Wednesday, August 31, 2016

{100 little things} August Review: Organized Bookcases, A Movie in Theaters & Strawberry Pie

Month One is always exciting.  The challenge is fresh and new and I'm dying to get started!  We hit a bit of hiccup when the viral infection hit, but all in all, I think I had a solid start.  Current totals: 3 completed and 7 partial finishes.

#8: Rearrange books in the bookcases by theme/genre.
My bookcases have frustrated me for months now.  They had become a hodgepodge of random groupings and I was frequently asking Mark if he could help me locate a specific title because I couldn't find anything!  Of course it took adding this task to my 100 Little Things list to finally get it done!  The whole process took about 30 minutes and now I have two bookcases with roughly organized themes: spiritual, nonfiction, parenting, fiction, classics, and business.  Game changer!    

#43. Make popsicles.
This turned out to be a last minute, end of summer activity.  Nothing new or exciting - we just blended our usual smoothie recipe and poured it into molds.  Sometimes I get too ahead of myself, thinking that I need to come up with something newer and better, but that's really not true.  We made a fun memory and that's good enough.

#99.  Take the kids to see a movie in theaters.
Mark took the big four on a special end of summer adventure to see Pets and then out to lunch.  They LOVED every minute.  I obnoxiously texted him asking him for pictures and this was the one I got. (He said all the ones in the theater turned out blurry.)

#1: Read 35 books. (1/35 completed)
After finishing The Cuckoo's Calling at the beginning of the month, I really haven't picked up another since!  I need to find my groove again. 

#19.  Pray 5 novenas. (1/5 completed)
I prayed my novena to St. Thomas Aquinas nine days before my boys started school, asking for his intercession as they began a new adventure.  It really calmed my anxious heart as I focused my prayers on each boy, their teachers and the other students they'll encounter this year.

#42: Make 10 different pies. (1/10 completed)
For the first time ever, I made a homemade pie from start to finish, no cheating with store-bought crust!  Sophia and I made a Strawberry Pie together and it was delicious!  I even managed to hide a piece for my breakfast the next day.

#52: Watch 15 documentaries.  (2/15 completed)
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2: This is the update from the 2010 movie.  The basis is the importance of a plant-based diet, specifically juicing.  I appreciated the fact that they didn't villainize a specific food group, but advocated for more of the good stuff, less of the bad.  That's our motto around here and it was refreshing to see it on a bigger platform.
Touch the Wall: The background story of Missy Franklin and her friendship with veteran swimmer Kara Lynn Joyce.  I have minimal knowledge of swimming, so thought this one was so interesting!

#68: Grow Big White Farmhouse's Instagram followers to 400+. 
I've been really working on increasing my reach for BWF's Instagram account because I think it gives some credibilty to a business and we could always use that!  It's been interesting to watch the numbers - definitely two steps forward, one step back.  I have found a lot of "followers" do so in order for me to recipricate, and when I don't, I'm quickly deleted.  Such is social media life, right?  This month, I went from 191 to 254 followers, interacted with a lot of lovely women, and even found a few new artisans to carry in the shop!    

#93: Try 5 new local restaurants. (1/5 completed)
Mark and I had an at-home date night with take out from a local grille we've been meaning to try for months.  The burgers did not disappoint and Mark loved the wings.  Two big thumbs up!  

#97.  Buy 2 new board games to play as a family. (1/2 completed)
I bought Zingo intended for J, but it's quickly become a favorite for the entire family.  Quick rounds and a healthy dose of friendly competition!

Monday, August 29, 2016

{saving our pennies} Saving Time & Money with (& Why You Should Try It Too!)

This post contains affiliate links.

As a faithful customer for over a year, I was so excited to be asked to be a part of Jet's new Ambassador Program!  I've sung their praises here on the blog before and my experience has only gotten better as they've grown.  Honestly, their customer service cannot be beat!  

Let me share two recent encounters with Customer Service: 
= I tried out their new Fresh Food program and ordered three Green Machine juices.  The box arrived a day later than it was supposed to, but I (naively) didn't bat an eye.  The Jet team called me and emailed, letting me know that the time frame of delivery did not match their standard of freshness, and I should throw the juice away immediately.  For the inconvenience, they refunded my money AND gave me a store credit.
= I ordered two Capri Sun juice boxes for the kids' lunches, but found shampoo and conditioner in the box instead.  A honest mistake at the warehouse, so I emailed them to let them know and see if I could get a refund or a resend of my order.  They apologized for the mistake, said I could keep the wrong products AND resent my order with a bonus box of juices for the inconvience.  

