30 June 2015

Ocean Water | Copycat Recipe

One of my favorite things about the summer has always been heading over to Sonic for a tasty treat to cool down in the Alabama heat! When we were at Camp Ozark over the summers days off were always spent at the laundromat with an Ocean Water or Diet Cherry Limeade in hand so when we figured out we could recreate one of our favorites I was super excited!
4 Tablespoons of regular white sugar
4 Tablespoons of water
24 oz of lemon-lime soda (2 – 12 oz cans works great!)
1 teaspoon of coconut extract (add 1/2 teaspoon extra too make extra strong!)
3 drops of blue food coloring

In a microwave safe bowl, mix white sugar and water and heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. This should dissolve most of the sugar. Add the sugar mixture to the lemon-lime soda, coconut extract and food coloring to a pitcher and mix gently.

What's your favorite copycat recipe? Join in and let us know! 
Beth - Our Pretty Little Girls | Michelle - Grammie Time Keri - Living In This Season  
Christina - Waltzing In Beauty | Tara - Mrs. Coach Sims | Lauren - Simply Free 
Jess and Katie - Sweet Little Ones | Whitney - Polka Dotty Place | Becky - BYBMG 
Elizabeth - All Kinds Of Things Sarah - Abiding In Grace | Amy - Go Forth and Mother | Emily - Morning Motivated Mom

read more "Ocean Water | Copycat Recipe"

23 June 2015

A View On Confidence

There is a trend in the news lately critiquing the weight of actresses. Shocking, I know, right? However, most often these critiques revolve around the personal lives of the stars, not their calling into question the validity of a role they are portraying. And that’s why I actually became interested. I have never really been to follow the Hollywood drama, but there are certainly actors and actresses I favor more than others, for their talents onscreen mostly, but on occasion for their personal endeavors which generally speaks to a lack of headlines and more of normalcy in what little news is shared. In my opinion, role models in the acting profession these days are few are far between, which is both sad and frustrating when the media seemingly has such control on our societies views of the “perfect” person. Most films portray the leading females as unnaturally thin, less than intelligent, and more often than not, fully dependent on others for success (unless of course it’s Angelina Jolie and she just tends to rip everyone’s heads off in one fell swoop). The magazines and shows perpetuate the image that women need to be rail thin and overly made up to appear beautiful and that unless you are six feet tall and wear a size zero, you are overweight. And for girls like me, that’s a rather depressing message to hear. Body image is something I, and lets be honest, most females, tend to struggle with at one time or another in their lives. I’ve touched on this before in a post about our obsession as a society with numbers, however I wanted to pause momentarily on the specifics of an issue that is difficult to overcome without people representing reality. 

While external image is seemingly rather a frivolous topic, I believe that until we can embrace ourselves as worthy and acceptable, it will be rather difficult to exude confidence and joy in who, and whose, we are and truly love others as we ought to. The people that influence us most are of course those closest to us, however it is ridiculous to assume that celebrities have no effect on our thoughts, as ubiquitous as their images are as those dreadful golden arches.

Now, a few years ago, I thought Mean Girls was such an encouraging movie, aside form the overarching message of the film, the leading lady for once was a girl with a “normal” body size. Not some unrealistic stick-like figure that could be easily snapped like a twig. But rather a muscular, curvy, real, person. And for the first time, I thought to see what the life beyond “Cady” had to show, if the same confidence continued beyond the set. But Lindsay Lohan’s off-screen behaviors were less than that of a role model for young girls. So I began to wonder. Is there anyone these young girls (and young adults for that matter) look up to as having their head on their shoulders as well as a healthy sense of self and body image?

To be honest, I have always been more of a avid reader than a moviegoer. And the book will always trump the film; however there have been two series characters that in the literary world I had come to admire that were portrayed to a tee on screen as well. The intelligence, loyalty, and courage of Herminone Granger in the Harry Potter series and the fierce, athletic, independent, and resourceful survivalist of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games trilogy have more than inspired me through those stories. So when the lives of the actresses in reality portrayed many of those same qualities, and a strong message for girls of any age, I was quite excited for a change. After all, being in my twenties I still crave to know it’s not only just about being a model to have achieved success in life and that brains and contributing to society in a manner other than simply bearing children and being a trophy wife are to be equally of value.
Well here comes the news that caught my eye. Both Emma Watson (Hermione) and Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) are rather small in stature between 5’4” and 5’6” and between 115-130, respectively, according to a multitude of sites. So when I saw the title “Is Jennifer Lawrence’s body too 'womanly' to play Katniss in The Hunger Games?” I was a bit perplexed to say the least. Critics have spared "Hunger Games" stars Josh and Liam from the "too healthy to be hungry" criticism, despite the pair's "requisite buff young actor frames" but attacks Jennifer as she is a woman. I was encouraged to see her response to it all.

