Easter Basket Ideas for Toddlers

Easter Basket Ideas for Babies -- read my post from last Easter, here! 

* This post may contain affiliate links that help support this blog  * 

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Easter is around the corner! I always dreamed of having a little one on this sweet, meaningful holiday and day of celebrating the resurrection in simple, deep, and fun ways. Just for fun and to hopefully help you mamas out, I put together some of my ideas that I'm using for Weston's Easter basket to inspire you for your little's baskets!

1. Basket and Liner:  I got Weston's first Easter basket at Pottery Barn Kids last year and I'm just obsessed with the design. It's quality, classic, and will stand the test of time. I chose the Peter Rabbit themed liner (they're on sale right now!) This basket/liner will be passed on as a family heirloom in our little fam and it's just darling. Another place for cute baskets is World Market -- theirs are unique and they offer lots of different styles. 

2. BubblesPerfect for toddlers and just in time to stock of for springtime and summer! I love making holiday gifts for our little guy practical so these are going in his basket in preparation for warm weather play.

3. Bunny Fruit Snacks:  My sister gave these to Weston as a treat this week and he's obsessed. I will put a small container of Peeps and a little bit of chocolate in his basket, but we don't love to give him much sugar. These fit the healthy bill, they're organic, they're tasty, and they're bunnies!

4. Jellycat BunnyThe softest stuffed animal of all time. Actually, were at the mall a few months ago when Weston found this Jellycat Bunny and wouldn't let go! He literally just snuggled it through the entire store and I couldn't say no and bought it for him! :) It would make the perfect Easter basket buddy.

5. Baby Farm Animals BookClassic Little Golden books are lovely and timeless. I adore this one! 

6. PuzzleWeston has several of these Melissa and Doug puzzles (our local kid's secondhand store is full of cheap, designer gems and I visit it weekly to scoop of thrill-inducing deals haha!) This musical one would be Weston's dream come true so I am ordering it! I love that it plays eight instrumental sounds when the pieces go in.

7. Touch and Feel Baby Animal Book:  This will be in Weston's basket this year -- he loves touch and feel books and naming the baby animals! This would be a great book for younger babies, too.

8. Burt's Bees Organic PajamasPractical item, again! Jammies are always an exciting yet super useful Christmas and Easter gift for kids! These are so soft and the navy pair Weston already has are some of our favorite jammies. 

9. Wooden Push Toy: Whenever we can support handmade and small shops, let's do it! How adorable are these wooden animal push toys?! 

10. Easter Egg ChalkMy mom gave us these for Easter it's one of my core memories! (These and Jello eggs haha - anyone remember those? :) 

11. BlocksMelissa and Doug always does it right! Weston has these and they're just his favorite thing right now. 

Here are some sweet Christian books that Weston loves or that I thought looked good that encourage and focus on the heart of what Easter is all about: 

Some other Easter gifts I found that would be so cute: 


What are you putting in your kiddos baskets? What are your favorite childhood memories of Easter?  









Friday's Fab List

Happy Friday, Sisters! 

I wish we were on a coffee date today, I'd probably tell you about all these fun, random, current favs of mine ;) 

1. Rose Gold Mules

I spotted these on Target's website last week and couldn't help but order them! When they arrived at our doorstep the other day and I opened up the box, I was surprised at just how rose-gold they are. I shared them on my Instagram Stories and asked you guys what you thought -- lots of you said "Keep them!!" and so, I am!  (They're under $25, too.)

Mules: Target 

here are the shoes plus a few similar styles


3. Jade Roller

Okay, so this is random. But, have you heard of Jade Rollers for your skin? I've seen them pop up all over the Internet lately (always a super reliable source of information lol ;) and just had to try one out! From what I've read, they're supposed to naturally improve skin tone, reduce under-eye puffiness, smooth skin, tighten pores, and more! (Read this article for more info.) 


Jade Roller: Amazon 

4. Zoo Day


We spent a happy day this past week with some dear friends at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Weston's first zoo day! He loved spending time with his little friend Gwen and he adored all the animals.  It's always heart-filling to spend time in SB, always known to us as "The Place Where We Fell In Love." 

5. "Royal Hearts" Hallmark Movie

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You know how much I love a good Hallmark movie ;) And this last week's headliner didn't disappoint! It was right up this girl's alley: a gal who grew up on a ranch meets a handsome, tall cowboy and they fall in love at a European castle?! I laughed so hard because I never posted that I was watching it and I got multiple Instagram messages from you sweet girls telling me how much the storyline reminded them of me and Daniel! 

6. Royal Wedding Trip Pinterest Board

Speeeeeaking of royals and castles and love, I'm neck-deep in planning our upcoming springtime Europe trip which starts off with the Royal Wedding and if you want to follow along with planning, come follow my Pinterest board (and I am welcoming any and all tips and travel advice for y'all you are experts on the areas!) 


I am so grateful for each one of you and for how, even though social media is constantly changing (eye roll inserted here...), how we continue to connect and share, regardless. Right now, it's mostly through Instagram messages back and forth, and I love that!

So tell me, friends -- what are your Friday favorites this week? I love swapping tips and tricks. It's just what we women do! 




Graceful Women: "My Love, My Valentine" by Jen Farlow (Part Two)

I am absolutely honored and moved to share this week's Graceful Women Series with you today, friends. The precious writer is an amazing woman you just must know and follow. Her story and love story is truly one of the most poignant stories I've ever heard in all my life and it's one of two stories (in all my years) that I've been impacted by so powerfully -- her love story is one of the most beautiful of all time and her heart for her darling love Nathan, her daughter, and her Hope is absolutely breathtaking. Today I'm sharing Part Two of beautiful Jen Farlow's story and heartfelt writing. I know her words will stir and touch your heart as it has so powerfully in mine. Please take a moment to follow this precious mama (her links are below!), she is truly the embodiment of a strong, beautiful, graceful woman. 

Read Part One, HERE




I had seen it coming. Whenever Nathan came home late or forgot to call my mind would immediately conjure up visions of him wrecked on the side of the road. I vividly imagined him in a hospital bed, the phone calls I would make to our family…but the images always ended there. Of course he would survive. The alternative was unthinkable. So vivid was my imagination that on one occasion when he got stuck in a meeting and missed a dinner with friends I panicked and called them to help me go look for him. We were on our way to retrace his route to work before he finally called. On our fourth wedding anniversary just three months earlier I had written in my journal: I start crying whenever I imagine something happening to Nate…I know I could never live without him. 

That knock on the door stops my heart, but it also feels like déjà vu. I try to convince myself that it’s just a neighbor wanting to borrow something. My body knows better. I’m unsteady as I gather Elissa and stumble to the door. The cloudy glass pane in the door reflects a distorted cop car parked in the street. My heart thumps loudly in my ears. 

I hold Elissa tighter as I open the door to a lone cop standing stiffly on the porch. “I’m here for the family of Nathan Farlow,” he says, gruff. 

“I’m his wife,” I falter, juggling Elissa. 

He surveys the two of us – bedraggled, sleep-heavy mother and tiny newborn. “No other family? You’re all alone?” I sense his heart sinking. “You’d better sit down…” 

“What happened to him?” I force out the words as I totter to the couch. But even before I ask, I know. And I’m terrified that I’ll have to get into that cop car, and go somewhere to identify him, and come face to face with a dead man who is no longer my husband. 

The officer shifts uncomfortably in the doorway. I balance on the edge of the couch, grip the arm with white knuckles. “What…happened to him…”

He refuses to make eye contact. “Your husband was involved in a serious auto accident. He didn’t make it.” 

Everything in me screams disbelief. “Oh my God…” It is a strangled, pleading sob, begging that this not be true. And yet in my core I know it is. And so begins the awful paradox of denial coupled with the gut acceptance of reality. I feel detached, robotic, as if I’m watching someone else’s life implode. From far away I make out the officer’s intonation: “He didn’t suffer…killed instantly…hit head on by another driver…she reeked of alcohol.” I reel. “He was wearing his seatbelt…did nothing wrong…my condolences.” He’s delivered his message of doom and seems ready to leave. I panic; suddenly I want to grab hold of his uniform and be dragged away with him – far away from this house, this nightmare. 

