Five on Friday – My Favorite Apps this Month

When it comes to apps on my phone, I like to keep things streamlined. I don’t like having lots of apps to flip through to get to what I need, so I try to keep my apps pared down so that I only have ones that I actually use regularly. This month, I downloaded a few new apps that I love. I’m sharing those and some of the other apps that I use regularly and can’t live without today!

  1. The Bible for Kids App – I just downloaded this app a few weeks ago and Jack loves it! It uses animated images, music, and narration to tell Bible stories, then checks comprehension with games. Jack is not old enough for the games by himself yet, but he loves watching the stories and when I complete the games with him and they play the trumpets and throw confetti, he always laughs and claps his hands. This is a great way to get kids interested in Bible stories, and I think we will use this app for a long time. Older kids could definitely use this by themselves – it is set up like a board game and each story they watch/read and complete gains them stars and badges. This app is FREE, which makes it even better!
  2. The Project Life App by Becky Higgins – Y’all…this app is going to change my life. I have been so overwhelmed with how to document Jack’s first year (I planned to make a photo book on Shutterfly, but I let it go for so long that I didn’t know where to start). With this app, I can make scrapbook pages using the photos on my phone. When I finish my pages, I can order a photo book directly from the app. I have already finished half of Jack’s baby book and can’t wait to see what the printed photo book looks like. I’m planning to do a longer post about how I am using this app to record our family memories once I actually get a book in my hands and can tell you about the quality. This app is FREE, but there are in-app purchases (like stickers and fonts) that you will probably need to make your pages look the way you want, but they are very affordable. I haven’t ordered a book yet, so I don’t know about the pricing for them, but the convenience of this app and the ease with which I can record memories right on my phone makes this my new favorite thing. Here are a few of the pages I created on the app:
  3. The Ibotta App – I have had this app on my phone for a couple of years. I use this every time I shop to save a little money. Once you get the FREE app, you just create an account and can start earning cash back on purchases when you grocery shop. Once you earn $20, you can transfer the money into your PayPal account or get gift cards to stores you go to regularly. Usually, the Ibotta offers also stack up with coupons that are available that week so you can save even more. If you’re interested in this app, you can sign up using my referral code to earn $10 just for signing up! Just click this link to create an account and start saving.
  4. Pinterest – Okay, I know this isn’t a new app or anything that people haven’t heard of before, but it is my all-time favorite. I use it for EVERYTHING – party planning, finding cute outfits, hair and beauty tips, recipes, lesson plan ideas for work, activities to do with Jack. I used to clip pictures out of magazines to save them when I was a teenager, and this is just like that but without stacks of paper everywhere. If you want to follow me on Pinterest, click here.
  5. Disney Now – I just downloaded this app for Jack and it has been so great. He loves Mickey Mouse, and with this app, I can let him watch episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on demand. The app was free, but I did have to sign up with my TV provider’s information to gain access to the videos.

What are your favorite apps? Let me know in the comments!

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30 Days of Gratitude Challenge – Week One

A few weeks ago, my preacher asked the congregation to think about the last time we thanked God for the blessings in our lives and then said, “If you woke up this morning with only the things you thanked God for yesterday, what would you have?” My honest answer? I’d have nothing.

I know that I am supposed to be thankful, but it is so easy to take all my blessings for granted. I often let the busyness of the world cause me to forget to be thankful and focus on my stresses instead of my blessings.

This month, I am challenging myself to be intentional about thanking God for my blessings. Using my Project Life app, I’m recording 30 Days of Gratitude this month. I’ll share my progress here every Thursday and encourage you to join in and share what you are thankful for in the comments!

Here’s my first week of gratitude documented:

Jack has been sick all week with a nasty cold that led to another ear infection, so I’ve taken a few days off and he stayed with my mom for a few days. I hate him being sick, but I love staying home with him. We’ve had lots of time this week to cuddle and watch movies, bake cookies, and read books together, and I’m thankful for the memories we’ve made this week. I’m also thankful for my husband. He is the best husband and daddy, and Jack and I are beyond blessed to have him. My mom and Jeff’s mom also help us out with Jack all the time, and I don’t know what we’d do without them.

What or who are you thankful for this week? Share your answer in the comments!

