Thursday, November 9, 2017

One Year Ago Today...

Today, November 9th, marks one year together for us! 

One year ago tonight, I returned his phone call and said "yes" to starting a relationship, 
 little dreaming that in exactly one year from that same day I would be mailing out the last of our wedding invitations, chatting with florists, and finalizing registries, 
to name a few of today's activities! 

What a year it has been. The past 365 days have absolutely flown by, 
each one leaving behind it new memories, new lessons, + new adventures.

 It has been the sweetest journey, and that journey is really just beginning!

More coming soon. =)

Monday, October 9, 2017

I'm Getting Married!

"The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad."
-Psalm 126:3

 I get to marry my best friend + the love of my life!
 Still can't quite believe it! Jesus has been so very gracious to us, and my heart is so full.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bridesmaid's Outfit Details (from the brothers' weddings)

Some of y'all have been asking where we got our bridesmaids dresses for our brothers' weddings last month. This post is to answer those questions!

The burgundy maxi dresses we wore for Mitchell + Bryn's wedding are the Mikarose brand Miranda dress. They were purchased from Neesees Dresses but appear to have since been discontinued on there, so you can purchase the same dress here. The dress is cheapest on Amazon (if you have free shipping) at this link, but it is only available there in floral options.
On sizing, Allison + I both wore smalls and Liz wore an extra small. (we also had to shorten hers a bit, as it was too long) 

Rebecca's dress was this one, purchased from the Pink Princess. We found the site by searching for "girls' blush pink dress w/ sleeves". The dress was so adorable-even cuter once it arrived than the picture online!
The mauve/blush dress that the two maids-of-honor wore, is this Mikarose brand Lauren dress.
The two colors mixed together for the bridal part ladies were SO gorgeous!

We wore pearls for jewelry and various grey/silver flats or sandals. The sandals I wore were these Dream Pair Womens Spark Wedge Sandal, in silver glitter. I had to order new sandals specifically for the weddings and I had to order and then send back four different kinds before I finally got these, pair #5, that fit right and that I liked. (yay for Prime returns!) These aren't amazing quality but they are comfortable + cute and the price was good, so I was happy! Liz + Rebecca got their sandals from thrift stores. Allison's were the Lifestride Women's Neva Platform Sandal, in metallic. She has had hers for three years and they are still holding up great!
We don't have the professional pictures back from the double wedding yet, so a few iPhone pictures will have to suffice! I was given the opportunity to help look for ideas for navy dresses for us bridesmaids. The requirements was something cheap + lovely + not too formal. =) I had seen a friend wear this same navy dress (as we are wearing) in a wedding I'd attended earlier this year, so I texted and asked where they had gotten it. Amazon for the win! This dress is the Vivienne brand Women's Midi Length Dress w/ Bell Sleeves, in navy. Even though all three of us (Allison, Liz, + I) are all normally different sizes, we all ordered smalls, and they worked just fine for each of us without alterations. Knit dresses are awesome like that sometimes! The elastic waist and "slightly-below-knee" length was perfect for a little give or take.

We wore the same sandals for the Friday + Saturday weddings. (although we ditched them after the double ceremony and went barefoot for the farm reception!) 

Jewelry was necklaces from Walmart + bangle bracelets from Kohls. (I wasn't able to find similar to link)
When I found the women's dresses on Amazon, I remembered that I had seen an almost identical looking dress for little girls, over on a website I'd been browsing on recently.
 Sure enough, we were able to get the very same dress there, the Bell Sleeve Midi Length Dress for girls, in navy. They wore pearls + flower crowns as well and looked absolutely darling. =)

One of the very fun aspects of the weddings, to me personally, was how very VERY different they were from each other. I loved how all three of the brides did such amazing jobs picking their favorite colors/styles + blending those together for their respective weddings, into two equally beautiful but very different looks. 

