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Oct 31, 2014

Announcing the Great Christmas Exchange!



i can't believe that tomorrow is november!  it still feels way too early to think about christmas shopping to me (even though we've been planning our christmas services at church since the summer!).  but it's here and it's starting!  christmas decorations are starting to pop up in stores, and i've even heard some holiday music playing on the radio!

i don't know about you, but i'm a strictly no-music-until-after-thanksgiving kind of girl.  i love the holiday season, but i also think that thanksgiving deserves it's day, ya know?

anyway, i'm especially excited for the holidays this year.  there are so many fun things planned both in my personal and work life, but also in the blogging world!  and one of those things is the great christmas exchange by oak + oats & elah tree!  samantha and beth have teamed up together to organize this entire exchange...you'll get paired up (secret santa style) and get to send a fun christmas surprise package to a new friend!  anyone can participate, you don't have to be a blogger!  but hurry...sign-ups close on november 12!  (get all the details and sign up here or here!)

i'll be participating in the exchange because you all know how much i love sending snail mail!  and christmas time is the perfect time to surprise a new friend with a gift hand-picked just for them!



and because we want as many people as possible to join in, i've partnered with a few of my blogging besties to pay for someone's participation and also pitch in to help with all their other holiday shopping! we want to give you the chance to walk away with $125 in paypal cash! it is easy, just sign up for the exchange and then enter the giveaway through the rafflecopter below! 

Oct 30, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Drugstore Mascaras



i'm a bit of a mascara addict.  i've probably tried no fewer than twenty different brands and kinds of mascaras in the past five years and if you ever see me in the beauty aisle at target, i'm probably buying mascara.

see, i have these huge eyes, and then no eyelashes.  i'm not being dramatic...i literally have the shortest, stubbiest eyelashes known to man.  my brother has better lashes than i do.  (when he was little, his were so long that they actually would hit his glasses and then bend.  so not fair.)

i didn't hop on the mascara train until i was almost out of high school, because it always kind of scared me.  but once i discovered it's magical lash-giving powers, you bet i hopped on that train and never hopped off.  you know how every gal has that one beauty product they won't leave the house without?  the one thing they put on, even if they wear nothing else?  well for me, it's mascara.

so the other day, i pulled out just a few of the mascaras i had floating around my makeup drawer (and my purse, my desk....you get it), and decided to do a little round-up of a few of the drugstore mascaras that i'm currently toting around.



covergirl // lash blast clump crusher
i've purchased this mascara more times than i can count.  i have a tub in my bathroom counter drawer, a tube in my purse, one in my desk at work, and one in my gym bag.  to say that i love the lash blast collection is an understatement.  it's a great drier formula, is totally build able, and comes in a bunch of different varieties (length, volume, fusion (length + volume), and clump crusher.  the plastic-bristled brush does a great job of coating each lash and then separating them.  it's a great every-day mascara.



l'oreal // voluminous million lashes excess
i'll be honest and say that i'm a bigger fan of just the voluminous million lashes mascara than i am of this excess version...this one is a bit more wet than it's original counterpart and the contoured brush just doesn't do it for me.  that being said, i get great length out of this mascara...whether it's the original formula or an updated version.  i love building this with a few coats of lash blast, as they work well together to add volume and separate lashes.



rimmel london // lash accelerator endless
so i've only been using this one for about two weeks, but it has given me bolder, longer lashes than any other mascara i've used in quite a while!  it's similar to voluminous million lashes, in that it's a pretty wet formula and a plastic-bristled brush, but it's brush has tons of little bristles and it's tapered so that you can really grab every lash.  it's so dark that i almost felt like it was too much to wear to church (but then i remembered that no mascara is too much for my sad tiny lashes, and wore it anyway).  and bonus!  lash accelerator boasts a lash-growing formula, and claims that if you use it consistently, you'll see improvement in the length and volume of your lashes in 30 days.



physician's formula // organic wear
besides coming in a pretty cool tube, this is the one organic mascara on my list.  it's a lighter formula than some of the others in this post, but it's also the only one that is completely free of parabens, dyes, and fillers.  this mascara leaves my lashes soft and flexible.  it's not overly heavy, but still gives some definition.  the brush has shorter plastic bristles and is pretty fat, which for me, can be tricky (because my lashes are so short!), but for someone with longer lashes, could be perfect!



have you tried any of these mascaras?  what's your go-to?

