Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Healthy Product Spotlight! - Nikki's Coconut Butter

Hi, friends! First off, thank you all so much for your support & encouragement on last Friday's announcement. I am so excited to be embarking on a new adventure with Beachbody coaching! 

In all honesty, it's taken quite a few steps outside of my comfort zone to get here, but who wants to live inside their comfort zone, right? Not me, that's for sure. :) 

As I've begun prioritizing my health & nutrition, I've been discovering all sorts of delicious and healthy treats. I thought eating healthy would be tasteless and boring, but turns out I was way wrong. Discovering how flavorful and yummy real food can be has dramatically decreased / eliminated my cravings. So 3 cheers for that!

I want to start highlighting the healthy products I find, as good news deserves to be shared! So today, I kick off the "Healthy Product Spotlight!" series with a recent favorite, 


I discovered Nikki's Coconut Butter while on my 21 Day Fix, and with flavors like "Vanilla Cake Batter" and ingredients that a paleo can eat? You bet I was sold. I have now tried 2 of their 5 flavors, and ohhhh my goodness. This stuff is heavenly!

I've blended it in my Shakeology, mixed it with melted semi-sweet chocolate for a healthy dessert, and most definitely eaten it by the spoonful. It's amazing how ever you choose to enjoy it!


If you like coconut, you will love this coconut butter. Almost as much as your body will love the healthy ingredients!

Try it for yourself! You won't be sorry.



What are your favorite healthy products? I want to know!

*The links in this post are affiliate links, 
meaning that I will receive commission 
on any sales generated from this post.*

Friday, July 24, 2015

My 24 Day Journey {& An Announcement!}

If you've been following along on my Instagram (@sweethomesb), you know that 24 days ago, on the first day of my 26th year, I started a fitness, health, & overall wellness journey. 


And friends, I've tried a lot of different health regimes. I've cut out sugar, I've counted calories, and to be brutally honest, the majority of my life I have bounced back and forth between feeling guilty about food and feeling restricted. 

And today, I can whole heartedly say that the last 24 days have
changed. my. life. 

I'm not going to shove before and after pictures in your face, and I'm not going to list statistics of how much I lost. Instead, I'm going to praise my God, and I'm going to tell you about how much I gained from this experience. 

I have been praying for freedom in my relationship with food for a long time. 


Those that know my story know that I battled a pretty brutal eating disorder for over 8 years of my life. Whenever I doubted if God was at work in this fitness journey of mine, whenever I wondered if I was doing this all for myself and my own desires, I was brought back to that fact. 

Over a third of my life was marked by an eating disorder, and my God, 
He redeems everything. 

So let me shout it really loud, with literal tears streaming down my face. 

This is not a fitness story. 
This is a redemption story. 

Man, my God is mighty good. 

In the last 24 days (3 Day Refresh + 21 Day Fix), I have found myself in a magically foreign place of having simultaneous joy + self control with food. The color-coded portion control system is so easy, and it really works. I have finally come to a place where I can enjoy my food (because guys, this girl loves food) AND treat my body well. 

And it feels so good, my friends. For a girl who has struggled in her relationship with food for nearly her entire life, 
I feel free. 


Photo by Becky Davis Photography

I was in a funk with my fitness routine before I started the 21 Day Fix, and was not looking forward to my work outs. I was doing them out of obligation, and that showed itself in the drastic decrease of my weekly work outs. 

These 30 minute videos? I love them. They have brought the joy back into my fitness routine, and I am so grateful. 

So yes, I lost weight in these last 24 days. But for me, that wasn't the goal. That was just the by product of the real success story here. 

Here's all that I gained: 

Joy. Joy. And More Joy. 

Peace in my relationship with food. 

Love for fitness, and for cooking, and for grocery shopping.

{Anyone notice that those are fruits of the Spirit? Galatians 5:22? I see you here, God.}

I Saved Money. My bank account was verrryy happy about how little I was eating out.

Muscles. ;) 

I made so many new Friends, other people doing the program who helped keep me motived and excited. 

Passion. Guys, I never ever saw myself in the health & fitness industry. But after experiencing this life change for myself, I want to be a part of it. 

My favorite part of the 21 Day Fix program is that it is absolutely sustainable. The eating plan is 100% do-able, and yes, I allow myself treats when the opportunity arises. The work out videos? You get to keep them for life, and can continue breaking a sweat each day & building those muscles. 

This isn't a 21 Day thing, it's a life thing. And I'm in. 

