hours packing and unpacking kid’s clothing.  But I do feel very blessed to have the time and flexibility to go see family and good friends during important moments of their lives (and a minivan and understanding husband).

So, when my friend Jackie recently had a baby, I made sure to book a time to go visit her in Memphis and “help” out.  I’m not sure how much help I was with two kids two and under, but luckily our friendship is on a comfort level that doesn’t require perfection.  I headed West to Memphis last Thursday down a familiar road.  My sister lived in Memphis for over a year, and I now have friends who live there as well.  I have become quite fond of the place.  Memphis has character and history.  I also love the area of Memphis that Jackie lives in and my sister lived in: East Memphis.  Nestled near the University of Memphis, it is an area of beautiful trees and older houses.

I told Jackie that this was not a trip where we had to get out of the house.  With a newborn and two young kids, I planned on just hunkering down in her home for a couple of days, holding her sweet baby and having some good chat time.  Things sure do change when kids get in the mix.  However, we made one exception to get out of the house.  We went to one spot of Memphis I had never been to before, despite my newfound familiarity.  We visited the famous Muddy’s Bake Shop.  Not only did Jackie rave about it, but my sister and an old co-worker had told me about it too.

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It is so full of color and comfort.  In my pre-kids life, I could have easily spent a couple of hours in Muddy’s reading or chatting with a friend over coffee or tea.  Post kids, we picked out our pastries and bribed Tays with cookies to sit still so we could enjoy our little moment out of the house.

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Lyla and sweet little Mercy slept tight in their carries.  It can be tiring for a one month old to take her first trip out to Muddy’s.

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My personal favorite was the Strawberry Fields Forever cupcake because the frosting was so delicious.  We also took home some Oreo Puddin’ for after supper that night, and all I can say is yum!  I will hopefully be frequenting Muddy’s again on another Memphis trip because of the sweet treats and inviting atmosphere.  They also have cakes, pies, muffins and vegan options.

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This won’t be the last time I visit Memphis, and I cannot wait to see what I find on my next trip.  Here’s to friends, babies and still making time for coffee and dessert.

~ Laura

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

FridayFavorites

For this blog post, we decided to switch it up a bit.  We both love to read and, like the blog says, “try new things.”  So, for today, we decided to share with you some of our current favorite things that would not necessarily take up a whole blog post on their own.  It has been a long week with kids and this time change.  Sometimes it is hard to take time for ourselves.  We might not be able to hit the restaurant or movie scene like we used to, but here are a few things that we are enjoying or keeping us entertained right now (i.e. getting us through folding the laundry).  Please share with us what you are enjoying this week.

Jane The Virgin (on Netflix)

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Okay, if you can get past the title, this show is a surprising delight.  I only gave this show a shot because “Pop Culture Happy Hour” reviewed it, and I usually trust their judgment.  I knew going in that the plot was going to be a little ridiculous and dramatic.  However, I was curious about this show that was getting such good reviews and winning awards.  Well, you will just have to take my word for it, but it is so funny.  The show is in on the joke about the ridiculous plot lines, and the voice over Hispanic voice makes the show.  We both are now watching it and glad we discovered it.  The first season is on Netflix.  The best scenes are the ones that involve the Telenovela star “Rogelio.”  It’s no wonder he has been nominated for so many awards.  Just trust us, this is an unexpected treat.

The Yellow Table

As much as we love blogging, we also love reading stuff from other bloggers.  Lindsey has recently stumbled upon this blog, and she is slightly obsessed.  You know we love recipes and dinner parties, so if you love these things as well, you will love theyellowtable.com.

Game Change (the book)

Game Change

This is by no means a political blog, so we will not get too far into this.  However, as Communication majors, we love a good political race and analyzing what goes into a campaign.  Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, the 2010 book “Game Change” is a fascinating look into the presidential campaign in 2008 (the writers also came out with the book “Double Down” about the 2012 campaign).  With the election year coming up, it is interesting to go back and read this book like we have done lately.  The authors conducted thousands of interviews with behind the scenes operatives of the campaigns.  It will change the way you look at politics and campaigning.

