February 25, 2015

There Will Always Be Someone Skinnier

I've been thinking a lot about health and body image recently. Anyone else with me?

You see, we're right at the end of February. It's cold enough that we're cuddled up indoors and under chunky sweaters, but close enough to summer that the swimsuit section at Target already glaring at us. It's the end of Girl Scout Cookie season, but getting close to short-shorts, cropped-tops, and beach trips.


So when I say I've been thinking about health recently, I mean to say that my thoughts about health  and body image have been bouncing all over the place. I'll see that friend that's thinner than me, and feel like I need to mimic my diet to be just like her's. I'll hear about how much someone else is working out, and feel guilty for skipping mine a few days in a row. I'll hear someone casually mention that they want to get fit/lose weight/start dieting...and immediately, I look at myself and wonder if I need to be doing the same thing.

It's sticky, right?

If you're like me (or like most women in this world), comparing is our worst enemy. It's a battle that I've fought for years, and probably one that won't let up anytime soon - I'm competitive at my roots and I grew up as a liiiittle bit of a perfectionist, and those two things lend really well to comparing with other people. I think for many of us, comparing is an easy thing to do in multiple areas of life - with careers, relationship status, money, possessions, and with fitness.

With fitness, though it's almost harder because people talk about it so openly (I'll confess, I've done the same), and because there's no single right way. You can cut gluten, dairy, red meat, carbs, sugar, soda, or processed food - any of those! - and unless you have a legitimate, doctor's-note, medical reason for doing so, there's probably a camp of people who agree with you and a camp of people who don't.

So like anything else, we want to compare. But unlike most things, there's no clear-cut right answer.

For me, this has lead to two things: not really knowing what defines "healthy" for me, and then sometimes feeling guilty because I feel unhealthy compared to someone else. I'm not necessarily putting the work in to decide for myself how I really want to treat my body, but at the same time I'm trying to hit those imaginary standards of fitness... so, suffice it to say, I'm losing ground fast on those comparison wars when I hear comments here and there about what other people are doing or not doing. I can be trying really hard to eat well & exercise for a few days, but still have my ego completely rocked by a few casual comments that aren't even about me.

With all of this, I keep coming back to this question: Where is the balance of having a healthy body and healthy body image? Is one more important than the other, and how do we keep both of them under control?

Honestly, I don't know the answer. I think some days will be better than others with taking care of ourselves, and I think some will be better than others with body image. But in the mean time? I think it's important that we are preaching good things to ourselves, instead of comparing with our neighbor. Maybe even important to preach to ourselves and our neighbors, because let's be real, friends - we're all struggling with the same things.

So for me, on the days that I'm struggling with body image, falling short of invisible standards or just not feeling "good enough" ... here's what I'm reminding myself:

There will always be someone skinnier.

There will always be someone more fit, more toned, more tan, or more athletic. There will always be someone cuter or prettier, and there will always be someone with a nicer house/more interesting life/better job. And even when we meet that next goal, lose those last five pounds, or climb one more rung of the ladder...there will always be a bigger house, five more pounds, or another rung.

We are meant to be content and find joy, but we so quickly start looking for this in an endless chase after life goals that are impossible to conquer. We go into 'healthy living' wanting to rule over our bodies, but end up being ruled by fear of eating the wrong thing, missing a workout, or gaining that weight back. And between you and me? In about 50 years, it won't matter how many desserts you skipped or crunches you squeezed in...those flat abs are going to slip away regardless ;)

Staying healthy is still good, and still important - and sure, can even bring satisfaction, pride, or happiness. But deep joy? True contentment, or worth? Those things will never come with the perfect body, paycheck, or lifestyle. For me, true joy has been found in following Jesus, and constantly learning more about what that means and how that dramatically changes life.

We have just one life to live, and one body to take care of - so by all means, let's take care of ourselves! Drink the water, eat the veggies, and get in those workouts.

But at the same time? That's not where your worth is, friend. You are so much more than a number or a size.

