Anchors Aweigh : January 2015


Hosting 101: The Welcome Basket

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #McCafeMyWay #CollectiveBias
Parker and I get so excited to host family and friends in our Virginia home. For the first time ever, we have a guest room that does not require guests to sleep on an air mattress...yahtzee! I've tried to hone in my hosting skills over the years after seeing what guests need, what they always forget, and what they expect. For future temporary residents of our casa, I have created a welcome basket that I am excited to show you today! Want to one-up your hosting game even more? Have those home-cooked meals waiting! Now onto the welcome basket...

Items to include:
  • Travel-size toiletries. We have these stocked up from hotel stays and miscellaneous trips, so go through your cabinets and see what you already have. Toiletries to remember are shampoo/conditioner, body wash, mouthwash, toothpaste, lotion, and hand sanitizer. 
  • Chapstick. If your guests are visiting in the winter and happen to forget this little goldmine, they'll be thanking you for having it. 
  • A candy bar. We all like a little sweet treat every now and again. Just sayin. 
  • Magazines. Grab a magazine or two that you know your guests will love. It's nice to have something to flip through before you go to bed.  
  • McCafé coffee. People need the coffee. Enough said.

Honestly, if you only provide one item on the list, make it the coffee. It's the welcome basket MVP. Parker and I are the first to admit we aren't big coffee drinkers. I enjoy it loaded with all the tasty toppings as a treat every once in a while, but I'm not an avid coffee drinker. I realize though that we are definitely in the minority. People LOVE their morning cups of coffee and rely on it to have a happy, productive day. When Parker and I were living in Florida, his parents came to stay with us. We didn't have any coffee in the house, and I was so embarrassed when I woke up to find out they had run to the nearby gas station for coffee. Hosting fail, and lesson learned.

After attending a McCafé demo at Walmart, I decided this was the coffee to make my basket complete. I chose the McCafé coffee bag to give guests the five-star treatment without paying the five-star price, and you can opt for the coffee pods if that's more your style. This coffee is made with 100% Arabica beans and comes in 8 different flavors, so there's something for everybody. I headed to Walmart to pick up my bag along with any toiletries I didn't already have laying around the house for the welcome basket. It was one-stop shopping at its finest over here. 

So there you have it! These are the items I recommend including for your very own welcome basket. This is your key to being the hostess with the mostest, so get after it! Another way into your guests hearts? Through their stomachs. I have a few favorite recipes I like to make, but check out the Cooking Up Good website for some good go-to recipes. They also have loyalty programs, sweepstakes, and coupons, so it's a win-win, really. 

Have you ever made a welcome basket? Did your guests ask to move in and stay forever? 

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Your Questions Answered: Vlog Part 2

Today we are back with our second and final vlog to answer the remainder of the questions we received! These are questions about our faith and our pregnancy with Taylor, and at the end we tell you what the biggest eye opener getting married was for each of us. We hope you enjoy!

Here is the link to the video just in case:

We will be back to our regularly scheduled programming (aka, written words) tomorrow. Thanks to Laurie, Kelly, Ladonna, Kelsey, Stephanie, Rachel, and Brianna for today's questions!

Also, the link to our all-time favorite church that we talked about in this video is here in case you're interested:

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Your Questions Answered: Vlog Part 1

Last week, I wrote a post asking for any questions you might have. Yall had SO many good ones, so Parker and I decided to answer them in a vlog. There was a pretty natural division between the questions we received, so we decided to split this up into two parts to spare you from a 30+ minute video. Today, we are answering some of the more light-hearted questions about dating, our proposal, and Navy life. Tomorrow, we will answer the questions we received about our faith and our journey with Taylor Grace. 

We had a lot of fun making the video, so we hope you enjoy! 

Here is the link to the video just in case!

We forgot to mention this when we talked about the proposal, but that drawing hanging on the wall behind us is from our proposal! Fun fact :) 

Thanks to Milly, Jen, Bailey, Kelly, Ashley, Kelsey, Diane, Janelle, Patrick, Rachel, and Stephanie for asking the questions we answered today! Stay tuned for more tomorrow!

