Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday everyone! Our big plans this weekend include a date night (Hallelujah and Amen!!), attending a basketball game for one of the kids that I tutor, and celebrating my sweet niece's 8th birthday! It should be a good mix of exciting and laid back which is the perfect weekend to me! 

On top of all the weekend goodness, I am excited to share some favorites from this week with you! 

Ohmygoodness, I will never get tired of putting Henley down for nap! She has always been a baby who loves to rock and snuggle, and it is my absolute favorite thing every single day. She is a totally different kid for bedtime. She used to rock and snuggle, but now she wants Ben to read to her, rock her and then he puts her in her crib. She would probably prefer him rock her all night, but she just wants to talk and play, so that's not really an option. For nap time though, she may talk and play for a couple of minutes, but after that, she snuggles up with her blankets, finds a good position and just snoozes in my arms. I'm obsessed!!

Ok guys, this yogurt is fabulous! Henley is on a big yogurt kick for breakfast and is literally asking for it before I even have a chance to pick her up out of her crib in the mornings. It's hard to find a full fat yogurt, and she loves this one. I am also a HUGE fan! I usually get a couple of different flavors (honey, blueberry, raspberry, tart cherry, etc) and mix a couple of them. I can always find it on sale which is a huge bonus! 

There is just something about my Old Navy workout pants that my other workout pants just don't have. I don't know whether it's the thickness of the material or what, but they are so dang comfy and flattering. I ordered the above ones this week and can't wait to wear them! I wore another pair earlier this week and had no desire to change from them into sweatpants because they were just as comfy. I have even worn them to brunch in Dallas with friends and have been given many a compliment and asked if they were Lululemon. No my friends, they are a fraction of the price and they are amazing!! 

I know y'all are so tired of hearing about these dang books, but I can't finish out the week without including it. Winter Storms finally came in the mail yesterday and I would say that as of Sunday, I will be finished with it. I fell asleep reading it last night, and I ditched  my normal workout and hit the  elliptical for more reading this morning. I had to remind myself that I had errands to run and needed to stop reading. I love this series! 

I am obsessed with using this stuff as eye make-up remover. I have heard that it works great for a long, long time, but for some reason I just kept buying my same old face wash and eye make-up remover. Never again! This stuff works wonders with just a little bit, and it leaves my skin feeling so so soft! Not to mention, it worked great when I was making brownies on Sunday during the Cowboys game and someone (cough cough Ben cough cough) didn't tell me we were out of veggie oil. I grabbed my coconut oil, and I'm pretty sure the brownies tasted better than ever! I will now be purchasing for the kitchen, one for my bathroom! 

Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


First of all, thank you all so much for your sweet comments about my previous post. I so appreciated them all, and I cannot tell you how much we appreciate your prayers. Thank you, thank you thank. My sister officially starts chemo tomorrow, so when I can, I will keep you updated. She also started a blog to keep everyone updated, so feel free to check it out too.

Now onto books - I was never the child whose parents had to force them to read (well, except those annoying summer reading books - Watership Down, are you kidding me?!). For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed reading. To this day, it is still one of my favorite hobbies, and I even became a middle school English teacher! 

Now, finding the time to read as much as I used to these days is the tough part. I used to read and read and read on the elliptical at the gym (yes, I can do that without getting sick), and I also read when I was teaching due to our mandatory 30 minutes of silent reading everyday, but I don't do the elliptical very often anymore, and I'm not teaching, so, I also don't read as much. Since one of my goals for the year is to manage my time better and in turn have a little more me time, I am incorporating reading more books into that goal as well. I love nothing more than to sit down with a good book and get totally lost in it! 

Being the former English teacher and book junkie that I am, I tend to get lots of questions about book suggestions from my friends, so I thought it would be perfect to write a post on my favorite books from 2016. Well, lets say all the books I can remember from 2016. I'm hoping to keep better track of my 2017 books and possibly write a monthly post on the books I've read. I'm sure I read more than just the books below, but I struggle to remember what I did yesterday let alone all the books I read over a year! 

I received Sarah's Key through an online book swap and was thrilled. This was a book that I had eyed in the bookstore before, but was never in the right mood to read it. Getting it in the mail forced me to read it, and I absolutely loved it. Two storylines cross between Paris 1942 (France under occupation) and Paris 2002, and it is beautifully written. I loved the characters, I loved the story, and I loved the way the story played out.  

What Alice Forgot took me a second to get into, but I ended up really enjoying it. It may have taken me a minute to get into because I read some and then didn't have time to read, so I was constantly trying to get back into it. I loved the character of Alice in this book, and I loved the way it ended! I also happened to start taking a spin class not long after I finished this book, and I definitely had some flashes to Alice's little mishap in my first class! 

