in which I pretend to know stuff about meal planning and dinner ideas

I am not one to ever write a how-to post unless it's how to embarrass yourself in public, because that's the only skill I am truly well-versed in. However, I had a really good conversation with a friend recently about meal-planning, and I've seen several people ask for tips online. I figured I would share my minuscule amount of knowledge in case it helps someone out. It's been a huge area of growth for me since quitting my job and tightening up our budget. Also, what works for one family won't necessarily work for another. I know people who shop every two weeks, and I could never make that work like they do. So consider that your disclaimer and whatnot.

First things first, the most important thing is to pick a budget that works and stick to it no matter what. We'll shift things around and up the budget when we're hosting people, or there's a holiday or something like that, but other than that, we stick with it and I'm very proud of us for how well we've done with that. We pretty much never eat out in a restaurant these days because it's just not super affordable in our current phase of life, and we'd rather spend that money on other things. We do order the occasional pizza or pick up Chipotle for ourselves when Gracie is in bed, but all of that comes out of a separate budget. I walk through the store with the calculator open on my phone so there are no surprises when I check out; I know exactly what everything is going to cost. I also go the same day every week. Correction, I try to. That has completely gone out the window since I got pregnant, and I'm just now getting back in the swing of meal planning and shopping in a regular routine, and honestly I'm going to have to start doing Clicklist again soon because pushing a full cart while this pregnant is getting harder by the week.

I do 99% of my shopping at Kroger. I know grocery stores are regional, so that's going to be different for everyone. I also know a lot of people who shop at Walmart. I've done that in the past, but I tend to avoid Walmart as much as possible, especially the one we live near. Because yikes. I know a lot of people swear by Aldi, but it has failed to impress me every single time. I don't know if it's just the one near us or what, but I never find the amazing deals other people do, nor do I find all the fun snacks and such. I can get most everything at Kroger for just about the same price. Every now and then I'll also go to Trader Joe's just to stock up on fun stuff and frozen things for days I don't want to cook. I used to visit multiple stores a week, but that's no longer convenient for us/I don't have the time or energy for it either. But you can do what you want! I also use the coupons on the Kroger app and scope out the sales while meal planning, both which save us a handful of cash every week.

So! Every week on the same day (lately this has been Saturday afternoon), I sit down with a piece of paper. I look at what's on sale, what we have in the pantry (not much because we don't have one....just a random kitchen cabinet), and I ask James and Gracie what sounds good to them. Lately my hormones tell me what I'm eating, which makes things a little easier in a sense, but a lot harder on the days everything is gross. We don't have any food allergies, but I live with picky eaters. We all hate anything from a pig except bacon. Gracie is just picky in general, but she's also required to eat what we eat for dinner. James won't eat much chicken because he's weird. Of course I could eat chicken every day. Balancing their appetites with what I want is often a challenge, but we make it work.

I assign a meal for every day of the week, though I often change what days we eat what depending on time and moods and all those important things. Then I list all the ingredients I need, and I organize my grocery list by area of the store (produce, meat, center aisles, frozen, etc) to make sure nothing gets lost in the shuffle. Then I add in breakfast foods. James will often eat cereal, Gracie likes oatmeal, and right now I'm hooked on yogurt, granola, and fruit. I'll add lunch in too. Gracie usually eats tuna, turkey, mac n cheese, quesadillas, fish sticks, or something like that with fruit and sometimes nuts or something. James packs his lunch for work, and it's usually something quick and easy. I STRUGGLE with lunches. Sometimes I eat leftovers from the previous dinners. I just went through a two week phase of egg and veggie sandwiches. Often I'll make a big pot of soup or something and eat it through the week. Then I think about what snacks sound good to Gracie and to me. I always have lots of fruit and nuts on hand, and sometimes popcorn and rice cakes and Lara Bars. And there's always the staples: milk, bread, eggs, cheese, chocolate, you know.