Also just a little tip to brides everywhere: knit dresses for bridesmaid dresses are fabulous choices! For one thing, they are much less expensive than formal/traditional bridesmaid dresses, and for another thing, they are so much more practical to re-wear! My sisters and I have already worn our dresses multiple times after the weddings. They are super comfortable + fit so well for a variety of occasions.

I don't do outfit detail posts like this very often, but a number of people were asking, so I decided to put together a few pictures + links to answer with a post! I know that, at least for me, it is always fun to get direct links to other people's outfit inspirations. =)
Hope y'all enjoy this post-let me know in the comments below! 

***my product links are through the Amazon affiliate program. (see my disclosure here
Rest assured that I only recommend products that I personally use + endorse! 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sister's Getaway in Galena

Back the beginning of August, sister love and I took off for a two day road trip/getaway. It seemed like weird timing, since we had literally just returned home that week from being gone for over two months! But in the previous months, as we had hashed and rehashed the schedule, looking for any available little pocket of time, this was the best option coming to us. With the three weddings, a full family schedule, and two very diverse and loaded work schedules ourselves, we knew we were just gonna have to go with what was available, and that was Wednesday-Friday of the week we got home.

We settled on Galena as our location of choice. We had been there once before, several years ago, on a retreat with our singles at church, and we'd had an excellent impression of the town from that visit. It was also an easy choice since we didn't want to spend most of our time driving, and Galena is just over a two hour drive. 

We try to do at least one road trip a year. It is usually to either to visit a friend/s, or attend a wedding. This was probably the first that involved no one else, just chilling + relaxing as sisters. It was perfect!
First evening upon arrival.
We stayed in our room the first night and ordered in pizza from Procentos Pizza. I consider myself somewhat of a pizza connesior, having devoured many different varieties in my twenty-six years, and this pizza was absolutely unbelievable. Fresh tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, spicy chunks of sausage, and a wonderful amount of cheeses and sauce made this pizza unforgettable!
Outfit/style pics, just cause we're girls! =)
We stayed at the Cloran Mansion Bed + Breakfast and it was beautiful. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. It was secluded and quiet and we were left totally to ourselves, which was just what we wanted, and yet when we went down for breakfast in the mornings we had a great time with our host + hostess and the other guests. The grounds were lovely as well. 
Morning coffee + quiet time in the gazebo. 
Headed out on the town! 
Vinny Vanucchi's Italian for dinner. We had been there once before and it was amazing each time!
Incredible food!
We tried some new hairstyles....

Fun twist on a boho side braid...

Love this!
Ordering gelato at a little boutique that actually sold gelato, coffee, and clothing!
Exploring downtown.

Sadly, I totally forgot to take pictures of the gorgeous 5mile walk we did on Thursday morning. It started out by the river, along the railroad tracks, and ended up in the most beautiful wooded lane ever! I felt like we had just stepped into a scene from Anne of Green Gables. It was sunny and warm and amazing. When we got back from that, we laid out in the sun for a few hours. In addition, during our getaway we did nails, tried new hairstyles, laid on our backs on the bed and talked about dreams + goals + the present + the future. We watched movies and quoted right along with them. (any other sister sets out there that can also literally quote ALL THE THINGS from your favorite movies??) We ate delicious food + drank our homemade kombucha that we had brought with us. We met some sketchy people + had some hilarious conversations + made some epic memories in that department, as we always seem to do. (ha!)

All in all, it was such a splendid time, and one that we will have memories of forever. 

I'm so grateful for this girl---my sister. We are the best of friends and I can't imagine life without her. We are opposites in so many ways and yet are just the same in so many others! We can finish each other's sentences and know what the other is thinking, almost all the time. 

It was such a grand time we had together, and I'm blessed by it! Establishing and cultivating strong relationships with those nearest to you is one of the most important things you can do, and one you will never regret. Because of that, and so much else, I am so thankful for this time we had, and the sister relationship we have. 