Gosh this book was so suspenseful! I kind of figured out the secret a little earlier than it was revealed, but that did not ruin the book at all. This book is an absolute page turner, and left me wanting to read lots more Liane Moriarty books in the future! 

I think technically the only book I read in this series in 2016 was The Crown, but The Selection Series  definitely deserves praise on this post. I LOVED LOVED LOVED this series. Yes, it is probably meant for a younger age group, but I have recommended it to plenty of friends, and they have enjoyed it as well! It is a total cross between Hunger Games and The Bachelor and I could not get enough of this! In fact, I first started reading the series when I was pregnant with Henley and Ben and I were in Europe for a month. I finished the first book so fast that we made a special trip to a bookstore in London so I could see if the second was already out. I finished that one in London too! 

Well, there are really not enough good things I can say about Elin Hilderbrand books. I have a feeling I will be attempting to read all of her books in 2017. The Matchmaker was an adorable book and I could not get enough of Dabney Kimball Beech. I just wish I was her friend! I'm pretty sure I cried at the gym while finishing this book, but there was absolutely no shame! 

I recently read this book, and again, it took me a second to get into, but it was well worth the wait. It is another suspenseful book that kept me turning page after page. I actually think Ben got annoyed with me at one point, because I brought this book literally everywhere we went! 

I took this book to Hawaii with me, because I felt like I was literally the only person in the world who had not read it yet. Everyone's reviews were so big and amazing, that I felt like I just had to take it, and I was positive I would read it in a day. Well, I may be the only person in the world to say this, but it wasn't my favorite book of 2016. I still liked it, but it took me until about halfway through to figure out why everyone loved it. I would definitely recommend Girl on the Train, and I still want to see the movie, but it didn't live up to the hype for me. That could just be because there was a whole lot of hype. 

I still have one more book in this series before I'm finished, and I cannot wait for it to come in! I loved that I read this during all of our Christmas festivities! Again, Elin Hilderbrand can just do no wrong in my book, but I'm pretty bias as this point. I love the way this book is written with it being broken up into characters instead of chapters, and I just love the little family in it. 

No need for me to continue raving about the author here, I hope I've convinced you by now! Silver Girl may have been my favorite of all the Hilderbrand books I've read so far. I couldn't put this one down and found myself trying to find down time whenever I could to squeeze in a chapter or two. I love the two best friends in this book, Meredith and Connie, and even found myself wondering who I would call in Meredith's situation, or who I would want to move to Nantucket with to just get away. I would so read this book again! 

And last but certainly not least, my very favorite book of 2016. I have recommended this book to so many people and just raved and raved and raved about it. I have always loved Kristin Hannah. Her books just completely capture you and absolutely rip at your heart strings. When I read her books, I find myself doing nothing other than finding ways to fit reading into my life. Many extra hours have been spent on the elliptical just to keep reading her books. That being said, The Nightingale did not disappoint. The time period is set when the Nazis were invading France and goes on throughout WWII. The two sisters in this book are just incredible. I was constantly wanting to know what one or the other was doing. This book is just so well written. I will definitely be reading this book again at some point! If you are just looking for one book to start out your year, this would be my pick. I even struggled for a little bit after The Nightingale to find a new book to read, because I just knew that no book would be as good at it was. 

I would love to hear your book recommendations in the comments. I will need them to help with my goal to read lots, lots more in 2017!! 

Monday, January 16, 2017

More Aware

Well, I had a whole different post planned for today that was a little more lighthearted and fun, but after the past few weeks, and the message preached at church yesterday, I just felt like I had to change things up a bit. 

A few weeks ago, we found out that my oldest sister was diagnosed with Grade 2 Invasive Carcinoma. At the age of 34, she is the first person ever in our family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. It has been a heavy couple of weeks to say the least. Last week she got her scans back and the doctors put a plan together for her. 

Why is it that having a plan has made us all feel just a little bit better? I guess we finally feel like we can move into action and start fighting this, but really we are not fighting this at all. Our trust is in the Lord. Although we have had many praises and joyful times, our family has been hit with a number of trials over the past couple of years. It is through this time that I have become so incredibly thankful for my faith in Jesus Christ. I truly have no idea how I would be battling any of this without him. 

Yesterday at church, the pastor spoke about how we need to be more aware of God's presence. It is constantly with us. How often do we forget that? How often do we think we are doing this thing called life alone? It was such an incredible reminder that we are so often focused on the pain, the burdens, the busyness of this life, that we loose sight of the fact that God is all around us. He is literally holding us together. The question is never "Where are you God?" or "Is God with me?," the question is ARE WE AWARE OF HIS PRESENCE? 