So give yourself some grace.

Maybe even eat the cookie ;)


I'd love your thoughts here - what's the balance between healthy living, and having a healthy body image? What does it look like to take care of ourselves, without getting too caught up in it all? Comment below or shoot me an email - I'd love you to help me wrestle through this more!

February 20, 2015

Easy, Fancy Brunch for Two

Happy FRIDAY, friends! I don't know about you, but our week has been a little crazy. We got hit with an ice storm Monday night in Charlotte, so Steve & I both ended up working from home on Tuesday. The snow/ice has been fun and pretty, but in my heart I am ready as all-get-out for some warmer weather. Anyone with me? Hurry up, springtime!

Anyway, on Monday I hinted a little bit at our Valentine's day brunch, but today I wanted to circle back and tell you more about it. I think brunch is a favorite meal for just about everyone, and it seemed like a perfect way to celebrate since Valentine's day fell on a Saturday this year. It was also an easy way for us to both do something sweet for the other person - Steve made all the dinner plans, so I took over brunch.  It was a blast and turned out better than I expected, so today I want to give you a quick overview about what we did and how it all pulled together...as well as step-by-step details about how to make homemade cronuts. They were the showstopper by far!

The brunch that I planned had five elements: fruit, simple breakfast casserole, bacon, cronuts, and coffee/juice. Not only did they balance each other out well and make a full enough table to make it feel "special," but they all required different amounts of time/energy, which made the morning really flow really smoothly.

To start with, I prepped the breakfast casserole the night before Valentine's day. We have a favorite family recipe (via Mrs. Liz - one of my mom's best friends!) that I practically know by heart at this point, so I just scaled it down for two! We got a fantastic baking dish set as a wedding gift that included three different sizes, and the smallest one is just right for two people (very similar set here, by Crate & Barrel).

Anyway, it didn't take much work at all to get the breakfast casserole ready for the next morning - I just had to brown some sausage, cut up bread, and throw it together with some beaten eggs, milk, cheese, & seasoning. I covered & refrigerated it over night, and put it in the oven on Valentine's morning for about an hour while I got started on everything else.

Fruit is another great part to include in a brunch-for-two because it is so easy. Fresh strawberries screamed "Valentine's Day" to me, and only took about 5 minutes of prep work to wash & slice.

Are you with me so far? By this point in the morning, the breakfast casserole was in the oven, sliced strawberries were on the table, and my next step was...bacon. A friend showed me last year how easy it is to just bake bacon in the oven, so that's what I did! I let the bacon cook at whatever temperature the casserole was already at - about 400 - for about twenty minutes. I lined the baking pan with foil to make it less messy later, and I also did some fun shapes because of the holiday. I know. It's a little ridiculous...but you have to admit, it's kind of cute!

By now, it was about 9:30 and we were ready to get cracking on the most exciting part of brunch cronuts!! I kept saying something like "babe, this could really go either way" because I honestly wasn't sure how they would turn out...but since it was a new recipe for both of us, it was fun to do together regardless of the outcome.

If you've been living under a rock for the last few years, cronuts are a croissant-donut hybrid. They've got the sugary, fried goodness of donuts, but are light and flaky like a croissant. Steve is better at the precise side of cooking than I am (and frying things usually requires some precision), so I roped him in to help with this. The recipe is 100% based off a tutorial by A Beautiful Mess, but I split it into step-by-step instructions to make it simple.

EASY CRONUTS (via A Beautiful Mess) - 20 minutes, makes enough for 4 (or 2 if you're hungry!)

2 Cans Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough
4 cups Canola Oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Unroll the sheets of dough (apparently you can buy it with no perforations, but I just grabbed the normal stuff), and layer 2-3 sheets on top of each other. This is what creates the flaky, delicious layers!

2. Using cookie cutters or a large drinking glass, cut shapes out in the layers of dough.  Smooth together any perforated lines as best as possible - just enough so that your donuts don't fall apart. They'll smooth out more during frying.