“What am I supposed to do now?” I’m begging, desperate. How can he decimate me and then leave me to pick up the pieces? 

He takes another look at us – mother gasping for air, infant mewling for food. “Is there someone you can call? I’m not going to leave you alone like this.” 

My mind spins crazily, running through the options – I’m irrational, over-concerned: I can’t call Eric and Katrina; they’re at church. I can’t call family; they’re 1,000 miles away. It’s pointless. There’s nothing anyone can do. 

The officer is insistent: he won’t leave until someone is here with me. I finally dial the only name that sticks in my head; my next-door neighbor, Jill. She’s there within minutes; we hold each other and cry, Elissa pressed tightly between us. The officer, relieved of his burden, scrawls a number on a piece of paper. “Here’s the medical examiner’s number – you can call him in about thirty minutes.” And just like that, he’s gone. Another Sunday morning, another unpleasant aspect of the job. He closes the door and my life is in shambles. 

The rest of that awful day is a blur of phone calls, each more agonizing than the last as I am forced to plunge the dagger over and over into the hearts of family and friends whose lives are now changed forever. Shock makes me level-headed and meticulous, and by the time I fall into bed, drenching Nathan’s pillow with tears, plans are made and our things are packed to go straight home to Maryland. I am mechanical, following the blueprint I’d subconsciously constructed in the back recesses of my imagination. If anything ever happens to Nathan I cannot stay here. I will go home immediately. There is nothing for me in Texas without him

Early the next morning we are on our way to the airport, the rain on the window mirroring the endless silent tears streaming down my cheeks. Laura Story’s voice comes soft over the radio, and her words bring anything but comfort.


What if Your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?


Racked with grief and desperate for answers, the words “blessing” and “mercy” are like shards of ice scraped across my shattered heart. 





It has been almost three and a half years since my perfect Nathan was killed. I have floundered in an ocean of grief: terrifying, paralyzing, utterly unfamiliar. For a long time anger and disappointment with God kept me from running to Him for comfort and security. I was adrift in doubt, numb with anger, dead inside without my love. In the first months after losing Nathan, my father-in-law gave me Jerry Sittser’s A Grace Disguised. Though I had trouble reading and internalizing anything helpful, these words stuck with me and have come to define my grieving process: “The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.” For three long years I have plumbed the darkness, owning every devastating aspect of my loss, with the conviction that the path to healing leads straight through the valley – not around it. 

The best way I can describe my journey from despair to renewed life and hope is in the following letter I wrote to a hypothetical friend about to embark on the grieving process. If you or someone you know is in the throes of sudden loss, I pray these words will be a ray of hope for the days ahead. You will make it. You are stronger than you ever dreamed. And when all strength fails, there remains One who will lift you in His arms and carry you close to His heart…

Dear friend. There’s not much I can say to prepare you for grief, because it will hit you like a hurricane. Suddenly the impossible happens to you; your worst nightmare comes true and you are left writhing in anguish, in disbelief. Oh God…this cannot be true. How is this happening?? You will alternate between frenzied emotion, gut-wrenching sobs, panic, and numbness. You will feel like the walking dead – existing day by day somehow, but unable to make sense of anything. All your hopes and dreams for the future died with that person who was everything to you. It is all so wrong; no one can say or do anything to make it better, but plenty to make it worse. 

You retreat into your shell because there is no safe place for the rawness of your open wounds. After all, you have lost your harbor – your home. “Run to God,” they say, trying to encourage. But He – once so close and intimate – feels the most dangerous of all. How can you trust the One who inflicted this near-fatal wound, who ordained the loss of the one you loved more than life? You will feel a loss of commonality with all those who take refuge in their faith. Your own faith, which you once thought impermeable, has shattered. You avoid other Christians because you can quote all the verses and truths they will paste over your suffering. You don’t need platitudes – you need a way to connect what you once knew to be true with all that has happened to you. 

You go underground, and for as long as it takes you chip away at the layers of this loss. Grief, in its truest form, is a reckoning with every memory – every moment in time, every smile, every kiss, every habit and idiosyncrasy of daily life, every shared dream for the future. It is a farewell, an admittance that you alone are left to shoulder these memories, carrying them with you for the rest of your life.  

For a long time – months, maybe years – you teeter on the brink of total despair. You want to give up. You are so very tired of breathing, of waking up yet again to face another faceless day. But you are propelled forward, by the relentless passage of time and the resiliency of the human spirit. And one day you look back, with no recollection of the past hour, week, month, and a distinct sense that you have been carried. That when you wanted to give up, He has not given up on you. The tenets of your deconstructed faith begin to rearrange themselves into a new belief that now encompasses the worst that can happen. 

You slowly, tentatively, poke your head out of the underground. The sun washes over your face. The sounds and smells of spring breathe new life into your reviving soul. You realize with a start that you are beginning to anticipate life again. Day by day you are looking ahead more than behind. You find fresh comfort in walking alongside those who have been plunged without warning into the community of suffering. And you realize, as you lift your head and embark anew on this journey of life, that there is immense purpose in what you have lost and in how you now live. The One who has brought you to the valley has brought you through it, and will lead you on to that glorious eternal reunion. 


Connect with the Writer: 

Jen Farlow






My Trader Joe's Favorites

* First off, this is not an ad --  It's simply the ramblings of a Trader Joe's-obsessed mama. Carry on :) 

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My Current Trader Joe's Favorites: 

1. Inner Peas: Weston adores these! They're made from whole green peas, they're crunchy and a little salty, and just plain yummy. Perfect for the whole family, including toddlers! They're around $1.50 per bag, and I pick up a bag per week and put them in little Tupperware containers for snack time. 

2. Chocolates: Mostly organic, Trader's carries bars of chocolates that are delectable! I always stock up on these for stocking stuffers at Christmastime and fun additions to gift bags for friends and family. The "Birthday Cake" chocolate bar is famous in it's own rite. 

3. Organic Coconut Oil: One of my top 5 favorite products of all time. I use it for cooking, for hair care, skin care, baby care, etc. I have one container upstairs in my bathroom area, one downstairs in the pantry, and I also buy the little packets Trader's sells for all our travels. Invaluable in every way! 

4. Salsa: Under $2, this salsa is great to have on hand. I pick one up weekly and use it for chips and salsa, to sprinkle over nachos, chili, enchiladas, tacos, homemade quesedillas (a favorite lunch of Weston's!) etc. We basically live off Mexican food, so it's never wasted ;) 

5. Cereal Bars: My little one's current favorite breakfast food. He adores these and won't eat any other brand name cereal bar. 

6. Fruit Sauce Crushers: Another toddler favorite around here! They offer a variety of yummy flavors and little ones adore these. They are a great value for a pack! I don't eat them now, but when I was pregnant with Weston, I craved these and had one pack daily. 

7. White Tortilla Chips: These chips really will make you feel like you're in your favorite Mexican restaurant! They have a hint of limey salt and we adore these, especially because they hold up really well for dipping guac!

8. Sriracha Hummus: Literally uhhhhmazing! A Lebanese blogger I follow says she is extremely picky about hummus but her favorite is Trader Joe's brand. We always buy a regular one each week (they're under $3) and sometimes I'll add this one in, too... the taste really pops and it is a mouth-watering version of the favorite flavor that Sriracha is! 

9. Dark Chocolate Covered Honey Grahams: These are Daniel's absolute favorite treat! He's got a bit of a sweet tooth and he munches on these after every dinner. The sea salt on top brings out the chocolate flavor beautifully, and gives these a little gourmet flair! 


10. Spindrift Sparkling Water: Yummiest sparkling water that actually can substitute for sugary soda, with no added sugar/ingredients involved! Raspberry Lime is my go-to flavor.

11. Shaved Brussels Sprouts: I just love these!! I just recently noticed them in the Trader's produce section and they're brilliant -- pre-washed, pre-cut, and so yummy -- I love adding these to a salad or frying them up in some olive oil/garlic/salt/pepper a super easy side dish with dinner! 