Jennifer says "I'm so sick of these young girls with diets," "I think it's really important for girls to have people to look up to and to feel good about themselves." “This is hilarious. First, people say how so many actresses in Hollywood look anorexic, and now they are criticizing me for looking normal,” The actress reportedly added that overly thin body images “are too often adopted by young girls and women — thanks to what they are constantly being shown as being attractive.” On her athletic build she commented that “I’d rather look a little chubby on camera and look like a person in real life, than to look great onscreen and look like a scarecrow in real life.”

Another interesting find has been about the reality that Emma Watson opens up about insecurities, body size and body image. Even someone as tiny as she is still has insecurities, but also has such a sense of self worth as to combat the thoughts that are seemingly inevitable in the female mind with a positive outlook. Something we can all afford to learn.

‘I’ve accepted my body shape more as I’ve got older. I went through a stage of wanting to have that straight-up-and-down model look, but I have curves and hips, and in the end you have to accept yourself as you are.’ She added: ‘My weight has fluctuated between a size 6 and a 10 UK. When you’re growing, your body is still figuring itself out and it takes a while to settle down. ‘I keep telling myself that I’m a human being, an imperfect human being who’s not made to look like a doll, and that who I am as a person is more important than whether at that moment I have a nice figure.’ ‘It makes me sad to hear girls constantly putting themselves down. We have these unbelievably high expectations of ourselves, when actually we’re human beings and our bodies have a function. ‘We say that the pressure is coming from men but actually it’s from each other. I think women feel so much pressure these days and it can turn us against each other. But we really damage our own confidence when we put ourselves down, so I try not to.’
“There's nothing interesting about looking perfect—you lose the point. You want what you're wearing to say something about you, about who you are.” “I find the whole concept of being ‘sexy’ embarrassing and confusing. What’s sexy about saying, ‘I’m here with my boobs out and a short skirt, have a look at everything I’ve got?’ My idea of sexy is that less is more. The less you reveal the more people can wonder.” In speaking of intelligence she say, “The saddest thing for a girl to do is to dumb herself down for a guy.”
She goes on to say “I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself. I want to avoid becoming something too styled and too ‘done’ and too generic. You see people as they go through their career and they just become more and more like everyone else.”

This is so true of everyone, not just in the acting industry, but in every walk of life. Everyone around us tries to tell us, by their words and their actions, that to be accepted we need to be a certain way.  Whatever that way is, they are deciding it for us unless we take control. The popular trend at school or at work can consume us if we aren’t careful. Molding us into something we are not. A cookie cutter version of what society deems to be desirable, leaving the unique and wonderful creation that you were made to be discarded with last nights take out. We are called to follow in the image of Christ, not in the image of man, and I believe that starts with loving who we are and how He created us to be. Only then can we even begin to show love to those around us.

Join in and let us know what you have to think! And meet our two new hosts as well!
Beth - Our Pretty Little Girls | Michelle - Grammie Time Keri - Living In This Season  
Christina - Waltzing In Beauty | Tara - Mrs. Coach Sims | Lauren - Simply Free 
Jess and Katie - Sweet Little Ones | Whitney - Polka Dotty Place | Becky - BYBMG 
Elizabeth - All Kinds Of Things Sarah - Abiding In Grace | Amy - Go Forth and Mother | Emily - Morning Motivated Mom

read more "A View On Confidence"

16 June 2015

100 must read books

There are the books you read, and then there are the books that change your life.  The ones that shape your perspective on life, love, religion, politics, and much more.  Some are simply a satisfying read, or even merely something to check off a list, yet some can transform into a source of inspiration for the rest of your life. Literature is such a avenue of knowledge and holds such a plethora of wisdom it is so easy to escape to another world and loose myself in the vast unknown contained within binding...
From a seemingly infinite list of both acclaimed works and anecdotal reports the following is a list narrowed down to 100 "must reads" that I recently came across.  This is just one of many lists I'm sure, a little random seemingly and lacking several of my favorites & others I believe should fall into such a inventory, however fairly comprehensive nonetheless.  I hope to one day read all of these (along with several others already on my own personal to do list!) with the intention of more than just turning the pages, but hopefully gathering meaningful insight.  Though barely scratching the surface, I've highlighted the ones I've already tackled (some recently & many several years ago), leaving the remaining to chase after.  I challenge you to join me...