Oct 29, 2014

Community Brew // Invest & Invite



today i'm joining in with madison over at wetherills say i do and rachel of oh, simple thoughts for their community brew link-up!  community brew is a monthly link-up that is designed for bloggers to be "open, honest, and vulnerable, and to build community with others."  november's prompt is open-ended, so whatever is on your heart, feel free to join in!

right inside the front doors of our church's worship center atrium is a small table with a sign on it that says "invest and invite."  it's topped with invitation cards for our services and events and upcoming sermon series that our congregation can pick up and hand out to friends and family, making it easy to invite them to church.

for me, the investing part is the easy part.  i'm an extrovert; a people-person, so i can do the occasional coffee date or relationship-building texting conversation or whatever it is.  but the invite part?  that's always a little harder for me.  i've never found it easy to ask someone for help, and somehow, inviting someone to wake up early on a sunday and come to church feels like i'm asking for a favor.

but i think that the fear of asking too much of someone in inviting them somewhere...especially somewhere as important as church...is, at the heart of it, doing them a disservice.  when you consider the idea that the invitation that you're extending could save someone's life, then that invitation takes on a whole new weight.

paul starts off romans 10 with "brothers and sisters, my heart's desire and prayer to god for the israelites is that they may be saved."  i love that.  paul's heart's desire was for his brothers & sisters to be saved.  i don't know about you, but it can take work for me to have that same mindset.  it's not always at the forefront of my thoughts, but it should be!  and it doesn't take outright evangelistic conversations to practice the concept of investing and inviting.  it just takes being there, being consistent, building trust, and showing the love of christ to others through your words and actions.  

and the concept of invest & invite isn't just confined to the face-to-face parts of our lives, but our online lives too.  no matter where you're active...by writing a blog, just being present on twitter or instagram or pinterest, whatever...you have opportunities to be salt and light, and to invest and invite in those spaces too.  your words, your posts, your pins and repins...they all matter, and they all mean something.

if you're joining in on the hospitality study with she reads truth that started on monday, you know that this idea of investing and inviting is at the heart of this study.  (to be perfectly honest, that fact didn't even occur to me until i was halfway through writing this post)  yesterday, logan wolfram wrote an awesome devotion about how we need to love like jesus loved, and then follow his lead in inviting others into the journey with us.

she talked about how that love and invitation needs to stem from the heart.  a heart that is full of the love that god has for us will brim over and spread that love to others.


we posture our hearts to welcome others in response to the invitation 
we have been given through the gospel of jesus christ.
-logan wolfram

it always comes back to this, friends:
jesus loved us, so we could love others.  we often teach in our children's ministry at gt that every commandment jesus ever gave us fits into two categories:  love god, or love others.  christ made the ultimate sacrifice in death on the cross, and he didn't do it so we could keep it to ourselves.  he loved us, so we could love others.

in what ways is god asking you to invest in and invite others into his kingdom?  is it a challenge for you?  how so?

Oct 28, 2014

Man's Best Friend




about a year ago, we picked up this (not so) little pup and brought him home to his forever family.  it was my dad's 50th birthday and we were surprising him with a new addition to the family.  i'll just start off by saying that goldendoodles are the best dogs ever.  hands down.  (don't even try to argue)

after we got ollie home, we quickly learned that he was a really curious pup.  he was also super smart, and was housebroken really fast.  but that curiosity was often a bit of a problem.  since the first season he experienced was fall, he learned rapidly that there were lots of fun things he could attempt to eat!  beyond the multitude of toys that we showered on him, he also developed a love of leaves and sticks.

so a few weeks after bringing ollie home, we brought home our christmas tree, which presented a whole new slew of challenges.  our curious little guy found his way under the tree on many occasions, and always managed to find a twig or trimming that had fallen off of the tree to be his newest chew toy.  so, we kept a careful eye on him.  but one time, even after removing the twig from his puppy jaws, it was clear that something was wrong.  ollie seemed to be choking, and we quickly realized that he must have swallowed a smaller piece of the twig.

