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May 30, 2015

HTB Happenings


Hey friends!  Hope you're doing well!

Here's what you might have missed this week on Heavens to Betsy:

HAPPENINGS:
+ I had my first macaroon on Thursday...these are just. so. pretty! (and delicious!)
+ If you follow me on Instagram, then you have probably seen me post countless pictures of ice cream...it's my favorite sweet treat!
+ With temps in the 80-90º range here in PA lately, it's been the perfect weather for driving with the windows down and grabbing iced caramel macchiatos.
+ I got to grab coffee with Martha Kate of Seasons with the Strattons on Saturday...she happened to be in town for a game of her husband's and posted a picture of our Minor League Baseball stadium on Facebook, and I commented and was like "you're in my hometown!", so we met up!  Now I'm hoping that baseball brings them back to Reading soon!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
+ AJ took over the blog on Thursday for The Guys Behind the Blog!
+ If you have curly hair, then check out my 5 tips for caring for your curls this summer!
+ I started Monday off with a grateful heart.

CHECK OUT THESE POSTS:
+ A big AMEN! to Madison's advice for finances...I couldn't agree more with each of her tips!
+ Have you seen Ember Grey's new project, Twelve Months of Bliss?
+ These popsicles by Stephanie look amazing!

May 28, 2015

The Guys Behind the Blog // May Edition


Hey friends!  It's time for one of my favorite posts of the month...The Guys Behind the Blog!  If this is your first time catching one of these posts, then here's a bit of background...I started The Guys Behind the Blog back in January because I had been nagging my fiancé, AJ, to take over this space and finally, I got him to agree to an interview.  I figured it would be fun to have other bloggers join in and interview their guys as well, and the idea has stuck, so it's become a monthly link-up!  (It's open for the next week, so you still have plenty of time to join in with us!)

But this month, I have some exciting news!  One of my dear blogger friends, Laura Jean, has agreed to begin co-hosting The Guys Behind the Blog with me!  So she and her husband, Jacob, will be joining AJ and I in hosting this little par-tay every month...you can stop by either of our blogs to join in on the fun!  If you haven't read any of Jacob's posts yet, add them to your must-read list right now. His answers almost always have me laughing out loud, and I dearly hope that AJ and I can spend some time with Laura & Jacob someday!  (Laura, instead of moving to the Twin Cities, I think you guys should head to Philly!)


Alright....so let's get to it!  We asked the guys five random questions this month and AJ's answers had me giggling...I hope you enjoy them too!
______________________________________

1 // What is your favorite family tradition?
My family doesn’t really have that many traditions. I would say that the closest thing to a tradition that we really have is our christmas eve party that we host at our house for all of our family and church friends. That one is super fun. 

2 // Who's your male celebrity crush?

I really have a lot of celebrity crushes.. but my top two are Tina Fey, and Jimmy Fallon. And before anyone looks at me weird (or whatever) I’d like to publicly say that I am of the opinion that guys can have GUY celebrity crushes too, so put away that judgement. And when Tina and Jimmy hosted Weekend update on SNL together, it was obviously the work of the Lord. 

3 // What song best sums you up?

I’m obviously a very complex person, with complicated thoughts, dreams and aspirations… So this one is really hard. I mean, How could you possibly sum up each small piece of my soul with ONE single song?? …  "Crayons Can Melt on Us for All I Care" by Relient K. 

4 // What three things do you think of the most each day?

1. Well Obviously my Fiance…all the time because she’s cute. 
2.  I also spend a lot of time thinking about school .. obviously, since I spend most of my time in class right now. 
3. And finally I spend a lot of time thinking about how I shouldn’t even be in school any more and I want it to be over so I can get married … And that leads to number 1 again! 

5 // What is your most embarrassing memory?

Probably the time that I was singing in a competition with my sister and my voice cracked really really bad … Luckily I wasn’t too invested in the performance and just kind of laughed it off. So maybe it’s not all that embarrassing … Idk… either way here’s the video clip :)
______________________________________

Ok, Betsy again....I just have to say that I think this might be my favorite month yet.  AJ had to email me his answers from Boston and after I clicked on the link in his answer to number 5, I texted him and said "Were you being snarky on Guys Behind the Blog?!"  haha...his sense of humor is definitely one of the reasons I love him!

Add your link below, and make note of these questions for the June link-up, which will go live on June 25th and stay open through July 3rd!