12. Almond Butter Granola: My boys love love love this stuff. I'm not a granola fan, but they devour this (and the TJ's Peanut Butter version too) like it's the best thing on earth! And funnily enough, every single time we have an out of town friend/family member visit, they adore it too, and want to go to TJ's to grab their own bag to take home! Perfect atop smoothie bowls and yogurt.

13. Greek Coconut Cream Yogurt: Daniels' favorite! He says it "tastes just like a tropical island and sunscreen" ;) haha -- sounds good to me! 

14. Frozen Rice: The organic and brown rice version are both staples for us. So easy -- the rice comes frozen in packages (perfect for serving 2 people and a toddler), cooks in 3 minutes in the microwave, and turns out beautifully. I love to service it alongside baked lemon salmon and a vegetable. We use this several times per week! Gotta make life as easy as possible, especially when you're a mom. 

15. Country Italian Salad: I don't get these often, but they're perfect for beach days, picnics, work days (when I had an office job as a single gal, this was a constant lunch for me!) 

16. Goddess Dressing: I discovered this through a dorm-mate in college and have loved it since. Decadent and unique! 

17. Prosecco: These are so fun, especially for summer! The perfect entertaining drink to serve at a summertime BBQ. I love the fun, fruity flavors! 

18. Blue Cheese Dressing: I pick this up every now and then (especially in the summertime) and it's perfect for salads, burgers, etc. 


I have so many more favorites, so I think this will be a continual series! 

What are your TJ favs?

Graceful Women: "My Love, My Valentine" by Jen Farlow (Part One)

I am absolutely honored and moved to share this week's Graceful Women Series with you this Valentine's Day, friends. The precious writer is an amazing woman you just must know and follow. Her story and love story is truly one of the most poignant stories I've ever heard in all my life and it's one of two stories (in all my years) that I've been impacted by so powerfully -- her love story is one of the most beautiful of all time and her heart for her darling love Nathan, her daughter, and her Hope is absolutely breathtaking. Today I'm sharing Part One of beautiful Jen Farlow's story and heartfelt writing. I know her words will stir and touch your heart as it has so powerfully in mine. Please take a moment to follow this precious mama (her links are below!), she is truly the embodiment of a strong, beautiful, graceful woman. 


My Love, My Valentine

by Jen Farlow


Even if the sun refused to shine

Even if romance ran out of rhyme

You would still have my heart

Until the end of time.

- Jim Brickman –


Every girl dreams of finding her Prince Charming, and I was certainly no exception. My earliest childhood recollections are steeped in hopes and dreams of finding The One. Would it be a chance encounter, a deep soul knowledge the moment our eyes met? Or would we be childhood best friends, drifting softly into an unlikely romance? Would he be handsome, dashing, dangerous, ordinary? A rebel? The boy next door? My imaginings ran wild – evidenced even at five years old when I wrote in my first diary with huge, sprawling letters: “When I grow up, I want to marry *insert name of my first crush* and live on a farm with six dogs, three horses, and four cats.”

As I got older I fell for various boys with increasing intensity. I read dozens of novels and roamed our secluded back yard for hours, spinning elaborate castles in the air filled with children and pets, captained by whoever I was enamored with at the time. Mercifully, none of the boys in question ever knew how hard I fell for them and how devastated I was when they didn’t appear to notice or return my interest. My one-sided love affairs were harmless enough, and as I got ready to graduate high school they were replaced by dreams of an illustrious journalism career. My air castles were traded in for dreams of traveling the world as a daring war correspondent, dodging bombs and air raids and perhaps falling in love with a wounded soldier after I’d pocketed a Pulitzer.

What I hadn’t counted on was that my very own Prince Charming would show up at my front door on Valentine’s Day 2006. I was seventeen and hosting a houseful of fellow students at our weekly youth group meeting, and bounded to open the door when the doorbell rang for the dozenth time. A visiting Baptist preacher from North Carolina stood on the porch with his two tall sons and wide-eyed daughter. I locked eyes with the older son, and my breath caught. Nathan Farlow was dark-haired and Southern, with eyes like the sea, a perpetual tan and the lithe body of an all-American athlete. He wore the widest and whitest smile I’d ever seen, and it seemed to never leave his face – his personal invitation to the whole world to stop a minute and get to know him. We quickly discovered our shared loved for country music, and spent most of that spring on the phone for hours – discussing school projects, driving tests, college applications, faith, politics, and our dreams for the future. We were sworn best friends and nothing more, but my visions of a Pulitzer threatened to be replaced by dreams of becoming Mrs. Nathan Farlow one day. With each conversation my conviction deepened that he was everything on my list of future husband qualities, plus so much more I’d never thought to add.


When Nathan skipped a family wedding to attend my high school graduation, adrenaline pumped thick and hot through my veins. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was about to turn into something real – something I’d waited for my whole life. Late that night, as the last party guests left for home, Nathan and my dad disappeared for a mysterious conversation. Dad gave him permission to express his feelings for me, and Nathan – knowing full well that we were each leaving for four years at our respective colleges – asked me to be his girlfriend. Before we’d ever met we had each pledged not to casually date around, but to save ourselves for a relationship that could potentially lead to marriage. The very commitment to a long-distance courtship felt almost as weighty as an engagement.


Within mere months of officially dating we were convinced that we could never marry anyone else, and the four years stretching ahead of us seemed an eternity to wait. But, like Jacob, so blinded by his love for Rachel that the seven years he worked for her felt like mere days, we would have waited forever for each other. Because we’d committed to physical purity before marriage, we paced our physical intimacy as slowly as we possibly could. We waited one year to hold hands, two years to say I love you, three years – and engagement! – to kiss. Some may have called us prudish, or sexually stifled. Quite the contrary. Our physical boundaries gave us ample time to deepen our friendship, an unshakeable foundation for a healthy relationship that did not ebb and flow with mere physical connection and attraction. We were soulmates, best friends, and kindred spirits, and our physical boundaries, though frustrating, were a blessing that kept us from compromising in areas that we would one day regret. Each stage of physical intimacy was indescribably beautiful and fulfilling, because we had waited and, as Solomon urged, “not awakened love before its time.”


Nathan, my prince, my knight in shining armor, married me on June 20, 2010. I walked down the aisle towards that dazzling smile in a puddle of relieved tears. All those girlish dreams and imaginings had led me on a pathway straight to him…only him. There could never be anyone else. He was the perfect fulfillment of each and every one of my longings, handcrafted by a loving God just for me, and I for him. We said “I do,” and our kiss was one of almost ethereal bliss. We were finally, at long last, home.


I do not exaggerate when I say that the following four years of marriage were a taste of heaven on earth. The long years of loving, learning, fighting, and waiting for each other had primed us for a fairytale marriage. It was such an indescribable relief to wake up together, knowing that we would never have to say goodbye again. I kept waiting for the difficulty of marriage to hit. Everyone always cautioned about “when the honeymoon ended.” For me, it never did. Even going to the bank or the gas station was a thrill because it meant I got to be with him. Every day with him was the new best day of my life. I couldn’t imagine it ever getting better. The only thing that marred my perfect happiness was a nagging twinge of foreboding that it was too good. This level of perfection seemed unattainable for the long run. Would something happen somewhere along the way to mess it all up?



On October 5, 2014, I am nursing our three-week-old daughter, Elissa Rose, in our bed. It is early morning, and I’d woken up to a text that Nathan had sent several hours before that he had finished night shift at work and was heading home early. I’m in a fog of sleepless new-motherhood, but something does not feel right. He should have been home long before now. I rationalize. Maybe he stopped on an errand, got stuck in traffic. (At 5 a.m. on a Sunday?) He’s fine, I assure myself. If something had happened there would be someone at my door.

And the instant the thought crosses my mind, there is a loud knock at the front door.

Stay Tuned for Part Two, Next Wednesday

Connect with the Writer: 

Jen Farlow






Life Lately

Some sweet moments from our life lately, I'm grateful for this life and my little family.

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Happy Valentine things sprinkled around the house.


My sweet, sweet boy baby growing into an adventurous, spunky toddler.


Wonderful Disney day with out of dear town family.


