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It’s almost October, that means it’s almost time for everything pumpkin.

Am I right?!

I have a confession.

I don’t count down the days for the Pumpkin Spice Latte to come to Starbucks like most people.

I love pumpkin.

Pumpkin smells, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies (be gentle with that one it was one of my first recipes) pumpkin candles, pumpkin soap, you get it right!?

But pumpkin spice lattes aren’t my jam.

I do however love Starbucks pumpkin cream cheese muffins. But you know what happened? They went and made them all healthy this year. Insert sad face emoji. I mean seriously, it’s like reinventing the wheel here, why make something delicious, different. Can you tell I was a little upset?

So I went for it.

I took my beloved pumpkin bread recipe and transformed it into these delicious pumpkin muffins with spiced cream cheese frosting.

Friends, they are divine. And if you enjoy pumpkin spice lattes go ahead and pair the two of these, I can only imagine.

Enjoy sweet friends.

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Pumpkin Muffins with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

1 Cup Coconut Oil

2 Cups Brown Sugar

4 Eggs

3 1/4 Cup Flour

2 Cups Pumpkin Puree

2 Teaspoons Baking Soda

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

2 Teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice

for the frosting

2 Cups Cream Cheese

1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

1 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

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Pumpkin Muffins with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients. Stir to combine. Add in eggs, oil, and pumpkin pie puree and combine well. Spoon into prepared muffin pan or loaf pan if you prefer a quick bread.

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Place in preheated oven and bake until golden brown on top and toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center, about 40 minutes. Let muffins cool while you mix together frosting ingredients.

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Once muffins are cooled generously top with frosting.

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Store in an airtight container in refrigerator. Recipe makes eight large muffins and one small loaf of bread, two loaves of bread, or eighteen muffins.

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//original recipe and photography

Make me pretty?

I look down from the mirror and see the most beautiful little girl staring up at me. I lift her up and sit her on the counter.

My love, you are beautiful. Mommy can’t make you pretty, you already are.

No I not.

And so it begins.

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I watch as she swipes the eyeshadow over her eyelids and brushes her cheeks with my blush. She doesn’t even know how beautiful she is, and she is only three.The thought of this turns over and over in my head making me want to grab her face and ingrain the knowledge of how beautiful she is deep within her being.

I spent much of my young adulthood with self-image issues. I found my worth from guys and I sought out attention in the form of an eating disorder. These are all real pieces of my story and pieces of me that the Lord has redeemed. But these pieces of my story cannot be a part of hers.

I won’t stand for it.

Everything in me will always make sure everything in her knows how beautiful she is. How God made her and loves every inch of her. That she radiates a beautiful heart and that makes her even more special. Our daughters are being raised in a world that celebrates everything about perfection. But when has perfect ever really been beautiful? Beauty is in seeing His work perfected, His work in our lives and our hearts, and her heart is bursting with His love…

Jesus just fills my heart so much he makes my stomach hurt. I don’t want him to ever come out.

Neither do I baby girl.

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Over the summer I was asked to be a children’s leader at the Bible Study I have been attending.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

Bible study was my alone time. My time to myself, the few quiet hours of adult interaction sans kids. They were now asking me to give that up, to teach even more kids, and on top of that teach kids that weren’t even mine.

I had to think about it.

Right!?

I mean how is one supposed to come to a logical decision when one thinks that the question is seriously insane.

Well, God nudged, do it.

So, I answered a reluctant, yes.

I found that as the summer went on my heart began to soften to the idea and I became genuinely excited. I mean, I would be planting the seed of truth into twenty little people’s hearts. A seed that wouldn’t truly flourish and blossom and produce fruit until much later. But I would be there in the trenches helping these parents show their babies Jesus. And really, what excuse could I come up with that made for better use of my time.

When I was meeting with my teaching leader she warned me that a lot of the time when we say yes to God, we are met with a spiritual battle to keep us from following through. I heard this and tucked it away. It was a truth that I had shared with many that I have mentored along their faith journey, but I figured I would be okay. I knew it was a great possibility but I would be ready.