1 // What’s the best vacation you’ve ever been on?
2 // If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?
3 // Are there any summer traditions that you have or would like to start? (think things like big picnics, summer activities, bonfires, or day trips!)
4 // The 4th of July is coming up…what’s a must-have picnic or BBQ food for you?
5 // Think about your ideal vacation…are you in a cozy cabin, camping in a tent, or hanging in a hotel?

May 27, 2015

5 Tips for Caring for Your Curls This Summer



If there is one phrase to describe my summer style, it's "easy and comfortable". I live in running shorts and tank tops, or when I need to look a little dressier, I opt for easy-going sun dresses in the summer months. And when it comes to my hair, it's no different. I really, really dislike getting sweaty before my day even starts, and I can't stand spending lots of time doing my hair every day with various hot tools that will just add to the heat outside. Plus, summer is such a great time to give my hair a break and let it recoup from the winter's brittle cold.

But when you have some natural wave in your hair, (and especially when your hair is crazy coarse and dry), then letting your hair go au-natural can be a little bit treacherous in the summer months! Between frizz and curls that have a mind of their own, managing your locks in the summer can take some extra skill and finesse. So with that in mind, here are a few of my favorite ways to keep my hair looking good in the summer months!

1 // Quench the Thirst
If you have curly hair, then you probably know that the key to fighting frizz is keeping your hair moisturized. Dry hair = frizzy hair, so making sure that you're nourishing your hair with great, moisturizing products is essential. Finding a good deep conditioner it work into your routine every week or so is a great idea, but make sure that the products you use every day also include moisturizing ingredients. (Personally, I love Dove's New Quench Absolute line!)  

2 // Skip the Soap
I've tried the whole no-poo thing and my hair, while dry, can get greasy-feeling, so I've found that what works best for me is shampoo-ing no more than once every other day. If you've never tried to give yourself a break from the 'poo, then I highly recommend experimenting! Giving your hair a break from shampoo can help it regulate the natural oils that your scalp produces and contribute to your hair's health, therefore helping to ease dryness. When you do shampoo, be sure to use a moisturizing product!

3 // Be Picky About Your Products
Some products contain ingredients that will only further dry out your hair, so be picky! Finding a product that will not only define your curls, but leave them feeling nourished, smooth, and looking natural is not easy, but I'm currently crushing on Dove's Quench Absolute Supreme Creme Serum. It absorbs into your hair quickly (so no greasiness!) and it's lightweight and creamy, so it leaves your hair nourished! I also love that it can be used on dry or wet hair, so it can be incorporated into any part of your morning routine. Finding the right product that works for you is essential!

4 // Find a Routine that Works
Like I said, I really dislike having to use a ton of hot tools on my hair in the summer, but sometimes, I need a little bit of extra definition in my curls, so putting away the curling iron and blow dryer for three months isn't exactly an option. What I have found, however, is that there is middle ground. For me, a routine that works is throwing some product in my hair and letting it air dry as long as I can in the morning, then getting the dampness out of of it with my hair dryer and finally, finishing it off by throwing in a few curls here and there with my curling wand, set on a low heat. This routine gives me the definition of heat tools, without having to use them start to finish. The only trick to this style is making sure you don't fry your hair by trying to curl it...be sure it's dry enough before breaking out the curling wand!

5 // Love Your Curls
No matter what, don't forget to love your curls! Too many times I look in the mirror on a bad hair day and decide I hate my hair, or looking at someone else's curls and thinking "I wish my hair looked more like that!" So even through the bad, frizzy hair days, be sure to show your curls some love! I love my curls by treating my hair well, getting regular trims, giving it a break from my hot tools, and moisturizing it like it's my job!  







I really love Dove's new Absolute Quench line.  It's moisturizing and nourishing products are great for smoothing and defining natural curls in the summer months, without weighing curls down or leaving them feeling crunchy or greasy!  

Did you know that one in three women in the US have curly hair, but only 40% of little girls with curly hair think that their hair is beautiful, and only 10% of women with curly hair feed proud of their hair. That's so sad! Dove Hair recently launched a "Love Your Curls" campaign to encourage women to celebrate their curls, and the new Love Your Curls book is a poetic tribute to curly hair. The book features real stores from real women and is intended to inspire curly-haired girls of all ages! You can download the book for free here, and you can even personalize the book to include a photo of yourself and a poem about your curls! (Check out mine here!) If you have a daughter or niece with curly hair, then think about creating a customized book for her and encouraging her to love her curls!



DO YOU HAVE CURLY HAIR?  WHAT'S YOUR SUMMER HAIR ROUTINE?