if you have ever had a pet in distress, you know the panic that immediately sets in.  you need to figure out what to do, and fast.  googling "my puppy is choking" left me with a lot of pretty unhelpful information, and so i ended up doing a sort of puppy-version of the heimlich, at least as best as i could manage!  fortunately, it worked, but it made me realize that i really needed a good go-to website for all things puppy-health related.

as any pet owner can tell you, it's incredibly important to keep your furry friends healthy and happy...that includes regular vet visits.  and like any doctor visit, it can be confusing to navigate the world of knowing what to ask the vet and what your pet needs at each check-up or when you should make that sick appointment.  enter royal canin.  royal canin is now my go-to for any and all questions i have about ollie's health.   royal canin takes a look at all aspects of pet health through a scientific lens, and can help you make the best decisions about how to best care for your pet!  their complete pet-reference guide should be bookmarked on any pet-owner's computer.

no matter what kind of accident your puppy may have, whether it's using your living room carpet as a bathroom or being a little too curious for their own good, you can definitely trust royal canin to be the go-to for advice on keeping your pet happy and healthy!



do you have any pets?  have any "oops!" stories to share?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Oct 27, 2014

Starting today with a Grateful Heart



it's been a while since i joined in on ember grey's grateful heart monday....mondays around here have just been crazy with meetings and not feeling great, and blogging has fallen to the wayside.

but my heart has so been needing this...a moment to focus on some of the little (and big) things that i'm grateful for!

boots & scarves, and that it's (finally) chilly enough to wear them!
pumpkin carving with the fam this weekend
roasted pumpkin seeds (yum!)
a fall harvest party with my class this thursday!
getting back into running after a few weeks off
fun times with friends planned
exciting things happening at work
taking some time to relax and get work done this weekend
booking a good number of photoshoots for the fall!

and just to make your monday a little sweeter, here's a chance to win a $120 target gift card!

check out a few of these lovely ladies and their blogs, and then enter to win below!
Facebook Like Giveaway

giveaway runs from 10/27 at 12am set to 11/4 at 12am est. available to us residents 18 years and older. no purchase necessary.

i hope you'll join in with us and tell us a little bit about what your heart is grateful for this week!  head on over to ember grey and link up with us!

what are you grateful for today?

Oct 24, 2014

Learning to Rest



last week, i was a little bit absent from this space.  life just caught up to me, and i needed a break.  i've been so diligent with writing and scheduling posts over the weekend, and having a constant and consistent presence on my blog, but last weekend was just busy in every way...aj was home, my parents rode the philly ride to conquer cancer, and i was still battling a sinus infection and bronchitis. so this last week, once i was able to exhale, things like sleep and catching up on work just took priority.

last wednesday night, i walked into my room after a twelve-hour work day, dumped my bags on the floor, sat down at my desk, and lettered these words:  rest and abide.

god has been slowly whispering to my heart these past few days...rest and abide.  it's been one of those times where life feels like it hasn't slowed down since mid-august.  where the demands of work, relationships, and just life in general have me learning the power of saying "no" to things.  where i've felt nothing short of overwhelmed and dried up at every turn.

and when i get overwhelmed, i get weepy.  to be honest, it doesn't really take much to make me cry...aj often refers to me as a human faucet.  but i hit a wall on wednesday night, with work still to do and friends still to have dinner with and appearances still to keep up, and blog posts still to write, and finally, i decided to shed the guilt of not being present here, or not producing the content i wish i was writing.



at one of those dinners with friends the other night, blogging was a topic of conversation, and one girl was sharing wisdom from an influence network class she had just watched.  "don't let your blog become your kingdom"...those words hit me so hard.  had my blog, the space i've been working so hard to build and the community i've been pouring myself into, become my kingdom, or was i still using it to really do what i have always wanted it to...spread god's kingdom?