Happy Thursday!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Becoming Best Friends With Your Siblings

This header picture almost makes me a little sentimental, especially given the current season of my life. We were touring in Alaska this past summer and drove through this town, Kasilof, which we had visited last time we were in Alaska. I had to go back in my Alaska folder from 2013 and find the picture that I remembered taking there on the swing, this one, above. So many memories. So many great times, back when all ten of us kids traveled together. I'm so thankful for those years. Everything is changing now, in so many ways, and even though these are the happiest of days, times are surely and definitely changing from what they were. celebration of those incredible days, and also in celebration of these different but equally incredible days, when our family is growing by leaps and bounds, I am posting this today, using this great four-year old picture for my header. =)

My siblings didn't become my best friends accidentally. It took work, and a lot of intentional parenting on the part of my father and mother. We did not used to be best friends when we were younger. We went to a church and were in a social circle where nearly everything was age-segregated. I was friends with only kids within twelve months of my age, and it was the same way for my siblings. That was just how we rolled.

Then I turned twelve, and around that time God did a huge work in my father's heart, and turned his heart toward me + my siblings. He (my father) sold his booming business, we switched churches, we switched mentalities and how we did made decisions, and within a few months almost every single aspect of life as I knew it, changed. That is another very long story for another time, but I have to say that much at least for y'all to understand the foundation of the change that happened in our lives. We seemed to lose most of our other friends and suddenly, siblings was what we had left. It was quite something. Definitely not the most comfortable or seamless change that ever occurred in my life. But absolutely one of the best ones. We started doing family parties, family camps, family outings, family everything. We were still very social but instead of all breaking off into our own little age-segregated groups, we started interacting + socializing with bigger groups, including lots + lots of other families. We learned to develop close friendships. You don't just wake up one day and ta da! You are best friends with someone. No. With ANY FRIENDSHIP it takes work, and effort. And it is no different with siblings.

The only way to forge a strong friendship is to invest work and time and energy into it. Relationships of any type take work. You can't expect something to just fall together and into place. You will get out of it whatever you are willing to put into it.

With siblings, you have to be intentional. If you are in a big family, you have to be even MORE intentional, because there are so many more people to connect with. Families that are tight have the most incredible times + memories ever. Just believe me. If you have a close family now, then you know exactly what I mean. (note: even if you don't have a close family now, make a commitment that with your future family, someday, you will make close relationships a priority) Anyways, there are even more relationships to tend when you have a big family. And with all those people there are different love languages, and temperaments, and all that. There are a lot of different elements happening! Siblings' needs vary also depending on their love language. For one, that "something special" might be writing a simple note and leaving it on their bed. The next sibling might need some quality time going out for ice cream or coffee. A different sibling might need a special gift. And the next one just a hug and a little snuggle time. It can be so different from person to person! What I want to encourage you to do is to learn your siblings' love languages and work on connecting with them in the ways that are most meaningful to each one. The main thing in relationships, after all, is being intentional and choosing to spend time and make the effort.

If you aren't close to your siblings and this just sounds overwhelming to you, then don't worry-take heart and resolve today that with the help of Jesus, you are going to turn your little boat around and do life a little differently to change your course! Start small. If you haven't been investing time into your sibling relationships and you aren't close to begin with, than don't expect that you'll start out with long heart to hearts and lots of love reciprocation! It's gonna take a little time to change the course and earn their trust. Also you may want to check out  "Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends"(read my full disclosure here) This book is the real deal and is so great for siblings who want practical tips on getting along with each other and developing close-knit relationships.

And then?

Run to Jesus for help. Cry out to Him for your siblings and for healing in your relationships. Don't try to do this on your own. You need Someone bigger than you to fight this battle with you! And it is a battle, absolutely-Satan loves nothing more than destroying families and its a lot harder to destroy a tight, close-knit family, than to come in and destroy a family that hates each other to begin with.

Recognize that you are a part of the problem. You won't get anywhere if you are thinking it's just your siblings that have the issues and the problems. It always takes two. If you don't have a good relationship, then you are partly to blame. And you'll have to realize this before you can proceed in a different direction.