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

May 25, 2015

Grateful for the Weekend


Happy Memorial Day friends!  I hope you're enjoying your long weekend and taking some time to remember the sacrifices of all of those who have and are serving our country today!  I'm so grateful that we live in a country where freedom is valued, and where men and women are ready to fight and even give their lives for that freedom.  If you or someone you know serves our nation, thank you!

I'm joining in today with Emily over at Ember Grey for her Grateful Heart Monday link-up. It's always great to start the week off by listing some things I'm thankful for, and today is definitely no exception.  In fact, my heart might need this list today more than ever.  In just a few hours, we'll be hitting the road to take AJ to the Philly airport.  He'll be spending the summer back in Boston taking a full course load of classes and working.  Though he'll be back for the 4th of July, these next five and a half weeks (and the five and a half after the 4th) are going to be hard.  It was so great to have him home for the past two weeks and we're in the final months leading up to our wedding, so there's lots of prepping to do.  It's just starting to hit me how much I'd like to be able to do all of that prepping together. 

In addition to that, my dad is really feeling the fatigue that a year of chemo brings and I so wish I could do something to help him.  I just want him to feel better again, especially since his scans have been good.  

So yes, today's grateful heart post is necessary.  Here's what I'm grateful for today:

+ Having two weeks with AJ
+ The long weekend
+ My schedule is about to normalize a little bit, and I'm ready to be super productive on my days off!
+ AJ and I bought living room furniture this week!
+ I'm so grateful for great brothers & sisters in Christ who support my family
+ Summer has arrived in PA...we're looking at temps in the 90s all week!
+ Getting big things crossed off of the wedding checklist
+ My first year of teaching is behind me!  While preschool wasn't necessarily what I always wanted to teach, I'm grateful for all that I learned this past year!

WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR TODAY?

May 24, 2015

HTB Happenings


Happy Sunday!  I hope you've all had a great week!  It was a busy busy week for me, and that meant not blogging as much as I would have liked to.  But I've got some exciting posts coming up, including our Guys Behind the Blog link-up coming this Thursday!  This past week, we had our engagement photos, I finished my first year of teaching, AJ's sister graduated from college, and we bought living room furniture!  I told ya...busy!

Here's what you might have missed this week on Heavens to Betsy:

HAPPENINGS:
+ I bought a box of popsicles for our last day of school this week and was reminded of the magic of a good popsicle!  So quintessentially summer!
+ One of my favorites from our engagement shoot this week...can't wait to share more of these!
+ We had dessert at Magnolia Bakery in NYC after Amanda's graduation on Friday.  I've been there a bunch of times for cupcakes, but this was the first time I ever tried their banana pudding.  It. was. amazing.  For real...if you're ever in NYC, get it.
+ Another fave from our shoot!  We met up with our wedding photographer in downtown Lancaster, and it was a perfect spot for our pictures!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
+ Do you partner with brands to write sponsored content?  Here's why I think you shouldn't work for free.
+ This DIY College Survival Kit is a great gift for any grad!
+ AJ and I made some grilled BBQ ribs and our recipe for a great dry rub was on the blog on Monday!

CHECK OUT THESE POSTS:
+ Stacey's post on how to become a better you was on point!
+ I loved this post from Hayley...these desk accessories are adorable!
+ Jenna's panko, cream cheese, and herb stuffed mushrooms have my mouth watering!
+ I can totally related to Beth's feelings about trying new things (and I love seeing other's take a shot at hand lettering!)
+ Did you see Laura & Jacob's big news?

May 22, 2015

DIY College Survival Kit

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareYourSummer #CollectiveBias


When I graduated from high school, one of the best gifts I was given was from my mom and was a "College Survival Kit".  The jar, filled with things that I might find myself needing in college, sat on my desk for four years of college.  She had packed the jar full of things that every college student might need like a roll of quarters and paper clips, as well as some sentimental things like an old photo and "Massachusetts Moose Mints" (I went to school north of Boston).  I never touched it's contents, but it was a great reminder that my mom was just a phone call and plane or car ride away, and that she was there to help me survive college if and when I needed her. 

When I attended grad parties that summer, I decided to make a few of my friends survival kits as well, and now, years later, it's still one of my favorite gifts to give.  With four family members graduating this year (we're actually in NYC today for AJ's sister's college graduation!), I'll definitely be making more of these jars to hand out to my favorite grads!

