Blog-tember Day Sixteen // Stress Relief

This Blog-tember prompt comes at a pretty perfect time! The last couple weeks have been really busy between school starting, spending all last week getting ready to sell iced coffee at the fair, spending almost thirty-five hours at the fair over three days last weekend, and coming down with a cold/sinus infection this week. This weekend sounds like a good time to relax a little, so I’ll be ready to take on next week!

Friday, September 16: How do you de-stress/take care of yourself?

Blog-tember Day Sixteen // Stress Relief | Grace to Grow Blog

  1. Write it down! One of the main things that stresses me out is my mind swirling with everything I need to do. Sometimes, I get to the point where I just need to write things down so I can clear my head and stop worrying about forgetting something on my to-do list. That’s where my planner comes in handy! It really helps to have everything written out where I can see it.
  2. Cleaning This may sound kind of strange, but another way I de-stress is to clean. Honestly, I love cleaning, especially the kitchen and my room. I feel so much better when my surroundings aren’t cluttered and messy. I love to put on a podcast or some music and get cleaning!
  3. Reading Of course, reading is one of my favorite things to do when I have some time to myself. There’s just something about settling in with a good book that brings me peace, and I’ve been loving these cool fall days when I can read outside!
  4. Coloring I’ve recently jumped on the adult coloring bandwagon. I have a couple of coloring books, but I just found these cards (one of them is pictured above) that I really like! They’re smaller than a coloring book page so they don’t take as long to finish, they’re not stuck in a coloring book where you may never see them again, and I can send them to my friends 🙂
  5. Embroidery Last but not least, I’ve also been teaching myself how to embroider. It’s so relaxing, and I love choosing the perfect colors and then seeing the design come to life! It’s also a good activity to do while watching a show, so I feel like I’m doing something instead of just vegging 😉

What do you do to relax and take care of yourself?

Blog-tember Day Fourteen // Sweet Treats for Fall

I’ve always loved spending time in the kitchen, but I usually enjoy cooking meals more than baking. That all changes when the pumpkin recipes start popping up on Pinterest in the fall! Then I’m suddenly in the mood to make pretty much anything pumpkin-related: cookies, shakes, coffee, waffles, muffins, pies…you name it! These yummy-looking treats are all on my fall Pinterest board, and I’m planning on trying some soon!

Fall Baking Mood Board

Pumpkin Cheesecake Snickerdoodles, Pumpkin Spice Latte Shake, Pumpkin Spice Waffles, Pumpkin Pie CrescentsPumpkin Cheesecake Muffins, Pumpkin Spice Truffles

Blog-tember Day Twelve // Books, Books and More Books

Books, Books and More Books || Grace to Grow Blog

Today’s Blog-tember prompt is right up my alley! I’ve loved reading my whole life, and I have two bookcases and several boxes of books in the attic to prove it 😉 It’s always been my favorite way to learn something new, be inspired, or relax and have fun. I love going to bookstores just to browse the shelves and see what catches my eye, and my Amazon cart is always full of new books I’ve heard or read about. If only I had an unlimited budget…those books would be on my bookshelf instead of in an online shopping cart! 😉 So with that, let’s jump into today’s prompt: a book I recently read, one I’m currently reading, and one I want to read.

Books, Books and More Books || Grace to Grow BlogThe Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck. I know anything by Rachel Hauck will be good, so I pre-ordered this one and got it the day it came out. I wasn’t disappointed! This is a story about a veteran, Haley, trying to find her place back in her hometown after her military service and a failed relationship. She sets out to restore an old wedding dress shop with the help of her late best friend’s ex-fiance. Her story is intertwined with the story of the shop’s original owner, who ran the shop in the 1930s. They both faced challenges, with the shop and with growing into the women God made them to be. It was a heartwarming story involving two sweet romances, with a couple of plot twists that surprised me and made it hard to put the book down! This book also mentioned characters from her two most recent books (The Wedding Dress and The Wedding Chapel), but this is a stand-alone book. I very highly recommend it!

Books, Books and More Books || Grace to Grow BlogJust a Kiss by Denise Hunter. I’m currently reading this third book in Denise Hunter’s Summer Harbor series. I love that the series takes place in Maine, just a few hours north of where I live! It’s not often I read books that mention towns and cities I’m familiar with 😉 So far, this is shaping up to be another excellent book and a great conclusion to the series!