Minivan

I (Laura) just switched from SUV to minivan last week.  We bought a used Odyssey.  I always thought we would wait until we had three kids to get a minivan, but I got the bug.  This, so far, has been the best purchase!  From the sliding doors to the DVD player, I now understand why so many people make the switch.  With two in carseats, the minivan has made our life so much easier.  My husband, who started off as a skeptic, is now completely sold.  We both have asked the other this week, “Is it weird that seeing the minivan in the driveway makes me so happy?”  We are in that stage of life and have no shame in owning it!

The Anniversary of Jessie Spano (and the caffeine pills)

It’s been 25 years this week since Jessie Spano was addicted to caffeine pills on “Saved By The Bell.”  Yes, that was actual real news.  All we can say is that it never gets old.  Glad Jessie could kick the habit.  Enjoy this link: Jessie Spano.

~ Laura and Lindsey

Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash

Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash

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A few Saturdays ago I decided to experiment and switch up our Saturday breakfast routine. Using what I had, I made this hardy breakfast dish. This hash is a new favorite at our house and has already made an appearance this week in our breakfast routine. I love the simplicity of ingredients but depth of flavor. I also like the sweetness of the potato and coconut oil.  Here is how it goes…

Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash

Ingredients:

1 Large Sweet Potato 

1/2 Pound Sausage

2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil

Salt + Pepper

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Add coconut oil to nonstick skillet on medium heat.

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Add sweet potatoes to heated oil.

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Sweet potatoes will begin to brown. Add salt and pepper to sweet potatoes.

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Crumble sausage on top of sweet potato.

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Sausage will begin to cook and potatoes will become crispy and golden.

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Crack 3 eggs directly on top of hash and cover. Cook to your favorite egg consistency.

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There is nothing I love more then to cut into my egg and it be slightly runny!

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~ xoxo, Lindsey

Keep Calm and Drink Coffee

Keep Calm and Drink Coffee

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My morning usually starts with hearing the sweet voice of my two year old running in our room saying, “it’s me George.” I stumble out of bed and begin our morning routine. This morning began no differently.

Being nine months pregnant and suffering from some light insomnia, I have been stumbling straight to the coffee pot. It’s my little piece of morning comfort. I might be barely able to open my eyes but I know that by the time I finish my coffee I will be on the right path to normal daily functions.

As we patiently (or not so patiently) await the arrival of our second child, life has been so busy lately I have not taken the time to sit and just soak in this moment. I can only compare my current emotions with a quote from Prince William in his prewedding interview. (as you may or may not have picked up yet, my sister and I are slightly royal family obsessed) Hear beautiful british accent…, “We’re like sort of ducks, very calm on the surface with little feet going under the water.”

www.strollthroughthesouth.comI may appear to be calm on the surface but deep down I am beginning to feel anxiety. If I am being honest my biggest fear is for my two year old George. Tell me this is normal? I fear not about his well being but more about the adjustment to life with another baby. With every rock, cuddle, or book time, I feel like I am grieving just a little for our time of just being the two of us. With shame I admit that the thought crossed my mind the other day, “can I ever love another child as much as I love him?” Yes, I know this is a silly fear but one that has become real recently. Then I have my moments, usually between trying to get him to sleep in his big boy bed and when he is in time out where I think, “how will I ever handle two?”

Last night at my neighborhood girls bible study we were discussing  a study we are doing about idols, or things in our life that keep us from true belief or trusting in God. Last night the discussion was about the “gaps” we are currently experiencing in our lives that keep us from full trust in Him. So often I turn to my own resources when I hit despair. Lately my despair has been the overwhelming feeling of, “how do I do it all?” As women I think we so often feel an overwhelming pressure to “do it all” or at least I know I do. We discussed how so often we turn to our own resources instead of turning to Christ’s. My time with these girls is a wonderful encouragement and a reminder that it’s not by my own resources I can carry on but only through Christ.

So here I am finishing my coffee and feeling like today is a little more “doable.” In this super exciting time I am choosing today to let go of my anxiety and trust in His provision to accomplish much through me.

Well here it is… my jumbled nine month pregnant expression of where I am in life. I am full of excitement and also full of fear but trusting that through my belief everything is possible.