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Leaving a Legacy

Parker and I revealed we were pregnant to family, friends, and the world weeks before we found out we were having a girl. It was always fun to ask family and friends what they thought the baby was, what they hoped the baby was, etc. I can honestly say I didn't care. I just wanted to be a mom and pray I will get to be a mom to both genders one day. However, a few people made comments about wanting a boy first to carry on the family name. I never said anything, but secretly this drove me nuts. 

Here's why...

We all want to leave a legacy on this Earth before we leave it. We want to be remembered and loved, and we want others to be proud of the life we lived. I don't want to be remembered for my last name. A name is just a name, but our character is what makes a difference. My parents have instilled the values of kindness, selflessness, and honesty in my sisters and me ever since we were little. We aren't perfect people and have all messed up six ways to Sunday, but we were taught and encouraged to be Christians who love the Lord and love people. That's the legacy I want to pass onto my kids. My children will have a different last name than I did growing up, but Parker and I want to teach them to live like Jesus instructed us to live. We want them to choose right from wrong and we want them to do what's right even when it's not what's easy. That is our hope and prayer for our future kids, not that they pass down our last name. 

I have four sisters which means my maiden name will not be carried onto future generations in our direct line. My maiden name isn't even my rightful name if you want to get technical because my great-grandfather was adopted. If Parker and I have all girls (we've got one already!), our last name will not be passed down either. We both really hope we have a son one day, but the last reason we want a son is to pass down the family name. 

Your legacy is entirely dependent on you, and I kind of love that. You aren't responsible for mistakes made throughout family history, and your kids won't be responsible for mistakes you made. You get to decide how people remember you. I challenge each of you to show love to someone you encounter today. Hold the door open at the supermarket. Pay for the person's drink in the drive-thru line behind you. Send someone at work an encouraging email to let them know you appreciate them. We get to choose who we are, and we get to choose the legacy we leave behind. Make it a good one. 

My sisters and I all together for Thanksgiving last year! As one sister said, "If we were in the Hunger Games, I'd volunteer as tribute for each one of you". Love these three!

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Easy Weeknight Pot Roast

I try to use my slow cooker as often as I can in these colder months. There is just something to be said for a nice, warm meal waiting for you at the end of the day. Plus, is there anything easier than cooking in the slow cooker? Not in my book! Pot Roast is something that can be made a thousand different ways, but this little recipe is one I will keep coming back to over and over again. It was so simple and so delicious! This recipe serves four adults and made great leftovers for my husband the next day.

This recipe is unlike a lot of pot roast recipes in that it doesn't call for veggies with the roast. I mentioned this to my husband, and he thought this was a positive. Being the meat lover that he is, he really just wants to roast. I served mine with sweet potatoes and dinner was on the table!

2-3 lb beef chuck or rump roast
1/2 cup water
1 oz package of dry ranch seasoning mix (found on the salad dressing aisle)
1 oz package of dry Italian salad dressing mix
1 oz package of dry brown gravy mix (found on the gravy aisle)

1. Place your roast in your slow cooker. 
2. Add in 3 dry seasoning mixes.
3. Cover and cook on low 7-9 hours and high 4-5 hours.
4. Remove roast from slow cooker and place on a cutting board to let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. 


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My New Year's Quest For Productivity

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias and its Advertiser. All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone and should not be construed as medical advice. #24HourEsterC #CollectiveBias

I don't really do new year's resolutions because I consistently break them, so I try not to set myself up for failure. I could swear off chocolate in the new year, but you would find me eating a giant Butterfinger by January 3rd. It's just not going to happen, so instead of vowing to stop or start something, I try to set goals. I don't give myself an ultimatum and promise to change, but I make an effort to do something better or more efficiently. This year, I want to make the most of my days. I want to be productive.

Being productive for me means making the most of every day and spending my time wisely. I will be the first to admit, I probably watch too much television. It's a guilty pleasure, and I'm not going to cut it out completely, but I want to replace some of the mindless television hours with reading, being active, walking my dogs, and just living life. I want to go hiking. I want to get back into running. I just want to get moving!

