Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Shabby Chic Blue Dresser Makeover

found this petite, little lady of a dresser months ago before Lydia was born. And after about 4 months of her being here, I finally got around to refinishing it! It's depressing I don't have a "before" picture . It was a dark stained wood but pretty rough. All she needed was some milk paint to cheer her up. I used MMSMP's Eulalie's Sky as a base and Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co.'s Buttermilk and Light Cream to soften the blue. After painting, I distressed it by sanding and using a scraper. I then had Jake put a coat of polyurethane on (kept the chemicals away from baby!). It's now up for sale which is sad because I'd love keeping it. Gotta pay the bills! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

For This Child I Prayed

Read Part 1 of my pregnancy story here.

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.”
1 Samuel 1:27

We moved into our new home in September. By January, there still existed  a few junk rooms filled with unpacked boxes and miscellaneous items. The room on the second floor with a door to hide everything didn’t bother me so much. It was the room on the first floor that was an embarrassment. I decided to conquer one of those rooms one afternoon during my Christmas break. Jake silently refused to go through boxes of his old college homework, notebooks, etc. so I decided to take them on. He was being useful and manly elsewhere, as usual, hammering some nails into the roof that afternoon.

Out of one of the boxes I pulled a journal dating back to his freshman year of college. We both were in undergrad together at VCU and I found some written prayers about us and our future. I found it adorably attractive that he was already praying about marriage. I decided that since it was more than five years old and we were married now that it was sort of like public record. I flipped through and smiled at all the ways God had answered his prayers. I began to close the journal but at a glance I read the words “Hannah” and “pregnant” in the same sentence. Jake had written:

 “Hannah could not become pregnant in her own strength so she humbly pleaded before the Lord that he would help her. Once He did, she acknowledged God for his help and was overjoyed.”

Woah. What in the world? How did freshman year Jake know about our desire and struggle to become pregnant? Pregnancy hadn’t even crossed my mind during freshman year of college. What did Jake know that I didn’t? I checked the dates once more and confirmed they were in fact from that year. I read on.

Soon, I realized that Jake had been taking notes on a passage in the Bible about a woman named Hannah. Hannah desired to have children but was barren for years. She pleaded with the Lord for a child. When she humbly bowed herself before him, he heard her cry and she became pregnant with Samuel. This baby, Samuel, grew up to live an amazing and holy life for God and is one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.

Back to my story…All I could think about that week was pregnancy. And I had decided to clean that room to take my mind off pregnancy. I couldn’t escape it. I wanted so very much to find that we had conceived this time. I knew God would provide at just the perfect time. The waiting was the hard part. I couldn’t turn off my mind and pretend I didn’t care if it had happened this time. So when I read this, I was comforted, knowing that for the Hannah in the Bible, she couldn’t become pregnant on her own and I couldn’t either. This time that reality lifted all the weight I had been carrying. OK God, I thought, I think I get the point this time. You’ve got this, so I can really stop worrying.

A few days later, the Lord let me in on his plans: beautifully delicate double lines on a pregnancy test! I was pregnant! As I stood there in awe of His work, there was a heavy peace and soberness as I reflected on all the months past. There was no bitterness or resentment that the Lord would withhold this gift till now. He was good. His timing was good. The refining of my soul had been good. He had been preparing me to be a mother that sought Him before anything else. The emptiness of my womb had been good, as each passing month I had been filled more with Christ. The discontentment I felt in this world was good, pointing me to the brevity of my life and reminding me of my home in heaven. But now was the time for celebration! The Lord had heard our petition!

I'm sharing our story so that you know it's not always as easy as it appears. There were so many times when I’d get on Facebook and see 17 new pregnancy announcements (I exaggerate). It just seemed so easy when in reality, it’s often not. I pray you are filled with hope at all the Lord has planned for your family. If you’ve had trouble conceiving, my heart aches with you. No matter how long it takes, don’t give up on the Lord. His timing can feel like eternity, but in the end his plans are always more beautiful than our own. Humble yourself before the Lord and share with him the desires of your heart.

