Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fruit Salad with Orange Mint Syrup

Fruit salad is a staple for any get showers, bunco parties, and in todays case, a baby shower. I was a hostess for my good friend Lindsey's shower today. Any guesses on what I was in charge of? ;-) 

My favorite!

Fruit Salad with Orange Mint Syrup
Yield: Enough to feed 25-30 people

For the salad:
Whatever fruit you prefer. This time I used grapes, blueberries, cantaloupe, strawberries and pineapple. Kiwi and watermelon would also be good. My rule for fruit salad is to always cut your ingredients into similar sized pieces.

1 bunch red grapes
1 cantaloupe
2 pints strawberries
1.5 cups blueberries
1 whole pineapple

For the sauce:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 orange juice, freshly squeezed
Zest of 2 oranges
1 bunch (about 3/4 cup, on the stems) mint leaves

In a saucepan, combine sugar and juice over medium heat. Stir until dissolved. Turn off heat. Add zest and mint. Cover and let steep for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove lid and mint. Pour over fruit.

You can serve this immediately or let it macerate in the fridge overnight, which is what I did.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Faith & Marriage

This is the final week of the Love and Marriage Series. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as we have. Thank you for reading and commenting each week! It's been a joy to share with you and get to know you better!

Check out last weeks post here.

As I was thinking about how to wrap this series up, and searching for a topic to blog about, I came to the conclusion that I should just keep it simple.

Over the last few weeks, I've shared a lot about my marriage, from how we met, our struggles and keeping things interesting.

Today I want to talk about faith. The word faith means different things to different people. To us, it means trusting in God. Sometimes people ask how and why you can trust in someone or something you can't see, and this makes me smile. Because to us, God is everywhere. He's present everyday in everything we do. I see His mercies and miracles, His love and power everywhere I look. I look at Brayden and am reminded that He can do anything. Nothing is too big for Him but at the same time, nothing is too small for Him either.

Do you ever feel that way? That something is too small or trivial to bring to Him? I know I used to. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that I shouldn't waste His time praying over something so insignificant when other people are dealing with major issues. But then I remember that He wants us to bring everything to Him in prayer.

What does this have to do with your marriage?


How many times a week do you get irritated with your spouse? How many times a day? And out of those instances, how many times do you pray about it?

Something that changed my marriage is the way I pray for my husband. Instead of thinking about the things I wished he would change, sometimes I pray that God will show me how to better deal with those issues, or how I can change to be more patient. By the way, if you're ever looking for a big, HUGE life lesson from God, pray for patience. I did. It took me several years to figure out what He was trying to say. Haha!

Besides praying for one another, its important to act on your faith together. Going to church together, praying together, reading devotionals together...all of those things bring you closer to one another while simultaneously bringing you closer to God.

I've noticed that as I've grown in my faith, things that once seemed hard, now don't seem so insurmountable. Remember in week 2 when I shared about our infertility journey? That was a bleak, dark time for me. In week 1 I shared that now we are hoping to adopt. The lessons that I learned when dealing with infertility definitely transfer over to our new situation.

It would be so easy to lose myself to this situation, to become upset that it hasn't happened yet, defeated over being turned down 6 times so far. Right now, we are waiting to hear on a situation we applied for, and I could let that eat me up. But I learned that I'm not in control of these things. I've learned, we've learned, that we just want God's plan for us to unfold. And while we wait, we're going to concentrate on enjoying the blessings he has already given to us.

Thank you for taking this journey with us. I've enjoyed reading your stories and comments and interacting with you during this series. I'd love to continue to connect with you!

You can find me on:

And don't forget to check out my friends posts here:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Recommendations: What are you reading?

You probably already know this about me but I LOVE to read. I always have. Whenever a series comes out that I think I will like, I do my best to wait until all the books are out because I always get frustrated having to wait for sequels! 

For that reason, I am just now reading:

It's a trilogy and Pandemonium and Requiem (books 2 and 3) are both out now so I finally started this yesterday. I am loving it! Have you read this trilogy before?

What are you currently reading? What have you read that you love?

PS - If you're looking for some recommendations, my favorite books from 2012 can be found HERE.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Making Your Marriage A Priority

Welcome to Week 3 of the Love and Marriage Series!!!