I am also thankful I have finished my coffee because… George has gotten into markers. George finding the markers means he will soon try to draw on himself or the things around him. So here is to keeping calm and drinking coffee….

~xoxo, Lindsey


How did you prepare for life with two children?

Low-Fat Quinoa Enchilada Bake

Low-Fat Quinoa Enchilada Bake

www.strollthroughthesouth.com

As I made my weekly meal plan, I was looking for some lighter/healthier meals that did not break the bank. As I looked through my cabinet I saw a bag on quinoa I bought a few months back from Costco. We had full intentions to eating this healthier alternative to our regular carbs, but honestly I was not sure how to cook with it to make it taste acceptable. So after doing a little research and an inventory what was in my pantry, I decided to try this. I must say it was a favorite with my husband and son! A great add to your dinner rotation!! It taste cheesy and rich while still being light and simple.

Ingredients:

1.5 Cups Quinoa

2 Cans of Black Beans

1 Can of Corn

1  Can Diced Tomatoes

1 32oz Can Enchilada Sauce

1 8oz Package Softened Fat Free Cream Cheese

1 Cup Water

1 Tablespoon Cumin

1 Teaspoon Garlic Salt

1 Teaspoon Chili Powder

1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Salt 

Pepper

2 cups Low Fat Mexican Cheese

Avocado 

Cilantro

Step 1, Pour drained black beans, drained corn, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, quinoa, cream cheese and water into crock-pot and stir. Allow to sit in heated crock pot for 10 mins or until the cream cheese is melted. 


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Allow to sit in heated crock pot for 10 mins or until the cream cheese is melted. 

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Top with two cups of low-fat mexican cheese and cook on high for 3 hours. 

IMG_7136Serve with chopped avocado and cilantro. (my husband enjoyed his with a few dashes of hot sauce)

www.strollthroughthesouth.com

Enjoy this new and easy week night favorite of ours!

~xoxo, Lindsey

Chocolate Chip Pecan Squares with Cheesecake Filling

Chocolate Chip Pecan Squares with Cheesecake Filling

www.strollthroughthesouth.com

I write this post from my screened in porch on a lovely southern fall day. Baby is napping and momma is landscape dreaming on Pinterest while I indulge in my new favorite treat! When my husband told me he needed a fall desert dish to take to a work party, I started dreaming. Lets me honest, it is not because I am dying to make something for his work but because I am 36 weeks pregnant and I know there is a good chance I can snag a few pieces to enjoy myself! And here I am doing just that! When I usually make up recipes, nine times out of ten they are a flop. This creation however is so heavenly, I must share. Think chocolate chip pecan pie mates with cheesecake…. you follow?

Here is how it goes…

I preheat my oven to 350 degrees. Next line a commercial half sheet pan with parchment. Trim the corners so the parchment paper easily fits down into the pan.

First, I mix together and bake the crust. 

3 Cups all purpose flower

1.5 Cups light brown sugar

1 Cup butter softened

1 Cup finely chopped pecans

Pour the pecans in a food processor and pulse until the pecans are chopped. Then I added the butter and brown sugar to the pecans and pulse until fully combined. Next add the flour. Mix until it makes a crumb mixture.

Poor the crumb mixture into your parchment lined baking dish. Press it in until it fully lines the bottom of the pan. Bake on 350 for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

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Second, make the cream cheese filling. 

4 8oz cream cheese packages

1 cup sugar

1 cup milk

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

I used the food processor as well for this step. First pulse the softened cream cheese until it is smooth. Then I added in the sugar and milk. Pulse.. Lastly, pour in the vanilla extract. Allow filling to mix for a few more seconds until fully incorporated.

Pour cream cheese mixture onto cooled crust. Spread evenly with a spatula. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

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Third, make the chocolate chip pecan pie layer. 