Resolve to change. You're going to have to work at this, friend, and you've got to be willing to invest time and energy, as mentioned before. You might have to cut some other things out of your schedule to make time for your siblings. You might even have to take a break from some social aspects of other relationship to make more time to spend with your family. If you want a close relationship badly enough, you will be willing to sacrifice something to get it!

My sister and I collaborated and wrote a full article, last fall, on this subject of close sibling relationships. It was published in the Kings Blooming Rose. (a magazine written by a friend of mine, to encourage young women in living for Jesus) Today I am giving away three copies of the fall 2016 magazine, that features our article. Leave a comment with your name, to enter to win one! Winner will be announced here at the end of this post (added note) on Saturday morning, August 26th.

Also I would love to hear your thoughts/questions on this topic as well! What are some ways YOU have worked on your sibling relationships to become best friends with your siblings?

Have a beautiful rest of your week, my friends!

Saturday morning note:
The three magazine copies (which include my sister + my article on sibling relationships) go to:
1) Delilah Penner
2) Sheila Martin
3) Bethany Clemmer
Congratulations ladies! 
Please send me an email with your mailing address and I will get those out to you!
Thanks for all of you comments + participation!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Laundry Line Series || Part 5

Fifth Myth. It is silly to fold laundry. It takes too much time. Besides, it will just get messed up and unfolded again by the time everyone sorts through and gets theirs and it finally hits the drawers anyway. And the ironing pile never runs out!

There's a whole lot of things that we do in life, not  because they are the most convenient things, but because they just seem to make sense and work. That's how I feel about folding clothes. I like when things are organized, and for me it seems to be easier to organize (stack, arrange, etc) when things are folded. The more things are folded, the less have to be ironed. Also, for me, there's just something about going to the drawer and getting out clean, folded clothes. I've always been used to that, and I love it. It isn't a right or wrong thing, just a preference, but I do think it is easier to be organized this way. I know lots of people who have drawers for each person's socks/underwear and that works great for them. I personally like my socks matched when they are thrown in the drawer, and I like everything else folded. I hang up most blouses, skirts, and dresses, and tend to fold knit tees, jeans, etc.

Clean, folded laundry is a beautiful sight in my eyes! This is my counter after returning home from a tour and having a huge laundry day!

You won't have to iron as much if you hang or fold your clothes. I always try to hang button shirts right after they come out of the dryer, so I hopefully won't have to iron them as much later. Knits can obviously lay in a pile for a quite a while and then be folded and still not be too wrinkly.

My very favorite laundry hack of ALL TIME is the dot system. I don't remember who told us about this but it has been a huge game changer in helping with the organization of our laundry system.

As I mentioned in the introduction post, for years I did all the laundry for my family. I would wash, fold, and then have a pile for each person in our family to "pick up" in the laundry room, at the end of the laundry days. I have a pretty good memory, and with doing everyone's laundry every week, I was familiar with whose clothes were whose. But those (especially!) were the days where my brothers seemed to be outgrowing and passing down clothes nearly every month! And I just couldn't keep track of whose was whose. Also, whenever I would leave on a trip or something and someone else had to do the laundry, then they didn't know whose was whose. So we began the DOT SYSTEM. One dot for the oldest boy, two dots for the second...and on down the line. When Mitch outgrew something, and it got passed to Carson...I added a dot. (see picture above for example of the dots) For shirts, I was careful to place the dot on the thicker ribbing part, because if it was done below that, the dots would show right through to the back of the shirt, and that wouldn't be good!
*With my sisters taking over the laundry this year, the dot system has been a huge help to them in knowing whose clothing is whose.

I'm going to finish this post with a few questions that have been asked over the course of this series:

"Have you been able to restore shrunken clothes?"
The only tip I have for this is rewashing. It has worked a few times, but not nearly always. Sometimes if I wash something and forget and put it in the dryer (and it shrinks) it will resize (or close) if I wash again and then HANG TO DRY. This doesn't always work, but it has a time or two. Typically things will only shrink if they are dry clean items, or poor quality items, or if they are supposed to be washed cold and are washed hot. I would definitely advise paying attention to the labels on clothing when washing! If an item is cotton, you can probably get by washing it however you want. But if it specifically says "wash on cold, gentle cycle, dry flat" then best results will definitely come by doing just that.