As I said previously, I walk through the store with my calculator to make sure I stay on budget. If I find myself under budget, I'll grab an extra snack or a treat or something like that. I usually have a few things on my list with a star by them, and those are what I grab if I have the extra money. This week, that was donuts. Because that is the only thing I want to eat right now. Moving on.

I have a pretty good amount of meals I rotate through depending on what tastes good and how much cooking time I anticipate having that week. If you're a foodie, look away. I have a kid to feed and the last thing I want to do with my limited energy is spend hours in the kitchen. I make big batches of soup and taco meat and things like that so we always have leftovers for a few nights. I try to keep our meals healthy, but sometimes we just want comfort food and that's ok too.

Here are some dinners we eat frequently, in case you need some ideas too. And please give me your ideas, because I'm always looking for new meal ideas.

This stromboli recipe is a recent favorite. It is not healthy, but it is GOOOOOD and took 5 minutes to whip together. I leave out the salami because I'm not a salami person. I served it with a salad. Maybe it came from a bag, don't judge.

Cheese enchiladas (I make my own enchilada sauce--there are a million recipes online) with this corn tomato avocado salad.

Sheet pan nachos. I often leave the meat out to save money, and it's still amazing and filling.

Quiche. Of all kinds. There are recipes for every quiche you can imagine. Sometimes I make broccoli cheese, but when I'm feeling gluttonous, this sausage ranch one is ridic. James & Gracie both beg for it.

If you want a twist on tacos, this mexican rice skillet is amazing and we always have a lot of leftovers.

These pineapple black bean tostadas are so good in the summer.

I love white chicken chili.  I make it in the crock pot and stir in sour cream in the end and top with monterey jack and avocado.

White bean parmesan soup. When I make soups like this, I usually make a loaf of homemade bread to go with it.

This is my favorite chili recipe. It's basic yet amazing. I usually add in corn. Sometimes we eat it with cornbread, and sometimes we mix in sour cream, cheese, and fritos. I've been craving it this winter.

This creamy tortellini soup is amazing when it's cold outside.

This rosemary garlic beef stew is amazing as well.

I love this crockpot lentil soup, too. It makes A LOT, so we'll eat it for dinner a night or two, and then I'll eat it for lunches. Also---please don't actually cut up a whole butternut squash. Buy a bag of frozen squash cubes. It's so much easier. Convenience is key.

Some other easy dinners I don't have recipes for:

BLTs. Self-explanatory. I hope.

Get a bag of frozen meatballs and jar of your favorite marinara. Throw in the crockpot on high for a few hours. Throw them in a bun and top with cheese. Meatball subs! Really good with salad and/or sweet potato fries.

Buy some chicken sausage links, like Aidells or the ones at Trader Joe's. Whatever flavor you want. Buy some veggies. I usually go with a sweet potato and red bell pepper. I love brussels sprouts, but G will literally hurl if a molecule of one gets in her mouth. Drizzle with a smidge of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in the oven at 400 for however long your oven takes. 25-40 minutes probably. I like to buy Aidell's teryaki chicken meatballs and drizzle everything with a little soy sauce and sesame oil.

Get some fresh fish at the seafood counter. At Kroger, they'll season it however you want and throw it in an oven bag, so all you need to do is pop it in the oven at home. I usually get 2 tilapia filets (plenty for three of us) and have them season with garlic, lemon, and butter. We use the fish to make fish tacos or I'll make a salad with spinach, berries, corn, pistachios, feta, and balsamic vinegar.

Chicken tacos! You can throw chicken in the crockpot with a jar of salsa and taco seasoning. Or you can do what I did last night and use a bottle of thai sauce (I used a sweet chili peanut sauce). Throw in tortillas with shredded carrots, avocado, and drizzle with lime juice. Amazing.

Tortilla soup. I've kind of made my own recipe up over the years. Broth, frozen peppers, corn, black beans, zucchini, and carrots. Season it however you want: I use chili powder, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt and pepper. I top with lime juice, cheddar cheese, avocado, and tortilla chips.