And just to make things more personal and special, I couldn't help but pair the College Survival Kit with a personalized Coke bottle.  I think that these bottles are super fun, and are a great little decoration for a college desk or bookshelf!  I found these bottles, labeled "Zachary" and "Class of 2015" for my cousin Zac, who just graduated a whole year early from Berklee!  He is an incredible upright bass player and he'll also be making the big move to Nashville this summer, so I couldn't help but pick up these fun labeled bottles for him to take with him!  And I might have to create a twist on these College Survival Kits and make him a "Real World Survival Kit"!



WHAT YOU NEED // 
You can fill your jar with anything you think a college student needs, but here are a few of my suggestions!
+ A large jar or clear container
+ Paper Clips
+ Rubber Bands
+ A roll of quarters (hello, laundry!)
+ A bag of candy (for those late-night study sessions)
+ Toiletries
+ Post-It Notes
+ A Nail File
+ A photo
+ A Pen and/or Pencil
+ Chapstick
+ Instant Coffee packs or tea bags
+ A few $1 bills
+ Anything sentimental or reminiscent of the grad's hometown


HOW TO // 
Putting this one together is simple.  Be sure that your jar is large enough to fit everything that you gathered, and then start putting it in!  Put in larger items first, and save anything that is particularly decorative, or that you want the recipient to be able to really see, to fill in around the outside.  I always try to put certain things around the outside of my jar in an attractive fashion and not just tossed in, and I do my best to make sure that everything in the jar is at least somewhat visible, so that the person receiving it can see everything without taking it all apart.  





It's super easy to find all that you need for a College Survival Kit at Wal-Mart, and while you're there, be sure to check out their great displays which make is easy to find the names you're looking for!  Coke has tons of names out this year, and Wal-Mart's wide selection and organized displays make it even easier to find what you're looking for.  The personalized 20-oz bottles are great for anyone and the more generic bottles like "Class of 2015" are fun for the grad in your life (or any other summer fun you have planned)!



WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS SUMMER?  WHO WOULD YOU SHARE A COKE WITH?

May 19, 2015

Writing Sponsored Content // Why You Shouldn't Work for Free


Six years ago, when I first started blogging, I only dreamed of making any sort of money from my blog.  I loved reading some larger blogs and I knew that there were woman out there making full-time income off of their blogs (and I knew that there were probably women out there making six figures off of it!), but I had no idea how they were doing it.

Then, randomly, I got contacted by a company who wanted me to write about them.  Yay!  This was it...my break into working with brands!  Surely by writing this post, other companies would see my work and start reaching out too, and it didn't really matter that I wasn't being paid to do it because I was getting my feet wet, right?

Yes.  And no.

I wish someone would have told me back then that what I was writing and what my voice could do for a brand was valuable.  I wish that someone would have empowered me by telling me that what I was doing with my blog was worth more than what this company was offering.  I wish someone would have explained to me why blogging is important in the marketing world.  (Disclaimer:  When I refer to being "paid" to write, I'm talking about monetary compensation, but in some cases, product is also acceptable)

When I received that first opportunity to work with a brand, my blog was considerably smaller.  I wasn't necessarily writing with the same frequency and passion that I do now, and so I accepted the opportunity and didn't mind (at first) that I wasn't being paid and that I wasn't receiving product.  But then, after spending time and effort putting together a post, I realized something that should have been obvious from the start:  I was working for free.  And not in the way that you help out a friend, but for a company that I had no relationship with.  I was spending time and effort and space on my online home to promote a product that I wasn't even given the chance to try out for free.

Something about even feeling annoyed by that felt selfish to me.  I never really intended to make an income off of my blog when I started, and I don't mind helping out small businesses or businesses that are doing awesome things gain some traction by mentioning them on my blog.  But when I got my first paid sponsored post, the game totally changed.

I realized then that there are brands out there that value bloggers and the voice that we can lend to a marketing campaign.  Our readers trust us and our opinions, and brands recognize that.  (Side note:  I firmly believe that writing sponsored content does not make you a sell-out or devalue your blog.  There's nothing wrong with making an income off of a hobby that you love, as long as your voice is still shines through!)

So why do I think you shouldn't work for free?  Here are just a few reasons I think you should be paid for your voice:

You're selling yourself short.  Your voice and your opinions matter and your readers value you and trust you!  And guess what, friend?  You're worth having a company pay for that exposure.

Working for free hurts other bloggers.  When you work for free, you end up harming other bloggers because you're sending the message to the company you work for that they can get away with free marketing.  If they can get it from you, they may expect it from other bloggers.