It is finally starting to feel like fall here and I am loving it! This morning was cool and foggy and we had the most beautiful view from our back deck. We keep hoping to see some deer back there, but I think there are too many dogs around for them to stay back there long.

We’ve got a lot planned this month! Here are some of our plans:

  • Trip to Destin with my parents
  • Thanksgiving dinner with family
  • Jack’s baby dedication service at church
  • Finishing up some home improvement projects

On the blog, I’ll be sharing:

  • Some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes
  • My 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge
  • Jack’s Baby Dedication Celebration (invitations, decorations, and menu)
  • Some of my favorite kitchen tools
  • A travel guide for Destin, Florida
  • Travel tips for traveling with a toddler

Happy November from my family to yours!

Last month was a busy one. We tried to make time for more family things and were able to take Jack to two different pumpkin patches. He also got to go Trick or Treating for the first time this year, so I think we made the most of the month’s holiday (even though it isn’t my favorite).

Here’s a quick recap of our month:

  • Jack started off the month with an ear infection paired with a high fever and he missed a couple days of school and we had to spend a couple days at the doctor’s office and the ENT office, but he healed well and the ENT said his hearing was fine and didn’t want to rush into tubes, so we’re going back for another visit in December for him to recheck everything and make a decision about what to do from there.
  • While I was at home with Jack, I made these super yummy pumpkin spice pancakes.
  • Jeff and I decided to be weekend warriors and installed a new French door going from our kitchen to the back deck. I finished painting the kitchen cabinets and we updated the planters on our front porch with fall plants and pumpkins.
  • My mom and I took Jack to Country Pumpkins, where he had a blast playing on the playground and in the corn.
  • We went to the Tuscaloosa Barnyard with Jack’s Grandma Ellen, Aunt Beth, and cousins. Jack loved feeding the animals and riding the pony.

  • Jeff and I went to his cousin’s wedding and Jack got to go trick or treating with his Mamaw Tina.

  • On Halloween, we went to our church’s Fall Festival. Jack loved plying the games.

Yesterday, Jack and I visited my mom and went to Country Pumpkins in Caledonia, Mississippi. We took Jack there last year to make pictures when he was just 3 months old.

It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. This year, Jack loved looking at the pumpkins and playing on the huge fall-themed playground. He especially loved playing in the corn and pretending to drive the tractors they had for kids to play on. They also had lots of activities for older kids that he’ll be able to enjoy next year. I’m glad we have this awesome farm close to my hometown so we can enjoy it every year.

Despite the fact that it still feels like summer down here, I’m ready for all the fall flavors, especially pumpkin!

I finally opened my first can of pumpkin of the season and whipped up these pumpkin pancakes! They’re fluffy and full of pumpkin spice and the perfect way to start a fall morning!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin purée
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

Directions:

Place dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Add wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Cook on a greased griddle over medium heat (300 degrees) for about 2 minutes per side. Use a cookie scoop to place batter on the griddle for uniform sized pancakes. To make pancakes easy to flip, spray your spatula with a little non-stick cooking spray. Makes 16 small pancakes.

Serve with your favorite toppings (I used dried cranberries, candied walnuts, and maple syrup).

Hello, October!

Most of the time, I love living in Alabama, but in the early days of fall, when people from other parts of the country are pulling on sweaters and picking apples and drinking cider and it’s still 90 degrees here, I get a little bit jealous. Fall is my absolute favorite season. I love the colors, the crisp smell of the leaves, and the chill in the air (when it finally shows up down here). I love the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, putting pumpkin in everything, and fresh apples. I love fall clothes – there’s nothing as comforting as a cozy sweater and fuzzy socks, boots and oversized shirts, flannel and leggings.

As this season is just beginning, I’m trying to make a conscious effort to savor each moment of it – I want to be aware of the little things (like a scent, or pretty leaves, or a great piece of pumpkin bread) that make my heart happy. Savor is my one little word for this year, and it has been a long time since I’ve given an update on how my word is guiding my choices and directing my plans this year. I’m still just as in love with the idea of savoring each moment now as I was when I chose the word in January, and as fast-paced as life has been this year, I think it is an appropriate word for this season of my life.