1/2 Cup of butter melted

1 Cup brown sugar

2/3 Cup light Corn Syrup

4 eggs

1 Teaspoon salt

2 Teaspoons vanilla 

1 Cup Chopped Pecans

1 Cup Chocolate chips

In a medium size mixing bowl combine melted butter, sugar, and corn syrup. Mix with a disk. In a separate bowl, wisk the eggs before adding them to the main mixture.  Add vanilla and salt. Next, sprinkle chocolate chips and pecans over the cheesecake mixture. Pour the pie filling over the chocolate chips and pecans. Bake on 350 for 25-30 minutes or until pie filling is set.

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Allow to cool and enjoy!

~Xoxo, Lindsey

The Easiest and Best Taco Soup

The Easiest and Best Taco Soup

Taco Soup

Chilly weather means many things in our house: turning the heat on, hot chocolate, pulling out our winter sweaters, and eating more soup (especially taco soup).  My mom got this recipe from a good friend about twelve years ago and passed it along to my sister and I.  I started making taco soup in college because it was easy (my cooking skills in college kept things simple) and it made a big pot of soup I could eat off of for days.  Also, I just love taco soup!  It is probably my favorite.  Now, it is a staple in my household, and we bust it out as soon as we are ready for soup weather.  The hardest part to the recipe is browning your meat, and then you just throw the rest of the ingredients into the pot.  So, continuing our soup recipes, I give you taco soup:

Ingredients:

2 lb. ground meat

1 chopped onion

1 package taco seasoning mix

1 package ranch dressing mix

1 can black beans

1 can kidney beans

1 can diced tomatoes with chiles

1 can tomato wedges

2 cans white corn

2 and a 1/2 cups water

First: Chop your onion.

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Second, put the chopped onion in a pan with the ground meat and brown your meat.

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Drain your meat and onions.  Put the meat and onions in your pot and add the rest of the ingredients.  Stir well and then simmer on low heat until warmed up.

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We like to serve our taco soup over Fritos and top it with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.  Even without the toppings, this soup is delicious and a good alternative for chili.

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~ Laura

Our Favorite Things: Chewbeads

Our Favorite Things: Chewbeads

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While I was pregnant with my daughter (my second child), I went to lunch with some friends and noticed a really cool necklace a friend was wearing.  Her son, who was teething at the time, could not only play with her necklace, he could chew on it too.  I made a mental note that I wanted one of those necklaces with my next teething baby.  My daughter is now six months old and in the midst of teething.  I went to a local baby store recently (“All About Baby” for those in Huntsville), and found some adorable necklaces for chewing babies.

My daughter absolutely loves the chewbeads.  I love that they are so cute and practical at the same time.  They are one hundred percent silicon and completely safe for babies to chew.  Seriously, why didn’t I get this necklace when my son was a baby?

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I also discovered that you can get chewbeads as a bracelet or even a pacifier clip.  Check out their website and all the different options they have.  Are they pretty or what?  So many colors…even if you don’t have a baby, they are just adorable.  I know this is a simple thing most moms probably know about, but I never even thought about them when my son was a baby.  So, of course, I had to share this for all of those who are out of the loop like me!

What is your new favorite baby product? Tell us!

~ Laura

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Spice Latte

I spend way too much money during this time of the year on Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Lattes and other pumpkin related coffee drinks at other coffee shops.  A couple of years ago I saw a healthy crock pot pumpkin spice latte drink on Pinterest.  Well, I made it, and as you can imagine, this healthy drink was horrible.  My husband couldn’t even drink it.  So, I never attempted making a pumpkin spice latte again after that day until recently.  I decided to do a little experimenting and come up with a recipe of my own.  This recipe is how we have been filling our pumpkin coffee drink craving without breaking the bank.

Ingredients (serves 2):

Brewed Regular Coffee (enough for two people)

2 Cups Milk

1/4 Cup Pumpkin Puree

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla

Optional Topping:

Whipped Topping

Cinnamon

Brew your coffee.

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Heat up and mix the milk, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, sugar and vanilla over the stove until well blended.

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Fill your coffee cup up half way with the brewed regular coffee and then fill in the other half with the milk mixture.  I topped mine with whipped topping and then sprinkled some cinnamon on top.  We have been making these with decaf coffee at night as a dessert after dinner.  Heating everything up on the stove actually takes no time, and throwing these lattes together is super easy! There is definitely nothing healthy about these pumpkin spice lattes.  However, they sure do taste a whole lot better than the ones I made a couple of years ago.