The way a company treats its customers is huge to me and I've been so happy with Jet.  In case you've never heard of them (and nope, they don't have anything to do with airfare or planes!), here's how it works:

1. Savings add up as you add items.  
Jet is an easy way to save on all your go-to products at once. I tend to do my shopping two-weeks at a time and try to lump as much as I can into one order to max on the savings.  Jet is also a lifesaver if you're trying to buy in bulk while sticking to a budget!  
Tip: Look out for items marked with the 2-day delivery flag: When you add those items to your cart, you'll save more on the items youve already added. So, for example, when you have Tide in your cart and you add Bounty, you save on the Tide.  And when you add Cheerios after that, you save on the Bounty and even more on the Tide!  (This may or may not be my favorite part of their website, hah!)

2. Stack even more savings on top.
If you know you're not going to be returning something, there is a box you can check to waive returns, which saves you even more.  I tend to do this with products I've used in the past and know we like, like paper towels and toilet paper.  You can also choose to pay with your debit card vs. credit to save an extra 1.5%. 

3. Shipping is free over $35 and delivery is fast.
The free shipping minimum is just $35, which is super easy to reach when you're doing most of your nonperishable shopping through Jet.  Most of the items I order arrive at my door within two or three days, so with just a bit of prior planning, you can get what you need in no time at all.  (A lifesaver for those of us who may not be on top of our meal planning...ahem)

The photo above shows my latest order: A random assortment of household paper products and carb-filled goodness.  I ordered on Wednesday afternoon and the box was at my door by Friday morning!

Here are a few more tips I've learned along the way before I wrap up this novel of a post:
+ Similar to Amazon, the prices on Jet do fluctuate, so while I may have purchased something last month at a great price, I'll pass on it if it's too high this time around.  It's really helpful if you have a basic knowledge of what things cost at your local grocery store. 
+ I also find it helpful to not be brand-loyal.  With the exception of our toilet paper (we have very specific requests from the men around here!), I will typically search for the general product (like pasta, cereal, protein bars, etc.) and then sort lowest to highest.  It's an easy way to try new things and save more in the process. 
+ If you're a diehard couponer, you probably won't be blown away at the "deals" listed on Jet.  However, if you are busy, live in an area where the food costs are high, or generally just hate the grocery store, Jet is the one stop shop for you.  Jet sells a lot more than just groceries and I love that I have the ability to add a birthday present to my cart at the same time I'm picking out my pasta and cereal.

Have I convinced you yet?  New shoppers at Jet can now use the code TRIPLE15 to get 15% off their first 3 orders! Three!!  The deal is valid through Thursday, September 1, 2016. I hope you'll try it out and let me know what you think!

Friday, August 26, 2016

{around here} Week 34/52: Week of 8.22.16

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

soaking up the last week of summer vacation.  Bittersweet.

reaching 25 weeks with Baby #6.  I had an appointment on Monday and again had slightly higher than normal blood pressure.  My doctor didn't seem too concerned yet, but recommended buying a monitor and frequently checking.  I'm praying that it's only gestational hypertension and not something more serious.  For now, I'm going to watch my salt intake, try to lower my stress and slow way down. 

laughing at Sophia's one-liners.  I'm big on manners and am frequently on my kids with their please and thank-yous.  Sophia has been asking for things very politely and then adding, "Don't you love my manners, mama?"  Another funny: Mark recently made Rice Krispie Treats and the poor girl could not get the name right!  She kept saying, "Rice Christmas Treats...uhh, you know what I'm talkin' about!"

hitting the jackpot on deals for my to-do list.  This time of year, with a new season of clothes, birthdays and school to buy for, it feels like money is just blowing out of our pockets!  Any way I can stretch our pennies is welcome.  A few of my finds:
+ I wanted a new nursing cover and was interested in one similar to Shelly's. (I think hers was from Covered Goods?)  I found a similar one on Kidizen, like new, for $10!
+ I've had a postpartum nursing-friendly top in my Amazon cart for months but couldn't bring myself to pay the $40 yet.  Found the exact same shirt, in my size, on Kidizen for $15 less!

taking out a few fall decorations.  The temperatures have fallen into the 80's, which has been awesome.  We definitely won't feel a chill until closer to October, but the coming school year has me ready to switch things around anyway.

diffusing a blend of Lime, Lemon and Geranium, which smells like Skittles.  Such a weirdly pleasant scent...or maybe I'm just pregnant.  I got the Geranium in this month's Young Living order along with a Thieves Foaming Hand Soap.  