In order to live each day to the fullest, I need to be healthy. Vitamins are important for health, yall. I usually have a good immune system, but I wanted to give myself the best chance for immune support. I headed to my local Walmart and picked up a bottle of EsterC for immune support. I started taking one each morning, and I really think that extra Vitamin C each day kept me at my best. I'll take it.

The bottles in my local Walmart had a $3 coupon on them, making 120 vitamins just $5.97. I love a deal over here.  

It's a new year, which means it's time to set new goals. My goal for this year may seem broad, but it's simple, and I like simple. No day is guaranteed, and I want to make sure I am living each one to the fullest. I want to be healthy, active, and moving. I just want to be as productive as possible, so here we go 2015!

What are your goals for 2015?

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Grieving: When The Rest Of The World Moves On

One thing I have learned from losing Taylor Grace is that grieving is a process made up of different stages. There were nights where I couldn't remember what it was like to fall asleep without crying. There were mornings where I didn't want to get out of bed. There were days where our kitchen was filled with flowers, plants, and cards from the beautiful people mourning the loss of our daughter with us. That was just the beginning of the grieving process.

It's been 2 months today since our little girl went to Heaven. It still feels just as raw as it did the day the doctor couldn't find a heartbeat, honestly. I've learned how to deal with the emotions, but it doesn't mean I miss her any less. I still think about her all the time. I still look down at my belly to remind myself she isn't in there. I still cry imagining the daughter I didn't get to have. This is normal, I suppose. I am her mother. Aside from Parker, this affected me more than anyone. I haven't moved on, but what happens when the world around me does? 

I've been contemplating this over the last couple of weeks. Sure people still ask how we are doing from time to time, but for the most part, the world has moved on. People go on smiling, laughing, and talking as if their lives weren't changed forever. It's easy to feel alone while it seems like everyone else is fine. 

So what do you do when the rest of the world moves on?

After a lot of thought, I realized the answer is quite simple: absolutely nothing. People still care for us and are praying for us, but everyone is going to slowly move on, and this is only natural. Nobody is immune from tragedy in this life. I lost a child, but everyone has lost someone. We all have to pick ourselves up and live life as best we can. Everyone else's world didn't come crashing down when Taylor left this Earth. Ours did. Sure people were sad for us and hurt because we were hurting, but it didn't change anyone else's lives as much as it changed ours. I can't expect the world to be sad forever, and I don't want to be sad forever. This is just another step in the grieving process. The world will feel better before I will, and that's okay. 

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Oh College: 10 Things I Learned

It's that time of the year again where students are going back to the wonderful place that is college for the spring semester. I'm. So. Jealous. College was, simply put, the best, and I'd go back in a heartbeat! Life after college is wonderful too and all the excitement that came with getting a job, getting married, thinking about kids, and all that jazz, but there is something so fantastically wonderful about the college life. 

I got to reminiscing the other day about the things I learned while living the college life. Everyone tried to give me so much advice going into college, but let's be honest, I didn't heed much of it. I was 18, which translates to "all-knowing" to said 18 year old. Now that I am in the real world, I realize that I was not, in fact, a genius at 18.

Texas A&M, you were too good to us. 
1. Now that high school sports are over, there is no one making you go to the gym. They don't call it the "Freshman 15" for nothing. Make friends with the gym, preferably before the extra poundage shows up.

2. Studying should be treated like a job rather than a recreational activity. Sorry Dad, I should have listened. 

3. Ugg boots and shorts is the most ridiculous combination one can fashion. When it's 30 degrees in January, do not wear Nike Shorts and Ugg boots to class and consider yourself dressed. Just don't. Side note: for those who despise wearing jeans like I do, you're going to try the shorts in winter thing, and you're going to freeze. It won't be worth it. 

4. Getting to know the professor can actually make a difference come grades time. Also, professors are usually really, really nice.

5. Having to give a speech in front of your entire freshman communications class won't actually kill you. It almost will, but it won't.