To the one who is struggling to find comfort in barrenness, wait on the Lord.
To the one who says “time is running out,” wait on the Lord.
To the one who thinks God doesn’t hear, wait on the Lord.

“He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!” Psalm 113:9

Finding Hope for Pregnancy

This morning, I sit here smiling as I feel my baby moving within me. The feeling is like nothing I've ever felt and I thank God for such a precious gift. Although this is the first child I've been able to feel move in my womb, it's not my first baby. I'm looking forward to meeting that first little soul at the gates of Eternity.


Tears streaked my face as I endured waves of pain. Jake drove fast, clutching the wheel with intensity. We both knew that when we arrived, the pain wouldn’t stop but that it was best to be out of the car. When we got home, I ran to our bed and bawled. The heaviness of my heart hurt so more than my body. “The Lord is faithful to all He has made,” we recited and read from the Bible over and over in the car. We held our ground and believed that He had the power the deliver and heal me at that moment. But as the pain pervaded, we started to feel sick to our stomachs. Why would God take away precious life that he had given? I was so perplexed…crushed like nothing I can describe.

It took me weeks to tell anyone other than my family. One morning we were at some friends’ home for brunch. The husbands had gone in the living room to talk technology as the girls continued to chat at the table. It was a hot morning and the sun streamed in the window with persistence.  “How’s it going with baby stuff?” One of them asked excitedly.  Everyone knew I’d wanted a baby since forever and the time had finally come for us to try. As soon as she asked, the past few weeks of heartache tumbled out without my control. Hardly able to speak, I managed to get out a few words through tears, “I was pregnant, and now I’m not.”  “Oh, Hannah.”, she said with tears in her eyes. I managed to get through the short, little story of my baby’s coming and going. “I trust that God is good, so I know He’s somewhere in all this but I just can’t see where yet. It hurts so much.” I said, looking at them for any encouragement they could think of.  It’s tough to give advice when someone is grieving because the person is so fragile. One careless word, and I could have been very easily scarred during that time.

“The Lord knows exactly what your future family looks like,” she said. He knows at what hour and day each child will put their trust in Jesus, when they will meet their spouses, and when they will meet their Creator in Heaven.  His will is good and perfect…and He mourns with you.”

I had made up my mind the day after it happened that I had a choice. I could be angry with God or confused. I knew He was good but I didn’t understand how He let things like this happen. I chose to be confused. When Sara spoke those words over me that morning, I started to feel healing. My mind had been so ravaged by emotion, I couldn’t make sense of what had happened. There was no wisdom or energy to try to find a greater purpose.

Do you need to know the details? How far along I actually was? If you asked any mom, they’d probably tell you it hurts to lose a life no matter how much time you had with a little one. But to share with you the extent of instant, maternal love, I was only 5 weeks along.


We decided not to try for a while for various reasons. Finally, it was time. I thought God would have mercy on us because of what had happened and expected to be pregnant right away. I could hardly wait to test. Half a week after ovulating, I’d prance to the bathroom, hoping for a positive. But no matter how long I stared at that stick with one stupid, single line, I couldn’t make myself pregnant.

My excitement to test waned as the months went on. After a few months, I didn’t even test because I had become so aware of my body. The tests just made the reality harder. Who knew this whole conceiving thing would be so stinking painful? Who would have guessed that it’d be such an emotional and spiritual roller coaster? I sure didn’t.

I was reading a pregnancy blog the other day and the woman was a mess about her fear of infertility. She wrote a 4-part entry about her “journey to pregnancy”. Want to know how many times they had to try before they had a successful pregnancy? Twice. I had started to read it, hoping to find comfort in another person’s conceiving hardships. When I read that she got pregnant on their second try, I was just a little bit annoyed. But the Holy Spirit stepped in and reminded me that there are stories of such greater hardship than mine. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve tried or how many babies you’ve had to say goodbye to, it all hurts. And He hurts with us.