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The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee. I bought this one a few weeks ago, but haven’t started it yet. I’ve been dealing with some anxiety and uncertainty about the future, and I’ve often thought I just wish I could be happy. Here’s the publisher’s description of the book:

Would you like to be happier? No matter who you are or how you feel, chances are you would answer yes. And Jennifer Dukes Lee was no different. For years, she wrestled with a constant nagging sense that she wasn’t as happy as she could be. At the same time, she felt guilty for wanting something so “shallow.” After all, doesn’t God only care that we find joy in our circumstances? Or is it possible that God really does want us to be happy?

Determined to get answers, Jennifer embarked on a quest to find out whether our happiness matters to God and, if so, how to pursue it in a way that pleases him.

In The Happiness Dare, you’ll learn what she discovered, including how to:

Understand the five happiness styles and maximize yours

Overcome the four biggest obstacles that stand in the way of your happiness

Find your happiness sweet spot—the place, relationship, or activity that gives you the greatest sense of well-being

Discover what you can do in just five minutes a day to be happier

Will you take the dare?

Join Jennifer in the pursuit of your truest, most satisfied, and most faith-filled self.

I’m really excited to read this. One of my goals for this month was to make a dent in my stack of non-fiction books, and I think I’ll be learning a lot from this one! 

What have you been reading recently?

Blog-tember Day Nine // North to the Future

Today’s Blog-tember prompt was an easy one! The question is, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?” For me, it’s somewhere I want to go back to: Alaska!

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Two years ago, my whole family went on a cruise to Alaska for my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. It was so awesome to be there as a family! While we were there, we visited Juneau and Skagway, and we saw the Tracy Arm Fjord. One of my favorite things we were able to do was go on a helicopter ride and land on a glacier. That was definitely a cool experience! 😉

My grandmother, cousin, me, and my sister
My grandmother, cousin, me, and my sister on top of a glacier

Ever since then, I’ve wanted to go back, see more of the sights, learn more of the history, and do some more exploring further north and inland. It was awesome to see Alaska from the water, but I would love to be able to spend a few weeks driving around, visiting small towns and seeing more of what life is like. I’ve even thought about seeing if I could get a summer job at a national park there.

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There’s just something the idea of Alaska that I love. I love the uniqueness of the weather, the culture, and the history. I love the spirit of Alaska; the spirit of adventure, courage, and resilience. It’s a beautiful state, and I love that I got to experience a taste of it with my family. I would go back in a heartbeat if I ever had a chance!

What’s your dream place to visit?

Blog-tember Day Seven // Joy

I love today’s Blog-tember prompt: five things that bring you joy. I’m starting to realize how important it is to recognize what brings you joy, and to make time in your schedule to enjoy those things. It’s so easy to rush from one thing to the next, crossing items off our to-do lists. That is good and necessary, but what fun is life if you can’t experience some joy while you’re at it? So here are five things that bring me joy.

5 Things That Bring Me Joy || Grace to Grow Blog

  1. Reading outside on a cool morning. I love to read anywhere, any time, but I especially love those cool mornings in the spring and fall when I have time to sit out on the porch with my coffee and a good book.
  2. Candles. There’s just something so peaceful about having a candle burning, especially one in a mason jar 😉
  3. Fall/autumn. I love pretty much everything about fall. Cooler weather, colorful leaves, pumpkin everything, fairs, football…not to mention my birthday! Last year, I was working at Hobby Lobby, and seeing all the fall decor was one of the highlights of my day at work 😉 Plus, it includes Thanksgiving and the lead-up to Christmas, which are two of my favorite holidays.
  4. Coffee. I don’t think that needs much of an explanation!
  5. Stationary and notebooks. Whenever I’m at Target or TJMaxx, I head straight for the stationary aisle. I don’t know what I’ll ever do with all those notecards and notebooks, but I’m sure they’ll come in handy someday, right?

Honorable mentions (no less important than the other things I’ve mentioned, but I had to pick five!): road trips with my family (even just to church), going on adventures with my sister, and going to sleep listening to the rain. There really are a lot of joy-filled things and moments in life, if we will just stop to look for them!

What brings you joy?