 So guys, as a result of how much I loved my experience, I am both excited and nervous to announce that

I am now a Beachbody Coach!

I believe in the programs this company offers. But I believe in them because 
I believe in YOU. 

You make the program successful, it doesn't make you successful. 

And ultimately, I believe in these programs because I believe in something bigger. 
I believe in a God who loves to change lives. 

I believe in a God who is passionate about freedom. 

And so this isn't a sales pitch, it's an invitation. This health thing? It's a lot like the journey of faith. It's not a one-day decision, it's an entire life endeavor. And like I said, I'm in. With every fiber of my being, I'm in. 

I want this freedom, guys. So this isn't me selling you freedom, it's me inviting you to join me on my quest for it. 


Photo by Becky Davis Photography

My wonderful coach (@carriemflynn) & I will be co-leading an August "Love Your Body" Accountability Group, beginning August 10th. 

If you have any interest in being a part of it, leave your e-mail address in the comments below, and I'll be in touch! Or, you can e-mail me at sweethomesbblog@gmail.com. 

I love you guys! I really, really do. You've been there with me through so many life journeys, and I thank you for being a part of this one, too. <3

Monday, June 22, 2015

What I Learned - Round 2

A few weeks ago, I finished my second seminary class (woooo hooooo!).
Seminary has been a completely different education experience than what I've known in the past. In college, I cared about the grade, and the degree. If I walked away with a degree in hand, and a semi-decent GPA to go along with it, I was a happy camper. Success was entirely output based. 
 
God has thrown me for a loop with seminary, showing me that success doesn't have to be measured by feedback. When God called me to this, He didn't say, "Amy, I want you to go and get abuncha A's." Or, "Just don't fail." Or even, "I've called you to do all of your homework in a timely and organized fashion."
 
No. He said something entirely different, He said:
 
"Amy, I want to show you more of Myself. I want you to know Me more."
 
And friends, you can't put a grade on that. 
 
So after each class, before I even see the grade result, I want to come back to this space and answer one question: "what did I learn?" 
 
Because for me, that's where the success comes from. Did I learn something? Am I walking out different than when I walked in? Do I know the heart and character of God better than when I started the class? 
 
And so today, we're talking about 1 Corinthians. And I'm telling you one of the many, many things I learned. 
 


In our final week of homework, there were multiple places for us to share take away points from our 10 weeks of study. I shared different ones each time, having enough thoughts to fill a plethora of assignments without repetition. I talked about how profoundly Paul's confidence inspired me, mainly due to the fact that he humbly recognized his unworthiness, yet was still immovably confident in God's calling over his life. 

I wrote about the overarching theme of unity through out the 16 chapter book, and how I previously saw topics as random and unrelated, but now can recognize the common purpose of diffusing division in the church. 
 
What I didn't realize until after the class, was how this overarching theme of unity spoke to me, personally. 
 
I was driving home to visit my family, and reflecting on my final paper. I thought about verse 1:10, where Paul exhorts the church to be "united in the same mind and the same purpose." 
 
I thought about how verse 2:16 proclaims "but we have the mind of Christ," and how this profoundly affects our unity of mind and purpose. Having the mind of Christ, means that the church is to be united in the very mind and purpose of Christ

We are not just to be united as Christians, for the purpose of Christians. We are to be united in the fact that our mind and purpose for life are both firmly rooted in Christ.

I probed a little deeper. What is the purpose of Christ that we are to be united in?, I asked myself.

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19:10

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us." 1 John 3:16

Jesus came to pursue us, He came to share God's love with us. There was no self-centered purpose in His agenda, each moment of His life was entirely focused on serving others. Glorifying His Father. Making God's love known on earth.

And so, I walk away from this class on 1 Corinthians with a renewed understanding of the calling of the church. The church is designed to display God's love to the earth, and we can only do that if His love is the very thing unifying us.

We are to be united in His mind, and in His purpose.

And this is where it got me. This is where it got practical.

Sharing God's love with the earth is absolutely the primary purpose of my life. But how does that manifest itself? Do I truly see that as the driving force of my behavior and thoughts through out the day?  

What is my purpose when I am feeling consumed with insecurity?

What is my purpose when I am overly demanding due to jealousy for my boyfriend's time and attention?

What is my purpose when I am comparing myself to the accomplishments of others?

Realizing the calling of the Christian has made me keenly aware of when I am not living out that calling. And the beauty of that is that there was no guilt or shame with this realization, there was only freedom.

That pesky insecurity? I can let it go, it doesn't align with the purpose of my life.

