12/11/17

Baby Bird



Photo by Corina Miller
 







It was last summer, around the 4th of July, when Kat, my sister-in-law, first mentioned her dream of opening an online children's boutique to me. In the months since then she's been perfecting her patterns and figuring out what fabrics she wants to use, and today is that day I finally get to tell you all about Baby Bird, her Instagram shop!

Kat gifted me several things: two knit skirts, a linen skirt, and a linen pair of jogger style pants, all for Brooklyn. In the past few months those items have become favorite things Brooklyn will end up wearing multiple times each week. 

What I've come to absolutely love about the linen items is that unlike most fabrics, it actually becomes even nicer the more you wear and wash it. The joggers and skirt have both softened up beautifully, they hold up well against an active toddler who seems wear holes in just about everything I put on her, and stains don't stand a chance at ruining the clothes... just soak them in a vinegar/water mixture and almost anything, pizza sauce included, will come right out.

The knit items are extremely soft. Brooklyn would most likely pick the floral skirt as her favorite out of the whole collection, because as she says, it's so "pudy" (pretty). She can be quite the little Tom Boy, but when it comes to clothes and shoes, she likes a bit of added flounce and sparkle.

I know I could go on and on about my love for Baby Bird, but I'd rather let you experience the items for yourself. This week, over on my Instagram page, I am giving away $30 in shop credit for Baby Bird to one lucky person. If you go enter the giveaway that person might be YOU!

And you if aren't the winner, but still would like to experience Baby Bird for yourself (and I think you should), follow Kat's shop on Instagram, or email her at babybirdsewing17@gmail.com for more information. 

11/30/17

Aunt Emma's Famous Waffle Cookies

This post was made possible thanks to the generosity of Oak Hill Bulk Foods, who supplied me with ingredients, and my friend, Corina Miller, who captured the experience on camera. 









As a kid, I don't remember my family going all out when making Christmas cookies, not like some of my friends (the lucky ones) whose moms would bake dozens upon dozens of cookies, then go to cookie exchanges and come home with a dozen varieties more. My mom would make three or four different kinds, and compared to the heavily iced and sanded sugar cookie cutouts that my friends got to boast, ours were always rather boring.

Boring for a four year old, maybe. But looking back now, I'd argue that ours were actually edible. Not only that, they were also delicious.

I grew up to be someone who is just as practical, if not even more so, than my mom. Meaning my poor kids are lucky that they even got to try one variety of Christmas cookies this year. I support my decision not to participate with reasons of health. Everywhere you go during the holiday season, people, it seems, are eager and generous with sugary goodies, and I really don't want things like that freely available in our home as well. (That is my argument. Please don't make me admit that the main reason you won't find cookies in our house it because I simply don't like to bake.)


Carson, my almost four year old, was a bit in shock when I presented the idea of baking cookies together, because he didn't think I actually knew how. So, I set out to prove that child wrong.

We gathered all of the necessary ingredients at our favorite grocery store, Oak Hill Bulk Foods. We shop there almost every week, and almost every week Carson and Brooklyn both press their faces into the glass of the pastry display, begging for a cookie with sprinkles, (which Carson, hilariously, used to call "brain-kills") because they never get cookies like that at home.

Instead of bringing a cookie with sprinkles home this time, we brought a container of sprinkles and everything else, to make our own cookies.




I whipped up one of the four kinds of cookies my mom use to make -- Aunt Emma's Famous Waffle Cookies. (Yes, of course I did.)

These cookies are exactly as the title says, waffles. They are crisp and chocolate-y, and topped with a fudge frosting, and because Carson was helping me, also heavily doused with sprinkles. They're named after my Great Aunt, Emma, and are a Stoltzfus family favorite.

Enjoy!