Catch up on Week 1 and Week 2 by clicking on the week you missed.

This week we're talking about making your marriage a priority and how you keep your marriage interesting. There will be a linky at the bottom of this post - feel free to write your own post on this topic and link up with us!

Once you have kids, everything changes. I'm sure you've heard that one before, but it's really true! The marriage and relationship you have with your spouse before you have children, will greatly impact the type of relationship you have after they enter the picture.

My favorite piece of advice is to date your spouse. Let me give you some backstory.

After we (finally) brought Brayden home from the hospital I had no desire to spend any time away from him. When all of my friends were enrolling their kids in Mom's Day Out programs, I kept him home with me. I should add here that there isn't anything wrong with those programs, but after what we had been through I just couldn't part with him for a second.

After a few months, Chris was ready for a date night. To be honest, I don't remember how old Brayden was when I finally left him with my mom and dad for a few hours but he had to have been close to 6 months old.

And you know what? It was great. We got a chance to actually have a full conversation without being thrown up on (both my kids had horrrrrible reflux) or interrupted by crying.

Making date nights happen every few months became important to us and thankfully my parents didn't mind keep Brayden (and then when Brody arrived on the scene, they kept him too). We've even gotten to take a few little trips and leave the kids with my parents.

I realize that leaving your kids with family isn't practical for everyone. You might not have a grandparent nearby or a babysitter you trust. Something else we do is have "Friday Night Date Night." The funny thing about FNDN is that we don't actually go anywhere. Instead, after we put the boys to bed at 8, we get a dessert, take it to bed and rent a movie. We have the instant Netflix thing and Apple TV so there's a nice movie selection to choose from. We take turns picking the movie (I made him watch Pitch Perfect for one of my selections, hahaha) and have a little at home date. We've even watched TV series this way (like Friday Night Lights). It sounds kind of corny but we both love it and look forward to it.

Bad iPhone pic of our last date night. 

There are other ways to make your marriage a priority besides dating your spouse. I mentioned that things change after kids. That's true in more ways than just the lack of one on one time you get with your spouse.

That's right, I'm talking about my favorite subject again...communication. C'mon, you knew it was coming! ;-)

I've seen this happen so many times. You have kids and suddenly the only people you communicate with are...THE KIDS! You're completely immersed in their needs and their wants. To an extent, that is great! But you have to make time for your husband. One thing I've learned works best for us is when Chris comes home from work, I ask him about his day. Then we talk about my day. Then we talk about the kids they behaved, how Brayden was at school (he's in Pre-K two days a week).

Keep in mind that at least for us, as our kids have gotten older, things have gotten easier. Life settles back down in a lot of ways. Your kids need you less. I'm at the point with my boys where they are happy to go off and play together and Chris and I have plenty of time to talk. But when you have your first child, or when a newborn enters the equation, it can be hard. In my experience, I had to make a conscious effort to make sure we had our time to talk and catch up, and it be about us.

The last little thing I want to touch on is outside commitments. I see this SO much in the blog world as well as my everyday life. Everyone seems to be concerned about being "perfect." It seems like perfect is being defined as going out once a week with friends, planning extravagant parties, being involved in every single group that you can be a part of...and if that works for you, that's great. I've learned that is doesn't  work for me or my family. I wrote an entire post about that HERE. For me, Chris, Brayden and Brody come first. And they need me, not only to be physically present but mentally present. I do most of my blogging during nap time, so it doesn't take away from my family in any way. Sometimes I do go on GNO's...I even organized the last one my friends and I had. And that's awesome! But (again, for me) it can't be every week or even every other week. I can't be a part of every group out there.

I think my best take away would be this: 

Remember why you married your spouse. Don't let those things that you love about one another be buried under a bunch of commitments to other people or groups your involved with. Make time for the person you love. Make them a priority in your life. 

As always, I'd love to connect with you! You can find me on:

And don't forget to check out my friends posts here:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Dallas Fun, Episode One.