At the very beginning of the sermon the pastor asked that each day we would at least pray one simple prayer - "Lord, Help me be aware that you are with me." 

I so needed this. Although, I have so much hope in the Lord that he will heal my sister, it is still so very scary. During these next 9 or so months, I am going to do my absolute best to remember that God's presence is here. He is working through all of this and he is the only one who has the ability to heal and comfort us. We will not find the comfort we need in anything other than Him. I will also be doing my very best to speak these words to my sister. I do not want her to feel alone, and I have been racking my brain with ideas of all the things I/we (there are 6 sisters, so we are a unit) can do, but really I need to be doing my darnedest to be speaking life into her. I know she has a relationship with the Lord, and that He is where her hope comes from, but sometimes we just need little reminders throughout the day or the week. This life is not easy, God promised that, but with Him, we can make it through. 

I know this is not what most of you were probably expecting from my blog today, but it is just what is on my heart today. If you are a praying person, my family, and especially my sister and her sweet little family would so appreciate your prayers. This is going to be a long 9 or so months, but we will get through it. 

Then Jesus said, " Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." Matthew 11:28-30 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Favorites

Who else just wants to stay snuggled up on the couch on this fabulous Friday and watch movies?! I doubt that will actually happen with a two year old running around, but a girl can dream! At least I can sit down with a hot cup of tea and share my Friday Favorites with you! Enjoy! 

Blue Apron Meals 

Can I get an amen?! If you haven't tried Blue Apron meals, I highly recommend it. We do not sign up for them every week, but I needed a little kick in the pants at the beginning of January to start cooking good meals again, and it totally did the trick! 

These are the three meals that came in the mail the first week of January and we loved every single one of them. Now, that has not always been the case. I have a picky husband, so if the picture just doesn't look appetizing, he's not really into it, but that was not the case with these. He loved them all! We even broke out a previous Blue Apron meal (because I save the recipe cards of the ones we like) this week. 

Oh, I can't forget this...Blue Apron has gotten Ben into the kitchen!! I mean, he has always come into the kitchen in the middle of my cooking and had an opinion (drives me nuts), but since we started getting Blue Apron every now and then, he volunteers to cook dinner. IT IS GLORIOUS!! 

Elin Hildebrand's Winter Street  Book Series 

I read Winter Street during Christmas and totally fell in love. Right after I finished it, I jumped on Amazon and ordered the next two books in the series. Winter Stroll  arrived at the end of last week, and as of Wednesday, I am finished with it. Again, I loved it! Ugh! I ordered Winter Storms at the same time that I ordered Winter Stroll, but it won't be in for some reason until the end of the month. It's killing me!! 

I highly recommend this series by Elin Hildebrand. I just love the story line and I love all of the characters in the family. It's really hard for me to put the books down, because instead of chapters, the book is broken up by characters, and I am always wanting to know what is going on in each character's life. Oh, they are just so good! 

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Yes, I am very aware of how lame I sound right now, and I am totally fine with it! Y'all, these things are legit miracle workers! While Henley was at school on Monday, I went to town on our baseboards. While Ben may not notice how squeaky clean and white they now are, I definitely do, and I feel like the house just look so much cleaner! Yes, I'm lame! 

2017 Goals 

Earlier this week I shared my goals for the year, and I loved hearing some of your responses to them. Apparently, some of us share a few! I am super excited about trying to keep up with all of my goals for 2017. They all seem very accomplishable (is that a word?), so I am going to do my best to keep up with them and keep you updated. 

After posting them on Wednesday, I made a yummy, healthy meal for the family for dinner and shared Henley's plate on Instagram. It felt so good knowing I was giving her a nutritious meal, and bonus...she loved it! words needed!! 

Happy Friday everyone!! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Working' It Wednesdays: New Year's Goals

I'm so excited to join Shay and Erika's new link-up for 2017! I feel like all of their topics for Workin' It Wednesdays are topics that either make me think or challenge me to tackle something I've been putting off, and I love that! 

Today's topic is one that I have been putting off thinking about since January 1st. We even went out to dinner with friends recently and the husband asked me what my goals were for the year. He is super motivated and actually speaks to lots of different companies, so I was a little annoyed at myself for not having set any goals yet. I kind of felt like I hadn't done my homework...that's so not me!! 