Think of it outside of blogging.  Would you apply to work for a large company in their marketing department and then when you sit down for an interview, tell them that they don't need to pay you?  Probably not.  This is no different, it's just on a smaller, more isolated scale!

When a brand says they "don't have a budget", then it's a little insulting.  I hate saying this because I truly like to think the best of people, but I get insulted by a brand who contacts me and asks me to write about them, but then tells me that they "don't have a budget for that" when I ask them how much they are paying.  Basically, they're asking you to advertise for them for free, but they don't think what you have to offer them is worth investing in.  Unless it's a small company and you really believe in their vision, I'd pass.

It's ok to get your feet wet.  Remember that first campaign I talked about at the beginning of this post?  I don't regret doing it.  I think it's fine to do a couple of campaigns for free when you're first starting off.  Those posts are low-pressure...you can't do anything wrong because you're not getting hired or under any sort of contract!  Take those opportunities to get your feet wet and establish your voice and style for writing sponsored content, but don't stay there long.

It takes time.  It took me years to build up the numbers and following to be able to make consistent money off of my blog.  Doing a product review here and there and getting paid in product for a while is a great way to go as you start and until you're ready to join networks that will help you bring in an actual paycheck.  If you want some more info on a few ways to make money blogging, check out this post!

If I can leave you with anything, it's that you're worth it.  Please believe that.  Whether you decide to work for brands without pay or you make a consistent income from your blog, you need to do what's right for you.  But don't underestimate the influence that you have as a blogger and sell yourself short!

May 18, 2015

Grilled BBQ Ribs & Homemade BBQ Dry Rub


This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Weave Made Media®  Smithfield® and Farmland®, but all my opinions are my own. #weavemade #GetUpandGrill #GetFiredUpGrilling http://my-disclosur.es/RgFrEH

There's almost nothing I love more about summer than a good BBQ.  We love eating outside as soon as the weather permits, and try to hold out as long as we can throughout the fall.  I love walking barefoot through the grass, gathering around picnic tables, and lingering on the patio long after the food has been consumed, just chatting and enjoying a good evening with friends.

Last summer, AJ and I spent a solid week watching a TV show in which people competed for the bragging rights of having the best BBQ around.  We promptly decided that we could totally make ribs and then we promptly failed epically.  They were incredibly spicy and not completely cooked.  But we've grown quite a bit as chefs since then, and we've perfected a delicious dry rub and the method to making fall-off-the-bone ribs!  (Hint:  it's not as hard or as complicated as it may seem!)



WHAT YOU NEED //
+ a rack or two of baby back ribs (we like Smithfield, which are available at Walmart!)
+ 1/2 c brown sugar
+ 2 tbsp garlic powder
+ 2 tbsp salt
+ 2 tbsp black pepper
+ 2 tbsp cumin
+ 2 tbsp paprika
+ 2 tbsp cayenne pepper (optional, or to taste)
+ 2 tbsp chili pepper (optional, or to taste)
+ your favorite BBQ sauce



HOW TO //

1.  Flip over your ribs.  You'll notice a thin white membrane coating the underside of the ribs.  Insert a knife underneath this coating and pull it back (you may need to grip it with a paper towel).  This membrane will feel rubbery and hard to chew if left on.

2.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and toss in a few pinches of your spices, plus a dollop of BBQ sauce.  Then, toss in your ribs.  Boil the ribs for 30-45 minutes, or until tender.  (You'll be able to feel when they're tender by poking them with a fork).

3.  While your ribs are boiling, make your dry rub by mixing the brown sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika.  Feel free to adjust the amounts to taste, and if you like your BBQ a little spicy, then add in some cayenne and chili pepper!  (Hint:  The more brown sugar you use, the more melted and crystalized your rub will get.)

4.  After boiling, place the ribs on a plate and pile on your dry rub (it's ok to let them cool for a few min first).

5.  Then, fold foil loosely around them and place them on the grill on the top rack on low for another 30-45 minutes.  Check occasionally.  (Once you put them on the grill, you're just looking for the rub to melt and crystalize on top of your ribs.)

6.  Pull them off of the grill and enjoy as is or topped with your favorite BBQ sauce!



It's as simple as that!  Take it from two people who learned the hard way:  making ribs does not have to be complicated.  While you can absolutely do them from start to finish with the "low and slow" method on a grill, we now prefer to cut that time by a ton and start them in the kitchen and finish them up on the grill, but we definitely are dreaming of having a smoker someday!  (Maybe when we live in that farmhouse in Tennessee that we've been daydreaming about lately?)