(funny, as i write this, i'm sitting backstage on sunday morning listening to our pastor preach...about "your kingdom, or god's?"....think jesus is trying to tell me something?)

i think that we as bloggers, or anyone with an online presence, walk a fine line.  it's so easy to raise up our blogs or our online lives to a high priority...because after all, what will our 750 instagram followers do if they don't see the photo of that latte we picked up at starbucks this afternoon?!

the reality is that our online lives do matter, but only to the point that they are glorifying the lord, and no further.  once they become our kingdom, then they are worthless, and all of the influence we have and all of the followers we've gained mean nothing.

learning to rest is tough...chances are, if you're a blogger, you've spent plenty of late nights at your computer at 11:30pm crafting that perfect post and editing those photos to top it off.  and let's be real, you probably have seen more of those nights than you care to admit.



but i think that it's important to find intentional places and spaces that will encourage you to rest, to consider the influence you have, and to care for your spirit and your heart.  and one of those places is the influence network.

about a month ago, after watching instagram like it was the news all weekend as so many of my blogging friends gathered together at the 2014 influence conference, i decided to take the plunge and purchase a ticket to the 2015 conference.  it's a time to for women with creative hearts to gather and talk about the unique influence they have right where they're at.

and because i'm so excited for next september, i want you to be there too, so i joined up with a bunch of other wonderful, god-loving women to offer you the chance to win a conference ticket.  you don't have to be a blogger to be there...you just need to love jesus and want to know him better.

so i hope you'll consider entering, and if you don't win, then i hope you pray about investing in a ticket to the conference!  i'd love to see you there.

what is the influence network?
via
via
two lucky readers will win a ticket to the 2015 influence conference. the conference is a three day event held in indianapolis, indiana at the westin hotel. you will meet women from all over the country who are seeking to learn the right tools for their passions. there will be workshops, classes, speakers, coffee, & shopping. there will be bloggers, mothers, small business owners, writers, and the list goes on & on. 


two places at once     //     what she saw     //     rivers & roads
oak & oats    //     amy cornwell     //     simplicity relished
rachel rewritten     //     trusty chucks     //     wear flowers in your hair
she lives free    //     elah tree     //     mandy living life
vallarina creative     //     camp patton     //     23 and 9 creative
wetherills say i do      //     oh simple thoughts     //     frankly my dear

you do not have to be a member of the influence network to enter the giveaway or to go the conference but i encourage you to check out the network and consider joining!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
**please note that this giveaway is in no way sponsored by the influence network. 
we are a group of independent women who are joining together to make this conference happen for two of our readers. the two recipients will only receive tickets to the event & are responsible for all other expenses, including but not limited to travel, lodging, meals, parking, etc. if for some reason either of the winners cannot attend the conference they will be expected to contact one of the hosts immediately so that another winner can be chosen.

Oct 23, 2014

Go Small Business!


i can't believe that christmas is just two months away...i don't know about you, but i'm kind of terrible with doing any sort of christmas shopping far in advance...i'm a black-friday-or-later kind of gal.  but this year, i really want to get my shopping done a little earlier, and i really want to patronize some small business and etsy shops for gifts this year!

i have loved etsy since college, and i've been slowly creating some pieces and working on some branding for my own shop that will hopefully open in the near future, if i can just find some time to get it all together!

but in the meantime, here are a few of my favorite shops, and some are run by a few of my favorite people:

run by megan of arroway // features pretty watercolor prints

run by rachel of oh simple thoughts // features crocheted items and other inspiring pieces

sew what scarves
run by melissa // features handmade scarves and knit items

thatch and thistle
fun paper supplies (great for gift wrap add-ons and party supplies!)

amanda fair designs
sewn goods like pouches, bow ties, and baby quilts

and if you're looking to discover some fun etsy goods, i have teamed up with my two awesome etsy shops & nine wonderful bloggers to bring you a giveaway full of goodies you'll love celebrating! 
 
happy little hummingbird           //           east west design co.
park avenue     //     lisa loves john     //     jessi's design
beautiful things    //     make me up mia     //     flowers in my hair

here's what we are giving away:

crystal faye oh happy day coffee mug
gold print fancy tee from the sticker place etsy shop
fall bracelet stack from happy little hummingbird etsy shop
thimblepress greeting card 
watercolor scripture print from east west design co.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

what are some of your favorite etsy shops?