Blog-tember Day Four // Currently

I’m a little behind on the Blog-tember prompts…I wanted to get this post ready for Sunday, but things just kept getting in the way. Today’s post goes with Sunday’s prompt, but tomorrow I’m going to jump back in with tomorrow’s prompt. But for now, here’s what’s I’m currently…

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Reading: Quiet by Susan Cain. I started it awhile ago, then read a couple of novels I bought at the bookstore last week, but what I’ve read of this so far is really good!

Watching: The Middle on the Hallmark channel. It’s a show about a family with three kids in the midwest…it can be kind of ridiculous sometimes, but it makes me laugh!

Eating: a pumpkin muffin. They’re back at Dunkin’ Donuts!

Drinking: a blueberry Bai antioxidant drink. I just bought it on a whim, but it’s actually pretty good!

Calling: my sister at college. We got to talk to her for an hour last Saturday, and I got to talk to her for half an hour last Wednesday!

Pinning: all the fall things! Decor, recipes, embroidery projects…now I just need to find the time to make them!

Going: to Target to look for a more professional-looking purse…and probably to get a PSL at Starbucks while I’m there 😉

Loving: that Dancing with the Stars is coming back on next week and that Laurie Hernandez is going to be a contestant! If Olympic gymnast skills translate to dancing, she’ll be awesome!

Discovering: that I don’t need sugar in my coffee anymore! I’ve been having coffee with just cream lately, and it’s pretty good. Every time I can cut out sugar is a good thing, right?

Feeling: excited that the fair in our town is this weekend! It’s one of the best weekends of the year 😉

Hoping: that my sister can come home from college for my birthday weekend. She’s planning on it, but I don’t want to count on it in case something comes up with her classes or work. It will be awesome if she can come!

Listening (to): my favorite podcast, the Boundless Show!

Celebrating: cooler weather! These first few days of September have been pretty cool and breezy, but I have a feeling there are still some hot days ahead.

Smelling: coffee! I’m making 50 gallons of coffee and putting it in the fridge, getting ready to sell iced coffee at the aforementioned fair. As soon as you walk in the door, all you smell is coffee!

Ordering: a new book! The latest book in Denise Hunter’s Summer Harbor series is coming out today, and it should be in my mailbox by the time I get home from work. Days when new books come are the best days 🙂

Considering: where I’m going to look next for a second job.

Starting: to wonder if the Bible study I go to is going to start up again. We took a break for the summer, and I haven’t heard anything about restarting. I should probably ask someone about that…

Finishing: my current embroidery project (a piece for the quilt/wall hanging I’m making with patterns that all involve mason jars) so I can start a new one! I want to do something fall themed next.

What are you up to currently?

Catch up with Blog-tember Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 here.

Blog-tember Day Three // Summer Favorites

It’s hard to believe summer is pretty much over! The calendar and the weather may not show it, but school has started again and the last few days have been feeling like fall here in New England. Summer went by so fast, but it was fun while it lasted!  Here are some of my favorites from the summer season.

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Book: Montana Fire series by Susan May Warren – I love everything that Susan May Warren writes, and I was so excited to hear that the first book in her new Montana Rescue series is coming out in October! Then when I found out she was releasing a series of three e-books as kind of a prequel to the Montana Rescue series, I immediately added them to my summer reading list. All of her books are a great mix of romance, adventure, faith, and family, and as an added bonus, this summer’s series included some characters from her past books.

Product: dry shampoo – This stuff is seriously awesome! Let’s face it, there are a lot of things I’d rather do in the summer than wash my hair every day. It’s so nice to be able to spray some of this in my hair, brush it, and go. (Not Your Mother’s is my favorite brand, and I’m not making any money by saying that!)

TV show: Olympic gymnastics – I love the Olympics, and the women’s gymnastics is my favorite sport to watch. It looks like so much fun, but also so hard to pull off! I really admire anyone who can compete, especially at that level. Watching the national championships and Olympic trials, trying to guess who would make the team, and then watching the actual Olympics was something fun my sister and I could look forward to and enjoy together. Plus Team USA totally killed it out there! We also loved listening to this song that sounds like it was written for the Olympics. I have no idea if it was, but it’s perfect!