That self-centered jealousy for the time and affection of others? My purpose is to share love with others, not demand love from others.

That annoying comparison? No reason to compare when my purpose is to build God's kingdom, not mine.

I walk away from this class with a greater understanding of the role of the church, and how I, personally, fit into that. I walk away with a stronger sense of self awareness, with the ability to recognize when I am not functioning in alignment with the purpose of Christ.

I walk away feeling free to walk in my secure identity and calling in Christ, with hopes that sharing God's profound and life changing love with others will be the overflow.
 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Amy's Favorite Things - A Giveaway!

Hey, friends! Happy Monday! 

I know that those two words aren't frequently found side by side, but I have something to share that I hope makes your Monday a happy one, indeed. A giveaway!

{Insert confetti blowing emoji that is my absolute favorite}

I have some products that I've been meaning to share with you guys, and now that I'm done with school for the summer, I can actually follow through on some of the blogging ideas I've had. Yay!

These beauty products have been real finds for me, and I'm excited to share them with you! So without further adieu, I give you, 

Amy's Favorite Things


Item 1: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish


This stuff is aweeee-some. If you've been following along on my social media for a while, you might remember the days when I would post a freshly gel manicured hand every other week with the hashtag "#sweethomesbnails." 

I loved it! For a girl whose nails tend to chip before she even leaves the nail salon, gel polish was a game changer. Sure, it was more expensive, but it lasted weeks. And I loved getting fun new styles each time I went in for a polish change. 

Cue: seminary school. Or rather, cue: paying for seminary school. And cue: crying bank account. 

I just couldn't rationalize the expenditure any more, so I started flaunting chipped and/or polishless nails instead. And I had no problem with it!

But now, I've found a way to keep my bank account happy, and have that gel manicure. I'm spending $8-$10 on an entire bottle of nail polish, versus $35-$40 on a single nail appointment. 

{Insert confetti emoji again}

I'll be honest and say that it doesn't last quite as long as a regular gel manicure, but hey! Just means I get to mix up my colors more often. :)

In case you're curious, the colors left to right in the photo above are Hunger Flames, Rosey Riviter, Style Maker and the Top Coat (where the magic happens). 

And now, Item 2: Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Suede Lip Stick


I tend to have the worst luck with lip stick. I'll find a great color, but it'll come off in less than a half hour, and get all over anything I try to eat, drink or kiss (ahem, PJ). 

A while back, while perusing the #fridayintroduction posts, I found a girl with gorgeous lip stick on. I immediately commented asking for the deets, and promptly visited my local Ulta to get my hands on this baby.

$10 for a lipstick that truly does stay on all day! And, And! It doesn't get all over everything. 

Big win in by book! So much so that I went back a few weeks later to try out another color, and was equally happy with the result. 

The color on the left is Boho Chic, and it's a gorgeous, slightly shimmery red. The coral on the right is called Cruise Collection, and goes with everything!  

If you're a lip stick girl, you will love this find!

Items 3 & 4: Clinique Superpowder & bareMinerals Brush


I used to get Clinique with my mom in high school. She'd take me make up shopping, and I'd come home with lots of fun new things to play with. {Thank you, Mom. I now realize how expensive this stuff is!}

Through out college, and over the years, I've tried out all kinds of brands. And now, I find myself back to Clinique! They have some great stuff, but I particularly love their powders.

This Superpowder is great! I don't use anything else for coverage, no foundation or concealer necessary. And trust me when I say, I am not a "low coverage!" girl. I have my break outs, and this powder is my best friend when that happens (allthetime).

There is a sponge on the inside, but I choose to use the bareMinerals Full Flawless brush for application. Applies the powder evenly all over my face, but doesn't leave a cake-y type look. 

And lastly, Items 5 & 6: Covergirl Super Sizer Mascara & Ulta Eyeliner


These two are every day uses for me. I discovered the Super Sizer mascara through Influenster (which you should join if you haven't already! free products!), and am so glad I did.  This mascara is less than half the price of some others I've used, and just as great!

I have always preferred automatic eyeliner to pencils or liquid, and while many brands have stopped making them, Ulta hasn't! I've been using this brand for years, and love it. It doesn't run like some others do, stays on all day, and is quick and easy to apply! Win, win, win. 

And now for the fun part, Amy's Favorite Things Giveaway!