Visit the Get Fired Up Grilling website for additional recipes and tips from BBQ Pitmasters Moe Cason and Tuffy Stone. Also enter to win a trip to the American Royal BBQ contest and other great grilling prizes!

WHAT'S YOUR SECRET TO PERFECT BBQ RIBS?  WHAT ELSE DO YOU LIKE TO COOK ON THE GRILL?

May 17, 2015

HTB Happenings



Happy Sunday!  I hope you've all had a great week!  AJ has been home which has been good for my heart...and our wedding checklist!  We have gotten a bunch of stuff done and it feels good.  He heads back to Boston in just over a week and he'll be there up until two weeks before the big day, so this was our opportunity to check some things off of the to-do list!

Here's what you might have missed this week on Heavens to Betsy:

HAPPENINGS:
+ Anybody else a succulent addict?  I have way too many already, but I couldn't resist picking up this little cutie at Home Depot this week!
+ We went up to Carlisle to have dinner with some friends on Thursday night, and ate at the loveliest Greek restaurant!  The food was great, the conversation was life-giving, and the atmosphere was perfectly summer!
+ AJ and I put together our wedding invitations on Friday night.  I've already spent a good 15+ hours doing all the calligraphy on them, so it was great to have him there to help assemble them!
+ Do you ever have one of those times where you just want a good apple?  I picked this beauty up on Wednesday for lunch!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
+ I showed off my fancy pants earlier this week.
+ I shared a few tips on what to say to someone who is facing a cancer diagnosis, and shared a new, free resource from Allstate for anyone diagnosed with breast cancer.
+ This week was Faith's Golden Vlog link-up, and I joined in and talked all about summer vacations!
+ If you're running any races this summer, don't miss my 5 tips for race day!
+ How do you catch some me-time?  Here's a kit I keep in my car so that I can pamper myself on-the-go!

CHECK OUT THESE POSTS:
+ 10 things that Beth has learned since graduating from school
+ These great tips from Hayley on 5 words your husband needs to hear today
+ Jenna's tips for an easy summer cookout make me want to get out and grill right now!
+ Laura's rib recipe also has me wanting to grill (and I'll be sharing my own rib recipe tomorrow!)
+ Natalie's thoughts on graduating from college are great for anyone facing the "real world" for the first time!

May 15, 2015

What To Say In The Face of A Cancer Diagnosis (+A Free Cancer Diagnosis Resource)



I've written here and there about my dad's battle with lung cancer, and more recently, my mom's melanoma diagnosis.  I try not to flood my blog with the day-in and day-out of having a loved one battle cancer.  I know that so many of you are praying for both of my parents, and I'm so grateful for that, but it's not something I always like to talk about in such a public forum, and I don't think it's something that my parents would want to see my blog be focused on.

The past two years have been some of the hardest in my life.  I've seen both of my parents come to their knees at the foot of the cross (and I've been with them), praying for healing on a daily basis.  I've seen my dad not feel well, and I've seen him ride 150 miles on his bike in two days.  It's a roller coaster ride and not one that I would wish on anyone.


However, I can tell you two things:  1) your prayers and the prayers of our church family have completely sustained us over these last two years and 2) the support, encouragement, and advice from those who have gone before us in this walk have been invaluable.

I know that talking to someone who has a cancer diagnosis or who is the caretaker of someone with a cancer diagnosis isn't easy.  I can tell that it isn't from the way that some people stumble over their words or just don't reach out at all.  I get it.  It's uncomfortable.  You're probably wondering about the hard things, like prognosis and will he lose his hair with the chemo treatments and well if that last scan looked good, then why isn't he feeling well?  Here's a secret:  we wonder too sometimes.  If you've read any of my posts about my parents' walks with cancer, you know that we wonder, but we believe.  We believe in total and complete healing and a God who has already gone before us.

And we also believe in advocating and educating.  If you know someone with a cancer diagnosis, then here are a few little tips:

1 // Don't ignore it, but don't make it the focus of every conversation.  Knowing that you care enough to ask is touching, but it's important that cancer doesn't become the person's identity.

2 // Watch your words.  I can't tell you how many people have told me stories about so-and-so who had cancer and lost their battle, or who said my dad just needed to repent of his sins or pray harder for healing (um, not how healing works!), or the guy that told my dad that if it was stage IV then that's basically a death sentence.  People either mean well or they just don't think before they speak.  Don't be one of those people.  Put yourself in your friend's shoes and think "would this be an encouraging, life-giving thing to hear if I was going through a cancer diagnosis?"  If the answer is "no", then keep it to yourself.