Friends, my life for the past six months has been in upheaval. Granted it’s amazing things, things I am blessed to even be experiencing, the selling and buying of a home, being the wife of a small business owner, the mama to four little ones, all amazing things, but all things that are being used as pawns in this spiritual battle.

I have felt sort of off the past few weeks but I wrote it off as the chaos of being in between homes. Yesterday morning was something different though. I drove to church and felt something brewing inside of me. As I stood in line to get coffee before service started I felt I might at any given moment become overwhelmed with tears.

As I sucked down the caffeine I thought was needed to pull me out of the funk, I pushed the tears back. I walked inside service and felt strange, almost angry and somewhat annoyed with everything and everyone. I didn’t feel at home, and this was not normal, as my church has been my home for years.

The music proceeded and I sang along, until finally I just closed my eyes and listened.

I need you, Oh I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense, my righteousness. Oh God how I need you.

The bass from the band pounded in my chest.

I stood there with my head down in silence and suddenly, without any knowledge of it, felt the tears streaming down my face.

He had won.

The battle was real my friends. I was in the middle of it and I finally allowed the Lord to do what he does, to do what he has already done. But this battle is far from over, I still feel it. And while I can try and push it off on the issues with my home closing or living with my parents or being too overwhelmed with my to do list, the truth is, there is a war for our souls. It is a daily battle. One that has already been won, but can continue to happen. So our constant prayer, the song our heart must sing every single day…

I need you, Oh I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense, my righteousness. Oh God how I need you.

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I don’t know about you but waiting is such a hard thing for me. Being stuck in the unknown, being caught in the in-between, not having answers, all of those are huge anxieties I struggle with.

I mentioned a few weeks back how I was hopefully going to be sharing with you the beautiful story God had written for us regarding our new home. Well, this process has been nothing short of easy. Nothing has been cut and dry, not in the selling of our old home or the buying of this new one. And with each step along the way, it just feels like more and more trouble is being thrown at us.

There have been many times during this situation where I have found myself sitting in my car literally crying out to God to show up. To do something, to fix this, to just show us which path to take and which house was really supposed to be ours.

Wait my child.

That seemed to be his answer every single time.

Wait just a little longer, I am still orchestrating the events for you, there is still something that you are supposed to learn.

I look back at each wait that I have received and in the midst of my anxiousness I see His faithfulness. I see His hands working, and I see what He has done. Not only that, but the results of each and every single wait have been nothing short of beautiful, and even though I am so quick to forget about that beauty, He graciously continues to remind me.

I think the saving grace of this entire situation is that I have his promises to cling to. I know that everything that I am ever given is a good and perfect gift from Him, and that His greater plan will always find a way to work itself out, no matter what is thrown at us along the way.

There is a reason to all of this, and through prayer, I am overwhelmed with His peace. I feel His guided hand and presence.

I feel Him in the wait.

I want you to know that whatever wait you are in, whatever part of your life that is overwhelming you, it’s okay. It’s okay to cry out to him and its okay to feel lost.

It’s okay, because those are the times that He promises that He will be there. That He will be your strength and that He will carry your burdens, and friends, there is no one better to have on your team than the one who already knows what will happen when the wait is finally over.

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My second born receives love through food.

God blessed me big time with that one, because we all know I love to cook, and having a child who feels special when he gets a special treat, well, that just makes me feel all special as well.

Lots of special going on here.

Especially with these little sandwiches of deliciousness.

I have spent a majority of my twenties pregnant, or nursing, and we all know how ravenous you can be when nursing, so I feel like the cravings just continue. Well, Trader Joes makes a killer chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, and lets just say they may or may not have helped me survive my whole third pregnancy.

I mean seriously, those things are trouble, and I have the stretch marks to prove it.

Well, lets go back full circle now, shall we.

My son, who loves food, also loves to give me challenges for his birthday treats. Very rarely do we ever just have cake. It usually is some concoction that he has dreamed up, and this year it was a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.

The heavens parted and I saw the light.

I couldn’t have been more proud of that suggestion, and I graciously obliged.

So please friends, make these right now and enjoy.