I didn’t really share with Jake the depth of my fears during this time because it hurt more to speak it out loud. I was ashamed at my lack of faith and hopeless attitude. I’m sure if I had shared more, he could have encouraged and led me to a better understanding of God’s plans for us.

One particular month, I thought for sure I was pregnant. I tested and although it was negative, I knew it just had to have worked this time. The next morning, I was awoken in the night by painful cramps and disappointment.  As I lay there half awake, coming to the realization that there was no new life within me, I heard the words of a song playing in my mind as I grieved, “Fearfully and wonderfully and beautifully made,” I was surprised to feel peace as the song played over and over in my mind. I knew the Lord had used songs to comfort me in the past so I let Him sing.

The song’s lyrics are based on a Psalm in the Bible:

   “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.”
-Psalm 139:14

At first (considering I was half asleep), I didn’t know what God was trying to say with the song. I accepted the fact that it brought comfort to my heart. As the morning went on, I realized the words spoke to my deepest fears about conceiving. If you’ve ever tried to become pregnant and had any sort of trouble, you’ll understand. For the past few months, day and night, I was constantly plagued by the fear that I wasn’t made adequately to have babies. I was so scared that there had been a mistake or that something was broken…that I had the desire for children but no ability to carry them.  And though I barely even admitted it to myself in those months, God had seen and felt and heard my fear. And He sang, “You, my child, are fearfully and wonderfully and beautifully made and you WILL conceive.” Looking back, it brings me to tears. His love for us is unimaginable. And His plans are perfect.

Could I walk humbly before God and believe that He made me without flaw? Even after a miscarriage? I struggled to do just that. I’d like to think that at this point, I started to change how I approached God about my fertility. But I can’t really pinpoint one specific instance when I decided I would now trust his plans. It was a constant, daily battle to give up my plans and declare that I was 100% accepting of God’s future for our family. 

Read the second part of our story here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Homemade Thin Mints (Grain-Free!)

This is a big deal. For this first time in 10 years, I won't be having my annual I-hate-people-who-can-eat-gluten pity party. It takes place around that magical time of year when everyone's passing around the cookie order form, smiling ear to ear. You can almost hear the gluten being digested perfectly in their sickeningly happy tummies as they order by the dozen.

But since this recipe came into my life, I can honestly say I will never need another processed, gluten-filled Thin Mint again!

They're grain free and ALMOST refined sugar free. I used melted dark chocolate chips for the outer coating which contain sugar. If you can find me chocolate chips sweetened with honey/maple syrup, I'll pay you big money. I could have made my own chocolate coating but it's more work and it never seems to harden the same way. I'm open to suggestions.

Before we get into the ingredients for this recipe, take a look at what's in a "real" Thin Mint :

Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate [vitamin B1], riboflavin [vitamin B2], folic acid), sugar, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated palm kernel and/or cottonseed oil, soybean and palm oil), cocoa, caramel color, contains two percent or less of cocoa processed with alkali, invert sugar, whey, leavening, (baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), cornstarch, salt, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavor, oil of peppermint.

Gluten, partially hydrogenated oil, sugar, soy, cornstarch, artificial flavor...No thanks! 


2 C almond flour
1/2 C coconut flour
2 eggs
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tbsp raw honey (I'm not sure how much honey I used...but I would say sweeten to taste)
 2 tsp peppermint extract (I accidentally bought peppermint "flavor" and used as much as needed to my liking)
4 Tbsp coconut oil

Chocolate Coating:

16 ounces dark chocolate
2 tsp peppermint extract (or to taste)
Optional: peppermint sprinkles (mine were not sugar free (oops) but I had wanted to lure the kiddos to eat them with a little extra somethin special. Regret soon set in as they ate too many and I wanted to horde them all for myself).