And showing loved ones one of our favorite spots in the world, Laguna Beach.

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Days at home with my boys. The best.

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 photo by Ally Michele

photo by Ally Michele

They are my everything.

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Graceful Women: Waiting

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I'm excited to start this new series today, my friends! 

If you've followed me for a while now, you'll recall that I began a special project about a year and a half ago: Graceful Magazine; a dream (since girlhood) in my heart -- to create, edit, and publish a magazine for women, to inspire them to live abundantly in grace. I announced the project and it was met with so much excitement and encouragement from you ladies, and some of the best, brightest, most incredible women I know created wonderful content for the magazine. And I began working to put it all together. I received so many emails of submissions. The magazine's heart was beautiful and full of inspiration and art, of all kinds. And yet, because of the season I found myself in -- new and beautiful mamahood, as well as journeying knee-deep through some personal struggles with anxiety and some postpartum physical and emotional issues, I knew it was right and best for me to set the magazine aside and focus fully on my sweet baby and husband, and getting healthy, as well as some other responsibilities. Knowing my heart and calling, acknowledging my season, staying in my lane... it was right to set it aside, despite some disappointment (from myself and others) as I set it aside. Hopefully, some day, Graceful Magazine will come to fruition (in print or online) but until that day comes, my heart is moved to start this series that reflects and is an "heart" of Graceful, a piece online that will shed light and breathe life into the lives of you ladies and give a platform and voice to you wise, wonderful women as we share all kinds of creativity, stories, brokenness, redemption, and lots of topics.

My hope is that this weekly (and depending on scheduling, sometimes bi-weekly) series will hold richness, and be a life-giving place that breeds wholeness, healing, community, honest sharing, vulnerable story telling, and joy to bloom and blossom here in this little space. I will be posting some of the content I'd gathered for Issue One, starting with this wonderful piece from a precious longtime "blog friend" of mine, Nadine! 

I will be taking submissions for content soon so keep an eye open for information on that, I would love to feature your beautiful hearts! 


By Nadine Schroeder

The scriptures are filled with people who were given a word by God. Usually the word included them putting their faith in what God was telling them to do and living it out without knowing specific details. Like a watchman waiting for the morning (Psalm 130:6), keeping their eyes on the horizon for the promise, trusting that at the right time God would bring to fruition what He had said He would do, they would faithfully stay in the spot He had told them to stand.

What word has God spoken over you? Where has God told you to stand until it comes to fruition?

Noah has one of those stories: he was told a word, did what God said, and then waited patiently on the Lord. See Genesis 6-9 for the whole story.

After the forty-day flood, Noah did not immediately seek to leave the boat. He and his people (and all the animals) sat on the boat for another 150 days, waiting for the waters to subside. 190 days after hopping on the boat, Noah opened a window to check if it was time to leave. He sent out a raven (it came back), and then the next day he sent out a dove (it came back), and then he waited. Seven days later, he sent the dove out again and when she came back with an olive leaf proving that the waters had subsided. Noah then waited another seven days, sent the dove out again and she didn’t come back.

Let’s latch onto that glorious detail: After peace had been brought to him, Noah waited even longer. He waited not simply for the rain to stop, the boat to settle, or the waters to subside. He waited even longer. The dove and the olive leaf are both symbol of peaces. The dove brought a sign of peace to Noah and then eventually flew away and did not return, showing Noah that peace was available away from the boat. Finally, the promise of safety had come to fruition.

God had told Noah specifically that there would be rain for 40 days. Noah didn’t know the specifics of the 150 plus days. He knew that God would protect his family and all the animals but he did not know when things would come to pass.

Noah waited upon the Lord until it was the right time. But how did he know? He knew because he was a righteous man who walked with God (Genesis 6:9). Noah constantly communicated with God, so it is of no surprise that he knew when to leave the boat.

We see this in the life of Christ as well. Jesus knew what to do and when to do it because He was in constant communication with His Father.

Friends. We can know what to do and when to do it not because we are super smart or extra spiritual, but because we have a God whose word is true. Jesus has given us access to God.

Even if we do not know the times and places in which God will do things, we hope in the unseen, with a hope that will one day find its factuality in the Lord when we meet Him.

What are you waiting on? What has God has spoken to you? Have you lost the faith because the timeline you expected is looking different? Today, ask the Lord for fresh belief in the fact that no word that He has said will ever fail (Luke 1). 

Ask the Lord for a sign of peace at the proper time; I believe God will speak to you. Be strong and take courage. Wait for the Lord! 


About the Writer: 

Nadine Schroeder studies English Literature in Montreal, Canada. Passionate about the freedom Jesus offers, she loves to look gals in the eye and remind them of who God has called them to be. She has written for Off The PageiBelieveShe Reads Truth, and Focus Famille. You can follow her @nadinewouldsay and read her personal writing at nadinewouldsay.com.





Real Life Style Diaries

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"If you like it, wear it." 

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Jeans: Old Navy  | Henley Top: Old Navy 

Hat: Nordstrom | Earrings: Nordstrom 

Shoes: Converse 


When I asked in a poll on Instagram the other day what you all wanted to see more of, so many of you said, "Real life style!" As a stay at home mama who works part-time from home, as well, I wear many different hats and in this season of life need to be comfy most of the time! And one of the things I've learned being a new mom these last 19 months is that when I take the time to do my hair, put on some makeup, do some self-care, and am wearing a practical-for-the-day outfit that is polished, I not only feel more confident and ready to give, love and work, but I act more put-together too. (And maybe that's just me and your rhythm and routine is totally different!) So, here's one of my real-life outfits that I recently put together and it's truly comfortable and cute! I wore it a few days ago to my Mama's Group and snapped some photos. I'd heard from about half a dozen girlfriends that they love the Old Navy Rockstar Jeans so I scooped up a pair, and they are super comfy and almost feel like yoga pants. 

 This look is fun and simple, and I hope it gives you some inspo for your real-life, go-to looks! 

Self Care and Healing: Tips and Inspiration

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 If I were to be completely honest and vulnerable with you, my dear reader, I would tell you that, for most of 2017, I personally struggled in my heart and mind as I walked through a valley season. In life, there are mountain tops and there are valleys. And we all walk through those valley seasons; seasons of depression, of anxiety, perhaps. Seasons triggered by loss or full of grief. Seasons of flashbacks and painful memories. We are not weak in this, friend. We are simply real.

Maybe you are a new mama and you're battling a Postpartum Disorder, maybe you're a 20-something single gal who struggles with anxiety, maybe you're a woman who is dealing with the loss of a parent or best friend, a spouse or a child... and your heart is aching. Maybe you're going through a health crisis, and trudging through each day is pain itself. Perhaps your heart is reeling after a break up and losing the one you loved... all your dreams are dashed. Maybe you've suffered a miscarriage or infertility, or the loss of someone treasured, and the grief is absolutely suffocating. Perhaps you're journeying through a season of heartache that no one knows about or understands. Daniel and I have both experienced seasons of depression and anxiety in our lives. And we've also seen God's hand of healing.... how He takes the broken and makes it beautiful. How He sheds light where there is darkness. Where He takes back "the years that the enemy has stolen." Where He redeems and calls up and out. And though, I cannot imagine your pain, I cannot pretend to know the valleys you have and are walking through (valleys cannot be compared, of course... they are all unique and our pain is all real), I do know you are dear and precious, and you deserve to walk through this with support of all kinds. And maybe, you aren't in a "desert" season at all! Perhaps you've just been giving, giving, giving, and know you need to slow down, take some time to recharge, and pour back into your "cup" - focusing in on some self-care this new year as you continue to love and serve those around you. 

In the past months, I've noticed my own aching heart heal... slowly but surely... coming up and out of a valley season; it's a joy, a breath of fresh air, a gift. I hope that if you are in a heartache-season, that you are helped by your people: maybe by professional counselors and doctors and people at your church or in your support system who are equipped to help, maybe by your husband or your bestie, your parents or your family, your coworkers, your group of girlfriends, or your neighbor. Aside from the "bigger" ways of getting help (because we cannot walk it alone) I know from experience that the small things help, too. So here is my little list of some super practical things I have found to be tiny but powerful catalysts of healing. Adding some of these into my daily rhythms has been part of the reason I've found myself entering into a new season this year, and I hope with all my heart that passing them along to you will be helpful, too! (And these are things that have been helpful to me; your list may look much different! But, I hope my list inspires you to think of creative ways to care for yourself and to be purposeful in making space and time to heal and care for your heart, mind, soul and body.) 