Now, I'm not one to make HUGE goals for the year, but tend to just think of the things that I really want to incorporate into my daily life, or things that bugged me from the past year and go from there. I have come up with a number of different goals for 2017, and I am so excited to look at them each day and challenge myself to keep them. They are all goals that I really feel like would enhance my daily life and our daily life as a family. Woo hoo!! That's a win-win!! 

Natalie's Goals for 2017

- Intentional Relationships: I really thought about this one in regards to friendships, my marriage, and Henley. I would really like to be more intentional with my friendships, and have wanted this for a long time. I am the world's worst person at keeping up with people. I have some amazing friends from high school and college that I really need to start texting/calling on a regular basis and trying to get together with more often. Ben and I have also made some incredible friends since we have been married and I would really like to be more intentional with those relationships too. I'm hoping to get together with friends at least twice a month. 

I'll elaborate more on the marriage part in another one of my goals, but I would also like to be more intentional with how I spend my time with Henley. Since I stay home with her, I feel like there are many times when we are at home that I am completely elsewhere while we are playing. I take for granted sometimes that I am with her always, and would like to be fully present with her when I can. 

- More intentional conversations with Ben: I'm not sure about y'all, but Ben and I fall into a rut sometimes with our nightly routine. He comes home from work in the evening and it seems like some weeks we barely talk at all or about anything meaningful. Considering that he is my best friend, I would like to be more intentional with how we spend our time together and the conversations we have. I don't want to decide that we are too tired at the end of the day to talk about the things that we want to talk about. We aren't too tired to talk with everyone else throughout the day, so I don't want to neglect our relationship either. This will go along with spending more intentional time together too. We definitely need more date nights and one-on-one time together! 

-Read the Bible in a year: So far so good on this one! I have read my One Year Bible everyday so far in 2017, and I am really enjoying it. 

- Manage my time better = more me time to just breathe: A lot of my goals will help with this one. I am notorious for taking no time to ever sit down and just be. This translates into me feeling totally overwhelmed after a while and getting super frustrated that I never have any time to myself. This is mostly my fault! I need to be ok with a little mess every now and then and just sit down and breathe! It's only Wednesday of this week, but I really feel like I am knocking this one out of the park so far! It's a super busy week for me this week, but I am trying to make every second count and get things done without procrastinating anything. I have had time to be still too which has been awesome! 

- Find/Create a schedule for cleaning the house and stick to it!: Gosh, this will help so much with my above goal! We do not have someone who cleans our house, my child is only 2, and I wouldn't say that my husband is much of a neat freak/not at all, so all of the housework duties pretty much fall on me. I am hoping that this will be the year that I find a good house cleaning routine and stick to it, so that I am not overwhelmed or annoyed on a Saturday or Sunday and cleaning all day, or so that I am not totally stressed when someone comes over unannounced. Again, it's only Wednesday, but I feel like I have been much better about this this week. Ben has even helped out with the routine and I am loving it! 

- Be intentional with our budget: Neither Ben nor myself have that part of our brain that is really into figuring out a budget and making sure that we stay on track. We tend to create a budget about every 6 months and then it just stays saved on the computer. Our goal for this year is to sit down together on Sunday to see how we spent our money each week and then at the end of the month it won't be so overwhelming to try and figure everything out. Now that we have a little one and are hoping to add more to the household, plus we are paying out of pocket for insurance that used to come out of my paycheck, we are way more aware of how our money is being spent. I'm really hoping to take this task on and get really organized with it! 

- Make an effort to eat more clean, healthy, whole foods at EVERY meal and give Henley these options as well: I have always tried to follow the rule of 80/20, but it's not always easy with a busy schedule. Breakfast is easy for me. We are home and I love making and eating breakfast, so for the most part we always eat healthy meals there. I try to pack healthy snacks for myself in my purse, but Henley tends to want the fruit snacks the majority of the time. She also loves Larabars, so that's always a win. I need to be better though about offering her more healthy options. Lunch is kind of a crap shoot. I hate lunch! I would like to be better about creating healthy meals for me and adding more veggies in for Henley during lunch. This means I need to start planning in advance. We tend to be getting home from the gym or errands around lunch and we are starving so we just throw something together. Whoops! Dinner is generally a good meal for us, sometimes a little to large on the portions, but I try to cook healthy each night. Really, my main goals is to incorporate more clean, whole foods into each meal, meaning more veggies and less bagged items. 

Sorry that was a little long-winded. I'm hoping it will allow me to come back here and look over everything for myself. Please feel free to hold me accountable and ask me questions when you want! 

Happy 2017!! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

My Workout Routine

Happy Monday! 