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3) Mix all ingredients together until you can form a ball
4) Form 1-inch balls then flatten into discs
5) Place on parchment paper and bake for 13-15 minutes. Remove and let cool

image from fedandfit.com
After cookies have cooled, melt chocolate for coating. I melted mine in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring each time. Once melted, add peppermint extract and mix well. Dip cookies in melted chocolate and place on parchment paper. Chill in refrigerator/freezer to harden. 

image from fedandfit.com

image from fedandfit.com

Recipe adapted from Fed and Fit

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Homemade Chicken Broth

Chicken broth is incredibly easy to make. It's almost mindless when you have a slow cooker. The best part about using a whole chicken is that I also use the meat to make other meals like chicken pot pie or enchiladas. Homemade broth is vastly different from the store bought stuff which is little more than chicken flavored salt water. You know it's good for you when you put it in the fridge for a day or two and it gets jiggly like jello. All the gelatin concentrated in the broth is vital for your joint/tendon, skin, and hair health. It also soothes digestion and gets things moving. It also stimulates the immune system, regulates hormones, and is a natural anti-inflammatory. Got some aches and pains? Heat up some of this and drink it instead of your morning coffee and start your day off feeling well. If I have broth on hand, I drink about 4 oz. with each meal to promote digestion.

Here's the recipe (from Nourishing Traditions):

  • 1 whole organic pastured chicken or 2-3 pounds chicken bones with or without bits of meat, including feet and organs if you have them (I go to my farmers market and find "broth packs" that include necks and feet which make the broth very gelatinous)
  • 4 quarts filtered water
  • 2 T vinegar
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped (I omit if I don't have one)
  • 2 carrots coarsely chopped  (I omit if I don't have any)
  • 3 celery sticks, coarsely chopped (I omit if I don't have any)
Slow cooker directions:

Place everything in slow cooker and let sit for half an hour.  Cook on high for 6 to 12 hours (Depending on how much time I have or when I need the broth/meat). The longer it cooks, the more nutrient-dense the broth will be. See step 2 and 3 in stovetop directions for final instructions.

After it's done, I fish out the chicken with a slotted spoon, take the meat off and reserve it for other meals. Sometimes I also reserve the veggies for dishes like pot pie.

Stovetop Directions:

  1. Put chicken and/or chicken parts in a pot, add the water, vinegar and vegetables. Let sit for a half hour, then bring to a boil and remove the scum/foam that rises to the top with a spoon. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 12 hours. 
  2. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and reserve meat for other meals.
  3. Strain the stock into a large bowl. Pour into mason jars (fill below the part of the jar that starts to get narrow or else it may crack in freezer) or paper cups. Let the glass jars sit until they are pretty cool, then cover and freeze or refrigerate.  
A note on getting your broth to "gel" in your slow cooker:
There were times when my chicken broth wouldn't gel. I assumed it was because it was boiling too hard/long in my slow cooker. But then when it also didn't gel with the stovetop method, I knew something was up. Upon further investigation, I found that it had to do with the age and quality of the chicken or chicken parts. See below.

Tips for choosing the right chicken:
  1. Buy a large bird that appears to have been alive for a good, long time. Avoid "young hens" because they won't have as much gelatin and fat needed to gel the broth.
  2. Buy "pastured" birds or other equivalent labeling. This means the bird was outside a large portion of its' life and foraged for things like bugs and seeds which is the intended diet for chickens. If you can't find "pastured," look for "free range."Chances are you're going to have to buy from a local farm or go to a farmers market to find what you need.
  3. Buy organic. Organic doesn't mean that a chicken spent its' life outdoors, foraging for food. It does mean you know that the chickens' diet was primarily made up of non-GMO soy and cornmeal.
  4. If you must buy a plain, ol' chicken, make sure to research the acceptable living conditions. These birds spend most of their lives in a barn with no access to the outdoors, no opportunity to forage for their food and with thousands of unhealthy and/or dead dead chickens packed in around them. Watch the video below for some enlightenment on the issue.