Despite the fact that life is busy and speeding by, there are so many things about this time that I want to savor with my family. I want to make memories and start traditions with Jeff and Jack and enjoy the little moments with them when we aren’t rushing around trying to get everything done. I want to enjoy times spent with my extended family, and I want to use this season of fall to prepare my heart for the upcoming holidays.

We are extremely blessed, and there is so much for us to savor in this life. Here are some of the things we’re planning to help us slow down, create memories, and savor time together this month:

  • A trip to our local pumpkin patch with Jack
  • Painting pumpkins
  • Making our own Halloween costumes
  • Trick-or-treating with Jack
  • The Fall Festival at church
  • Football games with friends
  • Decorating our home for fall
  • Making lots of soups and baking all the apple and pumpkin things

A few weekends ago, Jeff and I headed south for a few days at the historic Grand Hotel in Fairhope, Alabama. Jeff had been before, but it was a new experience for me. The Grand Hotel is a unique and special place. It’s been around since 1847, and it has a nostalgic, family-oriented feeling to it. Being on the property almost felt like stepping into a movie (similar to the place where Baby and her family spent their summer in Dirty Dancing). We were there for one reason – to REST. This has been a busy and stressful season for us and we needed a few days to get away from everything and just enjoy each other’s company.

Our reservations at The Grand were for Saturday and Sunday nights, but we decided to drive down to Mobile on Friday night so that we wouldn’t waste our day driving all day on Saturday. Before we checked in, we found a fun little brunch spot called Warehouse Bakery and Donuts. I fell in love with this place, y’all. It was welcoming, had a rustic charm, and the food was amazing. If I ever get to open a little bakery (which would be a dream come true!), I would want it to be like this one.

After we had brunch, we headed over to the hotel and checked in. The Grand might be the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. We were in the Spa Building and had a pretty view of the duck pond and the pool area.

The thing that Jeff loves about The Grand is that all activities are included in your stay. You can use the hotel’s bikes to explore Fairhope, borrow a kayak for an afternoon, and they have activities like “swim in” movies at the pool for families. It’s really a neat place and we are already planning to bring Jack back with us the next time we get to come so that he can enjoy some of the activities they have for kids. We went for a bike ride (which is a feat for this clumsy girl). and then headed back to the hotel to watch the Alabama game (Roll Tide!).

After a relaxing afternoon, we headed out to find dinner. We went to a little hole-in-the-wall place called Big Daddy’s Grill. They had live music on the back deck, and we enjoyed as much fresh gulf shrimp (fried, of course) as we could eat. If you are ever in Fairhope, you should definitely check this place out.

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On Sunday, we were planning to go kayaking, but the water was pretty rough, so we decided to go for a walk around the grounds of the hotel instead. It is such a beautiful place, and we enjoyed learning about the history of the hotel. We watched them fire the cannon that afternoon and then went to lounge by the pool. It was the perfect, peaceful day that we needed to escape our busy schedules.

Sunday night, we found a little place downtown called The Bone and Barrel. We went there because they had great reviews on Yelp! and everyone said they had a great soft shell crab sandwich (Jeff’s favorite). They were actually out of soft shell crab the night we went, so Jeff and I ended up doing something we NEVER do and ordered the same entree. It was called the J. Burrell sandwich and was an interesting take on a surf and turf dish made up of slow roasted pulled pork topped with crispy fried shrimp on a hoagie bun. They served it with au jus for dipping, and it was so good. I’m going to have to work on recreating that recipe for y’all soon!

This trip was so relaxing and it was nice to have time to reconnect. You can read a little more about my thoughts on the importance of rest here.

I feel like we just barely got a taste of all that Fairhope has to offer and we are already talking about going back again. Have you ever been to Fairhope? What are your MUSTs for activities and food? Let me know in the comments!

img_0159Other than our recent weekend trip to Fairhope (you can find a recap of our weekend here), my life has not really felt very blog-worthy lately. Jeff and I are both working long hours and then coming home to mounds of laundry and long to-do lists and a toddler who never stops moving. We are TIRED.