3 // Ask how you can help, and offer suggestions.  For example:  you don't have to take on every task or chore that the person has, but simply offer to watch their kids or bring them a meal, or maybe even cut their grass.  They might say no at first, but keep asking.

4 // Be there.  It's crazy how people disappear when you are facing a serious illness, so don't disappear.  Even if the person pushes you away or withdraws.  Actually, especially in those two cases.  That's probably a sign that they need you more than they want to admit.

5 // No matter how recently the person has been diagnosed, they are a survivor.  You learn a lot of terminology pretty quickly when facing a cancer diagnosis, but one of my favorite terms has always been "survivor."  No matter where someone is in their fight, whether they were diagnosed yesterday or they've been in remission for a decade, they are a cancer survivor.


Allstate has put together a free companion guide to the book, The Silver Lining.  The companion guide is available as an instant download ebook, which you can get here, and I can't encourage you enough to download it, read it, and share it with anyone who might be facing cancer, but more specifically, breast cancer, as that is what the author was diagnosed with.  With over 250,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. each year, finding advice and encouragement from other survivors is key to keeping a positive attitude.

Allstate created the Silver Lining Companion Guide as a way to offer practical tips, important information, and inspiration to the person walking through a breast cancer diagnosis.  Personally, I also found much of it to be true of other cancer battles as well.  The guide is available in English and Spanish, as well as in print at select Allstate agencies nationwide.


HAVE YOU OR HAS SOMEONE YOU KNOW BEEN RECENTLY DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER?  WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU ADD TO THIS LIST?  BE SURE TO PASS ON THIS FREE RESOURCE IF YOU FEEL IT COULD HELP SOMEONE!

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

May 14, 2015

The Golden Vlog // May


I'm super excited about this month's Golden Vlog because we're talking about one of my favorite things...summer vacation!  If you're not familiar with The Golden Vlog, here are the details:  it's run by Faith of Life with Mrs. G & the Artist.  Each month, Faith chooses a topic and sends out a list of questions to those who have linked up in the past.  We all create a little video of ourselves answering the questions and then link-up!  It's a fun way to connect with other bloggers...I always love seeing videos of blogging friends because it feels like I actually know them in real life then!

So, without further ado, here is this month's Golden Vlog...watch below to find out what I did as a kid for summer vacation, where AJ and I are going on our honeymoon, and what some of my favorite trips have been!


DO YOU HAVE ANY SUMMER TRAVEL PLANS FOR THIS YEAR?

May 13, 2015

5 Tips for a Great Race Day



I'm going to start this post off by saying that if you're a seasoned runner, you're probably going to find this pretty fundamental.  I hope that by going back to the basics, this post will serve as a good reminder of what makes for a great race day, and I'd love for you to contribute your own tips in the comments!  But if you're new to the running game and planning on running your first race this summer...read on!

I've run a few races in my running journey, mostly 5k's, and my goal is to run a half marathon (which I think I've been talking about for forever, but haven't actually found one I'm excited to run yet!).  Through those experiences, I've realized that there are a few things that take some simple planning, but make race day go so much smoother!  

1 // Be Comfortable
We all know that race day is not the time to break out those new sneakers that you just purchased, but the same goes for your outfit!  Whether you're running a 5k or a marathon, choose tried-and-true running gear that you know will hold up for the amount of miles you're running.  If you're constantly tugging at those new shorts you just bought when you're walking around, then you probably should leave them at home on race day.  Be sure to wear an outfit that doesn't rub, pinch, or annoy you!  You want to be comfortable so that you can focus on your running and not on adjusting your clothing every half-mile!  Plan ahead and be sure to pick up race-day gear far in advance so that you have plenty of time to break it in.  One of my favorite places to grab athletic gear is from Zappos...you can't beat their selection, shipping, or return policy! 

2 // Stay Hydrated
This is important all year round, but it's crucial for summer races!  Staying hydrated goes beyond just the day of your race, though.  Throughout your training, be sure to get enough water on a daily basis...that will only help you in the long-run. On race day, don't try to be a hero and skip the water station...the few seconds you may lose by slowing down for a cup of water will be completely worth it.  And be sure to have ways to replenish your electrolytes as well.  Some larger races will have things like energy or hydration gels available at water stations, but if your race doesn't, consider stashing one or two on you somewhere (perhaps in a key pocket), or have a spectating friend or family member hold onto them for you and give them to you along the course if you need them!  Hydrating post-race is crucial as well, so be sure to drink up after you cross the finish line!