loving our new bed!  After four years on an Ikea mattress (not our best financial decision) and feeling like we were 80 with back pain every morning, we bit the bullet and purchased one from Tuft & Needle.  The price is right, the customer service is amazing (Mark has been raving to everyone who will listen about how impressed he's been with them!) and we have had awesome sleep ever since.  Highly recommend.

listening to Sophia talk about her upcoming role in my brother's wedding: "I'm going to be a princess and J will be a bear."

having a more "normal" working week with Big White Farmhouse.
+ Our new wooden signs arrived and I'm so impressed!  We got a few mini options perfect for fall, but I especially love the bigger "Love Grows Best in Little Houses".  
+ I put in a new order with a papergood artisan from Texas and should hopefully receive them in a couple of weeks.  I'm most excited about a notebook combo featuring a meal planner and DIY recipe book.  I may need to get them for myself!
+ I also ordered new candles from a new artisan after discovering that our current candlemaker went out of business.  To make room for the new, all remaining candles (Honeysuckle Jasmine, Vanilla Cream and Strudel & Spice) have been reduced to 30% off!
+ Still loving spending time on our Instagram account.  I'm finding so much inspiration there - from women who can decorate like a boss to amazing artisans I've never come across before to small brick-and-mortar stores that have me dreaming about the future!   

discovering a few boxes that were meant for Goodwill a year ago and forgotten in the garage - FULL of Playmobil.  You would have thought it was Christmas with the excited shrieks coming from the boys!  They have played with them everyday since, creating battles and setting up scenes.  Who woulda thought?!  

Friday, August 19, 2016

{around here} Week 33/52: Week of 8.15.16


A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

taking care of my family as a viral infection made its way through the house.  A sudden fever, headache, aches, chills and sore the heck do you get these symptoms when it's over 100 degrees outside?!  I managed to nurse everyone back to the land of the living before catching a sore throat myself. (#mamalife) I'm also dealing with some pretty intense ligament pain, which is making it hard to do anything quickly.  I'm tired.

nesting, despite the pain and exhaustion, like a crazy person.  I've been decluttering, organizing and cleaning like the baby is due to arrive any day.  (I'm only 24 weeks.)  I even put the new bassinet together, all by myself, because I couldn't stand walking by the box anymore!  At this point in family size, most women are extra laid back - I apparently turn insane, even earlier than normal.  Poor Mark and the kids.     

finishing up shopping for S and TJ, my September birthdays.  (A friendly reminder: don't forget to support your favorite bloggers and use their links when shopping!  I know it's always so appreciated.)  They both are at such fun ages, turning 2 and 4 (!!), and I've had so much fun picking out gifts for them.  

(not) reading.  I'm in a reading funk - I haven't picked up a book all week.  I think I just have too much going on in my brain right now to settle into a book.

seeing new little birds around our backyard.  We think they're barn swallows.  They are so cute and small, but are pooping all over my porch!

calling it a light "work week" for Big White Farmhouse.  Some weeks I can commit to a lot, others not so much.  I love that about small business.  A few notes to remember:
+ I finished listing most of the remaining Vintage Finds and restocked the wooden rattles.  We added a new bear design and I love it!  
+ Consistent social media marketing is starting to pay off!
+ Christmas is on the brain already as I started making lists about possible purchases.  So excited for what's to come in the next few months!

watching Limitless and Jim Gaffigan on Netflix.  We also started Vikings on Amazon Prime, which I have mixed feelings about.  I appreciated Bishop Barron's commentary, but I feel like he didn't make enough of a disclaimer about the violence and nudity!

taking the big boys out, one at a time, to get their school supplies.  I am loving the one-on-one time with them, holding their hands and hearing them talk without any distractions.  I also love seeing what they choose: this year, black and red seem to be the favorite colors!  In other back-to-school news, I've been starting to get special treats to go in their lunches.  I bought a few of these organizers for the pantry and love them for the "these are special, you can't eat them now" purpose. 

listening to M read to his little siblings complete with hilarious voices!  So thankful that he can read aloud for hours without getting hoarse like his poor mama.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

{link list} Best of the Web Vol.05

I've been saving links for months with the intention of writing one of these posts!  What things have you been loving on the internet these days?   

#FBF // It sometimes feels taboo to admit that I love my epidurals.  I have so much respect for the ladies who choose the natural route, but Blythe's experience was so similar to mine...every single time.  No stress or fear, just lots of relaxing and chatting it up with the nurses.  Happy to see a medicated birth told in such a positive, non-scary way.