Tacos with ground beef. We make a lot of meat and make tacos, burritos, and sometimes throw all the meat and taco fixings on top of tater tots. I know, Ina Garten will be calling me for gourmet meal inspiration any day now.

Sometimes we just eat pancakes and bacon or something. Sometimes we eat grilled cheese and tomato soup. Sometimes it's a frozen pizza, sometimes it's Taco Bell. Do what you gotta do.

I've probably not contributed any new knowledge to the world, but hopefully this gives someone a helpful idea or two, and PLEASE share yours!


some real life pregnancy talk

Not to brag, but pregnancy is not easy for me. All I ever tend to see online is women talking about HOW ESSENTIAL it is to stay active while pregnant. Push through that 1st trimester ickiness and go to the gym! YOU MUST! Labor will be soooooooOOOOoooooo easy if you don't let yourself go!

Ok Jessica. One time I tried to go to work while pregnant and wound up in the hospital with an IV because the effort made me vomit so much I lost 8lbs in a week. But please, remind me how important it is to keep working out!

Disclaimer: every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is thank God for another day with my baby. I do NOT take this pregnancy lightly, and I've had a handful of scares the last few months that have only made me more grateful, and I've been much more anxiety-ridden lately than I'd like to admit. I'm also allowed to think it's hard.

With that said, some days I feel like I can conquer the world, and other days (weeks) I can't do anything but the bare minimum, and even that is a struggle. Last week I was a champion. I cleaned and organized. I cooked. I was on fire. This week? I am barely surviving. 

The fun thing about your second pregnancy is that everything hurts sooner and worse than last time. My hips started bothering me at 11 weeks. I'm carrying lower this time, and just standing up or getting out of bed requires a crane. And I don't have a crane! So there's a lot of grunting and moaning and hobbling. Some days I barely have any discomfort, and other days MY ENTIRE BODY hurts. I can feel my abs stretching and probably ripping apart. My lower back muscles have been replaced by flames. My ligaments are screaming. My sciatic nerve is smoldering. My hips are about to crack open like a pistachio. And I have heart burn for exactly no reason and probably feel like throwing up as well.

Sunday was one of those days. Every inch of my body hurt, and after grocery shopping, I spent the rest of the day curled up in the fetal position with a heating pad. I also felt like I was going to barf for no reason. 

Then yesterday happened. I woke up more tired than ever and I hadn't even done anything. Mid-afternoon, I bent down to throw some laundry in the dryer, and a sensation hit that can only be described as hurtling through time and space. And just like that, I was down with the worst migraine I've had yet. I'm fortunate in that my migraines are less blinding pain and more horrible aura symptoms. Vertigo, nausea, numbness and tingling, and a host of other things. I get awful headaches too, but it's the other stuff that makes it bad. I spent the rest of the day curled up with a bag of frozen broccoli on my head and trying not to move so the vertigo wouldn't strike again. I cannot stress enough how frustrating it is to not be able to take my normal meds while pregnant. Anything that works is off the table, and taking 2 extra strength Tylenol for a migraine is like trying to fight a wildfire with a syringe. 

I happened to check a pregnancy app, and the list of symptoms for this week included migraines and a blurb about how if you're prone to them, they'll probably just start getting worse from now on. I have never wanted to punch an inanimate object more in my life than I did in that second. 

Today is a migraine recovery day. I still feel rough and woozy and my head feels bruised, but I can bend over without feeling like I'm being transported to another dimension so I think we're on the right track. I owe it all to my Taco Bell binge last night. It's probably not recommended during pregnancy, but you can pry it  from my cold, dead hands. There is so little pleasure in this stage of life! 