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I hope you can curl up on the couch with one this weekend and enjoy!

~ Laura

Thursday Book Review: The Nightingale

Thursday Book Review: The Nightingale

Nightingale

Wow, where to start with this book?  First, let me say that this is one of the best books I have read in a long time!  Second, this is one of the most intense books I have read in a long time! Make sure you have your tissues ready (for real).  Also, make sure you make some time to read, because this book is long but addictive.

I decided to read this book while we were at the beach last week and I would have more leisure time than usual.  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah takes place in occupied France during World War II.  It follows the journey of two sisters who are living in this occupied world.  They both end up doing their part during the war through many hardships.  There is danger, intrigue, romance and some sadness.  The book goes back and forth from the 1940’s to 1995 with an older woman.  One of the beauties of the writing is that we do not know who the older woman is until the very end of the book.  The whole time you are trying to guess which sister it is.

I am not one who always looks for heavy reading.  Especially not at the beach.  However, the writer did such a good job of drawing you into the story that you could not put the book down.  I will warn you: for me the the first few chapters were a little slow.  Once the story picked up, I never felt that way again.  This book was recommended to me by a friend and my mom.  I also saw good reviews on Amazon (which is something I look for), and I just knew reading this book would be a good experience.

My instincts were so right.  I saw one reviewer call this book “powerful”, and I think that is the perfect word to describe this book!  I think I heard the word “occupied France” at some point in history class, yet somehow when I thought about World War II, I never thought about the French.  I just knew they were on our side, and I assumed the war was the same for them as it was for the British and Americans.  I had no clue what it was like to live in an occupied country.  Sure, this is fiction, but the author obviously did a lot of research and used some real facts.  For instance, I never knew that the Jews in France were going through the same thing as the rest of Europe, or that living in an occupied country with the Germans could literally be miserable.

The book also shines light on women and what they went through during war.  It highlights their part during the war and what it was like to be left behind (for instance, when a German Officer is staying in your home).  The writing was beautiful, and the book made me thankful for the life I get to live post World War II, as well as a new appreciation for what the war did to all of Europe.

Although this is a tear jerker, you will walk away so glad you read this book.  The ending is also sweet and moving (plus you finally find out who that woman is).  The author did a wonderful job of weaving the story together and taking the reader through all of the sisters’ experiences.  It is no wonder that this book is on a lot of lists for top books of 2015.  I am a little late to the party, but I’m glad I showed up.  I read that this book will also be made into a movie (no surprise because of its success).  So, make sure you read it before the movie is made!  The book is always better than the movie (in my opinion).  Once again, what a “powerful” book! I am forever changed by reading it.

Please, please tell us what we should read next! We are looking for something a little lighter, but need suggestions!

~Laura

The Best Chicken Soup

The Best Chicken Soup

The Best Chicken Soup

Nothing goes with Fall evenings better then soup! There is something about the smell that fills the house and the warmth that fills your tummy! Growing up, my mom always made her chicken soup during the cooler months. It was a family favorite at the Bell house and has become a favorite at my own house. And just to make this soup even more wonderful, my two year old loves it as well. So go make your grocery list and add this to your weekly menu because I am confident it will be a new favorite at your house as well!

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion

3 whole carrots

1/2 cup of butter

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or whatever kind of chicken meat you prefer)

18 oz. No Yolks Dumplings 

2 cups half/half

salt

pepper

teaspoon paprika

dash cayenne pepper (optional) 

Step 1: Fill a large pot with salted water. Place on burner and bring to a boil. 

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Step 2: Add in chicken and turn to medium/low heat. Allow chicken to cook for 20 mins or until easy to shred. 

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Step 3: Grate carrots and chop onion.

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Step 4: Melt butter in medium pan. 

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Step 5: Add carrots, onion, salt, and pepper. 

www.strollthroughthesouth.com Step 6: Allow to cook down. Usually 10-15 mins on medium heat. Onion will become translucent.
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Step 7: Remove chicken from water and allow to cool. Save the stock for soup. 

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Step 8: Finely chop chicken. 