This clip about chickens' living conditions is from the documentary, Food Inc.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Curing My Gluten Intolerance

When I was sixteen, I had to stop eating gluten. It made me utterly exhausted and caused countless unmentionable digestive issues.  In my first year of college, I realized I could no longer tolerate lactose either. Cutting out mozzarella cheese and ice cream was even more difficult than cutting out gluten. Eating strictly gluten and lactose free, I felt good for a while. College was quite busy…classes, working, unpaid internships, newly married, etc. Once I was a few years out and found a job that didn't keep me up at night, I had time to reevaluate how healthy I was feeling. And finally I realized I wasn't doing all that well. Most days, I'd be bloated and tired for hours after a meal. It’s as if my digestive system was robbing the rest of my body of its’ energy. I’m in my 20’s…shouldn’t I feel better than this? I’d ask myself this almost every day, throwing dozens of pity parties. If I’m avoiding the things I’m intolerant to, in theory I should be well, right?

After months of being totally obstinate to the idea, I decided to take sugar out of my diet, hoping it was the source of my problem.  I read Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions, and became totally amused by what was in the food I was eating. The book educates one on the proper way to cook ingredients to get the most nutrients from them, the importance food pairing for optimal digestion, and the necessity for fermented, probiotic-rich foods at every meal. It became so enjoyable to eat yummy things and know what vitamins and minerals I was getting from them. I felt better but still not great.

Then one day, I saw my gluten-intolerant sister, Heather, butter up a wheat roll. It was Easter Sunday and I was all the way on the other end of the table, unable to ask what in the world she was doing to herself. She never cheats! After the meal, I demanded an explanation. We sat at the kitchen island and she explained that after years of not being able to tolerate gluten, she now could! She explained that about a year ago she had begun reading up on something called the GAPS diet. Following GAPS diet protocol, she took out all grains, starches, and refined sugars. I listened with intrigue, but knew it was not going to be something I woke up and started the next day. No corn chips, baked potatoes, hummus, or gluten free bagels? I wasn't so sure it was possible. I had done the no sugar thing for a month at this point, and that was nearly killing me. As awful and hard as it sounded, I couldn’t forget the fact that there could be light at the end of this carb and sugar free tunnel. I ordered the book and read through it over the next week.

The GAPS diet is similar to the Paleo diet, which excludes grains, dairy products, legumes, potatoes, refined sugar, and some others. The GAPS diet excludes grains, starchy vegetables and legumes, refined sugars, and basically anything that comes in a box (processed foods). Although I’m lactose intolerant, I can tolerate raw milk and aged cheese so I was thrilled to hear that the GAPS diet did not exclude dairy products. “GAPS” stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which was created to heal psychological and digestive disorders by nourishing the gut. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, creator of the diet, argues that conditions like autism, schizophrenia, depression, and Celiac disease are a result of a malnourished digestion system.

This diet attempts to heal those all food intolerance if you follow the guidelines fully and I’m incredibly excited to see what happens. I should mention that this is a temporary diet with a focus on healing the digestive system and restoring it to proper functioning.