While we're on it, let's talk about food. I'm hungry all the time but most food still sounds not great. I had a good run for a month or so, and now I'm back to feeling grossed out by whatever food my hormones decide to hate that day. I'm like a toddler---my favorite food one week is probably my least favorite the next. And vice versa. My morning sickness reappeared last month and now I frequently get random bouts of nausea. Too much rich food, and I'll find myself throwing up at 3am. I get sick to my stomach if I haven't eaten enough, even if I don't feel hungry. But it's HARD to eat when you're not sure if it will stay down. And there's no longer enough room in my stomach for the food I WANT to eat, and you guys, I'm just a mess right now when it comes to eating. I eat what my hormones tell me to eat. Sometimes it's a salad, sometimes it's heaving a pallet of cookies in my grocery cart and then running into someone I used to know from the gym. And even though maybe I should have been embarrassed, I was like "what." This is my life now.

Current title of my memoir.

I was reading through some posts about my pregnancy with Gracie, and I wrote something about the trials and tribulations of my digestive system. Before this pregnancy I didn't remember at all what I was referring to, but NOW I DO. Jesus take the wheel. I'd like to make a formal apology to anyone who was in the Kroger bathroom on Sunday, January 12th, 2020. I won't share any details because if you were there, you know. And you can't Google any of this stuff, because Dr. Google's answer to anything during pregnancy is pre-term labor, just like during non pregnancy, the answer to everything is cancer. Stay off the internet, stay off the forums. They only lead to a panic attack in the shower. Don't ask me how I know.

Dare we speak of the hormones? The rage? The sadness? James has had bronchitis for 3 weeks now, and every time he coughs it's like he's coughing at me. Every coughing fit and I want to scream "How even DARE you right now!!!!!" Obviously he is more miserable than I am, but I *cannot* deal with the constant coughing, and he can take medicine. I am constantly trying to assess if something is worth crying about or if I'm in a hormonal rage again. I was sitting in Gracie's room the other night with James while she put on a doll show for us. Dinner was simmering and I knew I could sleep in the next morning. I had nothing to be upset about. But suddenly I felt mad and sad and started crying and had no explanation for it. I know there's no reason for me to want to punch everyone I know in the face, but sometimes it's just all I want to do. The best antidote to this is silence, and of course I get PLENTY of that with a 4 year old around all day.

Pregnancy brain and clumsiness are also REAL symptoms, I don't care what anyone says. If I pick it up, there's a 83% chance I will drop it. And I'm soooo good at bending over right now, so it's great. I seriously drop everything, and with the aforementioned hormones, there's a pretty large chance I'll cry about it. Thankfully that same 4 year old can pick things up for me, hand it to me, just for me to accidentally fumble it again. Also my brain short-circuits frequently. I was trying to make a breakfast sandwich earlier and started to pour the eggs DIRECTLY ONTO THE BURNER instead of in a pan. I then couldn't figure out why my bread wasn't toasting until I realized I never pushed the toaster down. This is not unlike yesterday, when I fought my printer for an hour just to realize I never plugged the cord in to my laptop. 

As I once saw on a meme somewhere, there are two brains in my body, yet I've never felt dumber.

Except I usually forget to take my vitamins.

So next time you see Jessica on Instagram talk about the wonderful glories of pregnancy (and that's accurate .002% of the time) while she's wearing some fancy maternity outfit and a full face of makeup, remember this. Some of us are a hot mess and still in our pajamas at 2pm, and it will only get worse over the next 3 months.


reading rainbow

On a Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell--3 stars: I have a lot of thoughts on this book. It centers around the sinking of the Titanic, a topic of which I've been mildly obsessed with since elementary school. I mean, I still have a children's Titanic book on my shelf full of charts and diagrams of the ship that I read religiously as a kid. This novel was focused on three passengers, all of different social classes. It follows their story before, during the sinking, and years later. I loved one of the stories, but the other two didn't sit well with me. There was a LOT of lying and infidelity that was totally glorified and justified. At the end of the book, the author wrote that she wanted to write about the darker types of people who were on the ship and not just the famous millionaires that became famous after. I get that, but still. This book had so much potential, and honestly I'm probably being a bit generous with three stars. However, the scenes of the sinking were absolutely chilling.