6. Telling the cop you were speeding because you were late to class will never work. Even if it's true, you'll still get a ticket... and be late to class. 

7. There is no such thing as "popular" in college. Once you survive high school, the cool thing to do is to be yourself. Revolutionary and so refreshing.

8. Skipping class seems like the best idea ever until all of those "we discussed this exclusively in class" questions show up on the test. Then, not so much. 

9. Even though it feels like you have all of this responsibility and you are carrying the world on your shoulders, it's not all bad. The real world = responsibility. You'd gladly take those college days back in exchange for business meetings and utility bills. 

10. Spending $500+ on textbooks is painful, and you would have cut that bill in half had you rented the textbooks. College goers, check out to get up to 90% off the new price, free shipping both ways, and flexible rental periods. Coming from someone who spent thousands of dollars on textbooks, I am kicking myself for not discovering the renting world until my senior year. It's a game changer. 

What did the college life teach you?
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So Let's Talk: What Do You Want To Know?

I've been thinking about doing a little Q&A for a while now, so today is apparently the day that I am taking the plunge! If you have any questions for me or for Parker, feel free to ask them! If you haven't noticed, I am an open book on this blog and will pretty much answer anything (within reason, of course). 

So, do you have any questions? I'd love to hear them! From marriage to faith to every day life to Taylor Grace to the future and our plans, I'm happy to answer them.

Don't let these awkward faces intimidate you. We are (mostly) normal. 

Okay, ask away! Seriously, please ask questions if you have them. Otherwise, this just got awkward. I'll be answering them next week on the blog! Parker and I may even do a vlog to answer the questions if we're feeling adventurous. 
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Fajita Chicken Quesadillas

I sort of threw this recipe together on a whim, but it turned out to be the perfect little dinner for the husband and me. It was super simple and quick to make, and Parker loved it. Win win! Have a busy weeknight coming up? Give this recipe a try!

Large tortillas
Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
Green bell pepper, sliced
Frozen fajita chicken

You'll notice I didn't list quantities in the ingredients. Use as much or as little as you want depending on how many quesadillas you want to make.

1. Coat a large pan with cooking spray and heat fajita chicken and bell pepper together over medium-high heat. Cook until chicken is hot all the way through and bell peppers are soft, and set aside. 
2. In a large pan sprayed with cooking spray (I used the same pan as in step 1 for simplicity), place a large tortilla in the center. Top half of the tortilla with chicken and bell pepper mixture and a generous handful or cheese, and fold the tortilla in half to make your quesadilla. 
3. Heat for 2-4 minutes and flip tortilla to heat other side for 2-4 minutes. The tortilla should be a nice golden brown and crispy when you are finished. 
4. Remove quesadilla from heat, slice into triangles, and garnish with sour cream, pico de gallo, etc. 


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DIY Chicken Wire Frame

I always display the Christmas cards we receive on our kitchen cabinets throughout the month of December. It's fun to have our families and friends plastered all over the kitchen, and I get more than a little excited when opening Christmas mail. I never want to take them down, but I don't like that my kitchen looks so cluttered. I decided to save a few Christmas cards to display year round and decided a chicken wire frame was just the way to do it. I also grabbed a few notes and invitations from the refrigerator to de-clutter that space, and I am really pleased with the final result! The entire project cost me under $15, so I thought I would put together a quick little tutorial in case you are interested in making one yourself!

Empty Frame- I purchased one for $0.99 at a thrift store, thoroughly cleaned it, and gave it a fresh coat of paint. Hit up your local Goodwill or thrift store or use an old frame you have laying around the house!
Chicken Wire- found at Home Depot ($13 for the smallest roll I could find)
Wire Cutters
Staple Gun
Clothespins (optional- $0.97 at Walmart)

1. With your wire cutters, cut a piece of chicken wire to fit the size of your frame. This is the most time consuming part, and I finished with quite a few pokes on my hands. Not fun, but avoidable if you take your time!
2. When you have your piece of chicken wire cut out, use your staple gun to attach it to the back of your frame. Pull it taut and make sure it is as smooth as possible. 
3. Hang and use clothespins to attach your favorite pictures/cards/etc!