New recipe: blueberry cobbler – My grandmother has a little patch of blueberry bushes, and for a few weeks this summer she was giving us a quart of blueberries every few days. We found this recipe for blueberry cobbler on Pinterest and made it twice. It’s really easy and it’s soo good!

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Memory: beach sunrise – One day, the week before my sister had to go back to college, we decided to go on an adventure. We left the house at 4:30am, stopped for coffee, and headed to the beach to see the sunrise. We took some pictures, made a few funny videos with boomerang, froze our feet in the water (the Atlantic is cold any time of year up here!), and checked out one of the touristy shops. It was a fun, spontaneous road trip, and definitely worth getting up so early!

Movie: Captain America – I’m not really sure how I lived to the year 2016 without seeing any of the Captain America movies (or the Avengers, or anything Marvel related), but I did. Then my sister and I decided to go see a movie, and Captain America: Civil War is the one we ended up seeing. After that, I was hooked, and had to rent or borrow every other movie with Cap in it. Kind of silly, but it’s a fun memory from this summer!

How about you? What are some of your favorites from this summer?

Blog-tember Day Two // Current Goals

I’m back for the second day of Blog-tember! Today’s prompt is to write about your current goals, so here are my goals for September.

September Goals || Grace to Grow Blog

  1. Blog at least three times a week. I should have plenty of inspiration with the Blog-tember prompts! I’m hoping to write more than three posts a week, but it’s better to have low expectations so you can beat them, right?

2. Read four books (at least two non-fiction). I have so many books that I haven’t read, mostly nonfiction because I always seem to make time for a good novel 😉 I really want to make a dent in that pile. Two won’t make much of a difference, but it’s a start!

3. Set up a budget. When I was working at my last job, I used the Mint app on my phone to give myself a budget. I haven’t done that since I started at my current job, so that’s a priority for this month. It’s way too easy to spend money on coffee and books if I don’t give myself some limits!

4. Movie/coffee with a friend. One of my goals for the year is to spend more time developing my friendships. It’s been a long time since I’ve really been able to spend time with my best friend, and I think we could both use an afternoon out, having fun and catching up.

5. Send a package to my sister at college. She has a lot fuller schedule this year than she did last year, so I want to be more intentional about encouraging her and cheering her up. Hopefully she isn’t reading this 😉

So there you have it! Five goals for September. I’m hoping to post next month about how I did, and then set some goals for October.

What are your goals for this month?

Blog-tember Day One // Introduce Yourself

Ahh, September. The month when it finally (maybe?) starts to feel like fall. As much as I always dreaded going back to school, September has always been one of my favorite months. There’s pumpkin everything, pretty leaves, fall decor, my birthday…doesn’t get much better than that!

Today I’m linking up and joining in on Blogtember! The goal is to blog about different prompts every day in September. I may not end up blogging every day, but since I’m just starting out, I thought this would be a good way to get in the habit of blogging, and to get to know some other bloggers. So here goes!

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I am…

…a list maker. Hence why I’m introducing myself by way of a list 😉 My phone’s notes app is full of lists, and I also have planners, notebooks, notepads, etc. full of lists: to-do lists, goals, blog post ideas, grocery lists, projects I want to try, places I want to go, names for my future children, and yes, even a birthday wish list 😉 What can I say, I like to plan ahead!

…a coffee addict. Whether I make it at home or go out and get it, I have at least one coffee a day, sometimes more. My favorite is a plain iced latte or a peppermint mocha, but I’m not picky!

…an introvert. Give me a book or a podcast and the house to myself for a couple hours and I’m happy. I love quiet evenings at home with my family, and I much prefer getting coffee with a friend over a group event.

…learning to be creative. I’ve never thought of myself as a creative person; my sister has always been the artist/craftsman in the family who could make anything she dreamed up, while I was happy to just have my nose in a book. But I’ve been trying to do more creative activities, like embroidery, coloring, and now writing, and I’m having a lot of fun!

…a reader. I’ve loved to read since I was four years old. I read anything from mystery and suspense to historical fiction to contemporary Christian. I love a good story! But I am trying to read more for learning than for fun. Personal growth, Christian living, business, etc. I love being able to learn by reading, whether through a story or something a little more practical.