Apparently I'm in a rhyming mood, because there isn't a video on this blog. Just words. But I liked my title so I went with it. ;-)

Remember THIS post about all of the awesome things to do with kiddos when you're visiting Dallas, Allen and Grapevine, Texas? I wanted to elaborate on some of those things over a few different posts. Today, I want to talk about the Zoo.

I LOVE the Dallas Zoo. If I lived within an hour of it, I'd own a season pass. I love how easy it is to navigate and how many trees there are. When you are as pale as I am, you value the shade. I don't tan, I just turn tomato red, so being able to walk all over and not get burned is a huge plus for me.

Both times we've gone, we get there right after it opens. I kid you not, the first time we visited I think we had the zoo to ourselves for close to an hour. We literally did not see another person for at least that long. It was awesome. This time was a similar experience. There were other people, but not too many, and we had no trouble viewing the exhibits.

So, what are some of the fun things you can do there?

My boys started our day off with a camel ride. Yes, a camel ride.

They LOVED it. I am trying to think of the camels name (it was something cute) but I'm drawing a blank right now. Anyway, she was just precious and enjoyed stopping to pose for my 8700 pictures. I think the smile on my boys faces is self-explanatory. ;-)

One of the exhibits that the kids loved (ahem, and mommy too) were the cute little penguins! Aw!

I just love penguins. They just seem like sweet little animals, all dressed up with no where to go.

Oh and this is random, but little known Jenna fact? I'm terrified of goats. Seriously. No, thank you. The goat keeper tried to convince me how harmless they are are, but I know better. Chris was on his own for that little petting zoo experience. I was safely outside of the gate.

Back to the story. Ahem.

It would not be a proper zoo experience without saying hello to The Golden Girls, as the five elephants at the Dallas Zoo are referred to. The way this exhibit is set up, you feel like you are right there with them.

The last thing I want to highlight is the fact that you can feed the giraffes. I don't know who enjoyed this more...Brody or me. It's a toss up. (PS - This is one of the only times you will ever, ever, ever see my hair in a ponytail. It was fiercely windy that day).

(PPS - remember THIS post where I said I have the ponytail of a 3 year old? Well, here's your photographic proof).

Anyway, you can buy some romaine lettuce from the zookeeper for $5 and feed the giraffes. Warning: The adults that come to feed them might act like 2 year olds. I literally had a lady yell at Brody for "stealing her turn." I'll let your imagination figure out how I might have responded to that.

One quick thing that is worth mentioning is that you can bring your own food and drinks into the zoo, and I HIGHLY recommend that you do. A bottle of water is like $5 or something outrageous, and the food selection is poor. I brought drinks and snacks for us and then we went out to eat afterwards.

Back where the camel rides are, are a bunch of picnic tables. A lot of people left their coolers there to hold their table (which doesn't seem very nice, because then no one else can sit there ALL DAY) but the point is, you can bring your own cooler.

Also, many people brought red wagons to pull their kids in. I used my BOB and that's what I would recommend doing. Pulling a wagon up and down some of the hilly areas doesn't seem like much fun to me.

As usual, it was a great visit. If you're close by or planning to take a trip to Dallas, I highly recommend visiting the Dallas Zoo!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Pretzel GRANOLA BARS

Who doesn't love a good no-bake recipe? 

This girl sure does. Not that I mind baking, but it's still nice not to have to crank up the ovens every once in awhile.

You're gonna love these. Seriously. They are yum-tastic. It's a pretzely-chocolately-peanutbuttery party for your tastebuds.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Pretzel Granola Bars

Source: adapted from Rachel Ray magazine
Yield: 10-12 bars in an 8*8 pan

2 cups quick cook oats
3/4 cup rice krispy cereal (or comparable cereal)
1/2 cup smashed pretzels (measure after smashing)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 packed light brown sugar
Mini chocolate chips for topping

Place pretzels in a ziptop bag and smash using a rolling pin or meat mallet (or the back of a saucepan). You still want there to be some larger chunks so don't completely pulverize it.

In a saucepan, combine peanut butter, honey, brown sugar and butter. Stir constantly over medium until well combined. Once everything is melted and combined, cook for 1 minute and then remove from heat.

Add your oats, cereal and pretzels to the pan. Stir WELL. You want everything to be completely combined.