"When you wear clothes and they aren't dirty, do you put them in a hamper anyways or what do you do with them?"
Yes, if they aren't dirty, we just hang them up and wear them again.

"What do you do with smelly rags?"
I've found that it is extremely helpful to rinse rags well (even in soapy water) before throwing them into the laundry pile. This really helps with the smell. Another idea is to have one specific laundry basket to throw all the rags/towels into. This keeps them from spreading the smell/wet to other items of laundry, and helps contain the dirtier portion of the laundry. If you do these things, you shouldn't deal with too much smell only washing two days a week.

"How do you do laundry only two days a week and still make it from time to time with also having hardly any clothes?"
This isn't actually that hard. All you need for this to work is four sets of clothes, and everyone I know has quite a bit more than that. =) Also in our family we often wear jeans/skirts two days in a row, without washing in-between. 

"I was just curious if you would recommend how to make it work to do less laundry days per week, when your family members don't have many extra sets of clothes?"
I love it that this question and the one above it both came from farm girl readers. =) For farmer's wives + daughters, this whole laundry thing has a whole new element to it. And I am right there with you-the struggle is real! It is a little difficult to answer this question, because every situation is different. But here is how we do it. Some of our guys wear coveralls over their clothes, and then hang their chore clothes, and re-wear them several days in a row. In the summer this isn't an option, because they get so hot and sweaty and their clothes wouldn't last several days without washing. They each have about four sets of chore clothes, and the barn laundry is the main reason we wash twice a week. Their chore clothes are nothing special-just older/worn clothing. The guys often have patched jeans and then older tee shirts that are more worn out.

"Can you discuss how to minimize clothing?"
This might be a totally new topic for another post! But basically, it is all about just choosing a simpler lifestyle of LESS IS BETTER. Now, this advice is coming from the person who is considered to be the biggest clothing/fashion junkie in the family. (whoops!) I have long been a minimalist in many areas, except for my closet! However, I finally realized that having so much stuff that I never wore, was just ridiculous. So I began to purge, and shop more intentionally, and I love my wardrobe so much more now. Just choose to do it. If you have lots of clothes that you haven't worn in months and months and months, ditch them!

Missed the other posts in this series? Click the links below!
The Laundry Line Series || Introduction
The Laundry Line Series || Part 1
The Laundry Line Series || Part 2
The Laundry Line Series || Part 3
The Laundry Line Series || Part 4

Thank y'all so much for joining along with me on this laundry series!
It's been fun!
And I apologize for the lateness of the last post. Wednesday escaped me! =)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Laundry Line Series || Part 4

As you may notice, it is not Wednesday, the normal day for this series. 
It is Thursday.
I missed Wednesday. 
Now I am posting Thursday instead.
Thanks. =)

Fourth Myth. Stains are stains. Blood stains, grass stains, manure stains (for you farmer sisters/wives!), and grease stains are impossible to remove. I might as well not even try. And I have no idea what products to use for my laundry anyways!

This is the toughest part about laundry. We'd love to get everything clean; spotless, every time, yes? And yet sometimes its just out of our control and we can't. I have to throw out ruined items just like everyone else. However, along the way, I have learned about a few products that are absolute SAVERS for me when it comes to my laundry routine. I know there are lots of great laundry products out there! Today I'm going to share with you my "staple favorites".

The most basic thing needed to do laundry is...the SOAP! I love making my own, and do that often when we are home. I use this recipe here. It works great and is SUPER cheap to make.

Note: my favorite essential oil to add to it is Citrus, but you can use anything! Or you can make it without a scent as well! I personally use Young Living for my essential oils, but for laundry soap use I would actually recommend using an off brand (such as this one) because the Fels Naptha used to make this soap is pretty strong itself and not exactly an all natural type product, and for that reason I always feel like it is wasteful to dump in such a pure + expensive brand oil, like Young Living. I prefer to use Young Living for normal oil usage, but if I'm putting it in something like this, I will use a cheaper "off" brand.