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  • Get Some Sunshine

I can't even tell you how helpful sunshine has been to my soul! We all remember learning about how our bodies are designed to react to the sun's UV-B rays when our skin is exposed to sunlight, producing the Vitamin D we need. I've read that when we are exposed to sunshine, endorphins are released in our bodies, as well, which makes us feel happier! I know some of you live in areas where sunshine is scarce at certain times of the year, but getting out in it whenever we can and soaking some up is so vital to our physical and emotional health. 

  • Tell Your Story

"The strength of vulnerability:

never underestimate the bravery it takes to

let the words fall from your mouth like tears."

- April Green

When you are ready, and how you choose... tell your story. Speak it out. Tell it to one person. Start a blog and just start writing. You don't have to divulge every single personal detail, but if you feel ready, telling your story to others can be cathartic. There is power in truth-telling, in sharing, and in finding you're not "the only one." 

  • Buy Yourself Flowers

Even if it feels frivolous or silly! Buying a bouquet of fresh roses for no reason and placing them on your bedside table just might make you smile. And if you want to just spend a few dollars, buy a simple bundle of eucalyptus at Trader Joe's or just go out into your yard and find some greenery to put in a vase. Bringing the outdoors inside is life-giving. 

  • Try Using Essential Oils

I've used a handful of essential oils since the year we got married and have found them to be super helpful! There's nothing like diffusing a relaxing oil in your home or making little roller bottles full of your favorites. I especially love lavender, lemon, frankincense and blends like Joy and Grounding. (I've been gifted lots of oils through blogging, was given some from my medical professionals during pregnancy and labor. I also have lots of girlfriends who sell oils.) Do your research when it comes to essential oils and find someone knowledgeable who can help you learn how to use them properly. I truly do believe oils can help support us emotionally as well as physically. (If you want to learn more about essential oils from someone I personally trust, talk to my dear friend Lisa

  • Write

"Write hard and clear about what hurts." 

- Ernest Hemingway


"Just write.

   Until it stops hurting."

 April Green

Buy a journal or a notebook. Take pen to paper or simply open up your iPhone's notes and start typing. Pour out your thoughts on paper. (Here's a list of some helpful prompts.) Journaling and writing has been a life-long "therapy" of mine. I started my first journal at age seven and have dozens of journals from that age until today, stored in boxes and a shelf at my parent's home. I truly notice that in seasons I'm too busy to journal and write or just too distracted/tired/lazy to prioritize it, my mind is less clear and my heart is heavier. For me, "dumping" all my unfiltered thoughts and feelings onto paper is extremely helpful in accurately seeing the truth of a situation, "venting" in a safe and not-harmful way - as opposed to sharing those unfiltered thoughts with someone else and potentially creating more issues (of course, sharing unfiltered thoughts with a "safe person" - a best friend, spouse, parent, etc who knows you and your season well can be helpful, too.) If writing overwhelms you and doesn't come naturally, writing lists can be helpful, too (here's a list of prompts when life gets overwhelming.) 

Start a blog or just write heartfelt Instagram captions, create lovely poems out of your heartache, or pour out your heart onto paper. Writing heals. 

"Journal. Put your thoughts into words and remind yourself often of all the wonderful things God has already done and just how far you've come. Keep writing. Keep giving. Keep loving. Keep serving. There will be days where you are tired, and you may feel as if your very feet will give out beneath you, but your God will be with you. He will always sustain you. By His Spirit, He will strengthen you to keep breathing and keep going."

- Morgan Harper Nichols

  • Drink Bone Broth

For years, a cup of chicken soup or a bowl of broth has been the go-to comfort food that comes to mind when we are sick, right? Something about a hot, delicious bowl of broth just makes you feel better and reminds you of Grandma. And when that cup is full of bone broth, there are also tons of health benefits! Read about them here and here is a recipe for bone broth. And if it's too overwhelming to make it homemade, buy it here. (And, I've never tried these but have heard from a few friends that they love these quick Keurig-style cups.) 

  • Take A Hot Bath

I'm a bath person. I take a hot bath at least 4-5 times a week. It's just my "thing." I truly believe water is healing! Add epsom salts (I always use this one) and essential oils and an epsom salt bubble bath (I use this one - epsom salts are full of health benefits, including eliminating toxins from the body, and easing stress.) And if you don't have a bath tub, just buy this foot bath (when we lived in our teeny first apartment, we couldn't take baths so Daniel bought me a foot bath and I loved the spa-relaxation feeling of it!) 

  •  Make Your Bedroom and Bathroom Spa-Like

Create peace and calm in the spaces you spend self-care time in. A few months ago, I bought plastic bins and labeled them and organized all my bathroom essentials, tossing the old and rarely used items and categorizing the rest (make-up, nail polish, bath items, baby washcloths and soap and bath toys, beauty magazines, candles, hair care, lotions, etc.) I untangled and organized all my jewelry. The other day, I bought a bouquet of eucalyptus at Trader Joe's and hung it in our shower (when the shower is all steamy, the eucalyptus has a spa-like relaxing smell. Saw the idea on Pinterest!) I found little candle holders in the Target Dollar Section and lined them up in the window sill, placing small flameless candles inside. I bought a few little shelves at Hobby Lobby and placed sprigs of lavender in tiny vases on them. Set up a diffuser so that a relaxing scent fills the room as you unwind. I light candles and place books or magazines in the bath area. Get a fluffy cozy robe and slippers. Buy a super soft bath mat. These little touches can make all the difference, encourage you to want to be in the room, and make life a bit more peaceful and can help your mind feel a lot less cluttered, creating space for your heart to heal. 

  • Allow Yourself To Feel

"Healing comes in waves and maybe today the wave hits the rocks

and that's okay, that's okay, darling. 

You are still healing, you are still healing." 

Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Admit it, look the truth dead in the eyes, cry it out, face it, feel it, accept it. 

  • Push Yourself To Move Forward

"The day will be what you make it, so rise, like the sun, and burn." 

- William C. Hannan

Feel what you feel and go deep in it, but do not stay there. Do not allow your heart to wallow. Get out of bed, open the windows, go for a run, make a new recipe, sign up for the gym, show up at church even if you don't feel like it. Speak to your heart and your emotions.

  via Angi Greene

via Angi Greene

  • Eat Whole and Healthy Foods

We all know I'm a taco-eating and coffee-drinking gal who enjoys a fast-food run now and again ;) But, I cook very clean for my family and mostly eat whole, healthy foods and try to buy organic when I can. Making myself a big, leafy green salad full of veggies for lunch when my little one goes down for a nap is one of my self-care practices and I can't tell you how energized it makes me feel mid-day! 

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  • Drink Probiotics

Probiotics have been found to be full of so many benefits and it can't hurt to add them to your diet and routine (be sure to check with your medical professional if you are pregnant/nursing)! I enjoy drinking Kombucha (Daniel and I enjoy this flavor.) I also love this sparkling probiotic drink by Kevita (the drink isn't available to purchase at that link, but just linking to show you the brand and look of it :) Kefir is another one of my favorite probiotic drinks -- I always pick one up at Trader Joe's (my favorite flavor is the strawberry!)