Easy peasy!

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Guest Post: Silly Mistakes From a First Time Mom

Happy Friday, friends! I am really excited to introduce yall to Iulia from Best of Baby. I have loved getting to know her via the interwebs, and her blog has quickly become one of my daily reads. She blogs everything from pregnancy to babies to motherhood. Today she is sharing some of the (hilarious) silly mistakes she made as a first time mom. Take it away, Iulia!

Ever look back on moments in your life and want to do this?

Photo credit: chizoo / iWoman / CC BY-NC-SA

I've had countless of those "what was I thinking?!?" moments since becoming a parent.  As a first time mom, I made a lot of silly mistakes (and probably also as a second time mom...just haven't realized them yet).  I was totally serious about them back then, but now, I can thankfully look back and laugh.  So in no particular order, my "silly first-time mom mistakes"
(Note:  no judgment on anyone else that's made these mistakes...I'm making fun of myself, not you.  You may have been totally justified in your silly behavior.)

The Lysol Incident
That time I dropped Jay's paci on the floor at church...and FREAKED OUT.  I thought for sure we couldn't make the car ride home without a paci (all 15 minutes of it), but I obviously couldn't give him a pacifier that had fallen on the floor...he might catch the Spanish Flu or something!  I know!  There's Lysol in the bathroom.  I'll just spray it with that. Oh my gosh, I just sprayed my son's paci with Lysol, what was I thinking?  I don't even use Lysol in my house!  Anyone have an unopened, newborn sized, orthodontic paci I could have?  No?  It's going to be a long ride home.... (Two words y'all: paci clips)
Hot Lava!
Jay started crawling before he could even sit up. I was SO not ready for him to be mobile...not because I didn't want to chase after him, but because I didn't want to put him on the floor.  Germs people, GERMS. So I had a special blanket that I would put down for Jay to crawl on....but if so much as one toe ventured of the blanket? HOT LAVA! I'd quickly rush in and scoop him back up onto the blanket. Whew, that was a close call...he almost caught that Spanish Flu again. Seriously long did I think I could keep that up? As determined as I was, I had to come to grips with the fact that I needed to let my son crawl around on a surface bigger than just a 4'x3' blanket.  So I went out and bought a bigger blanket. (just kidding!)
Oh no!  Mom caught me touching hot lava! 

Is my baby drunk?
Then there was the time I thought my baby was going to get drunk.  If you haven't picked up on this yet, I'm kind of a germaphobe.  Just kind of.  One day, I was out with Jay when he touched something I thought was dirty (probably hot lava).  Never one to leave the house without some germ killing mechanism, I whipped out my hand sanitizer and sterilized his hands (and maybe an arm or two for good measure...just kidding).  But because I needed something else to be paranoid about, I started to get worried about what I had just rubbed into my little baby's I turned to the most reliable resource for all parenting questions -- Google.  Oh my goodness did you know that delinquent toddlers across the country are partying it up with hand sanitizer?  Umm, what I mean to say is that there have been cases of kids ingesting hand sanitizer and having highly elevated blood alcohol levels.  And since anything you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body....oh my gosh my baby is going to get drunk!  I know that sounds crazy, but my new mom mind rationalized that if big kids can get sick from licking hand sanitizer off their hands, my little baby, whose body could tolerate way less alcohol than a two year old (#mybabyisalightweight), could too.  I called my husband in a panic, who (while probably thinking I'd officially gone off the mommyhood deep end) calmly reassured me that our baby was not, in fact, acting tipsy.
The Truck Stop
Here's a picture of Jay when we brought him home from the hospital (those cheeks!):