For fans of: historical fiction, the Titanic, being totally cool with cheating on your husband

We Met in December by Rosie Curtis--4 stars: The reviews for this one are all over the map, but personally I really enjoyed it. It's not necessarily a Christmas book, though it begins and ends in December. Jess moves into a house with her friend and a handful of roommates she's never met before. She quickly develops a crush on one of her roommates even though he's possibly seeing one of the other roommates. DRAMA. They build a solid friendship over the course of the year and things get ~interesting~. It was such a cute, heartwarming, lighthearted book made 200% more charming because it takes place in London.

For fans of: One Day in December, British charm, Knotting Hill

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty--4.5 stars: This is another one that I've seen people either love or hate. I LOVED IT. I could not put this sucker down. Nine strangers, all with their own issues, stay at a health resort together with no idea what's in store for them. They get to know each other well while things get crazy. Seriously crazy. About halfway through, the book takes a ridiculous turn that could turn some people off, but honestly I was just dying to see how things turned out. I've read a few other books with sort of similar plots so I guessed a few things but still felt genuinely entertained. Her humor is just fantastic and I love it.

For fans of: Fitness Junkie, Waisted, ridiculous twists, delightful wit 

Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah--2 stars: I read this over Christmas and really wanted to love it, but I didn't. Joy (of course her name is Joy) decides to take a last minute trip for Christmas. Her plane crashes in the woods and things get ridiculous from there. She stays at an old hotel and befriends a grieving little boy and his grumpy dad. I was totally engrossed in the first few chapters, but then it just got weird. If a Hallmark Christmas movie had a fever dream and then wrote a book about it, this would be it. I just could not get past the twist and I'm still trying to make sense of it. Please read this so we can discuss because I almost threw the book. It's typical Kristin Hannah in that it's well-written and you have no clue what's going to happen next, but she missed this mark on this one in my opinion.

For fans of: wondering if you're on drugs, sad Christmas stories, the PNW, stories with precocious little kids, Lost

American Royals by Katherine McGee--3.5 stars: I'm a little embarrassed by how much I enjoyed this. In this alternate universe, America is ruled by a crown and not a president. This definitely feels like a play on the British royal family--if William & Henry were women and in line for the American throne instead. The story is told from multiple POVs including the royal family and one of their close friends. There are love triangles, drama, and it's basically the equivalent of a Bravo reality show. Totally mindless and super entertaining. I typically want nothing to do with YA, but this one sucked me in regardless. I loved the way she fleshed out the idea of America being under a monarchy. I'm glad we're not, but it was an interesting way to think.

For fans of: The Royal We, the British royal family, reality tv

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson--5 stars: this short little children's chapter book was recommended to me by several people this year. I had never even heard of it! It was adorable and so funny. A family full of rowdy, disobedient kids takes over the annual church Christmas pageant and make it their own. It was heart-warming and witty and one I'll definitely read with G when she's a little older. I loved the sweet message in it as well.

For fans of: cheeky kids, A Charlie Brown Christmas

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis--5 stars: Don't yell at me, but this is my first time reading the Narnia series. I don't remember much of a desire to read it as a kid, and if I'm being honest I'm not even sure I was allowed? I've NEVER been into fantasy. It just doesn't work for me. With that said, I was hesitant to read this, but I was immediately swept up in the story and loved it. The allegory is so beautiful it nearly made me cry. This is Lewis at his finest. It's so beautiful and wonderful, and I can't wait to keep reading the series.

