Friday, October 21, 2016

Share the Story Behind the Photo

It's Friday which means it's time for another bump update! If you're here just for that, then you'll find the update at the bottom of the page. However, if you're an Instagram user, then I'm going to recommend reading the entire post because I'm starting a movement from November 1-3 and I'd love for you to be a part of it!

I love a beautiful photo. It shows the beauty captured in a given moment. I mean, even a rusty old tool can be beautiful if it's captured well.

I love social media. I love seeing what people are up to and how they're living their life.

I love seeing people share the real story. Not the branded, polished version that represents their online presence, but the raw, real story that showcases their life. The real story that's rarely shared on social media, especially Instagram where everyone is showcasing the perfect moments that they captured with a lens.

Let's change that. For three days, let's showcase the moments beyond the lens with a mini challenge. From November 1-3, let's share the story behind the picture using the hashtag #thisflawedmoment. I still want you to showcase the beautiful moment you captured in your photo (remember, I love beautiful photos), but I want you to share the flawed moments that occurred around the picture in the caption. Maybe it's the incessant barking of your dog or the coffee stain on your shirt. Maybe it's a teething baby or a sink full of dishes. Whatever the flaws are, I want you to share them with your photo and tag #thisflawedmoment.

Need an example? I've got one below!

This picture showcases the silly antics of our new puppy amidst all of the chaos that comes with moving into a new house. What the picture doesn't show is the ache in my heart that was keeping me from putting any of our stuff away. This picture was taken the day after I found out that we had some tough decisions ahead of us regarding the family dog. While this photo will always make me smile for the moment I captured, it'll also make me ache for the one that wasn't captured. #thisflawedmoment

I'm inviting you to be raw and open with your followers with this movement. I'm inviting you to share your best and favorite photos with a caption that tells the story behind the photo. I want you to give your followers a glimpse into your world and the flaws that make you the person that you've become.

So what do you say?

Will you be joining me November 1-3 to showcase the moments beyond the lens?

If you are, then there's a few links that you might want to check out:

If you're forgetful like me, sign up for daily reminders to participate. (Can I blame pregnancy for my forgetfulness?)

If you'd love to get your friends and followers involved, check out the resources page. (The more the merrier, right?)

Follow me on Instagram for updates about the challenge and a few prize announcements that are coming soon! (Yes, I said the word - there will be prizes.)

I can't wait to see what you share with #thisflawedmoment!
Bump Update

Week? 23weeks

Gender? boy

Size? Baby is the size of a bunch of grapes!

Movement? All the time!

Bump? Yep! I'm still wondering when the first stranger will comment...

Maternity Clothes? Maternity leggings, yoga pants, and pajama pants are my best friends right now.

Stretch Marks? None so far!

Belly button in or out? Still staying in!

Cravings? Little Debbie snack cakes (I'm ready for this sweet tooth to disappear already!)

Symptoms? Lots of aches this week. Exhaustion has returned but I think that's from a lack of sleeping at night.

Mood? Worn out but excited for the many things I'm working on for the blog and life.

What are you missing? I miss being able to turn over easily in the night. I feel like it's a chore to turn from side to side.

Highlight of the week? Right now, I'm drawing a blank. We've taken some time to rest finally so maybe that's the highlight... Oh and we decided on a name but that's only been shared with a few so far! If you're friends or family, feel free to ask about it!

Looking forward to? My best friend from California is coming to visit for a week in November! I'm beyond excited to see her again and to show her some of the neat places we've found around here!

- photo coming soon -
(Yes, I'm a little behind this week!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Easy Way to Meal Plan for Any Family

Meal planning can be a great tool for saving time and money. It can also be a boring, cumbersome chore if you aren't careful with how you approach it. There is an easy way to approach meal planning that doesn't result in boring meals that you just don't want to eat.

When I first started meal planning, I hated it because I found it to be boring and too rigid for my picky tastes. What if I planned chicken for Tuesday night and then didn't want chicken? What if I had lasagna down for Friday night and was invited to go out?

I gave it a try anyways because I was tired of wasting food and struggling with the age old question of "What's for dinner?" I printed out a grid of the days and meals and started in. I planned everything out - right down to what snacks I was going to eat each day.

I was successful - for about a week. Then, I found myself losing interest because things were too predictable and I felt "boxed in" by the choices I made days in advance. This is where I started to play around with different ways of meal planning until I found a method that worked for me. I adjusted it once more after getting married to accommodate my husband who was strongly against meal planning. The result is a process that I like to call Flexible Meal Planning.

What is it?

Flexible Meal Planning is a method that allows you to plan what you're going to eat for the week without boxing yourself into a rigid calendar. The process takes into account your commitments for the week and works around them to produce a meal plan that offers nightly choices and answers to the question "what's for dinner?"

