Tis the season to be HAPPY!

I don’t know what it is about this particular Christmas season, but I find myself having a difficult time locating my happiness.  Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things that bring a smile to my face, but I’m talking about deep down in your soul happiness.  Maybe it’s the state of our world.  Maybe it’s something more personal.  Maybe I miss my family.  I really don’t know for sure, but in the past when I have gone through these kinds of valleys, I find the best way to pop out of them is to focus on the things that really do bring a smile to my face, even when they seem trivial.  So that’s what I’m doing!  Here are the things making me happy these days!

1. Peppermint Americanos

2. The Family Stone

3. Advent

4. Faux fur lined leggings

5. Glitter and sparkle (but let’s be honest…I don’t reserve those only for this time of year)

6. Twinkling lights

7. Cranberries

8. Christmas music on repeat

9. Cheesy ABC Family Christmas movies

10. Gingerbread

11. Ivy’s love of “Frosty the Snowman”

12. Getting Christmas cards in the mail

**Happy**

I have every reason to be happy this cold December month.  And sometimes I just need to remind myself of that by making a list.

Christmas Card 2014

Goodbye Summer…Hello Fall!

I had a feeling it would happen, but I think the optimist in me made me hopeful that time would slow down.  Hopeful that the summer wouldn’t fly by faster than any other summer I’ve encountered yet.

But alas, it did.

This summer was a mixed bag.  Like I mentioned in a previous post, I struggled all summer long with health issues that I had a very difficult time getting a handle on.  I’m pretty sure it’s a big reason summer seemed to fly by.  We had good intentions of doing lots of summery things, but being as sick as I was for such a prolonged amount of time put a huge damper on the season.  So frustrating.  So lame.

But in amongst all of that frustrating sickness we had some of the sweetest moments, that I am forever grateful for.

We had our first movie night with Ivy.

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She stayed up late and ate copious amounts of buttered popcorn!  She was in heaven!

We took a long road trip to Montana to see all of my family, including my sweet grandma!  It was a ton of work with a two year old and a five month old, but totally worth it!  I met my newest nephew, Tait, for the first time, all of the cousins spent tons of time playing together, I saw my grandma for the first time in way too many years, and I got to see all the rest of my family too!

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Sweet time with sweet family!

This precious little girl was dedicated to Jesus!

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We introduced Ivy to the Portland Zoo where this Lorikeet landed on her head.

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Ivy mastered the big potty…finally!

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And we ended the summer with one very quick trip to the lake with our besties!  Good food, great conversation, and relaxing nights by the fire was the perfect ending to another summer.

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That’s just so very much to pack into one post.  But it makes me happy to know that we made so many memories even when life felt a little out of control.  Isn’t that just so how Jesus works sometimes?

That when life spins, Jesus remains.

Thankful for the seasons and ready to embrace Fall!  Are you with me friends?

 

New season…more changes!

I mentioned in my last post that I have been struggling with some health issues.  I went back and forth about sharing any of this on here, but ultimately I decided my issues and the way I am working at fixing them may not be that uncommon, and may actually help someone else.  I won’t share a ton about the actuality of what I have been diagnosed with, but making a very long drawn out story as short as possible…my diet is in the process of changing drastically.

As many of you know, I was diagnosed with celiac disease almost seven years ago and have lived a completely gluten-free lifestyle ever since.  Because I love to bake I have continued to bake both gluten-free and non gluten-free baked goods.  Some of my very favorites have been my homemade graham crackers, lamingtonsbuttermilk pie, Laura Bush’s cowboy cookies, gluten-free apple cider donuts, and dark chocolate sea salted toffee.  Seriously, YUM!

Over the course of the last year I’ve struggled with even more digestive issues that finally came to an ugly head this summer with an end result of even more major diet changes.  In an attempt to fix my issues with the food I choose to put into my body, I am changing my gluten-free diet to paleo/whole eating/gaps diet.