For fans of: beautiful writing, good vs. evil, fantasy

Introverted Mom by Jamie C. Martin--4 stars: Ok, buckle up because I have A LOT of thoughts on this. I'm going to copy and paste my Goodreads review and expound upon it because I don't have the mental stamina right now to form more thoughts on it. Overall, this book was life-giving to me. I know how to manage my life well and create boundaries as an introvert, but as a mom with a young child and another on the way, it’s a struggle. There is no quiet, especially with an extroverted child. I love the way she tied in classic literature and introverted female authors, though I take issue with the fact that she ascribes Meyers-Briggs labels to people she's never met who died a long time ago.

Since this is a Christian book, I’m going to judge it through that lens, and I did have a few theological issues. She goes a little too self-care/Rachel Hollis at times. She says it’s perfectly natural to be angry when we don’t have enough quiet. Sure, that’s our human response, but it doesn’t make it right. Yesterday I went way past my introvert limit and found myself snapping at G just because I was so over the constant questions, and that was wrong of me even though it was my human response to be frustrated after a day of socializing. And yes, boundaries are important to maintain some sanity, but as Christians we’re also called to die to ourselves and lay ourselves down for others. I didn’t see any of that in this book. We can’t always hide behind our introvert nature (and I’m an extreme one, so I get it) to get out of things. Sometimes we are called out of our comfort zones which means doing something contrary to our personality. Spending time with God will fill us up much more than sniffing essential oils (🙄) and laying in bed will. We needed some more gospel in this book and less “do what makes you happy” crap. There's a lot of good in taking a few moments for yourself to reenergize, but there was a huge lack of balance.

With that said, I really did love this book. It was a great reminder that God hardwired us this way for a reason, even if it goes contrary to culture. I wouldn’t go to it for correct theological advice, but more for solidarity that we aren’t the only ones at home with buzzing heads from the constant noise.

For fans of: introversion, personality types, praising the Lord every time the park is empty

Happy 2020 friends! I hope this year is treating you well so far. I had to adjust my reading goal last year since my nausea forced me to take a 4 month break, but I still did pretty well with 61 books. I have NO idea how reading is going to go this year with all the changes coming our way, but so far I'm off to a strong start and on my fourth book already. What are you reading these days?


One of the things I worried about most with preschool is how sick Gracie would be all the time. You can roll your eyes. Her BSF class is ALWAYS full of sick kids, and since the age of two, she's gotten almost every virus from there or church. That just kills me...as Christians, we should understand that infecting people with germs is not a loving, kind thing to do. KEEP YOUR SICK KIDS AT HOME. I figured preschool would be even worse. Last year, we were sick so much that MULTIPLE people told me we must have compromised immune systems. No. I have barely been sick in my adult life until I had her. Kids are petri dishes who sneeze in your face, and no matter how much you Lysol your house, you can't Lysol your lungs when an airborne virus is launched into your nose. Science, guys.

Now I'm pregnant and technically in the immunocompromised camp and not allowed to take any medicine, so the stakes are even higher. Then Gracie started school and stayed miraculously healthy. I stayed healthy. I attribute this to God's mercy more than anything, but TAKE THAT people who once accused us of having bad immune systems.

Then, the day before we were supposed to leave for our Christmas trip, Gracie woke up with a cold. Of course she did. Oh well, it could be much worse.

We left for our trip and an hour from home we were stopped by a horrendous car accident. The hospital helicopter landed right next to our car, there were body bags, it was very sobering. I was rattled for the rest of the day and REALLY not in the mood to drive 400 more miles in holiday traffic after witnessing that, but such is life. A truck in front of us blew a tire, and tire fragments were pelting our car until we could finally pass him. Gracie forgot her favorite toy at home. It was one of the more stressful days we've had in awhile.

Anyway, we made it safe and sound and things went well until the night before Christmas Eve, when we went to a hibachi restaurant and discovered that one of the kids at our table was sick with a stomach bug. I can give grace where grace is due, but there is NO excuse for taking your puking child to a restaurant. The mom admitted to us and everything that they had a stomach bug go through the house and were still getting over it. Of course, I had no choice but to take Gracie to the bathroom where the kid had gotten sick everywhere. I didn't let G touch anything, which meant I had to touch everything.