Oct 22, 2014

That Time I Handlettered a T-Shirt...



if you follow me on instagram, you can probably guess that i'm a little obsessed with hand lettering.  i have quotes and lyrics all over my room and office that i've hand lettered or that i've ordered from friends and artists that i adore.

here's proof of that:



ya know, just in case you needed it.

this summer, our church started working on our first ever worship cd.  not only do i work on the creative team at gt, but aj was asked to engineer and produce the entire record, so the project ended up being pretty near and dear to my heart.  aj rewrote the hymn holy, holy, holy for the album, and we decided that the title of the album should be our song will rise.

so, when we started talking about t-shirt designs for it, i loved the idea of a hand-lettered t-shirt and started creating mock-ups and concepts for the design.  eventually, i created something we could all (even the guys!) agree on.

and just to make it even more awesome, our printer did it in gold on a black tee...so basically, i'm in love.



i love this lyric.  if you're not familiar with the hymn, the lyrics go something like this:
holy, holy, holy
lord god almighty
early in the morning, our song will rise to thee!
holy, holy, holy
merciful and mighty
god in three persons, blessed trinity!

i recently did the she reads truth study on prayer in the bible, and one of the questions that stuck out to me the most was "do you  wake up praying?"  waking up praying, or praising, is something that can add so much perspective to your day, and get it started off on the right foot.  and the lyric "early in the morning, our song will rise to thee!" is just a reminder that we should start off each day with a song of praise!  and i love that it's also the lyric we put on the shirt, because even if you don't go to our church or know anything about the album, you could wear the shirt as a reminder that worship is important and powerful.

part of the our song will rise project is an outreach...because we really believe in the ability of music to transform lives, we really want to be able to put the album in the hands of everyone who walks through gt's doors for the first time.  and we're hoping to do that through kickstarter.

so, if you'd like your own our song will rise t-shirt, and to support a pretty cool outreach, i'd love to invite you to back our kickstarter!  you can get the t-shirt and a black and gold wristband for just $25...and i'll personally pack them up and ship them to you!

what are some of your favorite worship song lyrics?

Oct 21, 2014

When Online Friendships Become Real...



there's a beauty in this online community.  it's always hard for me to talk to people in real life about the blogging world, because if you're not a blogger, then it's kind of hard to understand.  when i started the peony project back in june, i was really just looking for a common space where bloggers could find community and conversation, as well as encouragement and collaboration.  i hoped that it would breed friendships as well, but i was never really prepared for all that it has blossomed into.

natalie texted me a few weeks ago and asked if i'd be interested in attending a dinner party for a bunch of our members at the university of valley forge, where she's a senior.  i immediately said yes, and was so excited to meet some of these gals in real life!

it ended up being a gathering of eight bloggers and a baby, and we had tons of good food and great conversation.  i left feeling with a full heart, and a fresh perspective on why i'm doing this whole blogging thing.

so, meet the ladies that were there!  (i realized as i was editing these that we never got photos of jessice of the adventures of a wild thing!  so go check out her blog and her awesome adventures across the globe!)




bonnie of strong and sweet


kelly of i am kelly


natalie of a tiny traveler




tori...tori doesn't have a blog...yet.  
but i think we did a good job of convincing her she needs to start one!


me!  and since you're here, i guess you don't need the link to my blog...

these seven girls made me even more passionate about cultivating online community.  meeting them face-to-face instead of just through a computer screen brought their blogs to life and made me so exceed for the things they're dreaming about for their online spaces!  i can't wait to make more of these meet-ups happen...and if you're not a part of the peony project yet, we'd love love love to have you!