3 // Sleep Well & Eat Well 
The week leading up to your race, make sure that you're giving your body enough rest.  You trained hard, so now be sure that you give your body the best possible start on race day!  Because races typically start early in the morning (often between 8-10am), make sure you hit the pillow early the night before.  There's nothing worse than waking up and stumbling to the starting line in a fog.  Not only will it affect your time, but you'll also spend the race wishing you were back in bed!  And don't skip breakfast on race day.  A good mix of protein, fat, and low-glycemic carbs (think nuts, a sweet potato, an orange) will help you perform well.  Eat until you feel good, but don't overdo it.

4 // Bring Extra Clothes
Even on the warmest of days, all of the sweating you'll be doing during your race can send your body into a chilly tailspin after you're done.  I always like to pack an extra shirt and a long-sleeve shirt just in case, and often times, I also pack a fresh pair of shorts and underwear.  Most summer days, I don't need the long sleeve, but it's better to be safe than sorry!  Either way, it's great to have some fresh clothes to change into, especially if you have a longer drive home or to a shower.  Also plan to bring along some other footwear.  A lighter pair of sneakers or athletic sandals can be great options for tired feet after the race!

5 // Have Fun!
Most importantly, have fun!  Unless you're trying to qualify for a marathon or something, remember that your time is just a number...of course you want to strive to do your best, but try to enjoy the race and the day and don't focus too heavily on whether or not you PR.  If you can convince a friend to run with you, all the better!  Make your race a celebration of the time and effort you put into training, and just enjoy the run.  I always get super nervous before I run a race and then I have to remind myself that it's no different than just heading out for a run on my own.  Take the pressure off of yourself and don't lose sight of why you love running or the cause that you're running for!




If you're in the San Francisco area this weekend and are looking for a fun race, then check out the Zappos Bay to Breakers, a 12k that's been going on since 1912!  This year, they're working on setting the most world records set during a race (think weird things, like "Most People to Take a Selfie with a Port-o-Potty"), so it's sure to be a fun race to run or just watch!  And with Zappos great online offerings of athletic gear (and so much more!), fast & free shipping, plus their 365 day return policy and great customer service, I bet that any race they sponsor is pretty great! 

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR RACE DAY?  

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

May 12, 2015

Fancy Pants


If you've followed another fashion post of mine, you probably have been able to tell that my style doesn't venture far from what I like to call the "three C's":  comfortable, casual, and classic.  I'm lucky to work in an office that welcomes jeans, and so for the most part, I live in my denim.  I like dressing up and I like looking cute, but I also really like to be comfortable (can I get an amen?!).  In college, my friend Cassie always would say that there's no need for "real" pants after 3pm...sweats all the way!  (I feel a little bit like less of an adult for saying that...but no shame.)

But, from time to time, I like to get out of my fashion ruts and go with something a little bit bolder.  I often wear dresses in the summer, and we've been seeing temps in the 80s here in PA for the last week or so, so I've been working to transition my wardrobe for the warmer months.  We also had a big conference at church last week and I was doing the photography for it, so I wanted to dress a little bit nicer for the days that we'd have lots of people in the building, but I also needed something that I could move easily in.  

I picked up these fun pants on Tuesday afternoon and sent AJ a picture of them from the dressing room...he assured me that they weren't "too wild" and so I trusted, and I'm so glad I did!  These literally are some of the softest pants I've ever owned.  I've been loving soft and flowy pieces this year and these totally fit the bill.  They have pockets (woohoo!) and they will be great for warm summer days at work.  I also think that they'll be great to take on our honeymoon for dressier dinners! 

This isn't the first time (nor will it be the last) that I feature my jean jacket in a fashion post.  There's a reason that jean jackets are said to be wardrobe staples...I love throwing mine on over just about everything.  Dresses, shorts, skirts, pants...it makes a fantastic finishing touch to almost any outfit and I get so much use out of it all summer!  I especially love that I can take a tank top and make it office-friendly simply by throwing my jean jacket on. 












DO YOU OWN ANY FUN PATTERNED PANTS?  WHAT ABOUT A JEAN JACKET?  WHAT ARE YOUR GO-TO SUMMER WARDROBE STAPLES?
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