However, when we are on the road touring, it isn't practical or feasible to be hauling my 5 gallon bucket of homemade liquid soap into every laundromat. =) And sometimes I run out of the homemade and simply don't have time to make another batch right away. After trying a variety of different kinds, I have found that my favorite is a brand called Charlies. It comes in both liquid and powder form. I prefer the powder because I do most of my loads on hot or warm water anyways and it dissolves so well in that. I also like powder with the tour life because it takes up less room to pack (every little bit of space counts on the bus!) and is more concentrated than the liquid. However, I have used the liquid before and I like it, too.

My ultimate favorite stain remover products are the OxiClean powder and OxiClean Spray. These are LIFESAVERS for me! I used the powder (dissolved in a bucket of water) to soak whites, and I use the spray for any other kind of stain. (Note: I would recommend buying the spray from Walmart instead of Amazon, though; it is several dollars cheaper at Walmart. I only include the link so you can see what it is and know what you're looking for at Walmart)

I also love using bleach for my whites. If I have a few items that are starting to look a little yucky, or off color, I just stick them in a bucket of bleach water, and that can work wonders! Just be careful with that bleach-I'm speaking from experience! Bleach stains is one thing I have NEVER figured out how to remove. =) I'm not sure that one is possible!

For ink stains, I use aerosol hairspray. The cheapest brand you can find at Walmart should work great! Spray straight on the ink and let set for a bit. Then scrub the foam area into the stain, and wash. It doesn't always work, but if you apply it right away and follow these instructions, I almost guarantee you will able to remove the stain. Just to be safe, also apply a little of the OxiClean spray right before washing.

Peroxide works wonders for blood stains. Again, I apply the same way I do with the ink stains---pour the peroxide straight onto the stain, and let set for a while. Then wash with cold water and more peroxide on the stain. Finally, spray with the OxiClean Spray and let set awhile before washing. 

The OxiClean Spray also works wonders with grass stains and manure stains. The main thing is to treat the stain/s as possible BEFORE washing. Once an item is washed/dryed, it is going to be almost impossible to go back and get the stain out, because by that point it is quite “set” in. 
When I did laundry, my brothers knew exactly where to put their jeans that needed treatment. (laid in the utility sink in our laundry room, which I only used for laundry) When we are on the road, items with stains are put in grocery bags before they are thrown in the laundry, that way when we are at the laundromat, I know which items need extra attention. 

The biggest deal with removing stains is to work on them as soon as possible after the stain has occured. With brothers and grass/barn stains, I often don't get the opportunity to work on them right away. I do as soon as I can though! But with cooking, for example, we girls have learned to ALWAYS change right away and treat the clothing item which we’ve stained. So for example, if I am cooking something with butter, and I accidentally spritz a little melted butter up onto my shirt (this happens waaay more than I would like to admit! And even when I wear aprons, it seems to avoid the apron!) I will (if possible) turn off the burner, go change shirts, and immediately treat the butter stain. Typically with butter/oil/etc, I use the OxiClean Spray as well. 

And...that's it for today! Come back next week for the LAST post in this series! I will be answering all the other questions I have received the past month (as well as any related questions y'all might have this week) and then also talking about basic folding/organizing/simplifying tips.

Missed the other posts in this series? Click the links below!
The Laundry Line Series || Part One
The Laundry Line Series || Part 2
The Laundry Line Series // Part 3

"The most memorable days...usually end with the dirtiest clothes!"
Remember that quote the next time the stains overwhelm you. If it wasn't for hardworking husbands and active brothers, we wouldn't have stained +  dirty clothing. 
And I want to happily work with those extra stains and a little extra dirt, 
out of appreciation for people who aren't afraid to work hard and get dirty! It's a blessing!

***My product links are through the Amazon affiliate program. (see my discloser here) Rest assured that I only recommend products that I personally use + endorse!