Aunt Emma's Famous Waffle Cookies

Ingredients:
1 1\2 c. sugar
1 c. butter, melted
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1\2 c. cocoa (I used dark cocoa)
1\2 tsp. salt

Directions:
Mix butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, mix together. Add flour, cocoa and salt, stirring until combined. Bake 1-2 minutes in waffle iron.


Fudge Frosting

Ingredients:
6 Tbs. butter
3\4 c. granulated sugar
1\3 c. milk
3\4 c. chocolate chips

Directions:
Boil butter, sugar and milk together for one minute. Stir in chocolate chips until melted.
Spread over waffle cookies and top with sprinkles.




 And there you have it, the inside scoop on the only cookies I'll be making this holiday season. They are so easy and so delicious. (Though not nearly as delicious as the cookies with sprinkles from Oak Hill. Carson was quick to let me know he truly wasn't that impressed with my cookie making abilities. Ya can't win them all, now can ya?)

***

This post was made possible, thanks to Oak Hill Bulk Foods, who supplied me with all the ingredients needed for the recipe. I highly recommend you visit their store if you get the chance!

Oak Hill Bulk Foods is located at 3173 Route 14A, just two miles south of Penn Yan, NY. The store is opened Monday - Saturday, from 8 am -6 pm, and the cafe is open Monday - Saturday from 7 am - 4 pm.

You can follow Oak Hill on Facebook and Instagram, or visit their website to learn more!

***

Also, a big thank you to my friend, Corina Miller, who offered to do a lifestyle photography session just for this post! Her work is gorgeous, and if you are looking for a fun gift to give someone this holiday season, might I suggest you book a session with her. It will be a treasured keepsake in the years to come! You can find her on Instagram. Send her a message there to let you know you're interested in learning more. 


9/6/17

Whole30-ish + Other Current Happenings











I did a thing.

For the month of August I joined ranks, giving into the pressure of what it seems like every blogger and Instagrammer these days is challenging themselves with; I did Whole30. Well, to be honest, I did Whole30-ish. (Yeah, I cheated a bit.)

Maybe you're not familiar with it? Whole30 is a 30 day reset, where you eliminate certain food groups from your diet that could be having a negative impact on your body. Things like dairy, added sugar, grains, alcohol, legumes, MSG, etc. At the end of the 30 days, you slowly reintroduce them to your diet to see how you react to them. It's a fascinating approach to educating yourself about what you are eating and why.

This isn't a weight loss program, however a lot a people do happen to lose weight doing it. That wasn't my goal at all. I forgot to weigh myself, so I have no idea if those numbers fluctuated. I did it mostly for the discipline of it, and to prove to myself I could.

The first three days I thought it was a piece of cake. I ate lots of veggies, fruits, and protein, and didn't even miss heavy cream in my daily coffee. But by day four it was no longer a piece of cake; and I desperately wanted a piece of cake. I managed to stay strong for an entire eight days, before I cheated and went out for tacos with my sister-in-law.

I won't tell you how many times I ate off plan. I can't say I noticed huge changes in the overall way I felt. That could perhaps be because this way of eating isn't drastically different than how I usually eat, minus the dairy and peanut butter and chocolate I enjoy consuming. Or perhaps I didn't feel drastically different because I cheated a few times too many. Who knows?  I did feel good though -- which typically I do -- and by not eating carbs from grains or any dairy, my stomach was flatter than ever.

By the last week I was done. Done. Done. Done. I cheated again, and drank cream in my coffee and had a bit of peanut butter with a banana. It couldn't be that bad, could it? It could. My skin, which had started to look clear and feel smooth for the first time since having Brooklyn, broke out in a rash. Little whiteheads began popping up around my chin, and I knew. Dairy. Dairy was the culprit.

So this week, though no longer doing Whole30, I am going mostly dairy free. And it seems to be helping my skin.

***

Along with the discipline of Whole30, I was hoping to also be disciplined in blogging weekly in the month of August. That happened exactly one time. Sometimes I wonder what happened to the Sarah I use to be, the only who followed through with her goals?