This is quite possibly the only time Jay was ever content in his car seat. He HATED car rides when he was a baby.  We could hardly make it down the street without him losing it.  When Jay was 2 months old, we decided to take an 8 hour car trip to visit my parents.  Now some might say that in itself was a silly mistake, but that's not what I'm getting at.  At some point during the trip he became so hysterical that we decided we just couldn't keep we pulled into the only stopping area for miles:  a truck weigh station (picture the tiniest little car among truck giants).  To make matters even more silly, half of the station was closed and blocked off with cones.  Well those cones may have deterred the big trucks, but not our little sedan, so we just drove right between them, got out, and started vigorously swinging our car seat back and forth to try and calm Jay down.  The cherry on top was when the police officer came out to ask us if everything was ok.  "NO officer, everything is OBVIOUSLY NOT OK.  CAN'T YOU SEE OUR BABY IS CRYING!? Nevermind that we're parked illegally in a truck weigh station.  You must not have kids."
Do you have any silly first time mom mistakes?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!  Stop by my blog, Best of Baby (where you're sure to find a lot more about my mommyhood ridiculousness), and drop me a message!

Full Hearts and Furballs

Sometimes, you just have to write a post about how much you love your dogs. Animal lovers know this. It's only a matter of time before you word vomit all the adorable things they did that week to your friends, family, and strangers on the street. I work from home and therefore am around our dogs all day, and I always have little stories or tidbits to tell Parker on cute things they did that day. We are dog people through and through over here! I thought I'd talk about each of our pups today, how they got here, and the little things about each of them that make our hearts smile. If you're semi-new around here, welcome! These are my dogs. 

Jenny is frequently referred to as my best girlfriend. This dog just has my heart. We adopted her 4 years ago from God's Little Creatures, a rescue group in College Station, TX. Jenny and her sister were dumped on the side of the road, and her sister had already been adopted by the time we found Jenny. Parker and I frequently went to their adoption events on Saturdays to "pet the puppies". This is such a dangerous game, yall. Sooner or later, petting the puppies will turn into going home with one, and that is exactly what happened. She was the best spontaneous decision we've ever made! Parker and I just think she's the coolest thing since sliced bread and frequently stop the other one mid-conversation to show them what adorable thing Jenny is doing. She loves to put cats in her mouth (it's a bad day for the cat), look unimpressed, and go on walks until her feet fall off. She is a mixed breed, and when people ask what she is, we just say pure dog. The truth is, we have absolutely no idea. She doesn't really care about most humans, but she loves Parker and me to pieces and knows we are hers. Seriously yall, she has my heart. 

Darla is our little miracle pup. For those who don't know the story of Darla, she showed up on our doorstep two years ago after being hit by a car. Nobody claimed her, but we had a friend who fell in love with her and wanted to keep her. Darla had surgery and is now a happy and healthy pup! Darla's mom is in the Navy, so she is hanging out with us for a year while her mom is away serving our country. It took me a few months to really get used to the idea of having two dogs around, and honestly it was tough for me to open up my heart and try to love another dog as much as I love Jenny, but I can safely say that I am officially obsessed with Darla and would be perfectly ecstatic if she stayed with us forever. It took a while for me to get there, but she's just the sweetest thing and has so much love to give. Her favorite thing (besides eating) is just being loved. She has been with us for about 6 months now, and we are not looking forward to the day we have to give her back. It will be so wonderful for her to be reunited with her mom, but I've been her mom away from mom and don't want to lose my baby! Darla is 3 years old but we call her the perpetual puppy because she just always looks like a puppy. This dog never ages. Darla loves food, people, annoying Jenny, and food. Darla is also a mixed breed, and we have no idea what is in her either. Another pure dog. 

So that's a bit about our girls. If there is one thing I have learned, it's that home is where the dog is. These two have brought us so much joy. I can only imagine how much joy having a baby around the house will bring us one day. Jenny seemed to know something was going on during my pregnancy with Taylor Grace and was very clingy/protective, so we are excited to see what a good big sister she is going to make one day. 

Jenny and Darla are both rescue pups, and Parker and I feel very strongly that we will always go through rescues or shelters for our pets. To each his own of course, but we personally love being able to save a dog and give them a loving home. These dogs just have so much love to give! The most perfect dogs for us were found on the side of the road and our doorstep. So glad they are ours, and don't mind us while we live in denial that Darla has to go back home this year. And now for some adorable snuggle pics from these two sisters:

Do you have furballs? Are you obsessed with them too?

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