Line an 8*8 with parchment paper and then lightly spray with non-stick spray. Evenly distribute granola mix into the pan. Top with chocolate. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes (until hardened) and then cut and serve.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Marriage Series: In Good Times and In Bad

Welcome back to the Marriage Series! I hope you enjoyed last weeks intro post. I loved reading all of yours!

This week, we are talking about struggles in our marriages. I mentioned before that God has laid it on my heart for awhile to talk about marriage. Satan has a way of putting doubts in my mind...things like "I haven't been married as long as others" or "my struggles weren't as bad as someone else's." I've come to realize that everyones struggles are different, and maybe sharing my story will be helpful to someone out there. I can't keep trying to qualify myself to be good enough to talk to you about this because I never will be. But God has called me to share my story, so that's what I'm going to do.

I started this blog 5 years ago, after a 2+ year long battle against infertility. When Chris and I decided to try to have a baby we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. With each new diagnosis of what was wrong with me, I got angrier. I went from a happy, carefree young wife to a depressed, angry, shell of a person. I didn't want to go out with friends anymore, and as a result, lost most of them. In fact, I didn't want to leave my house, period. I was put on Clomid for nine months which basically made me crazy. Chris came home everyday to a angry or crying mess.

After Clomid, I was put on Femara. Then we started doing IUI's. Then it was shots. Finally, after several failed IUI's my RE (infertility doctor) told me he had to cut me off and that our only option was going to be IVF.

I remember leaving the doctors office in Tulsa and not saying a word to Chris on the 2 hour drive home. Finally, I told him that I give up. I just couldn't do it anymore, and frankly, neither could he. And then what happened? I got pregnant, completely naturally. But unfortunately, I ended up miscarrying. I can't even tell you in words what that did to us. If I had had a blog back then, I don't know what I would've said. Coupled with everything we went through beforehand, it completely destroyed me.

This was the first part of our "In Bad" time. The second part was after our oldest son, Brayden was born. For those of you who've read this blog for years, you know the story, but for those who don't, here's a quick recap. Brayden was born full term with a condition called PPHN. It's very rare, and there is no way of knowing your baby will be born with it. Basically, he didn't realize he had been born and continued circulating blood in reverse, thus not oxygenating it. His pulse ox was in the 40's. He was incredibly sick and we nearly lost him. He was taken from the hospital I had him at by ambulance to another hospital here and then flown by helicopter to Arkansas Children's Hospital where we stayed for 5 weeks.

So, how did we deal with these hard times?

I have to give major credit to my husband here. He dealt with my irrational anger, my crying, and my craziness every day with love and compassion. He was always there for me. He would calm me down and do things to make me feel special, like bringing home my favorite treat after work or sending me flowers for no reason. And, like I mentioned last week, he communicated with me. He didn't shut down and he didn't let me shut down. We talked almost every day about what I was feeling and what he felt.

When Brayden was in the hospital he was such a rock for me. There have been times in our marriage when I have had to be the strong one, but this time it was him. He let me break down and cry. Every night we held hands and prayed together. We talked about all of the possibilities and potential outcomes and we prayed that God would guide our decision making.

The biggest factor in getting through hard times in our marriage has been putting our trust, faith, hopes, dreams, everything in God's hands. That day after my last failed IUI, I told Chris I realized I had been wrong all along. I thought I could control our situation. If I just researched enough, I could find our solution. If I did this procedure or that, I could increase our odds. It took awhile, but I finally realized that I am not in control of anything, ever. God is. And He commands us to put our worries and struggles in prayer to Him.

And, like I mentioned last week, communicate!!! If you are upset, hurt or angry about something, talk it out. I know that sometimes it makes me feel better just to tell him what's bothering me, and the same goes for Chris. Also, remember that it's never to late to improve your marriage. It's never too late to talk with your spouse about the things you want or need for you to have a healthy and abundant marriage.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." - Phil 4:6

I'm not saying that it's easy. Getting through marital struggles is so hard. If you are newly married I recommend coming up with guidelines for how you deal with fights and hard times. Our pre-marital counselor suggested this to us. Some popular guidelines are things like not going to bed mad, not sleeping in a separate room, not discussing your marital problems with your parents, not walking out on the other person. Look at your "fighting style" and determine some reasonable guidelines for your marriage. 