I get a lot of questions from everyone about my weekly workout routine, so I thought it would be fun to kick-off the new year by sharing mine with you. So many people have big goals for the new year in regards to fitness and health. I am in no way a professional, so please do your research before you decide on something for yourself, but I will share what works for me and what I love. 

First of all, I grew up playing sports. I played softball, volleyball, basketball, ran track, was a cheerleader, etc. I have always loved being active! I would love it if I could continue playing sports as an adult, but I haven't found the time to fit that into my schedule nor have I found the teams in my area. Booooo!!! When softball season ended my senior year in high school, I took up running with a teammate to stay in shape. I absolutely fell in love! 

I continued running and going to the gym when I went to college. The above picture is of my best friend and I (we became best friends through running) running our first half marathon my junior year at Baylor. I went through phases throughout college and after of mostly being a cardio queen, then sometimes incorporating weights and loving the results, then going back to being a cardio queen. I ran a lot of races between college and having Henley. 

After having Henley, my view on fitness totally changed. I wanted to be healthy and fit, not just skinny to fit into my clothes. I also didn't have the same amount of time to workout that I used to. While I was still teaching, I relied on the website, fitness to get back into shape. I highly recommend this site. It is amazing! All the workouts are free (unless you decide to join a program), and they are incredible! You can choose between a variety of different levels and a large variety of different types of workouts as well. They absolutely helped me get back to my pre-baby body, but stronger. 

A year after having Henley I ran my first half marathon in about 3 years. I was beyond thrilled! It just felt different after having a baby and was such an accomplishment for me. 

Right now, and for the past 2 years, I am in love with my workout routine! When I started staying home with Henley, I got back into the gym and jumped into the classes. After a few months, I found the teachers that really challenge me and the classes that I love. I have pretty much stuck with that routine for the past couple years with a few changes every now and then. My weekly routine is below: 

Monday: boot camp class 
Tuesday: spin class 
Wednesday: body works 
Thursday: spin class or body works 
Friday: on my own - this may be a long walk or run, a fitness blender workout or a workout I do on my own at the gym 
Saturday: off or something active with the family 
Sunday: off 

**If I can't make it to the gym because of an appointment or a play date, I usually do a fitness blender workout at home during nap time.**

I love this routine, and I love being active! 

Hiking the tallest mountain in Colorado this summer. 

Skiing in Bachelor Gulch 

Surfing in Hawaii 

If I was able to ski, hike, surf, etc. every single day, I totally would, but for now, I live in Denton, TX, and I am a gym rat! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Favorites

It's the first Friday of the year, and I am so excited to join the above ladies in their link-up for Friday Favorites! Really, I can't believe it is already Friday. This week has absolutely flown by. I have no idea where the days went. For half of the week I've been in a bit of a daze, but I did manage to gather some of my favorites from the week for you to see. Enjoy! 

I received this book as a Christmas gift and have been so eager to start it! I don't know why, but ever since I heard about Leah Remini coming out with this book, I have been so interested to read all about it. Scientology is something so foreign to me and there isn't a lot of information about it. I am totally a Nosey Nellie, so I love reading about these sort of things. I am really enjoying winding down at night by reading this book. I can't read a whole lot at once because it's just a lot of information that is kind of hard to understand, but it's really interesting so far. 

Ohmygoodness, this came up on my Timehop this week, and I just couldn't get enough! Henley was so tiny! She was only about a month old here, and we were heading out for my best friend's bridal shower. It was her first big event out and about, and she was just so darn cute! 

Yesterday, we had big plans to meet friends at the PlayStreet Museum in Plano for lots of fun inside while it was cold outside. When we got there, it was absolutely packed. They told us it would be about a twenty minute wait, but it didn't look like anyone had plans of leaving anytime soon, so we made the decision to go to the Willowbend Mall for lunch and to play. I hadn't been here before with Henley and we had a blast. We had a great lunch with our sweet friends and they had so much fun playing in their play area together. We let them all ride a "ride" before we left and, of course, Henley chose the horse. She immediately said "YEEHAW!" when it got going! We were struggling to keep all the kids with us as we were heading out, so we had them hold hands and they were just too cute! 

I saw this on Instagram this week and said an immediate "Amen!". I mean seriously, how true is this?! Dear mom, I do not want to adult most days, so please just tell me what to do! 

I asked for a One Year Bible for my birthday and my parents got me one. I have been anxious to get started all of December, and I have loved it so much so far. I have set time aside each day after I put Henley down for a nap, and I am loving all that I am learning as I read. If you're looking to read more of the Bible, I would highly recommend this one. 

Happy Friday, friends! I hope you have a fabulous weekend and stay warm! I have big plans of snuggling with my little family and being super lazy in front of the fire!