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Step 9: Add back the chicken and the noodles to the stock. Season with salt and pepper along with the paprika and dash of cayenne (optional). Next add the carrot and onion mixture from the skillet. Allow this to simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat. 

Step 10: Add in the 2 cups of half/half. Stir. Allow to simmer for another 5 mins or until the noodles are fully cooked. 

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Serve….

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A great addition to this soup is to top it with grated cheddar cheese!

Seriously… add this to your weekly dinner plan and let us know what you think! We think it is The Best Chicken Soup!

~xoxo, Lindsey

As we begin our fall soup series, we would love to hear from our readers! What are your “go to” soup recipes?

What I Wish I Would Have Known About Breastfeeding

What I Wish I Would Have Known About Breastfeeding

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Right now, I know so many people having first time babies in the next year.  I also have friends having their second babies soon.  It is just that stage of life.  Inevitably, the subject of breastfeeding always comes up.  What was my experience?  How long did I nurse?  Did I have a hard time? Until you are actually in the thick of nursing, it can seem like a mysterious and scary thing.  Now that I am in the middle of nursing my second child, it got me thinking about the things I wish I had known before breastfeeding.  Here is my list:

1. Do What You Are Comfortable With

Before nursing my firstborn, I looked to other people and friends for guidance.  They were all so helpful and all had different experiences.  Some nursed for a few months.  Some nursed for a couple of years.  Some had to pump at work.  Some never pumped.  Some felt comfortable nursing in public (with a cover).  Some had to go to another room any time they nursed with other people around.  Some had horrible experiences in the first couple of weeks and never nursed.  Some always loved it.  What I have now learned is that you have to do whatever is comfortable for you.  Everyone will have an opinion about the best way to nurse, how long to nurse, where to nurse, etc.  Although this blog post is meant to tell you what I have learned, at the end of the day you will know what is right for you.  You will never please everybody, and there are a lot of opinions out there.  So, do what feels natural for you.

2. It Is Hard

No one told me this fact before I had my son.  The first couple of weeks of breastfeeding with both of my babies were hard for me, and I didn’t have any trouble with them latching.  It definitely gave me tons of compassion for those mamas who have issues nursing.  It was a big adjustment.  Every time they latched, it hurt.  They were getting comfortable with it, and my body was adjusting to it, not to mention the discomfort I felt when my milk came in.  Not only was I recovering from a c-section and completely exhausted all the time, I was also teaching my precious little one how to eat and it hurt every time.  I just got done being pregnant, and now I have to still watch what I eat and drink.  Add the anxiety of worrying that your baby is nursing long enough on each side and getting enough milk, and you have yourself a hormonal mess.

Not only was it a physical adjustment, it was a mental adjustment as well.  Although nursing was such a special time with my kids, it also blew my mind to think that my life and body now revolved around a three hour feeding schedule.  I was the one waking up in the middle of the night and changing my plans to make sure my baby ate on time.  It could be exhausting.  You are probably thinking right now “Wow, you make breastfeeding sound horrible.  So, why should I nurse?”  Here’s why…

3. It Gets Better

I also wish someone would have told me that.  I had a lot less anxiety during the first few week with my second child because I knew this little fact: it will get better.  Once your body and the baby adjust to the routine of nursing, it just becomes like second nature.  The three to four hour feeding schedule becomes a natural way of life.  I was so thankful I was able to stick it out, because once I got used to it I knew it was easier for me than fixing a bottle every time my baby was hungry.  It also saved our family money once I decided to stay home.  And, it was special for me and the baby.

After the first few weeks, I was able to enjoy it, and I was thankful I could do it.  I started off with the goal to nurse my son until he could take real milk.  I remember thinking during the first few weeks that I would be happy to make it to three months.  Well, guess what?  I got comfortable with nursing and made it to a year (although we did end up supplementing some at 9 months: refer to number one).  So to all the mamas out there who are in the midst of those first few weeks of nursing and they can’t imagine why they decided to do it in the first place, trust me, more often than not it will get better!