Oh wait. I know. She's now a wife and mom. She's got a new set of priorities, and not meeting every goal on time is okay. (Preaching to myself, but maybe you needed to hear that too.)

***

Also in the month of August:

I read five books. Two novels -- Her Mother's Hope and Her Daughter's Dream, both by Francine Rivers. Skin Cleanse, the simple, all-natural program for clear, calm, happy skin, by Adina Grigore. I heard a lot of good about this book, and when I checked it out on Amazon the reviews were amazing. I've been implementing what I've learned, and that, along with eliminating dairy, I hope will clear my skin once and for all. The Gracelaced book. If you follow me on Instagram you already know how much I truly love this book. It's a beautiful devotional, that points to Christ in each and every page. And finally, {Why} Motherhood Matters. I am still working my way through this one, but it is so, so good! And I had the privilege of going to the book launch party and meeting the author, which makes it even more inspiring to me.

By now you are thinking that if I had time to read five books, I most certainly had time to blog more. I can't blame that on my husband or kids taking all my free time. I'm beginning to think that too.

I spent a lot of time with my sister-in-law, Lyd, who was living in the area for the summer. We thrifted and ate tacos and drank coffee like it was our job.

The kids and I met my sister in Williamsport, PA, for a picnic lunch along the river. It's been almost a year since she got married and moved away. I don't know why its taken us this long to meet half way. We had a lovely afternoon, and already I am looking forward to doing it again.

We went to the cabin with my husbands extended family. I married into such a fun crew of people. This weekend is a highlight in our summer every year.

I discovered two new podcasts to listen to while mowing yard: Dear Daughters + JourneyWomen.

I mastered headstands and pull ups. These both have been goals of mine for a long, long time.

Met my handsome little nephew, Cai. He's the son of my brother, Bryan, and his lovely wife, Amy, and the first child to be born to one of my siblings!

And I didn't blog.

I know September will be even fuller than August. I'll be back to chat in October, if not before...

Have a lovely day!

8/1/17

My Thoughts on Casino Gambling (And Other Quick Ways to Earn Money!)



The air was hot and humid that late July night. Loud carnival music drown by the roar of a small-town tractor pull, as dust lifted from the ground, mixing with exhaust to fill the night sky. I was at the county fair with a few friends, tempted to try singing Karoke, though thankfully I thought better of it, and instead got my first taste of fried Oreos... and gambling.

Lest you panic for a minute and think I am about to divulge juicy information about my secret life, let's get one thing straight, I don't gamble.

Though perhaps I could be considered one.

I was born frugal. By the time I was 11 years old and had $1,000 in my bank account, I thought I was probably set out to be a millionaire in the next year or two, given interest rates on my little savings account stayed roughly the same. 

Born frugal? Yes. Born a mathematician? No.

I am still working my way toward that millionaire goal.

That night at the county fair as I walked the outskirts of the gambling tent, someone pressed a quarter into my sticky palm, and whispered, Have a good time!

I had a good time alright, but it wasn't quite what the twenty-something managing the casino games intended.

I pushed that quarter deep down into my pocket and continued on my way. Fifteen minutes later, I walked by the tent again. This time instead of staying near the edge, I boldly walked straight though. That twenty-sometime came up to me, pressed another quarter into my hand and gave a little wink. 

Perhaps he was hitting on me, but at least I was making money off of it! He leaned in a little closer this time, and through the noise of coins clanging and machines blaring, told me that I could get my cash exchanged for quarters. Tonight they were giving $6 in quarters for every five dollar bill!

It was adrenaline and thrill, that rush I got as I handed him my only twenty, wishing I had brought more cash along. I made $4.50 that night, almost covering the cost of my entrance fee. 

As I walked away from the tent, my bag was obviously heavier and jingled with every step. How could it not with 98 quarters floating around in there?