  • Create Again

Think back to your childhood, to your teenage-hood, to that time in your life a few years ago when you felt like "you".... what were your creative outlets and hobbies? What excites you? What do you gravitate toward? For me, it's music, #1. Music is my heartbeat. When I sit and play keyboard and sing a melody, my heart soars and heals. A few other creative passions of mine are crafting (I always loved to scrapbook, make DIY things like cards and fun projects - here's my DIY Pinterest board for some inspo!) I also love being in the kitchen and cooking. Food is life-giving (for obvious reasons) but I also think that creating meals and food for your body and the ones you love is a life-giving practice, too. Gathering around the table and enjoying a handmade meal is a sacred, precious practice and I personally have found much healing in it this past year. Standing and stirring over a simmering pot of goodness, sautéing a fragrant medley of herbs and vegetables, spices bursting with flavor, salty butter smothered on warm bread, a fresh block of parmesan cheese, grated onto a big beautiful bowl of pasta covered in homemade Alfredo sauce. It's healing. When I am anxious or down, I've noticed throughout my life, that my appetite wanes. When I am happy and feel free, I'm starving. Creating wonderful food is a therapeutic, hands-on practice that feeds not only the body but the soul. 

  • Stretch and Breathe

I use this video to stretch and relax. (It's an older video but I have always liked Denise Austin's workouts and these moves and poses work for me. There are tons of stretching/Yoga videos on YouTube so look around and find your favorite!) Taking a moment to breathe and ground yourself can do wonders to help your mindset. I often listen to worship music or pray as I stretch and work out, as well, focusing my mind on the Lord and His truth and goodness. 

  • Ask For Help

Whether that means calling your best friend and asking her to simply come over and sip tea with you, or asking for "carry out" in the grocery store check out line (I do this often, especially with a baby!),  or asking someone to watch your littles so you can rest for an afternoon. We cannot go it alone.

  • Drink Lemon Water Each Morning

Read all about the benefits here

  • Say No

You don't have to do it all, and you don't have to do what you used to do. Maybe 5 years ago you were able to do _______, but today, you're not. And that's okay. Don't overcommit and overwhelm yourself more. This is a season to take care of yourself, and maybe that means less time doing "all the things." There will be time for that, I promise. Keep on walking but don't jump too far ahead of where you are today

 via Angi Greene

via Angi Greene

  • Dance In The Kitchen

When you start to feel that slump, turn on some dance music. Rock out to some rap. Turn it up loud and dance in the kitchen. Just for a few minutes... even if you would rather lay on the couch. Make yourself move! 

  • Work Out

Even if that means just taking a walk every evening with your baby in the stroller. As I just said, move! As Elle Woods always says, "Exercising gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy...!" ;) I've recently started working out with a trainer at the gym (I shared more about it here) and so far, it's been one of the best things I've done. Our minds and bodies work together - strengthening your body absolutely strengthens your spirit and mind.

  • Worship

“When things fall apart, the broken pieces allow

all sorts of things to enter, and one of them is the presence of God.”

- Shauna Niequist

For me, sitting at the piano and singing songs to Him is a powerful source of healing. Maybe your "worship" time looks different, but sit down and pour out your heart to Him, focusing on His goodness and grace, His character and His heart, praising Him for who He is, enjoying Him. It's life changing.

  • Do A Social Media - and Life Cleanse

Go through your Instagram page and unfollow accounts (who aren't family and friends) whose posts and content don't lift you up. There is oh so much noise flowing into our minds, eyes, and ears, and we must learn to set boundaries to quiet that noise as we hone in and focus on what is truly important. What we see every day as we scroll through our phones does affect us. Be careful about who you allow to influence you, who you spend time with (in "real life" or through a screen) and speak into your life. 

  • Read

There are too many wonderful, life-giving books to count - in all genres and covering all topics, and I'm sure there are many I've never heard of or read so please, share your go-to's! Here are just a few of mine; a couple of gems that have walked beside me during valley seasons in my life, have given me perspective and hope, have opened up let me cry into their pages, and have made me feel less alone.

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- Bloom by Kelle Hampton

- And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick 

- The Music of His Promises by Elisabeth Elliot

- The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd 

- The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith (I don't agree with everything this dear author has written, but she has some poignant insight on grief I found to be very interesting and insightful.) 

  • Don't Compare

This is a hard one for all of us, me included. We are all in different seasons. Maybe she is in her "springtime" season and she's able to cook homemade dinners every night, run a successful business online, and seems to always have her hair and make up done. But maybe last year, you don't know... she could hardly get out of bed in the morning to make her baby's breakfast, maybe last year she was in the middle of dealing with a miscarriage no one knew about, and perhaps this year she's in the "light" and is in a happy, "easy" season. Don't compare your midnight to her morning. Don't compare your beginning to her ending. Cut out what you need to (delete social media apps, etc.) in order to fight this... do not compare. Do not compare. Do not compare. (Preaching to myself, too....) 

  • Talk To God About It

Write it down if you need to. Tell Him all about it. The anger, the fear, the pain, the confusion, the regret and guilt, the hopelessness. Whatever you are feeling, spill it at His feet. He knows, anyway. 

"Tell your mountain about your God."

  • Practice Gratefulness

It seems simple, but I've found that intentionally practicing gratefulness has proven to be game-changing for me! Yes, grieve and work through the feelings and fears, the emotions and the realities, the disappointments and loss; some of them will never be fully healed, not until heaven, and some wounds will heal but the scar remains forever. Yet, replaying the hurt, the moment of loss, the trigger, the things missed out on, the thing we can never change, that choice made that turned everything upside down, that regret, that moment of hurt or pain that sears your soul so deeply you can hardly stand it, that memory that is triggered late at night, that awful moment you cannot stop replaying in your mind... when I've found myself in the thick of the triggers and memories, the trudging through the "mud" of those moments... when I find myself going back ... again and again, in an unhealthy way, I've intentionally trained my mind and heart to look for the good; to turn the painful memory or moment into a positive one. Thinking of the good that came from the pain, or the good that will come; the light at the end of the tunnel, someday. The good things you can remember about the events surrounding the pain: the person who was kind to you, the way you saw the Lord's hand, the broken road that led you to someone or something beautiful. Turn your mind to it. Replace your broken record of hurt with it. It won't wipe away the loss or the grief: oh, no. It is real and legitimate, it was life changing and you won't ever be the same. But, His fingerprints are there... faint, perhaps. But they are; I promise. If you look for them, you will see. 

"Life is brutal. But it's also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it.  Life's brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can't be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty."

- Glennon Doyle Melton

  • Listen To Healing Music: 

If You Want Me To by Ginny Owens

 He Will by Ellie Holcomb

 Healing Is In Your Hand by Terry Jones

 Sing Over Me by Bethany Dillon

Defender by Rita Springer

 Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane

 Shoulders by For King and Country 

 Heal The Wound by Point of Grace 

You Are Still Holy by Rita Springer 

Make You Feel My Love by Adele

Every Season by Nichole Nordeman

The Broken Beautiful by Ellie Holcomb

Any of my wonderful husband's beautiful music :) 


Dear friend, I hope these practical things, from my heart, are helpful to you, wherever you are. And if you're not in the trenches of a valley season, maybe someone you love is, and these things can help you practically love them better. 

Know you are loved, treasured one.

You are a gem. You are created and graced, you are crowned and adored. You have a future and a hope. The darkness will only remain for the night, joy will come in the morning. I promise.

 via Instagram.com/andrearhowey

via Instagram.com/andrearhowey

"Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives;

it's the process that teaches us most about who we are."

- Brene Brown

Farewell, 2017 and Hello, 2018!

As we say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018, I’ve spent moments this weekend reminiscing, recalling, remembering, and just really feeling a whole lot of grateful for the past 12 months of our life. I personally walked through some high highs and some low lows. The start of this year hit my soul deep, in ways and for reasons I have not shared publicly or on the Internet. My heart was in "the thick of it." In the thick of battling some very real struggles and pain that hit deep and hard in tender parts of my soul. The start of 2017 hit me hard, amid all the joy and beauty and goodness…. and, in all the smiley and pretty photos that I posted (choosing to see “the good” is not wrong, and not “posting it all for the world to see” was on my heart) I wrestled with a whole lot and sank, in some ways, under it. And yet, the Lord…. He was there all along. He held me up and walked me through “the valley of the shadow” — through it; not over it or under it or around it. Through it. There were times when I felt like I was drowning. And then, as you do, by grace, I surfaced. 2017 held some of the sweetest blessings and joys — time spent with dear family and people we love, abundant provision and undeserved gifts, prayers prayed 20 years ago and almost forgotten, answered. My word for 2017 was “Redemption.” And in some ways, I can look back and ask, “But, God? What about _____. And ______. And _____?” Those still “unredeemed” things. The still broken things. And He says, “But, look….” And throws His arms wide, revealing all those seemingly small and unnoticed redeemed broken pieces. What a gift. 