4. A Lactation Nurse Is Your Friend

I know this is not everyone’s experience, and lactation nurses often get bad reputations for only pushing nursing.  However, in my experience, if you are in a bind with nursing, consult a lactation nurse.  Their job is to help you.  My sister had trouble with her son latching at first.  She was so determined to nurse that she had a lactation consultant come to her house.  She would tell you that was money well spent.  It made a huge difference for her.

My second child was in the NICU for 10 days, and I was so thankful for the NICU lactation nurse who walked me through those days of moving my daughter from the bottle to full breastfeeding.  There were days where I just needed a sounding board or a little encouragement (and this was my second time around).  She provided that for me, and I am so thankful.  Most hospitals and pediatrician offices have lactation nurses on staff.  Take advantage of the help.  Sometimes you just need some reassurance.  They can tell you different techniques, and answer any questions you may have.  Like I said, I know this isn’t everyone’s experience, but overall most of my friends have echoed my feelings.  They were glad to have the help.

5. It May Take A Few Days For Your Milk To Come In

Once again, why didn’t I know this the first time around?  I think someone mentioned this in one of my child birth classes or in a book I read, but it didn’t really sink in.  Although my son latched well, he was on the verge of needing to supplement in the hospital because of losing weight.  We went home and like clockwork, my milk came in.  We went back to the doctor two days later and he was gaining weight fast.

When my daughter came along, I started off pumping because she was in the NICU.  I asked the lactation nurse why I wasn’t getting anything the second day after getting some colostrum the first day.  She said, “Everyone is dry the second day.  Just keeping pumping and it will come in.”  She was right.  Once again, after a few days my milk came in.  I know there are some that it never comes in for, but most of the time if you stick it out, it will be there.

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6. You Can Get A Free Breast Pump With Your Insurance

When we had our son, getting a free breast pump was a new thing.  We were able to get a nice Medula breast pump through a prescription from my doctor.  When my sister and I were discussing this post, she said this is something that a lot of her friends were unaware of.  Before you go out and spend a ton of money on a breast pump, consult with your doctor and see if you can get a prescription.  I have yet to hear of someone with insurance being turned down since this came into law in the past few years.

7. Get A Good Cover

I often recommend my cover to friends: the Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover.  It is a little more expensive ($35 compared to $15), but it is worth every penny.  I got mine before my first child, and I have used it for both.  What I like about it is the fact that there is a wire in the neck line that allows you to look down and see the baby.  It keeps the cover high enough that you are the only one who does see it.  Also, there is burp cloth material on the corners of the cover in case you don’t have a burp cloth on you.  I cannot tell you how many times I have forgot to pack a burp cloth, and I have been so happy that my cover also acted as a burp cloth.  You can actually find it on Amazon for $20 right now and free shipping with Amazon Prime.

8.  It Is A Special Time For You and The Baby

A friend once told me that she liked nursing because it was a special time for her to take her baby in another room and have that alone time.  There is a special bond formed when you know you are providing that little baby with their food supply and comfort.  I have loved sharing this bond with my two babies, and I wouldn’t change it.  Although hard at first, breastfeeding is a neat experience I am happy I have shared with my little ones.  While I am still nursing my six month old, I hope I don’t forget to soak up this special time I get to spend feeding and comforting her.  It goes by too fast.

9. It Is Ok If You Don’t

I am the last person to judge someone who doesn’t end up nursing.  If my babies had trouble latching, or if I had any kind of issue nursing (infection, low milk supply, etc.), I cannot say for sure I would have stuck with it or been able to do it period.  I had a friend tell me that she felt so judged by other women when she legitimately was not able to nurse her baby after trying hard.  So, this is definitely not another blog post to tell you why nursing is the best and only way.  It was the best way for me, but it is not always possible for everyone.  The worst thing we can do as women is shame other women for something that comes more easily for some than others.  Heck, if you just don’t want to nurse, that’s your choice and you have every right to make it.  Although it has been a special experience for me (and, quite frankly, a smart economic one for our family), you won’t see any judgment from me (refer to number one and two).

I just hope this blog post helps someone out there who doesn’t know what to expect.  Good luck (refer to number three)! We have all been there!

What have your experiences been?  What would you add to the list?

~Laura