That story was years ago, but honestly not a lot has changed... I am still frugal to a fault, most likely embarrassing my husband on occasion, though I think he also really appreciates that about me.

I don't recommend gambling, I haven't heard a lot of good about it. I do, however, have something I would recommend if you're trying to make a bit of money.

Have you ever heard of Poshmark?

I've known about it for a while but recently made my first purchase. It's an online platform to buy, sell and trade clothes. It's different from ThredUP in that you have complete control over how much you charge for each item, but as a result of that, you are also the one shipping each and every item out. Poshmark makes that simple with a prepaid shipping label that you print out, attach to the package, and drop off in your mailbox.  

The way it works, the buyer pays via PayPal or credit card, but Poshmark doesn't release that money to the seller until after the buyer has received the purchase and verifies that it arrived in the condition it was listed as. I've already used Instagram to sell clothes I no longer wanted, but Poshmark seems like a better alternative, especially since it also reaches a vast amount of potential buyers. 

Yesterday I listed a few things I've been intending to consign. The process was easy, and within a few hours I sold three items, with lots of interest in the rest. 

Perhaps you're wondering how I intend to make money with this?

I love to thrift shop. But I tend to be careful and thoughtful with what I purchase for myself, often leaving behind beautiful pieces that don't quite fit my lifestyle or body. Just last week I left behind a pair of beautiful leather Lucky Brand booties -- the exact pair I've been searching for for almost a year, but in the wrong size. I later checked them out on Poshmark, and that very pair is selling for anywhere between $40-$90. I could have made a killing. I also left behind new Men's Birkenstock sandals that my husband said he would never wear. Those were $5 at the yardsale, but $75 on Poshmark. And that new with tags J. Crew summer dress I saw yesterday... I probably could have made $25 on it. 

I don't really intend to turn this into a business, but would absolutely love if it would begin to fund all my Goodwill trips entirely. :)

So, if you're looking to save when buying something, or would like to make some money through selling things, I would recommend trying Poshmark! 

If you are new to the app (it's very mobile friendly), use the referral code JAKSE to get $5 off your first purchase from my closet (you can view that here) or from any other seller you purchase something from. 

If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask.

And in the mean time, remember: Gambling isn't recommended, but Poshmark certainly is!

7/14/17

Five Things for Your Weekend









I blinked, and without warning Monday morning turned into Friday night. Can someone please explain to me how a week during the summer can be like a single day in the middle of winter?

Life right now is moving, full and fast, and though the weather is such that if I would sit for a bit, I could probably watch the grass grow, I haven't had much time for sitting still -- we're in the midst of what I would argue is the best season of life, however I haven't had much experience with seasons of life as a mom yet, so please take whatever I'm about to say with a grain of salt. 

Carson and Brooklyn both went through a phase this summer where they started skipping naps, Carson opting for no nap at all, and Brooklyn going down to just one instead of her usual two. I mourned that loss for about five days, then realized it is actually a wonderful thing! Being away from home in the middle of the day isn't cause for a meltdown anymore. We've been taking full advantage of this new-found freedom, spending many an afternoon at the lake or pool, heading out on adventures or meeting friends at the park, just because we can. Summer in this area of the country goes by quickly, and this year we are making the most of it. 

I haven't had time to sit or write, because at the end of the day I feel spent, in the best possible way, falling asleep minutes after my head hits the pillow.

Today I'm checking in though, with a couple of things I'm eager to tell you about. You know, because that's what friends do.

Along with summer comes gardening and canning. Four years in and I still feel like a newbie at this... but I have jars upon sparkling jars of dill pickles and peaches setting on my basement shelves, and a small list of other things I would like to freeze or can. On my list for next week - blueberries and more pickles. I've made a compromise with myself -- I will can things, but only if I am willing to do it in the easiest, most quick way possible. Enter Mrs. Wages Dill Pickle mix. One packet of seasoning will make seven quarts of pickles. It's so easy, and the pickles passed the approval of my taste tester, so that was a win in my book!