It’s daunting.  It’s overwhelming.  In all honesty it feels like no fun.  I’ve spent days being discouraged and frustrated.  I’ve felt stripped of any joy that I once had in baking something new.  These are all real and valid feelings.  But here’s what I’ve learned over the last couple of months of coming to this realization–as much as I believe God gave us good and delicious food to thoroughly enjoy, it’s not what life is all about.  My life is full and rich with a husband that adores me, two girls that hang on my every word, family that cares, lots and lots of supportive and loving friends, and so much more.  And to me, especially during these difficult changes, that is what life is about.

I will live.  And I will learn how to be social without the deliciousness of happy hours, trying new restaurants, and grabbing dessert out with friends.  I can continue to be present without involving food, and really…that’s okay.

Life is good people!  And on my best days I truly believe that. ;)  On my worst, it takes a little more convincing.  While I do plan on incorporating some of these new diet changes into both my children and my husband, I will also not shy away from baking a normal recipe, or allow them to indulge in something scrumptious that I make.  So when I do share recipes, it’ll be a mixed bag!

I’m easing into this new way of eating by removing all grains from my diet, which is truly no easy task.  Grains are in everything!!  I’m going to share this delicious recipe I tried recently for breakfast.  Thankfully I LOVE eggs!  Our family easily goes through three dozen eggs a week!  But every once in awhile I crave a little something else in the morning, and this banana porridge was absolutely delicious and so very healthy!  Try it out!

Banana Porridge

(Against All Grain–by Danielle Walker)

Serves: 4

1/2 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup raw pecan halves

pinch sea salt

1 ripe banana

2 cups coconut milk

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1.  Place the nuts in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Add enough filtered water to cover the nuts by at least 1 inch.  Cover and soak overnight.

2. Drain the nuts and rinse 2 or 3 times, until the water runs clear.

3. Add the nuts to a food processor or high-speed blender.  Add the banana, coconut milk, and cinnamon and process until smooth.

4. Pour the porridge into a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat for 8 minutes, or until thick.

*This dish will serve 4 small portions, which is more than enough as it is rich and filling.  Serve with raisins, chopped nuts, and an extra splash of milk if desired.

Dear Tiffany

**Hello blog friends!  I had such huge intentions of writing so many more letters in the month of June, but some health issues got in my way.  I’ll be sharing a little more about that later, but for now, here is one last letter to one of my favorites!  Thanks for hanging in there with me!**

Dear Tiffany,

I thought this letter would be one of my easiest to write, but it turns out when you have so many things to say, it often is difficult to know how to say them.

You are my person.

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You are the one I love to laugh with, the one I love to sit and do nothing with, and the one I feel comfortable sharing my frustrations, worries, and vulnerabilities with.

You are the one that encourages me, makes me laugh at myself, and makes me feel like a normal mama on my most impatient days.

You inspire me in how you raise your littles.  You are patient, creative, and full of life with them!

I love spending lazy, long mornings talking over hot coffee piled high with whipped cream.  I love dreaming and creating with you.

I’ve been indebted with gratitude when you have cried with me during some of my most difficult days, and I have been blessed beyond measure to laugh so hard with you that it hurts.  I thank Jesus often for the gift He gave me in your friendship.

Here’s to many more years of laughs, stories, and cups of coffee!

Love,

Annie

Dear Elisa

Dear Elisa,

Life may be busy and hectic and chaotic at times, not allowing us to spend as much time as we would like with each other.  However one thing is certain…you are one of my favorites, and here are just a few of the reasons why.

1. You are two months older than me.  This means each year as our birthdays approach I feel like you soften the blow just a little.  And as the number gets higher, that blow needs to be softened just a little bit more.  Here’s to 33!

2. We get to raise our daughters together!  What a true blessing!  To have someone that not only parents similar to myself, but has the same values that are being taught to her children is a gift.  I hope our daughters are the best of friends as they grow up and choose to encourage and love each other the way we do.

3. You are careful with your words.  I so admire this about you.  The words that you speak are the ones I wish I spoke two weeks ago, before I said something I wish I hadn’t.  You are careful and you choose them wisely…something I work towards daily.