I want to give away some of my favorite things to you! There's plenty of ways to enter below, and if you win, you get your choice of:

- 1 Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Polish & 1 Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat

- 1 Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Suede Lipstick

- 1 Clinique Superpowder

- 1 bareMinerals Full Flawless Face Brush

or

- 1 Covergirl Super Sizer Mascara & 1 Ulta Automatic Eyeliner

So I'll say it one more time, happy Monday!! Enter below, and I hope you win! ;)





Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Looks as of Lately

Once upon a time I had a "Looks as of Lately" series, where I would post outfits from through out the week. I used to love putting these posts together, and it really cultivated a fun hobby for me of getting creative with my fashion. 

Lately, I've been getting my feet wet with a different type of fashion, hair fashion. It's been so fun watching YouTube videos, and trying to recreate them on my head. There's always a fail or two before a success, but I kind of like that. It kicks perfectionism to the curb, and forces me to embrace the learning curve. 

So, in the spirit of documenting this new hobby of mine, I'm bringing back "Looks as of Lately." It may be clothing related, or hair related; it might be weekly, or monthly, or every other month. Basically, no rules! Whatever it turns out to be, I want to document the way I'm experimenting with my personal style. 

I always envied hair fashion on others, but never thought I'd be able to learn, or manage to get my thick, dead straight hair to cooperate. 

Turns out, it's never too late to learn new tricks! Just takes some time to practice them. 

And so, here we have it, my hair looks as of lately!

Dutch Braid



I used this video from Twist Me Pretty to learn how to dutch braid. 

Fishtail Braid


Unfortunately, my hair is not at the best length for a full braid, and with my bottom layers varying in length, this baby didn't last toooo long. But it was great to practice!

I learned how to fishtail braid using the final look tutorial in this video. I had no idea how easy it is!

Curls


I bought a BedHead curling wand from Ulta, similar to this one. It was only $30, and works GREAT. I have tried curling my hair so many different times, using so many different methods, and I have never been happier! 

Since I have so much hair, it can get tiring curling it all. I separate into three sections, starting with the very bottom layer of my hair and moving up towards the top. If I'm getting over it by the time I get to the top section, I can just do a bun or braid with that hair, as shown above. 

For a girl who always wore her hair straight, it has been so fun to have some variety to work with!

***

What are your go-to hairstyles? And where do you turn for inspiration?

I'd love to know!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Days Like These

I want to remember days like these. 

Perfectly warm summer Saturdays, spent thoroughly enjoying Santa Barbara sunshine in the company of good friends. In this particular occasion, celebrating the birthday of one of my favorite people. 




We wine-tasted (I water-tasted), filled up on appetizers, and sat around a table chatting and laughing and simply enjoying the day. 

PJ's attendance was missed, but his name was mentioned as people inquired how he's doing, how we're doing, and when on earth he will be gracing Santa Barbara with his presence permanently. 

People often wonder when I suspect he'll ask, well, a certain question. I always chuckle when I say "the boy doesn't have a secretive bone in his body," and mean it whole-heartedly. 

Or at least until now. 

I left the party early to work on some homework, and had only gotten a few questions in when I received a phone call. 

"Did you get a package from me today?" PJ asked. He's asked this twice before, and both times I rushed to the door expecting to see his handsome face with no such luck. So learning from my past experiences, I had zero expectation of seeing anything besides a package sitting at my doorstep. 

You can imagine my complete shock when I found my totally-unable-to-surprise-me boyfriend standing on my welcome mat. It took quite a few school girl giggles and "nooo wayyyy"s before I registered that he was truly standing before me, ready for a giant hug. 

The boy drove 4+ hours each way for a simple 4 hours together. 4 hours spent with little words and lots of cuddles, starting with an awestruck hello and ending with a terribly difficult goodbye. 

It's days like these that I want to remember. It's moments like tonight that I want to imprint into my memory, tucked away for preservation, so that stories can forever be told of two crazy kids in love doing what crazy kids in love do. 


I often think back to my days when singleness didn't feel like much of a blessing, to when waiting felt hard and painful, and when dreams felt like they may always remain just dreams. 

And those days? They were all worth it, every single one. Every tear shed wondering if I would ever find my love story was undeniably worth it.  

Because God's story? It's worth waiting on. Every single time. 

And when it happens? When His story unfolds before you, and dreams become reality?When your sweet man comes knocking on your door? Or that job lands in your lap? Or you get that apartment you've been dreaming of? Or that bill gets paid off that you weren't sure ever would? 

Remember it. Tuck it away. 

Because I can assure you, waiting is involved in every season, it just may appear different than it did before. 

And when you're thick in that waiting? It helps to know, 
He's done it before & He'll do it again. 

And His story is always worth waiting on.