…a not-sure-what-I’m-doing-yet college grad. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2015, but I still don’t know what I’m going to do on the career front. I have dreams of someday working in the the pro-life movement or with adoptions, or to own my own business of some kind…but for now, I’m trying to enjoy the season of life I’m in and not to miss the opportunities to grow and prepare for whatever’s next.

…most importantly, a follower of Jesus. I don’t always get it right, but I always want to be learning and growing. Learning more about Him is way more important than learning more about anything else, and that’s what I want my blog to reflect.

Here's a grainy selfie of my sister and me for good measure ;)
Here’s a grainy selfie of my sister and me for good measure 😉

What about you? If anyone out there is reading this, please say hi and introduce yourself! 🙂

5 Reasons to Love the Final Five (and Olympic Gymnastics)

5 Reasons to Love the Final Five (and Olympic Gymnastics)

I don’t know about you, but the Rio Olympics have taken over the TV at my house for the last few weeks! My favorite event is the women’s gymnastics, and it was so much fun to watch Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian, and Laurie Hernandez blow the world out of the water and win medal after medal. With the girls now making the media rounds here at home and still taking social media by storm, I’m reliving the memories and sharing why I think they’re awesome!

  1. Their work ethic and dedication. These girls have put in many, many hours of hard work leading up to these Olympics. They have dedicated their whole lives to their sport, and there’s something satisfying and inspiring, even for a casual observer like me, about seeing them succeed in such spectacular fashion. All their hard work and sacrifice has paid off, and their reward is absolute excellence and dominance. And, of course, a few medals 😉 I can only imagine how awesome they must feel, knowing that all those years were worth it! 
  2.  Their personal stories. All five of these gymnasts have incredible stories. From Simone Biles being adopted by her grandparents and given a second chance, to Gabby Douglas coming back for her second Olympics despite a slightly rocky beginning to her gymnastics comeback, to Laurie Hernandez’s making the team at age 16 in only her first year competing at the senior level, to Madison Kocian’s dazzling uneven bars routine earning her a spot on the team. Then there’s my personal favorite comeback story: Aly Raisman’s. She suffered a major disappointment being on the losing end of a tiebreaker for bronze in the all-around competition at the 2012 London Games. Now at 22 years old, she’s the oldest member of the team (the other girls call her “Mama Aly” or “Grandma”), and she’s at the top of her game. This year, she came back to win a silver medal in the all-around. In a sport where it’s rare to compete in more than one Olympics, she blew everyone away and did even better than last time. Redemption at its finest!5 Reasons to Love the Final Five (and Olympic Gymnastics)
  3. Their friendship and camaraderie. I loved seeing the genuine friendships between the girls, on and off the competition floor. You could tell from their reactions that they were all excited when the others did well, like when Laurie Hernandez took silver on the balance beam, ahead of Simone Biles’ bronze. They’ve been living and training together for over a month, and I imagine it would be one of the greatest experiences ever to share such an awesome life event with girls who have quickly become your best friends!5 Reasons to Love the Final Five (and Olympic Gymnastics)
  4. Their awesome leotards. Okay, this might be kind of superficial, but I think they have the best-looking leotards at the Olympics. Is there anything better than red, white, blue, and bling? I don’t think so.5 Reasons to Love the Final Five (and Olympic Gymnastics)
  5. Their historic victory. This team was the first from the USA to win the team gold medal at back-to-back Olympics. Gabby and Aly were part of the gold medal-winning team in 2012, and this year’s team won by a huge margin. Not only that, but at least one medal in each event (all-around, uneven bars, balance beam, vault, and floor exercise) was won by a member of Team USA. By the end of competition, they walked away with nine (9!!) medals: four gold, four silver, and one bronze, making them the most-decorated women’s gymnastics team in US history. Not to mention that Simone’s four gold medals tie the Olympic record for a female gymnast at a single Games.They are truly the best in the world, and their records will be tough to beat in the years to come. They are champions in the truest sense of the word.

I love the fact that, despite their status as Olympic champions, these girls still seem so relatable. I wish we could be friends in real life! But even if we never meet them, there’s still a lot we can learn from them about dedication, work ethic, and striving for excellence in everything we do. So go out there, work hard at what you love, and don’t forget to celebrate with your friends along the way! And if you get a chance to wear some red, white, blue, and bling, definitely take that chance 😉

Photos by John Cheng, from the USA Gymnastics Facebook page