3. Heat oil in a large pot to 350 degrees. We used a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature - it has a big impact on how well the dough fries! Too hot, and you'll have a crispy outside with a raw center. Too cold, and your donuts will be too oily.

4. Gently & carefully, place donuts in the oil. Be careful not to place too many in the oil at one time, because it will lower your oil temperature! We did one full donut at a time, or several donut holes.

5. Cook each donut for 30 seconds on each side, and then carefully remove with a spoon or spatula and place on a plate with paper towels (to absorb any excess oil).

6. In a shallow bowl, mix the sugar with cinnamon. While the donuts are still warm (but not too hot to touch), roll each one in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and set aside. Enjoy!

Action shot! Sorry for the blur - it was unavoidable. We were moving fast. Like breakfast ninjas.

Master cronut-maker at work!  

Final product! We probably should have shared these with friends. Did we? Nope. 

The last little piece of our brunch was just brewing the coffee, and pouring some orange juice. Doesn't something simple like juice make brunch feel more brunch-y? I think so.

Right about the time we were done making all of the cronuts, the breakfast casserole and bacon were done and ready to come out of the oven. There you go - an easy, semi-fancy brunch for two!

Oh - and of course, everything was served on blue dishes. What else did you expect? ;)


February 18, 2015

#FreeAdFeb - Friends & Highlights!

I've been looking forward to this day all month!

Back at the end of January, I announced a project that I'm calling #FreeAdFeb. I'm hoping that it will be an annual thing! It happened because I was brainstorming ways to give my advertising program a little boost, and I thought "hmm, maybe I'll do a giveaway for free ad space."

And then I thought, "...what if I just gave away ALL my ad space for free?"

So, I did. And #FreeAdFeb was born.

I had a few expectations & hopes going in, but one thing I wasn't expecting was to get to connect with other bloggers so much and meet new people. I've loved emailing back and forth with bloggers that I've followed for a while, but also with some that just happened upon my post through someone else. Like I said - it's been really fun, and has passed any expectation I had.

I know "sponsor highlight" posts aren't always the most interesting ones, but I really want to introduce you to these friends! So, without further ado...meet the folks of #FreeAdFeb. If you want to learn more about my advertising philosophy & options before you read through all of these, you can do that here.

Ella's Race
This is one of the ads that I was the most excited about, and most touched by - so I have to put it right at the top of the post where I know everyone will read it. One of my friends from college, Rachel, is working as a marketing director for Chick-fil-A in Raleigh, and asked that I share about something called Ella's Race. Ella's Race is a 5k & 10k race that Chick-fil-A started in 2008 in memory of an eight-year old girl they knew who died of a brain tumor - Ella Newmiller. All money raised goes directly to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (based in Asheville, NC) and since 2008 they've raised over $40,000. If you're a runner (or walker!) within driving distance of the RDU area, I highly encourage you to check out this race! There's a great video you can watch here to get to know the Newmiller family a little bit better, and to hear Ella's story. 

The race is on Saturday, March 21st at 8am and you can sign up right here. Rachel - thank you so much for sharing this with me! 

Apartment Wife 
I found Jennifer's blog a few years ago, and we've been following each other ever since. I've always loved her unique style of writing, kind heart, creative projects, and beautiful photography. She's a Minneapolis girl, and one of the sweetest things about her is that she does Random Acts of Kindness all over the city! She and her hubby are also expecting their first baby, so her blog is about to get 10x more adorable. 

These Beautiful Ramblings
Mandy is a new blog for me, so I'll let her introduce herself!
Hello! My name is Mandy and my blog, These Beautiful Ramblings, is a place where faith, travel, and life intermingle. I love adventures, real-talk, and cups of hot cocoa. From living abroad to working for Disney World, my passion is connecting with people from all different walks of life and areas of the world. So please, take a peak, leave a comment, and let's be friends! 