Oct 15, 2014

Cookbook Library



i don't know why, but there's something about owning cookbooks that makes me feel like a grown-up.  i love to cook but i rarely actually do it, and when i do, it's pretty much never done with a cookbook open next to me.

but i think i have this image in my mind of married life that requires a good library of cookbooks.  aj and i like to cook together, so i just envision us pouring over cookbooks and picking out great recipes, and meal planning, and doing other married-people things in our super cute kitchen (which he constantly tells me he'd like to have complete control over decorating and registering for...ha...right.)

anyway, i've been actively expanding my cookbook collection...aj's mom helped out by giving me the jeni's splendid ice creams cookbook, which is pretty much the greatest book ever created because it's the greatest ice cream on the planet and don't even argue because i'm right and i will never change my mind.  (that run-on sentence was definitely necessary.)

but i've also been adding other books to my library as well, and here are the three newest ones in my collection:  juice, the kitchn cookbook, and the skinny taste cookbook.



juice // carly de castro, hedi gores, & hayden slater




we started juicing about seventeen months ago, and i've been on the hunt for a good juice cookbook ever since.  this one is pretty great.  it starts off by discussing a lot of the benefits of juicing and the best practices of how to make and store juice.  then, it breaks juice recipes down into roots, greens, and citrus.  it's full of great, colorful photos, easy-to-follow recipes, and lots of great tips!

juicing is a great habit to get into (more to come on that in another post!) and it really is one of the best ways to get the purest nutrients from fruits and veggies straight into your body and quickly into your cells!  the writers of this cookbook founded a pretty successful juicery, and they even incorporate some of their personal testimonies about how juicing helped them!

the book breaks juice recipes down into roots, greens, and citrus.  roots include juices that are mostly carrot and/or beet-based.  these are your hearty, filling juices.  green juices are based on green veggies and leaves, like kale, cucumber, celery, etc!  the authors refer to green juices as "your gateway drug into the world of healthy living."  and finally, the citrus juices are jammed-packed with vitamin c, and often are the sweetest and fruitiest!

one of my favorite sections of the book contains a bunch of different boost that you can add to your juices to give them a little extra oomph!  things like apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, and ginger all have different health benefits that can give your already-nutrient packed juice something extra, depending on what you're hoping to help, ease, or fix!


the kitchn cookbook // sara kate gillingham & faith durand



the kitchn cookbook is part recipe book, part cooking school.  from the curators of apartment therapy's cooking site, this book is exactly what you'd expect to get from successful bloggers:  great photos, a beautiful layout, and easy-to-digest segments.

the book contains over 150 recipes, which are scattered with pretty photos, and are great for entertaining and families alike.  it's organized as you would expect a cookbook to be:  into appetizers, sides, entrees, etc.

but the real highlight of this cookbook is the cooking school found within.  broken down into two parts, the kitchen and how to cook well, the book covers topics such as setting up and caring for the kitchen, stocking the pantry, planning meals, 50 essential cooking skills, and entertaining.

the last section, entitled gathering, is my personal favorite.  it has a great diagram of how to set a proper place setting, tips on how to spruce up your gathering on the cheap, setting the mood, and a game plan on how to prep and recover from a party...i love hosting events and gatherings, so these tips were all welcomed and appreciated!


the skinny taste cookbook // gina holmoka



the skinny taste cookbook is totally gorgeous.  it features all sorts of recipes that are "light on calories, big on flavor", and comes jam-packed with great photos and easy-to-follow directions.  it's author, gina homolka, is well-known for her low-calorie recipes that are full of flavor and made from all-natural, easy-to-find ingredients.  the recipes are also all coded with a key, which labels them vegetarian, gluten-free, quick, freezer-friendly, and slow cooker, so it's easy to navigate the book!

the beginning of the cookbook includes "the skinny basics", which are tips and tricks for a healthy lifestyle and kitchen!  everything from the author's personal story to tips on how to stay motivated can be found in the intro, and will help you get a feel for what you'll find in the cookbook.

one of the great aspects of this cookbook is that each recipe comes with nutrition information!  it will tell you how much a serving is, and then lists the calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbs, fiber, protein, sugar, and sodium in each serving.  the recipes also call for specific brands, so if you follow them perfectly, you know the nutrition info will be correct!

my favorite part of this cookbook, however, is the "skinny scoop" tips that are scattered throughout the book...everything from tips on grating your own parmesan cheese for the freshest flavor to how to store homemade marinara sauce can be found in these tips!  they're designed to make cooking easier, faster, and hassle-free!


i received these books from blogging for books for this review.

have you picked up any good cookbooks lately?
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