5 Healing Tools from the GAPS diet:

1)    Fermented Foods and Strong Probiotics (AKA good bacteria): Everybody’s gut has good bacteria and bad. If you’ve ever taken antibiotics to kill off an infection, consequently it killed both the good and bad bacteria. The bad bacteria feeds off refined sugars, starches, and simple carbohydrates. The good feeds off probiotic foods like yogurt and fermented foods (homemade sauerkraut, kimchi, whey, etc.). Why do we need probiotics? These good bacteria help the digestive system break down food and nourish the whole body, including the brain. Without enough good bacteria, our bodies can’t break down food and the undigested stuff becomes food for the bad bacteria.
2)    Homemade Broth: The gelatin and fat (the good kind) in homemade broth soothes and seals the lining of the gut, healing and restoring. Broth is also rich in vitamins and minerals. It has anti-bacterial properties—but does not disturb the beneficial bacteria. Store-bought broth is little more than salty, chicken-flavored water.
3)    Avoiding all grains, starchy vegetables and legumes, and refined sugars: This is the hard one! In order to repopulate the good bacteria in the gut, one mustn’t mobilize the enemy by choice. Eating starchy foods and refined carbs/sugars literally feeds the bad bacteria. Eating entirely grain free is temporary until your body has time to build up a healthy digestive system. Grains also promote inflammation which your gut needs a break from if you're experiencing gluten or another type of intolerance.
4)    Avoiding all processed foods: Go to your pantry and read the ingredients on any given package. Chances are you won't be able to pronounce at least one ingredient listed. Those unpronounceable things shouldn't be entering our bodies. These foods are engineered so that they take forever to rot. Consequently, they're going to be hard to digest and just plain dangerous for consumption. It takes a lot of time and energy to make all your own food. But it’s quite satisfying to lather a juicy burger in your own homemade mayo, topping it with some delicious homemade sauerkraut.
5)    Prayer: You won’t find this one in the book but I definitely would not have survived without God’s reassurance and strength. I firmly believe God designed my body to be able to eat gluten and lactose and that I won't be stuck with this intolerance forever.  I’ve had to pray everyday for self-control. At first, the sugar/ carb cravings were almost unbearable. Not to mention, for the first few weeks I avoided fruit and honey. I thought I would croak before surviving the cravings. But after awhile, they get better. And you learn to praise God for creating weird things that you never thought could be loved like CASHEWS and raisins. 

So here's to the journey! I'll keep you posted on what happens. Let me know if you've had breakthrough on the GAPS diet or another diet. I'd love some encouragement along the way!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chocolate Cake, Grain, Refined Sugar, and Gluten Free

For the past month and a half, I've been eating grain-free and only using raw honey as a sweetener. It was really hard at first, but I am relieved to admit that I'm no longer craving corn chips and cookies every hour. I'll be posting a more in depth explanation as to why I've decided to deprive myself of all things refined, starchy, and carb-rich. But! Until then enjoy this incredibly delicious and luxurious grain-free chocolate cake recipe! I brought it home for Mother's Day and my family gobbled it up (even those who are use to refined sugar in their desserts) Raw honey is a wonderful subsitute and is incredibly easy for your body to digest. It has properties that actually boost your immunity instead of killing it like white sugar does! Thanks to the Unrefined Kitchen for the recipe!

Cake Ingredients (for ONE 8″ round cake* about 1 1/2″ thick):
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup arrowroot (I didn't have any so I used 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. coconut flour)
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup cacao powder or cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup honey (raw, find it in the natural section of your grocery store or order online)
3 eggs
1/3 cup coconut oil or melted butter
2/3 cup milk (I used raw homemade yogurt)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Cake Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8″ round cake pan* with parchment paper.
2. Combine coconut flour, arrowroot, almond flour, cacao, baking soda, salt and baking powder in a bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Add honey, eggs, coconut oil or melted butter, almond milk, lemon juice and vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix well. (I use an electric hand mixer.) My batter was more like dough)
4. Pour cake batter (less "pour," more plop) into parchment paper-lined cake pan*. Bake at 350 degrees for 17-22 minutes. Remove from oven when toothpick inserted comes out clean. Try not to overbake.
5. Cool completely and frost cake with chocolate frosting.

Frosting Ingredients  (I doubled it so I could lick the spoon!)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup softened butter
2-4 Tbsp. honey (depending on how sweet you like it)
2 Tbsp. cacao
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
Frosting Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients and whip together with electric mixer. (If the frosting is too runny due to liquified coconut oil, place in fridge for a short time and re-whip.)
2. Spread on cooled cake

1) Gather Ingredients

2) Juice the lemon

 3) Milk the goat
Milk for homemade yogurt came from this adorable little friend
4) Mix dry ingredients4

4) Mix wet ingredients, then mix the two together with an electric mixer
I doubled the recipe, hence the 6 eggs, but ended up eating the other cake before I could make it layered.
5) Serve with fresh fruit, nuts or both!