Alessandra Marie
Alessandra's blog is another one that I wasn't familiar with before, but she's a friend-of-a-friend, so I was really excited when I got her email. Here's what she says about her blog -
Alessandra Marie is a (almost) daily lifestyle blog that I've been writing for almost five years now! I started it just days after graduating college and originally intended to write a food blog. Over time, the space has evolved to include more than just recipes. Now it features everything from travel, beauty, books, DIY, fitness, and everything in between. I hope you'll hop on over and do a little browsing!

The Lady Okie
Amanda is one of my favorite blogs to read, partially because she's hilarious. I love how down-to-earth she is, and she's one of those bloggers that you really feel like you know after reading for a while.
From Amanda: The Lady Okie Blog is my place to write creatively about all of life's little happenings. I love Jesus, running, reading, making Shutterfly books, and eating cupcakes. 

Monarc Board Company
David and his wife Anna are really close friends of Steve & I (Steve & mine? Me & Steve? ...someone help me out here). David is an Industrial Designer by day, but has launched a business in the past year or two where he designs and builds custom longboards. 
More about Monarc: Monarc Board Company represents a new chapter in the history of board making on the east coast.  By responding to the needs of discerning riders everywhere, Monarc hand crafts technologically superior skate products infused with vibrant, modern design.  
Monarc products are inspired, designed and manufactured in Charlotte, North Carolina to enrich board-riding culture and to encourage passionate living among enthusiasts both new and old.

Dearest Love
I had the pleasure of meeting Jenna and Madison (featured a few more spots down!) last year when they were in town together. Jenna is just as sweet in person as she is online - here's what she says about her blog!
Hello! I'm Jenna and I blog over at Dearest Love. I'm a 2nd grade teacher living in the Atlanta area with my husband and two kitties. I have a passion for creativity, and I'm currently taking steps towards pursuing my dream of becoming a floral designer. My favorite things to blog about are recipes, style inspiration, photos from our travels, and random musings. 

Today is My Favorite
Nicole was another new one for me, but I love her blog already! I'll let her tell you about herself.
Hey friends!  My name is Nicole and I am married to my best guy, Adam.  We have two little dudes we call Emmett Dane and Gideon Brian Steele.  I keep the home fires burning in our 120 year-old-house, where I also run a small handmade business; The Parcel Post Company.  You might say I wear my heart on my blog, Today is My Favorite.  Most days it's a happy mess of boy toysour favorite treats and life as a creative.  Other days it is brokenness and stories of the life's messiness, though always hopeful that each day we are being remade.

The Wetherills Say I Do + Grace & Vine Studios
Like I said earlier, Madison is another blogger that I've gotten the pleasure to meet in person - it's so fun to meet up with people that you've gotten to know online! She has two ads on my sidebar, so I asked her to tell me a little bit about both. Here's her little bio -
Madison is a passionate small business owner and blogger. She lives in central North Carolina with her husband and sweet pup. Her blog focuses on easy recipes, marriage advice and blogging tips! Her graphic design business, Grace + Vine works with bloggers and business owners who want a streamlined brand for their site. Give her a latte and Reese's peanut butter cups and you're destined to be friends forever.   

Oak & Oats
Elizabeth's blog is on my must-read list! If you don't follow her already, here's her quick summary:
Oak + Oats is a lifestyle blog focused on being rooted and nourished in truth. It is a fun, silly, raw, and real place. It is a place to celebrate the little joys and laugh so hard we work out our abs #healthy. I'm Elizabeth and I am the voice behind the blog. I am a Colorado girl through and through but with a secret desire for warmth and beaches. My husband is my best friend, I'm passionate about community, and people always beat out chores. I love the Lord fiercely and my life goal is to glorify Him in all things. 

Held Captivated
Ariel's blog is another one that's new-to-me, but I am already hooked by her gorgeous, minimalist design. Her description? It's a blog to inspire others to live beyond their limitations and never stop dreaming. Now, isn't that the best?