Through it all: a health challenge we walked through at the start of the year. Marking our two year wedding anniversary with a blessed trip to Mexico. Celebrating Weston’s first birthday. Precious moments with family, near and far. In my own heart, I look back and see how I “hit the wall” (inwardly) on our wonderful, whirlwind trip through Europe, and how the moment I stepped foot back home, I found I began to heal… the trip broke me and healed me and I’ll always hold the countryside of France, the Swiss alps, and magical Paris at night as some of the dearest, most cherished moments of my life, with my beloved boys.  “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.” — William Cowper.

When I think of 2017 I will always think of these words, written by Billy Jack Brawner III (his story shared with me this year by my sister in law, and used as one of the small threads that stitched my heart back together): 

“Always both/and, in these days: both hope and heartache. 

Both laughter and tears. Both beautiful and broken. 

Both life and death. Both peace and war. 

Both contentment and longing. Both joy and sorrow. 

All held in tension, until the Day." 

 [Billy Jack Brawner III] 

This year, full of goodness. And looking through it, counting the fruit… oh, I am a grateful girl. My heart and hands are full, and I am overwhelmed with the thousands of gifts. 

These pictures shared here are just a few of the thousands of snapshots we took. Just a glimpse into the beauty of 2017. Just a taste of my gratefulness. There were so so many more moments; so many connections, adventures, mountaintop-highs and quiet lows, so many milestones, so many crock pot meals, so many cups of coffee, so many hard conversations; so many words spoken and books flipped through, baths drawn and bananas cut up for a tiny boy, miles driven, airplanes boarded, phone calls made, yes-es said and no’s chosen; toilets cleaned and dishes washed, birthdays celebrated, people missed, beds made, laundry folded, coffee stirred, doctors visits and beach trips. It’s all a gift. And I am grateful for the mundane and the unbelievably exciting, for the brokenness and for the healing. 

So with an overflowing-with-good-and-joy heart and a renewed clarity and peace in my mind, I close the book that was 2017 and place it on the shelf of life. It went too fast, really. And oh how I long to hold onto the coming days, to remember, to write it all down, to feast on the good and learn from the dark. A wise and seasoned mama friend of mine who has walked through more life and motherhood than I told me this year, “Write it down. You will forget. You don't think you will, but you will.” I don’t have a huge laundry list of resolutions for the fresh year, but I want to write again in 2018. To journal. And blog. With vulnerability and faith. To remember and recall His faithfulness in the night and His new mercies every morning. I want to sing and play piano again; to sing over my boys and to worship my King. I want to read more and go deeper, to focus on the “depth over the breadth” — in every little piece of life. Daniel and I are striving to become physically healthy this year, and I’ll share more of that journey (for accountability) probably on Instagram. Most of all, I want to enjoy every moment and drink up the joy and pour it all out on my people, and serve and love without hesitation or condition. 

My on-repeat anthem for 2018 is “He Will” by Ellie Holcomb. Holding onto it.

Only He knows what 2018 holds, but I pray and hope with all my heart it is a good one, a giving one, a grace-filled one. Our family is thrilled to embark on some exciting adventures, work hard, love on our growing boy, work on some brand new projects, take a few trips — including another trip across the pond to chase some dreams! 

Thank you for your presence in our lives, even through a screen. For your kind words and connection. For your messages on Instagram and for listening and being and supporting. For your kindness, prayers, encouragement, and love. Cheers to 2018, my friends.

Let’s make it a growing, gracious, good one!

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Our darling Valentine.


Dates and ordinary nights and at-home days with my man filled up my soul. 


We spent a few days in sunny Palm Springs for Nana's (my sister's) birthday this spring

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And lots of afternoons at our community pool with this little fish!


A few trips to our beloved Santa Barbara for favorite eats.

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Our first just-us trip, to Cabo, Mexico, to celebrate two years of wedding bliss!


And back home to smother our boy in kisses as he turned ONE in June

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We took him to a cozy cabin in June Lake, California, and showed this baby bear the mountains

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Celebrated milestones with family

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And were blessed to visit Mickey lots and lots


Enjoyed our beautiful families


And hugged dear might-as-well-be-family who live too far away


We skipped over to France and Switzerland for the most epic trip of our lives, to celebrate Daniel's 30th birthday. What a joy.


I fell in love with my lifelong crush, the Eiffel Tower


And head over heels with my man and baby boy, all the more.


We made our little townhouse more of a cozy home and I enjoyed cooking more than ever


Spent a few days in the mountains with my family


Daniel released a couple of albums, provided so well for our family, worked incredibly hard, and I could not be more proud of him. 

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So grateful to have had the opportunity to be hired by and work with two of my lifelong favorite brands, Ralph Lauren and L'Occitane. Offers for collabs often show up in my inbox but I turn down 90% of them because my time is so limited (my main heart goal and energy-focus in this season especially is my precious little family... babies don't keep!) but these two collaborations came along and I just adored working with them. One of those "dream come true" moments I dreamed about when I began this little blog

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Flew to Oklahoma in the spring, hosted some of Daniel's precious family here in the early summer, celebrated a sister's wedding in Indiana in the fall, visited Texas for Thanksgiving and spent a few days in Florida to hang out with Westie's cousins! 


photo by: http://imkristenmorris.com/

Abundantly blessed and graced. 

Thank you Lord.

Happy New Year!!! 


Gift Guide: For Babies

Christmas is getting closer!!! I know we are all in the middle of our Christmas prep (and maybe you're already done with your shopping -- woohoo!) but I just loved putting together this fun gift guide with a few items for baby. Weston was 6 months old last Christmas so these are mostly things we gave him -- items we loved and used, and still use. Most of them you can run and pick up at Wal Mart or Target, or order quickly on Amazon Prime (the best way to shop, right?) Hope it's helpful and helps you fill in those gaps you might have in the gift list of the precious little one in your life!

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1. Laugh and Learn Crawl Around Car // My mom gave this to Weston last Christmas (he was 6 months old last Christmas!) and it's still one of Weston's favorite toys. Hours of entertainment! It features songs and words (there are several levels for different stages. This car is for ages 6 months to 36 months.) It's been a favorite toy for us!

2. Activity Gym // Weston had a similar gym and loved it for tummy time! I think this one is so darling. The white, gold, moon and stars? The sweetest! 

3. Duck Tub // We switched from an infant tub to this inflatable duck tub when Weston turned 6 months old -- we gave this one to him for Christmas. It's a perfect transition as your baby begins to sit up and crawl, but isn't quite ready for the tub. It's also great for travel! 

4. Our Favorite Teether // Teething is no joke -- for babies and their parents. Weston had 8 teeth by 1 year old.... so, yeah... I knew about teething that first year! He was such a little trooper. We tried so many teethers, and this was by far his favorite. My grandma picked it out and just knew it would be perfect -- of course she would know. I know I stuffed our little guy's stocking with a couple of these last year!

5. Baby Lit Books // I'm collecting all of these for Weston -- I love that he's already being exposed to classic literature. And the artwork is beautiful! Especially loving that they have "Little Women" and "Anne of Green Gables" (two personal favs of mine) and classics like Huckleberry Finn.  

6. Pots and Pans // When he started crawling, Westie loved playing with all my pots and pans. I wish we'd known about these cute play ones -- I've heard littles love them! Melissa and Doug toys is a favorite brand of mine and it is an investment, usually, so it's a perfect holiday gift splurge.

7. Shaker // I picked up one of these at Wal Mart when our little guy was just a month or two old, and I know it helped him to learn how to grab and hold things. Ideal for your tiny little love's stocking!

8. Elephant Rocker // A most-loved item in our nursery, this rocker is so well made and quality. We got it for Weston last Christmas and it's definitely one of our investment pieces. It's one of those items that will stand the test of time and will pass from baby to baby as the years go on! 