Be sure to check out my friends posts! Click on their name to view their blog.

You can follow me on BlogLovin by clicking here!

Monday, April 8, 2013

A little {budget friendly} Spring fashion...

I've been a little absent lately - I'm following a pretty strict diet right now and thus, no recipes. I don't think you want or need me to tell you how to grill a chicken breast or dice a pineapple. ;-) Anyway, I've had fun putting this post together - some of these things I already own and some I have yet to buy. Spring fashion is always so fun!

I am a HUGE fan of this chevron tunic in mint from Hazel and Olive. I am going to have to get one of these soon! It's a great piece for only $36.

Source: Hazel and Olive

I am a big fan of Old Navy's Sweetheart skinny jeans. I own them in dark denim (perfect in fall and winter with boots) and I own these bright coral ones for spring. You can't beat $30 for jeans!

Source: Old Navy

I love, love, love these bangles. I think they are so cute. I have almost bought them about ten times. I think I need to just pull the trigger next time I see them! I found these (set of 3) for $12.

Source: Molly Suzanne

I actually own this one - in fact, I just wore it for our springtime family pictures along with white skinny jeans, coral wedges and a coral necklace. The color in real life is a lot prettier than in this pic. I rolled the cuffs up and wore a white tank underneath. It's a great deal for only $39.50.

Source: J Crew Factory

These diagonal stripe skirts are adorable! I haven't ordered one yet but I think I just may have to...because I found them on sale for $14.99! It's a facebook offer so I'm sure they will sell quickly!

Source: The Nest On Main

I have these wedges in black and I love them but they aren't really for people with narrow feet. There are lots of great variations of this shoe that do fit people like me with freakishly narrow feet, so check around! I bought a patent pair at Dillards last year that I love and that fit great. But you can't beat this price - $29.99!

Source: Target

This next one isn't so much a fashion statement as it is a cute workout piece! I love these state tanks! Price? $29

Source: Hazel and Olive

What are your Spring must haves?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Marriage Series: All About Us

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Welcome to the first post in our Love and Marriage Series! I am so excited about this. If you missed my post last week about it, you can click here for all the deets.

So, today's topic is kind of an introduction. We're each going to be telling you about ourselves and our marriages, so you know where we are coming from in future posts. To make it easy for you to visit everyone's blogs, just click the name of the blog you'd like to visit next. Shay, Lindsey, Megan, Jenn and Mandy.

Chris and I met in 2001, when I was a senior in high school and he was a junior. I'm 3 months older than he is and he loves to tell people I'm a cradle robber! Goofball. Anyway, we met in math class. He was a popular basketball player and I was a shy, quiet, new girl from California. Math is by far and away my worst subject. I was and am HORRIBLE at it and he often helped me out. We were just acquaintances really. We didn't travel in the same circles and I didn't have many friends who were juniors, so the only time we ever talked was in class. 

Fast forward two years. I had just broken up with my boyfriend. My best friend decided to "take me out to dinner" which I thought meant that she and I were going to dinner. What it really meant was, "I'm calling a bunch of people and a huge group of us will be going to dinner." I knew NO ONE. I was irritated at her because here I was, fresh off a breakup and I didn't want to go out with a ton of people I didn't know. Shy, remember?! Anyway, Chris was there. He was sitting across from me and I kept thinking, "boy, you look familiar!" So, in the middle of dinner, I'm staring at him, trying to place him and I shout, "I used to cheat off of you in math class!"

Way to make an impression.

He stared at me blankly for a second then started laughing. It took him a minute to place me because in high school I wore sweatshirts, jeans, sneakers and ponytails everyday, like it was a uniform. After high school (and breaking up with my jerk of an ex) I came out of my shell. I did my hair and makeup everyday, wore cute clothes, and just generally felt better about myself. So he didn't recognize the no longer plain jane in front of him. 

I guess you could say it was love at second sight, because from that moment on, we were inseparable. He came to church with me, ate meals with my family, hung out with my friends, etc. And then...he moved. 

We decided to pursue a long distance relationship (he was 2.5 hours away). We visited each other every weekend and eventually he moved back. A few months later, we got engaged. 