Oven-Puffed Pancake with Blueberries // Adding this recipe to my list to try soon.  Looks so delicious! 

5 Surprising Ways Reading Fiction Benefits your Mental Health // I can vouch for #4, although I think pregnancy may have a role in that too.

Love and Loss Ring Pair // "Love makes our hearts whole, loss leaves an emptiness. Somehow we hold these opposing things together. The joy of love, the pain of loss conincide in our hearts. We wouldn't change it--this beautiful paradox. It makes us better and braver and more tender."  Loved the story behind this ring and thought it was perfect for my friends who may have lost babies to miscarriage.

Why I Decided to Stop Writing about my Children // Thought provoking.

These 3 Numbers in Google Analytics Will Help You Make Better Content // While helpful for blogs, I really appreciated tip #3 in terms of my shop.   

Sometimes you need to dance to the beat of your OWN drum. //  The woman in the gray sweatshirt = what I look like when trying to follow any type of dancing (Zumba, I'm looking at you).  This video had me laughing.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

{family} His Name

I've mentioned it off and on through the years about my struggle with anxiety.  Most of the time these days, I'm in a really good place.  But there are also days that knock me off my feet: my thoughts go haywire and it's sometimes hard to leave the house.

As a perfectionist, I also tend to frequently doubt my ability to do anything well: my roles as wife and mother, the size of my family, my business. The voice in my head claims that if I were JUST a bit smarter, a bit thinner, a bit more patient...only then could I fulfill that role in the way I imagine.   

While anxiety usually stays on the back burner and I'm able to live a full life despite its presence in the back seat, hormones really mess everything up. (hah, understatement!)  This spring, as I weaned TJ and (unknowingly) become pregnant for the sixth time, I was gripped with a new round of restlessness.  It was hard.

During this time, the kids and I stumbled upon a book about Saint Patrick.  As I read about his incredible bravery and trust that God would look out for him, I had a lump in my throat.  I desired that trust, that letting go of fear of the unknown, in such a deep way.

So I started praying part of Saint Patrick's Breastplate Prayer whenever I felt that dread rising in my gut.  In case you've never heard it, this is the prayer:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me
Christ in me, Christ over me, 
Christ to the right of me
Christ to the left of me.
Christ in lying down, Christ in sitting, Christ in rising up, 
Christ in the heart of every person who may think of me,
Christ in the mouth of every person who may speak of me,
Christ in every eye, which may look on me!
Christ in every ear, which may hear me!

I can't tell you how helpful this prayer has been in my life.  When I panicked at the idea of a sixth baby when I didn't feel like it was in "my plan", I prayed this prayer.  When I woke up in a sweat from terrifying dreams, I prayed this prayer.  When the news filled with horror and death and destruction and hate, I prayed this prayer.  When I felt inadequate and all alone, I prayed this prayer.  

Fast forward to mid-May.  I had done a first trimester screening for chromosomal abnormalities and had the option to know the sex of the baby at eight weeks.  And in a very anti-climactic telephone call from the office, we received the news that the testing came back normal AND he was a boy.  

Our sixth child.  Our fifth son.  

Mark and I spent that evening hashing out baby names.  Nothing seemed right until Mark threw out, "What do you think about Patrick?" With goosebumps immediately prickling my skin, I knew that was it.  Of course it was.  

This baby will always be known as the one who helped his mama step (albeit a bit unwillingly) into the unknown.  He will be the one who helped his mama face fear head-on.  He will be the one who taught his mama how to really trust.  

Our little Patrick.  We can't wait to meet you.
Saint Patrick, continue to pray for us.

Friday, August 12, 2016

{around here} Week 32/52: Week of 8.8.16


A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

starting some small health changes.  I haven't really excercised all summer and am feeling the nudge to begin again.  I started my 30-Day Walking Challenge (#60 on my 100 Little Things list) and it's been nice to carve out that 20-minute "me" time.  I've also been feeling the need for more veggies in my life, so trying a mix of juicing and adding more to my plate (when I can stomach them).

reading A Spoonful of Sugar and Struck by Lightning....barely.  So much going on and not enough time to sit down and read.

saving, because of Rosie's reminder, Box Tops for our elementary school.  We don't typically buy tons of products that have them, but every little bit counts, right?  I put a little Mason jar in the kitchen to collect them.

buzzing TJ's hair!  It's been on our to-do list all summer, but we've been hesitant to have him look so grown up.  He looks SO different, but adorable and is now the spitting image of his big brothers.