The Benefits

The biggest benefit of this meal plan method is that it's flexible and fits your needs. You'll have a meal for each night but you're not boxed into which night you enjoy them. The process will also save you time (no more hour long debate about dinner) and money (you'll know exactly what to buy at the store).

The Process

I'm going to break down the process into a few easy steps. After you read the steps, make sure you sign up to snag a free printable that can help you meal plan!
  1. Take out your social, work, etc calendars and write down everything you have going on for the week. Are there any events or commitments that will keep you from eating at home? Make a note of this.
  2. Determine how many nights you'll be at home for dinner. Use the commitments you wrote down as a guide.
  3. Use your recipe resources (memory, cookbook, Pinterest) to pick meals for the nights that you'll be eating at home. Going to be home 5 nights out of the week? Then, you'll need five dinner ideas. Do not assign them to a night!
  4. Add all of the ingredients and necessities to your grocery list for these meals.
  5. Keep your list of dinners on hand and each night, pick from the list to answer the question "what's for dinner?" If you have ingredients frozen, then you might have to pick your meals the night before.
  6. If something extra comes up, you can always roll meals over to the following week!
To get a free printable and other goodies that will help you with planning, sign up for my email list! If you're already a subscriber, then you already have access to the printable in The Happy Files and there's no need to sign up again! Simply look for the link in your weekly email!

Do you meal plan? I'd love to hear about your process (or lack of process) in the comments below!

Want to have even more fun with your meal planning? Check out this ultimate list of themed dinner ideas!

Monday, October 17, 2016

7 Life Lessons I Learned from my Dogs

This post idea came about by accident and slightly out of frustration. I was in the midst of working on my blog (we're talking major work session) when our dog came into the room with a rope toy in his mouth and a wagging tale. He looked at me with his big brown eyes and I sighed before saying "fine, I'll play with you for a bit." I was frustrated that he had taken me away from a productive work session. This frustration subsided quickly when I realized something - dogs really have life figured out better than we do.

Mr. Gibbs continued to run from room to room playing keep away (his favorite game) as my brain put together the pieces. He was happy, carefree and enjoying the day. He wasn't worrying about work or what he was going to do next. He was simply living in the moment and enjoying every bit of it. I decided to join him in this enjoyment and we chased each other around the house for a good ten minutes before tiring out.

At that point, I made a few notes on a post it about the things my dogs have taught me about life over the years. Mr. Gibbs fell asleep beside me as I let creativity take over my brain. I'm sure there's many more lessons to be learned from dogs, but here's the top seven.

Playtime is golden.

As humans, we spend a vast amount of our time working! The average (and I say average loosely) work week is 40 hours. That's about 25% of our week and I didn't even factor in commute times! After working, we come home to complete household chores and other necessities. A lot of us forget to take the time out to play. Playtime is important though - it's something we all need to maintain our overall happiness level.

Exercise is important.

How often do you put other things ahead of exercise? If you're like me, it's way too often. Dogs have it figured out though - they realize the importance of exercise and even enjoy it. Think about it - how excited does a dog get when they're about to go on a walk? We really should start applying that same enthusiasm to our own workouts!

Naps should be enjoyed.

Sleep! Sleep is so important for overall health and happiness. I really don't need to quote studies here because you've probably seen a dozen. My dog loves to sleep whenever and wherever he likes. He never seems upset that he spent time napping. Let's take a page from their book and let go of the guilt that comes with "wasted" time. Stop counting sleep and naps as wasted time. Instead, start looking at it as a form of self care for your body.

Always give unconditional love.

Mr. Gibbs gets in trouble. He doesn't like it and neither do we. However, he doesn't hold onto it for long. In fact, he's often seeking us out for forgiveness before we're ready to give it. For him, love is unconditional. He doesn't hold onto grudges or stay mad at us for long because that's a waste of time. I want to start working on letting go of emotions and embracing happiness more.

Accidents happen.

Potty in the house? Chew something up? Everyone makes mistakes and everyone messes up. Dogs tend to live in the moment - they don't focus on the mistakes they made yesterday. Instead, they are always moving forward with full force. I think we have a lot we can learn from them about letting go of the past.

Family is everything.

At the end of the day, it's your family that matters most. They're the ones you protect and snuggle up to when times get rough. This one really goes back to the unconditional love part again. Cherish the ones around you and let them know that they are cherished with kisses, snuggles, and tail wags (or in our case, smiles).

It's okay to show emotion.

This is probably my favorite lesson that dogs can teach us. They don't hide their emotions - when you walk through the door and they're happy to see you, they let you know right away. They aren't shy about it and we shouldn't be either. After all, there's less lost by showing our emotions than by hiding them.

I've always loved having dogs around. They can help you realize that the small things aren't worth worrying over. Do you have a pet in your life? Have you learned any lessons from them? I'd love to hear all about your furbabies in the comments below!