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy 
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck 
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabok
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville 
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens 
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishig
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White 
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Beloved - Toni Morrison
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Which ones have you read? Join in and let us know! And meet our two new hosts as well!
Beth - Our Pretty Little Girls | Michelle - Grammie Time Keri - Living In This Season  
Christina - Waltzing In Beauty | Tara - Mrs. Coach Sims | Lauren - Simply Free 
Jess and Katie - Sweet Little Ones | Whitney - Polka Dotty Place | Becky - BYBMG 
Elizabeth - All Kinds Of Things Sarah - Abiding In Grace | Amy - Go Forth and Mother | Emily - Morning Motivated Mom

read more "100 must read books"

09 June 2015

Snickerdoodle Cookies | Recipe

Ever since we got our mixer I have been dying to bake ALL THE THINGS. Thankfully, the husband loves cookies & so do my coworkers, so I have been experimenting, My latest favorite was beyond simple & can be made with items with almost always have in the pantry as well. They are super simple & beyond delicious! 
via Instagram
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • Heat oven to 375° F. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, & salt.
  • With an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and 1 cup of the granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 2 to 3 minutes).
  • Beat in the eggs and vanilla. 
  • Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until wet & dry ingredients have merged.
  • In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and the remaining ¼ cup of the granulated sugar. 
  • Form the dough into balls (about the size of a tablespoon). 
  • Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on parchment-lined baking sheets (about 1-2 inches apart).
  • Bake until the edges are golden (about 12 to 14 minutes). 
  • Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Serve & enjoy!!

What's your favorite recipe? Join in and let us know!

Becky from BYBMG | Beth from Our Pretty Little Girls | Whitney from Polka Dot Place
Elizabeth from All Kinds of Things | Tara from Mrs.Coach Sims | Keri from Living In This Season 
Sarah from Abiding In Grace | Lauren from Simply Free | Emily from Morning Motivated Mom 
Jessica & Katie from Sweet Little Ones |  Mandy from Almond Place | Teressa from Teressa Jane 

read more "Snickerdoodle Cookies | Recipe"

05 June 2015

Living Room | #SimplyFreeHomeTour

Aside from the kitchen, the other space we are usually to be found in is the living room. As I mentioned the open concept of our house was high on our priority list! We love to entertain, so being able to have a large space was key! I love the title in the kitchen and the hardwood elsewhere as it adds dimension to the spaces, and separates the rooms, as does the high bar. The tall ceilings throughout the first floor also aide in making the space feel continuous and quite open.And it leads off into the porch & backyard so entertaining is an easy flow to all areas as well. We love our cozy living room and movie night is always a treat with the sound system  & surround sound too- it feels like you are in the theater! 

It took some convincing when we were purchasing our furniture as to why a chair & a half was the way to go, but my husband now loves what we have come to term "the nest" for afternoon naps and rainy day snuggles with the puppy & it's one of my favorite spots. You may even notice the slight dip on one side next to the blanket on the back of the chair - that's because the kitty's favorite spot to curl up is right there as well!

pillows | Target
windows | in laws old house & old mansion in Mobile
rug | Target
side chair | World Market
corner shutter shelf | Flea Market
sofa & chair & a half | Ashley (old)
ottoman | DIY upcycle
curtains | Target
floating shelf | DIY (post coming soon!)

read more "Living Room | #SimplyFreeHomeTour"

02 June 2015

Rubios Wander | A Travel Blog

If you've been in this space for any amount of time, you know my love of travel & my love of friends. Well today, I'm super excited to introduce you to a new travel blog that I know you are going to adore: Rubios Wander. Emily is one of my lifelong high school friends I've mentioned before and she has started a space to talk travels & also to give some much needed pointers to how to travel with little ones! They have ventured abroad & have roamed the states as well and are learning the ins & outs of traveling with two kids under 2 and you won't want to miss a thing! Plus, they are just awesome people & super fun & you're going to love them :)

Be sure to follow along with them as they travel for some great tips!

Join in to meet other great bloggers by lining up below! 

And don't forget to enter to win the fantastic giveaway for the Rebecca Minkoff bag & Karen Walker Sunnies!

Becky from BYBMG | Beth from Our Pretty Little Girls | Whitney from Polka Dot Place
Elizabeth from All Kinds of Things | Tara from Mrs.Coach Sims | Keri from Living In This Season 
Sarah from Abiding In Grace | Lauren from Simply Free | Emily from Morning Motivated Mom 
Jessica & Katie from Sweet Little Ones |  Mandy from Almond Place | Teressa from Teressa Jane 

read more "Rubios Wander | A Travel Blog"

01 June 2015

Rebecca Minkoff Mini MAB tote + Karen Walker sunglasses | GIVEAWAY

Now…it's time for a fabulous giveaway! I've teamed up with an amazing group of bloggers and small shop owners to give YOU a chance to win: a Rebecca Minkoff Mini MAB tote + Karen Walker sunglasses!

read more "Rebecca Minkoff Mini MAB tote + Karen Walker sunglasses | GIVEAWAY"