starting a new series over on Big White Farmhouse's poor, neglected blog: Monday Morning Coffee Chat.  It's a weekly collection of delicious recipes, easy DIY projects, and gorgeous interiors.  I'm having fun curating all of the inspiration I've pinned over the years to create the collections.  In other BWF news, new art prints have arrived!  We restocked Following Seas and picked two new designs.  The first one, Wonder, is up and the second will hopefully go up next week!

meal planning again.  I've had a lazy summer of winging it but am trying to get back into a regular routine before the fall.  This week's menu:
t: 15 minute roasted chicken & veggies
w: sandwiches for the kids & date night for adults
th: meatball subs with salad
f: homemade pizza

searching for a "new" dresser for TJ and the new baby to share and am having such a hard time!  I want solid wood, something that we can redo and keep forever.  I've been combing Craigslist and the Facebook resale groups, with little luck.  Praying I find a winner (that doesn't cost an arm and a leg!) soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

{around here} Ten on Ten: August 2016

It's been over a year since my last ten on ten - time flies!  I thought it was a good time to document a super normal, lazy summer day where we don't go anywhere or do anything exciting.  Here's a peek at our beautifully average day:  

8:05am: After breakfast, everyone scatters to do their own thing, so I hunkered down for an hour of work on Big White Farmhouse.  Today I planned a week's worth of social media posts, researched for future blog posts and responded to a few emails.

9:27am: I hit the jackpot when I found this homemade Flash Halloween costume on the Kidizen app, just the right size for J.  He is absolutely hilarious in it and we made a whole photo series of him beating up the "bad guys" aka his brothers.  

10:12am: I'm making a list of clothes the kids need for fall and sat down to quickly browse Kidizen.  Success!  Found a button-down shirt for M and jeans and a dress for Sophie.

11:35am: Pregnancy is so weird.  I haven't really had an appetite for anything in particular and some days, nothing sounds good to eat.  Today for lunch, I started with chips and guacamole and will hopefully fill up on some protein later in the day.

12:45pm: TJ went down easily for a nap, so I got in my mile walk on the treadmill - in flip flops.  (Did I mention I'm starting my 100 Little Things challenge of a 30-day walking streak?  Today was Day 2!)

1:00pm: TJ is still asleep and the kids are playing in the basement, so I put on Fixer Upper for inspiration and worked a few minutes on Big White Farmhouse.

2:02pm: TJ crawled into my lap to cuddle, but wasn't ready to wake up and fell back to sleep.  So with everyone happily occupied, I took a nap too!  

3:30pm: Up and at 'em again and playing a little game of hide and seek.  The kids love to wrap themselves in my dining room of these days I know I'm going to find the whole rod torn off the wall!

4pm: Lost track of TJ for a minute and found him happily playing with his "guys" by the stairs.  What a sweetie pie.

5:25pm: Mark and I are having a date night tonight so the kids were in charge of dinner.  M is on a sandwich kick and created a masterpiece.  He was so proud. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

{around here} Week 31/52: Week of 8.1.16

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.

Around here, I have been:

watching the kids have a mega water balloon fight with friends at the park.  We bought two packs of these and they worked relatively well, but it always goes way too fast!  

finishing The Cuckoo's Calling - finally!  At the recommendation of a friend, I started Struck by Lightning.  Whew - deep read, but an important reminder to keep your eyes on the One who matters most.  I'm also reading A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny's Story from the library.

purchasing a flower girl dress for Sophia and a few (hopefully successful!) choices for me.  My brother is getting married this fall and I'll be a hefty 30 weeks along, so my options are pretty limited.  I ordered three dresses from ASOS and am praying at least one of them works!

drinking ice cold lemonade from Chickfila, my favorite on a hot day.

eating way too many pieces of licorice.  Mark (bless him) came to my rescue when I mentioned a craving and I've been sneaking a few at a time when the kids are distracted.  Did you see this post from Bunmi Laditan on Facebook this week?  Um...guilty.  I don't want to share!   

finding my groove as I work on Big White Farmhouse this week:
+ I started tracking my hours which surprisingly kept me on course and helped me avoid Facebook scrolling rabbit trails.  Monday-Thursday totals: 3hrs 45min, most likely rounding out to 5hrs by the end of the weekend.  
+ Being more active on Instagram is a lot of fun and I'm discovering so many wonderful, talented ladies.  I also connected with a talented sign maker and am so excited to carry her work in our shop!
+ I photographed and entered a bunch of new vintage products to the site with even more to come!
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