We got married in our church which requires premarital counseling. If you aren't married, I want to implore you to do this, whether or not it's required where you get married. You can really learn a lot about yourself and how you perceive things in your relationship, as well as how your future spouse perceives things. 

Chris and I learned that we are great communicators with one another. We were the only people who ever scored a 100% on communication on the test our counselor gave us! We just love to talk. We also had a chance to talk about our "big concerns." 

I have to interrupt myself here because I was just talking to Chris about this the other day. I told him I remember that his chief complaint at the time with me was that I harped on his old man driving style (like doing 60mph on the freeway), but I couldn't remember what my problem with him was. He reminded me it was deer hunting! I had totally forgotten all about that. I used to get so mad because his dad would want him to go deer hunting with him and he would get mad at me because I would tell him he drove like an old man!

Anyway, the point is, premarital counseling is great, and I really recommend everyone doing it. You can learn your strengths and weaknesses and how they will affect your relationship. You can even learn positive ways to argue, and how to communicate during an argument. It was there, while meeting with our counselor, that we found out that our state offers something called a "covenant marriage." The big thing about having a covenant marriage is that is requires counseling before you will be granted a divorce, should you seek one. We didn't have any plans on ever getting a divorce (and still don't) but we thought this was a great idea. Side-note:If you live in Arkansas and want to change your marriage to a covenant marriage, you can! 

Marriage is something that is so important to me. I knew I choose the right one when I found Chris. When we met I was way low on self-confidence and he built me up. He told me everyday, and still does, how beautiful, smart and important to him I am. We encourage each other and push each other and want the best for one another. We put each other first. I was listening to a sermon online recently that talked about marriage. The pastor asked, "do you treat your marriage as a contract, where you are looking out for number one? Or, do you treat it as a commitment to one another, putting your spouse ahead of yourself?"

Now, Chris and I have been married for 7.5 years and have two amazing kids. We are also trying to adopt, which I'm sure I'll touch on later in the series. You can catch up on our adoption journey by starting in this post and then clicking "adoption" in the tags below it to see the rest of them. We've had our highs and lows, and learned a lot in the past 9 years of being together.

Marriage is work. Hard work. It's not always glamourous, and sometimes it's not even fun. We get angry. We fight. We get our feelings hurt. But we've learned how to get past those things, how to fix problems. I originally wanted to do this series because sometimes the blogosphere only shows you the perfect parts of our lives. I think that can set people up for failure, because no ones life is perfect. And no one is perfect. My life isn't, and I'm not. But I'm hoping that I've learned some things along the way that I can share with you. I hope that when my friends and I post each week that something we say will be a blessing in your life.

Thank you for joining us on this journey. If you'd like to participate along with us, please feel free! We have a linky for you - just share your link so we can all check out your posts!

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Friday Night Ritual

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Over the last year, I've developed a ritual. An every Friday night ritual. Painting my nails. Ha! Let me preface this with a warning: I AM NOT A GOOD NAIL PAINTER. Look closely. You will see errors. It's all good. It's something I like to do anyway, regardless of if my nails look perfect or professional. I like change, and love being able to change my color to reflect my mood. So, here are a few of my favorites:

Peach Daiquiri by Essie. This is a fun, coral type color. I bought this while in Dallas because I didn't have a coral, and I'm so glad I did. We had family pics taken this past week and this color ended up being perfect for the outfit I wore.

Over The Edge by Essie. I don't even know why I bother saying "by Essie" because every single polish I'm posting is from them! I just really like their polish best. I think I own 2 or 3 OPI's but Essie goes on easier and stays on longer, in my opinion. Anyway, gray is my favorite color, and I own quite a few gray polishes, but this is my favorite. 

Beyond Cozy guessed it. Essie.

It's so SPARKLY! How can you not love sparkles?!

Mink Muffs by me. Just kidding. By Essie. Perfect "greige." 

Mod Square by Essie. Awesome hot pink. Goes great with aqua. ;-)

 Damsel In Distress by Essie is a dark plum. I wore this like crazy all fall. It's a really pretty color.

What is your favorite polish brand and color?
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