The tired I’m talking about is so much more than not getting enough sleep (although that’s an issue right now, too, because Jack suddenly thinks that 1:00 a.m. is a good time to wake up screaming EVERY night). My tired is more of a mental and emotional thing.  My job stresses me out and my students need so much every second of the day that by the time the final bell rings at 3:15, I am completely emotionally and mentally spent. Then there are papers to grade, emails to respond to, paperwork to complete, professional development assignments…the list goes on and on. By the time I leave work every afternoon, I feel like I have nothing left to give anyone (which is frustrating for me because Jeff and Jack should get my best and not my grouchy, irritated, exhausted, and emotional self). Then I go home and Jeff and I tackle whatever needs to be done at the house and try to spend quality time with each other and with Jack (and exercise and eat right and keep up with the news and what’s going on with friends and family and EVERYTHING else).

I  reached a breaking point on Saturday last week. Early Saturday morning, my work email app on my phone buzzed and a rude email from a mad parent popped up. When I read it, I could feel myself filling with anger. Then, that anger faded into frustration and led me to an entire weekend filled with negative feelings. By Monday morning when my alarm went off, the last thing I wanted to do was go to work. I felt unappreciated, disrespected, and completely defeated.

Then I read this quote from Elizabeth Elliot on a friend’s Facebook page: “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”

I already knew that I couldn’t change my circumstances. Even if I could change them, I would still face challenges and difficult situations. Any job is going to come with those things, and there’s no way to avoid them. Instead, what I need to do is take my focus off of my circumstances and put it on Christ.

Let me tell you, this is a really hard thing to do.

Jesus is not going to jump around and yell, “Look at me!” all day, but Satan will make sure that your circumstances do. Deadlines, emails, meetings, negative comments from coworkers, unrealistic expectations, and stress are all masquerading around as important things that should take precedence over everything else. Learning to take a step back from all the stressful things, breathe for a minute, focus on God first, and then conquer that to-do list is a discipline that I have yet to perfect. It’s hard.

Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (KJV)

I love the way the way The Message words these verses: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out in religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I love that phrase, “I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” God is teaching me so much about resting in Him in this busy and stressful season. When Jeff and I went on our trip to Fairhope a few weeks ago, we did that to get away and get some rest. While our trip was a wonderful escape and a great time to spend time one-on-one and reconnect (which I believe is absolutely necessary to maintain a happy and healthy marriage, especially once you have kids), it was just a temporary escape from the things that are weighing us down. Even while we were there, we were both getting emails, texts, and phone calls from work. A vacation or a good night’s sleep, both of which are good and necessary things, is not enough to bring rest to our souls.  The only way we can get that “real rest” is to allow God to refresh our souls by spending time with Him.

I’m still a work in progress, and I often let my circumstances distract me or weigh me down, but I am trying to slow down and focus on God first. Here are a few things I’ve done this week to help shift my focus and change my perspective so I can get that “real rest” with God:

  • I deleted my work email from my phone. I will focus on work while I am at work, but I will not let negative thoughts, feelings, or comments from others (which are often shared or sparked by an email) affect me during my family time.
  • I turned off notifications on all my social media apps. While I enjoy seeing updates from friends and family on Facebook and Instagram, I also tend to get stuck in a comparison trap and want to compare my circumstances to what I see online. I turned off my notifications and am trying to spend less time on these apps and more time focused on time with God or my family.
  • I downloaded the Church of the Highlands podcast onto my phone. I don’t attend Church of the Highlands (Jeff and I have visited there a few times and have enjoyed the services, but felt more at home in a smaller congregation), but I do find the teachings and preaching to be in line with God’s Word and am thankful that they offer their weekly messages in an online format through a podcast. I have been listening to a sermon on the way to work every morning and it has made a big difference in my attitude over the last few days. Also, guess what the title of the most recent sermon was when I downloaded the app…A REAL REST. (Do you think God might be trying to teach me something?)

What do you do when your circumstances feel overwhelming? How do you put your focus back on God? How do you make rest a priority in today’s busy world? Let me know in the comments!

 

Currently – September 2018

Here’s a look at what’s happening in our world this month:

In the Kitchen

  • Easy and fun foods for entertaining during football season
  • Healthy lunches for school and work

On My Bookshelf

  • The Girl from Blind River by Gale Massey

Watching and Listening

  • Alabama Football – Roll Tide!
  • Jack Ryan season 1 on Amazon Prime
  • Dr. Death Podcast

Health and Fitness Goal

  • 30 minutes of activity at least 3 days a week