If you follow me on Instagram, perhaps you saw my story this week of a beautiful cookbook that showed up at my door. The Amazon package said there was a gift inside, but there was no note or packing list -- I had no idea where it came from. The mystery was eventually solved, it was a thoughtful gift from my dear friend Kaylie. 
Tonight Herm watched the kids so I could have an evening out. I did some much needed shopping for fun things like stain remover and toilet paper and diapers, then I sat by the lake with a bagel and coffee, and I read that cookbook cover to cover. (Who am I, reading a cookbook?!) Kaylie nailed it with this one, The Forest Feast is 100% my style: simple, easy, and healthy. It's going to be a favorite, right along with my ever faithful Against All Grain.

Brooklyn has been wearing this shirt non-stop since the day it arrived in the mail. I ordered it from a shop I found via Instagram called Sew Sweet Clothing. Suz, the owner and seamstress, generously sent me a couple other pieces as well, a blue peplum top and a striped dress. I can't say enough about these. Her work is excellent and the knit fabric is quality. 
We've got some exciting travel plans this summer, and you can bet, these pieces will be packed in our luggage, for sure!

I've been really enjoying the blog Un-fancy lately. She's got me rethinking a few ways I approach my wardrobe. I'm trying to have more fun with it. My husband will agree with this statement -- I over think things way too much. I'm trying hard to loosen up a bit, to throw aside rules I've made for myself and to just relax... This week I thrifted a pair of new PONS Avarcas, which is helping me out with that. They're different and fun and comfortable. And since I discovered that they have them in childrens sizes too, I can't decided between these or Saltwater sandals for Brooklyn.

One more thing: Esther Weaver is amazing. She sketched Brooklyn.

Then end.

7/6/17

Just a Stay-at-Home Mom




Are you still able to stay home with your kids?

I remember the first time she asked me that question. I was a brand new mom, a brand new wife, in fact.

In a whirlwind of two years, seemingly everything in my life had changed. The week I moved back to the States after living abroad for a year, I met Herm. Thirteen months later, at the edge of a vineyard, with friends and family gathered, we exchanged wedding vows. Fifteen months after marriage, Carson was born.

In that span of twenty-eight months I had changed climates and cultures and churches. I found a new job - later leaving that to stay home and raise Carson, moved into a new house that didn't yet feel like home, and had to be intentional about making sure to sign my new name. Weaver, though double in length, came so much more naturally than my husbands surname. I was now a wife, a mother, an Esh.

In many ways that season was the best of times. But it was hard. Looking back I see so much good that came out of it, though I am certainly glad to move on.

Yes, I'm still a stay-at-home mom, I replied.

How blessed you are to be able to do that! I wish we could make that work for our family.

The first time she asked me that question I felt myself shrivel inside. I was just a stay-at-home mom. I felt lost in the role, without value after so long basing my worth off of obvious accomplishments. I no longer contributed financially to our family, or managed a team, or attended conferences and workplace meetings.

I had traded all of that for late night nursing sessions and endless dirty diapers and days that seemed to last forever, though time was never my own. Though still constantly needed, I no longer received compliments or praise, something that beforehand I didn't realize I so desperately thrived on.

Somehow, in the midst of laundry and cooking and nap times and storybooks, somehow, after adding another child, and realizing that I truly did have free time as a mom of one, now that I certainly didn't as a mom of two, I felt settled and okay, even welcoming this stay-at-home mom gig for a career.

In the three year time span between her questions, so much is still the same - days can feel overwhelming and never ending, diapers are being changed, late nights still occasionally interrupted. I often find myself wishing for peace and quiet and time alone... which, when that does happen, feels awkward and distant, like meeting a friend from my childhood, someone I use to know, but now, not really.

In that three year time span, it's my heart that most has changed. 

It happened slow and gradual. In the rush of life I didn't notice. But it happened.