You can call this foreshadowing.

On Christmas Eve, everyone (but me!) woke up deathly ill with some kind of demonic cold. We had to skip Christmas Eve service. We put Gracie to bed that night with a horrible cough and slight fever. Before long, the house was full of sinus infections and bronchitis. Two days later, I was up all night puking and then came down with the cold I'm still trying to kick, which is most definitely the worst one I've ever had. AND I CAN'T TAKE MEDICINE. But it's ok! It's ok. We were all together as a family, but it was probably not the smoothest Christmas of all time.  I shouldn't be surprised by this. Every single holiday and birthday and trip this year has been a bit of a mess.

Now we're home. The kitchen table is still stacked with Christmas presents, the tree is still up, laundry is still piled up, and my suitcase is nowhere near unpacked. I will deal with all of it just as soon as I'm not going through a box of tissues every hour.

It's New Years Eve and maybe I should wax poetically about the last decade, but honestly I went through that mental saga when I turned 30 in March. I didn't even realize we were actually starting a new decade until a few weeks ago. I had already gone through the mental process of it all months ago. Every year has its good and its bad, but 2019 has probably leaned a lot more on the hard side of the scale. It was a year where nothing went as planned, there were A LOT of disappointments and frustrations, but that's just how some years ago. I'm also ending the year staring down the third trimester, and that cancels out the bad things. When I get bummed thinking about the way my birthday was ruined, or the house repair drama we went through this year that made things rough financially for a bit, I remember this baby. Last year at this time, I said a silent, secret prayer that I would end the year pregnant. It wasn't even up for discussion at the time and for many reasons, I figured we were going to have an only child. But here I am. An amazing reminder that God sees our deepest desires and hears our prayers. Because trust me, when I made that prayer, I might as well have been praying to be crowned the Queen of England with how realistic it seemed at the time.

Anyway, I'm stealing this from Amber because it looks like a fun way to sum up the year instead of listing out the dozens of ways this year was defined by barfing and unexpected expenses.


BEST ADVENTURE/TRAVEL/TRIP:  We had two amazing trips in May. I'd probably go with our trip to North Carolina, because we got to visit our old church and pastor who married us before spending a week at the beach where we celebrated our anniversary. Gracie rocked our 13ish hour road trip, and it was so fun taking her to the beach. It was just such a good trip.

BEST BOOK: You Who? by Rachel Jankovic. I already need to reread it.

BEST MOVIE:  I didn't go to the movies once this year, but we did rent American Gospel and it was AMAZING.

BEST ALBUM OR SONG:  This is hard! I embarrassingly fell a little bit in love with the Jonas Brothers for a bit. I also listened to A LOT of Fleetwood Mac after reading Daisy Jones & the Six.

BEST PODCAST: The Dream, hands down. It's the only podcast I've made it all the way through this year.

BEST FOLLOW ON INSTAGRAM:  I think I unfollowed way more people than I followed. I did just started following Phylicia Masonheimer after the whole Bethel fiasco (which I have SOOOO many thoughts on), and so far I really appreciate her thoughts.

BEST DATE:  We managed two dates this year, and both were borderline disasters thanks to life. Oh well. Our anniversary date turned out the best after a very rocky start, and it ended with a gorgeous rainbow on the beach.

BEST KIDDO MILESTONE:  Starting preschool. It's the first time in 4 years I've gotten a small amount of time to myself, and I have never needed it more than I have this year. And she is thriving in that environment. 

BEST FAITH GROWER:  I don't know where to begin. The whole year. The whole year was a test of faith and relearning how to rely on God.

BEST TREND YOU TRIED: I'm NOT a trend person, so the only thing I can think of is buying a diffuser. I only use it occasionally, but I don't hate it. 