Slow Cooker Buffalo-Ranch Shredded Chicken Sandwiches

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*Inspired by and adapted from this recipe 

As a busy wife and mama of a hard-working husband who works long hours several days out of the week, I am always looking for slow-cooker recipes that are easy, flavorful, and filling! My boys are "meat and potatoes" guys  (Daniel is a Midwestern man, born and raised!) and so especially on long work days, I love to make him something hearty for dinner. This recipe is one of my favorites and it's super, super simple and quick -- as a busy mom of a little one, that is a must! 


  • 2 Pounds Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast 
  • 12 Ounce Bottle of Buffalo Wing Sauce 
  • 1 oz Packet Ranch Dressing and Seasoning Mix
  • Rolls or Homemade Biscuits
  • Toppings we like: Blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing or shredded cheddar cheese and ranch dressing, lettuce, onion. 

* Can also be served on nachos, in taquitos, or on potato skins for a game-day type treat 

If I have extra time and am feeling "fancy", I also add in these ingredients I have seen in other versions of the recipe:

  • A few fresh cloves of garlic, minced
  • About a tablespoon of brown sugar 
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste 
  • A pinch of salt 
  • 1/4 cup of low sodium chicken broth


Spritz slow cooker with non-stick spray.

Add chicken breasts to slow cooker pot, and season with ranch dressing mix. Add garlic, brown sugar, salt, pepper, if desired. Mix in buffalo sauce and chicken broth. 

Cook on "low" for 8 hours. (If short on time, cook on high for 4 hours but I think the flavors blend best on low!) 

Shred chicken with a fork one hour prior to completion.

Serve with your choice of cheese, dressing and toppings along with your favorite side dish -- I love making a big salad and serving it along with potato wedges, fries, potato salad in the summertime, veggies and ranch dip, or chips. 






Gift Guide: For Him

Yay yay yay! It's December! Time to thoughtfully buy and loving wrap all the gifts for all the loved ones. A sweet but sometimes daunting task, amIright, ladies? Well, I put together a short series of Gift Guides to help a sister out! I so enjoy Christmas giving and it was so fun and therapeutic for me to put together. I hope it helps you out!  

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1. Yeti Tumbler // Daniel, being a Midwestern Man ;), is obsessed with Yeti tumbler cups! And they have been one of my go-to gifts for men the last couple of Christmases. They truly keep your drinks steamy hot or perfectly chilled -- for hours -- and are super well-made and designed. 

2. J.Crew Socks // I always buy Daniel J.Crew socks for Christmas! They are a bit of an investment (as opposed to, say, Wal Mart brand socks) but the quality is worth it. He will wear a pair for a year! I often pick them up on online sales or at J.Crew Factory's website. Aren't these campfire themed ones so cute?! 

3. Passport Holder // If your guy loves to globe-trot like mine does, he'd probably love a quality, leather passport holder and I doubt he would invest in one for himself (my sweet hubby is always thinking of others and is so frugal when it comes to his own needs!) 

4. Cozy Robe // Another item men usually don't buy for themselves but would probably enjoy -- a cozy, nice robe! My mom has gotten dad robes for Christmases and he's always thrilled and feels like he is in a fancy hotel when he wears it! 

5. Quality Ear Buds //  If you're like us, you have a slew of Apple and Target or Dollar Store sets of ear buds lying all around the house, but don't really own a truly quality pair. Hubby might love a pair for runs, flights, and quiet times! I've never used this brand, but I have seen lots of posts and reviews from bloggers saying they're great.

6. Hubby Mug // Every time I step into the Target check out line, these little cuties are staring me in the face and always almost toss one in my cart for Daniel ;) They're cheap and remind him every morning that you're thinking of him.

7. Ahava Skin Care // You guys. Of all the products I've ever tried in my 31 years of life thus far on earth, ohmygoodness.... this is one of the best. I first tried Ahava products on a trip to Israel at age 13. We stayed at the Dead Sea (a dream) and Ahava products were everywhere -- and cheap there at the time! Goodness, the scent of heaven and it takes me back to that dreamy trip and season of my life. I love to buy Ahava products as gifts for loved ones (I often find the brand at Marshall's or TJ Maxx these days, FYI) and am scooping this up for Daniel, as I'm always trying to encourage him to take good care of his skin. 

8. Lantern // My grandma is the queen of practical gifts for men. She always shows up at Christmas with some super amazing, as seen on TV but totally real-life usable, product for the guys in the family that she ordered off QVC! She bought Daniel and my dad lanterns last year and they were a major hit -- perfect for camping, power outages, or just working in the yard or garage!

9. Fuzzy Blanket Throw // Another one to file under "he probably wouldn't buy this for himself" gift ideas! I personally adore cozy, super soft blankets, and this Target version is a favorite -- we own several for guest visits and movie nights. What man could say "no" to one of these soft throws?

10. Ugg Slippers // We all know Uggs are oh so soft and oh so comfy! This pair of slippers is suede and I love the color. After a long day of work, our guys deserve this kind of soft coziness. 

11. Leather Luggage Tag // My man is a wanderlust guy so these chic, leather, monogrammed luggage tags are perfect for him. There's just something that feels so "grown up" about monograms and leather -- and these tags would last for years and many wonderful trips, I am sure!

12. An Encouraging Read // One of the few men I respect most, Bruce Marchiano, wrote this book, "The Character of a Man: Reflecting The Image of Jesus." I've read it and just love every single word on every single page! It's an inspiring, encouraging look at how to be a man who models Jesus, in a practical and very real way. It was published a few years back, but it's truths ring true timelessly. 

Alright, sistahs! I hope that gives you some ideas for showering your men with love this holiday season.

What do you plan on getting your guys?

My Black Friday Favorites

Hey loves! I hope you've been chillin' at home with your people today, eating leftover pumpkin pie, sipping hot drinks all cozy today! For fun and to hopefully help you out, I've rounded up some of my favorite items on sale for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These are just a few of items I've scooped up or that I just loved! 



50% off everything! 





30% off!



American Eagle

40% off plus free shipping!


40% off your purchase and free shipping

BLANQI Leggings

50% off!!

These fit like a dream, keep everything pulled in, and come in a pregnancy version and also a postpartum/nursing design. I'm wearing the postpartum version here and wish I had worn these right after Weston was born. 

 See their website for all their amazing supportwear!! 

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Weston's Wild One Birthday Party

Weston's Wild One Birthday Party

Our beautiful, bright, beloved boy turned one in June! What a year, what a life, what a joy he is. I meant to blog all about his birthday and party months ago... but, you know how mama life is -- busy, busy, amIright? And sometimes, when you get the choice: play with my baby or blog his party? Or, sleep or blog the party? Well, you know what won ;) haha Such is this season and it's beautiful, long-dreamed of, and precious to my heart!

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Christmas Decor Favorites 2017

Christmas Decor Favorites 2017

I know it's a little early for some people to think of Christmas decorating (#notme haha), but whether you're a Christmas crazy who decks the halls before Thanksgiving or if you are waiting until December 1st, it doesn't hurt to get ideas and plan! I had so much fun putting together this guide full of my favorite Christmas decor items. I hope it inspires you with ideas and inspiration for the holidays!

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Favorite Recent Amazon Purchases

Favorite Recent Amazon Purchases

Amazon Prime, you guys... I mean, is there anything more fabulous? I think not. I am absolutely obsessed, especially as a new mama -- it has been invaluable, time saving, and money saving too, for us this past 16 months of parenthood plus the 9 months of pregnancy before! I love hearing what treasures my friends and favorite bloggers find on Amazon.com and so I thought I'd put together a little list of some of my favorite things that have arrived at my door in that happy cardboard box! Hope it's helpful for you and gives you some ideas and inspo!

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Loire Valley: Chateau de Chambord | Europe 2017, Day 2

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When planning our trip to Europe, one non-negotiable thing on my "list" was: at least a day seeing castles and chateaus. Loire Valley came up on all my Internet and travel book searches and was recommended to us by several friends who are familiar with Europe, although no one we know had actually "been there." But, based on research and photos, I just knew we had to visit this seemingly-magical place.

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