Off the Eaten Path
Chrissie's blog is definitely a favorite on my list because she's another Queen City girl, and another foodie! She does great restaurant reviews, so if you're local you definitely need to scan through her list. 
Here's a little more from Chrissie - My blog is Off The Eaten Path. I’m Charlotte based, and focus on Charlotte food and restaurant reviews. It started as a way for me to explore Charlotte and chronicle my new adventures in Charlotte after moving here 2 years ago, and has grown into a place for me to share details about Charlotte with locals and visitors. I also do posts when I go out of town, so there are restaurants featured from all over North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, New York, Michigan and Wisconsin (basically where I’ve travelled the past two years). Recently, I started doing recipe posts as well and started a new series called “On the Side,” which is more lifestyle related.

According to Laura Jean
Laura Jean is another one that I've been following for a while - I love her creativity & joy, and I think you will to! We also got married just one day after she and her husband did (whaaat?!) - so it was fun to see some of her wedding posts while I was writing about our own!
From Laura Jean: Hi friends! I am Laura Jean, a bald girl passionate about community, intentional conversations, and social justice. When I am not at Chipotle, you can find me over at According to Laura Jean where I share about adventures, natural beauty, and everyday moments. See you there!

Life of Miss C
Carolyn is another new one for me - so again, I'll let her do the talking :)
From Carolyn: I'm is a newly engaged British girl who loves Jesus, travel, photography, craft and baking. I also dabble in sailing, running and climbing. I try to post a variety of genres on my blog and am trying to become more disciplined at posting regularly!

Allison Ramsing
If you've been reading here for a while, you already have met Allison from our collaboration last fall! If you missed that post, here's a little more about Allison & her lovely blog.
About Allison: Allison is a wife, leader, academic advisor, blogger, Etsy shop owner, & fashionista. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Peter. Born-and-raised an Iowan, she enjoys a good Cyclone game during all seasons. Allison loves to celebrate - specifically, God, community, a good buy on a dress, designing greeting cards, rainy days with her hubby, glimpses of sunshine in the Pacific Northwest, the ocean, trips to Iowa, quality time, joy, & well cooked meals.

Rivers & Roads
Meg's blog is so fun! She's just down the road in Tennessee, and I've really enjoyed following her blog for a little bit. Here's how she describes it!
About the blogRivers and Roads was created as a space that values community and authenticity. I hope you always feel welcome, encouraged and inspired when you drop by for a visit. I want this blog to be a space where we can all grow together in community as we reach out and invite others to join the journey. Whether you are a blogger, a small business or shop owner, an obsessive DIYer, an adventure seeker, a Disney lover, a chaser of everyday moments, an ambitious creative, or a talented dreamer, this place is for you! 

Peculiar Treasures
Kimberley lives in Australia! She's a new blogger, and says on one of her pages that she "loves connecting with bloggers around the world." I do too, Kimberley! :) Check out her blog here.

Candi with Leah
Last, but not least! Leah is a merchandiser for Chloe + Isabel, and she also writes a personal blog. Here's a little bit about Leah!
My name is Leah, and I'm a merchandiser for Chloe + Isabel! I sell Chloe + Isabel for many reasons, but my big two are to expand my blog (lifeloveandcoffeestains.com) and to save extra money so that I can go back to grad school some day! I love C+I jewelry because it's fun, and the jewelry is beautiful, versatile and a great mix of trendy and classic.

Whew - can you tell by now that I had a bigger response to #FreeAdFeb than I expected? I am so grateful to everyone who participated, and so glad that I got to share so many great blogs, businesses, and events with you all!

All of the ads will continue to run through the end of the month, but if you're thinking about sponsoring or collaborating with the Blue Dishes in the future, I'd love to chat! I'll be opening spaces back up in March - you can read about my advertising philosophy, stats & prices here, or you can shoot me an email to talk more.

I'd love to hear from other bloggers - what works well for you with advertising programs? Or, question for everyone - do you feel like ads help or hurt your favorite blogs? Dying to hear your thoughts & experiences!

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