BEST BEAUTY PURCHASE:  Once again...not really my thing. I have no idea! Well, yes I do. I bought this charcoal face mask/scrub from Ulta and I love it. I also use it with this one, and my skin feels amazing after. As you can see, no super expensive brands for me, but I WILL splurge on Urban Decay and Too Faced eyeshadow. However, if anyone wants to tell me about a good foundation for super fair skin with cool undertones, I'm all ears. Apparently my skin tone does not exist to those in the beauty industry. 

BEST FAMILY MEMORY: Once again, probably the beach with both sides of our family. 

BEST HABIT YOU CREATED:  LOL. Any habits I had were quickly undone when I got pregnant. I'm still trying to figure life out again since feeling better. I had been getting up early to read my Bible and drink coffee, and that was so good for me. I stopped that when I got sick, and now I'm kind of desperate for sleep so I'm not sure when I'll be up for that again. Probably not until the baby is here and sleeping well...so....a long time from now. The most important one for me is probably cleaning up as the day goes, otherwise the day is over, I'm exhausted, and the house is a disaster and I want to cry. It doesn't always work like that, but it helps when I stay on top of the dishes and sweeping the floor and wrangling the toys.

FAVORITE BLOG POST WRITTEN:  I didn't blog much this year and nothing really stands out to me, so probably this one. 

BEST NEW RECIPE: Sheet pan nachos. Put a layer of chips down, top with whatever you like, and pop it in the oven until warm and melty. Delicious. 

BEST LIFE OR MOM HACK:  Don't have your babies back to back so your 4 year old can make her own lunch and bring you nausea meds. 

BEST MAMA MOMENT: Probably the day I explored Chicago with Gracie. The two of us took on the city together, and she talked me into going on the Navy Pier ferris wheel, where I discovered I've apparently developed a fear of heights. 

BEST HOME IMPROVEMENT:  New windows, for sure. I'm still sick over the expense, but it has been WORTH IT.

BEST LITTLE LUXURY YOU'VE ENJOYED: This is not a year defined by luxury, big or small! But probably having a small chunk of time to myself three mornings a week. I can't tell you how desperately I have needed this.

I am so ready for this new year. Big, difficult things are ahead. Having a baby, adjusting to life as a family of four, and homeschooling a kindergartner. I'm overwhelmed thinking about it all, but eager to see how it all plays out. 

I started this decade as an engaged college student in North Carolina, and I'm ending it married, living in Ohio, and just about a mother of two. 


currently, december ed.

watching: currently Toy Story 3. It's a snowy day and we have no plans, so movies it is.

listening to: I just discovered that Ingrid Michaelson has a Christmas album. It's so good! Of course it is.

cooking: spaghetti 

drinking: Lady Grey tea

enjoying: the snow! It's finally snowing. I'm trying to enjoy it as much as possible since the week of Christmas is supposed to be depressingly warm. 

thinking about: all the presents I have to wrap still and all the cookies I have to bake and packing I have to do. Deep breaths. I saw this the other day and it is TOO TRUE. All I want to do is sit by the tree and read, but there is SO MUCH TO DO. I'm still sitting by the tree to read. Just not as much as I would like.

resenting: our stupid bunny. I spent an eternity wrapping the other night, and two seconds after putting gifts under the tree, SHE ATE THE WRAPPING PAPER OFF THEM. I almost threw her outside. Needless to say, she's no longer allowed in the living room.

smelling: a pine candle and the toast I just made.

reading: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. I think she's becoming one of my favorite authors. Her writing style is just so good.

loving: Gracie had her preschool Christmas program yesterday and it was the sweetest thing EVER. I had no idea they would be in costume, and my hormonal self burst into tears as soon as she walked up to the stage wearing her angel get up.

laughing about: this blog post. It's one of my favorite posts that I've ever read. I was crying laughing and read it over and over. This is me with virtually every knitting pattern. I've been doing it for nearly 15 years and never seem to get much better.