Her response, hearing the longing in her voice, made me realize all over again that being able to be a stay-at-home mom, if that is what you choose, is truly a privilege. I often still long for more, wanting to earn a paycheck and hear affirmation in a job well done. It's in my being, that longing to create and be known. And for that, there is still time.

I've heard it said, cliche but true: The days are long but the years are short. I don't always act like it, but truly, I am grateful to be here, at home, with my kids. And I'm grateful for a husband who works doubly hard to make that possible, supporting me 110%, never undervaluing my unpaid work. (While still joking about the amount of books I read, because what else would I do at home all day? )

The days are long, and already I've realized that the years are short. I won't be a stay-at-home mom forever, so while I am, I'm going to fully enjoy it.

***

How are you enjoying mothering by now? a friend asked me over coffee, our kids loud voices the background music to our conversation.

I stopped to think for a moment. Sort of chuckling to myself, delighted in my honest response.

Some days it's chaotic routine, where I feel overwhelmingly underwhelmed. Some days it's tears of laughter to mask those of desperation. Some days I want to throw in the towel, but gosh, more laundry! It's all of that, yes, and so much more.

How do I feel about mothering? Honestly... It's never been better!


6/17/17

Happy Father's Day to Our Favorite







Dear Herm,

I'm sure there should be a more eloquent way to start a letter like this, but I know you like things simple and straightforward.

There are many other good men out there, but never in a million years could I have imagined that the man who would father my children would be as good of a man as you.

Why you waited so long to get married; why you noticed me -young, only 19- and took a chance at a relationship, some days still baffles me. Yet I am sure grateful you did!

I recently heard a bit of advice given to someone still single: When looking for a marriage partner, choose someone who you would be thrilled to have your kids grow up to be like.

I can say, without a doubt, I would be proud of Carson and Brooklyn following in your footsteps.

There are so many things I love about the way you Father...

For instance:


  • I love how much attention you pay to what your kids are saying. When you walk into the room their eyes light up because they feel known and heard.
  • I love how you read, endlessly, to Brooklyn. Book after book after boring board book.
  • I love how you are teaching Carson to cherish the future Love of his Life by showing him through example what cherishing means. He's been bringing me field-picked flowers and I love you post-it notes, something he has learned by watching you. 
  • And... how you are cherishing Brooklyn as well, showing her what true love looks like. When working with money, bankers study the real stuff so that they can easily spot a fake. In the same way, because Brooklyn already knows that true love looks like it'll be a whole lot easier to sense someone who is looking out for their own interests and doesn't genuinely care for her. 
  • You are exceedingly generous. The kids and I, daily, feel that. 
  • I love your jokes, even if at times they aren't very laughable. Your sense of humor is something that was passed on to both of our kids. 
  • I love that you are consistent and steady, an extremely hard worker and integrous business owner, yet you always, always make time for us. 
  • And the daily rituals you have, of taking the kids on 4-wheeler rides, of waving to the little faces pressed flat against the window pane before you leave for work, of bedtime snacks and I love you kisses, they melt my heart.
  • You prioritize vacationing, often booking the next one almost as soon as we returned home from the last. My tendency is toward skimping to save money, but you are teaching me that investing time and money into making memories together as a family is always worth it. Always. Years from now, when the kids are grown and on their own, I am believing that we will reap the benefits of this because our kids will have a rich history of time spent intentionally working to deepen relationships and have fun together. They will always be siblings, yes. But because of this, I think they will always be close friends too. 
You, Herm, are a good, good Father. You're modeling to the kids the love our Heavenly Father has toward us, always looking out for our best interests, even when, at times it may not feel like it. 

You balance out my mothering in the best way possible, and remind me of the long-term perspective, which in the day-to-day moments I can so easily miss. You are the yin to my yang, and I am forever grateful to have a man like you be the Super Hero our kids look up to most.

Thank you for being YOU.

Happy Father's Day, Love!