4. You are what I like to refer to as “quiet hilarious”.  You don’t strive to be the center of attention, so when you sneak up with some of the funniest things I’ve ever heard, people are always a little surprised, including me.

5. You are brave.  I know that you don’t always feel like it, but the way in which you have conducted yourself throughout your diagnosis is admirable.  You have faced each test result, surgery, and treatment with grace and determination.  Four months ago we claimed Hebrews 6:19 as our own, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  I am so thankful to be one of your anchors, and even more thankful that you are one of mine.

You are kind, thoughtful, considerate, my canning buddy, and the one I can always count on to bring more than a half eaten bag of chips or a 2-liter of soda to one of our get togethers.  Thank you for being my friend!

Love,

Annie

That's my sweet friend Elisa on the left, radiant as always!

That’s my sweet friend Elisa on the left, radiant as always!

*If you haven’t read about the letter writing challenge I’m doing for the month of June, you can here!  I hope you join me and find some time to write some encouraging words to the people you love in more than a quick email, or a short text.

Dear Sister

Dear Sister,

Growing up with me was I’m sure no picnic.  I was the quintessential annoying little sister.  But not a day goes by that I’m not over the top thankful to Jesus that He chose you to be my big sister, and that you love me. :)

Annie and Sarah

Look at what a brat I was in that picture!  So mad that you got to ride a bicycle.  How dare you leave me behind!  We bickered a lot growing up, and the piece of tape we placed down the middle of our room didn’t really seem to help.  I even seem to remember a slapping fight that we got into over what radio station to listen to on the way to school.  But that’s normal sibling rivalry, right?

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That aside, I remember the day I felt everything changed.  I was a quiet, shy freshman in high school and for some ridiculous reason I thought trying out for the cheerleading team was a good idea.  Since you were a senior, it was not uncommon to go through a typical day at school without really seeing each other.  But that day you made a point to find me in the hallways twice to make sure I wasn’t riddled with anxiety…which of course I was.  You encouraged me and acknowledged me, and that meant everything to me.  When I came home that night as a new member of the Sterling High School Varsity Cheerleading team, you celebrated with me and made me feel like I never had a reason to worry.  For me, that day we went from sisters, to friends, and from that moment on I viewed you so differently.  I admired you.

I admire your intelligence.  Being “Sarah’s sister” through high school was never easy.  I could never quite live up to what that meant.  But it always motivated me to try.

I admire your gift of hospitality.  It comes so easy to you!  And what I love most is that you don’t stress.  Things don’t have to be perfect.  You just love on people right where you are, making people feel welcomed, and I constantly strive to be that way.

I admire what kind of mother you are.  You are engaged and present.  You put your kids above the million other tasks that vie for your attention each day.  You are creative and selfless with them, and they are some of the luckiest kids I know.

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You are my family, my friend, and one of the best people in my life.  I love you more than I could ever put into words!

Love,

Your annoying little sister

 *If you haven’t read about the letter writing challenge I’m doing for the month of June, you can here!  I hope you join me and find some time to write some encouraging words to the people you love in more than a quick email, or a short text.

June is for Writing Letters

In trying to do things a little different around here, I’ve been searching for some new ideas, and yesterday I came across one that I think will be both fun and unique!  Laura Tremaine, over at Hollywood Housewife, had the great idea to spend the month of June writing more letters, and I’m totally up for the challenge!

Writing letters is thoughtful, kind, sweet, and sort of magical.  I used to love sending cards and letters to people when I was in high school.  I would collect all kinds of cards and stationary and send words of encouragement to anyone I had an address for!  Somewhere along the way in the past 15 years I got busy and decided I didn’t have time to do this precious task.  What a shame.  While this challenge will look a little different since it will be unfolding online, I still think taking time to write letters to those that I love and cherish will be joyous.  And who knows…maybe it will give me the kick I need to get back into sending words of encouragement on a more consistent basis.  I hope it persuades you to do the same!

Enjoy!