Oh, and a little word to the wise, you must use browned butter, even though I felt like a bad blogger for not putting that in the title because you know its all the rage right now, because really, it was already long enough;) but do it, and thank me later.

Enjoy.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

Ingredients

1 1/2 Sticks Butter browned and cooled

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Egg + 1 Egg Yolk

2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

2 Cups Flour

1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 1/2 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips

*sprinkle of sea salt for top of cookies

Vanilla Ice Cream mixed with extra chocolate chips

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brown butter and set aside to cool. In a large mixing bowl combine all of your dry ingredients. In another mixing bowl thoroughly combine browned butter (and all the browned bits) and sugars. Once combined, add in egg and yolk and vanilla. Mix well.

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Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, then add in your chocolate chips. Place mixture in refrigerator for about five minutes to slightly firm up the dough. Using a generous tablespoon scoop dough and form balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Sprinkle ever so lightly with sear salt and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned on top. You want cookies to still be soft so be sure not to over bake. Once cookies are done remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, find pairs of cookies that are about the same size and fill with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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I found that it is easier if ice cream is mixed with the chocolate chips instead of trying to roll in chocolate chips after. Immediately place in freezer to set. I would allow for them to freeze overnight just to be sure they are set but I am sure a few hours is ample time for them to set.

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//Cookie recipe adapted, photography is my own.

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My second born turned seven on Friday.If y’all haven’t noticed birthdays are like my most favorite thing ever. I love celebrating life, and any excuse to throw a party gets me excited. I very rarely take the easy route with parties, always creating elaborate themes and baking all the food from scratch. But right now, life is crazy. We are currently between homes which means about 90% of our things are in storage. We are also currently living with my parents, in a three bedroom house, with my family of six, plus the two of them, and not only that, but the day before we moved in, their roof got torn off from hurricane like winds in AZ. Yea, the odds are ever in our favor, right?! Well, with all those cards stacked against us I still wasn’t going to give up my party throwing ways. So, I had the elaborate party planned and was just going to make it happen no matter what.

The night before my son’s birthday the doorbell rang. It was my moms neighbor and she had eight tickets to the circus.

I just thought you all may want these.

The date on the tickets was September 12, his birthday.

I took that as a sign.

Give yourself some grace Ashley. 

Seriously.

So, I took my family plus a favorite buddy to pizza and the circus, and you know what, it was dubbed the greatest birthday every.

There was no theme, no presents, no pictures, no cake.

But there was conversation, and laughter, and Shirley temples, and cotton candy.

There were tigers, and golf cart rides, and dirt bikes, and clowns.

And that’s all that mattered.

The memories were made, my son smiled, and I didn’t kill myself trying to create the most Pinterest worthy party ever. Not only that but I got to see him, and smile with him, and talk to him. Now don’t get me wrong, I still love throwing a good party, but lesson learned, it’s not always the party that makes the birthday.

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My dearest, sweet boy.

You are seven today.

Seven.

You came into this world so quietly, and still continue to amaze us with your seriousness.

We always joked about how you were such a serious baby, quiet until almost three, but always taking in the world around you.

peyton78You continue to do that.

You are never one to just take someones word for it, you always question, always dig a little deeper, you care to know why something does what it does, and you don’t ever settle for the easy answer.

peyton71I remember writing in your baby book, my exact words were, you will do amazing things, something big, something huge, you my son are special.

You are special.

You are brilliant, smart, loving, God fearing, joyful, and simply just so amazing.

I love you my sweet boy, I love your spirit and your heart.

peyton72You exude joy to everyone around you and I am so lucky to be your Mom. I truly feel like you were given to me to teach me to be a better person. To teach me to look at life a little harder, to love Jesus a little more, and to smile as much as one possibly could.

peyton74I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to watch you grow sweet boy. I cannot wait to see the man you become, the amazing things that you will do, and the family of ten kids you will eventually have (according to you of course).

peyton75You have so many favorite friends, and you have so many favorite toys, you cherish each small thing that you are given. You have a hunger for Jesus and you love to read. Gymnastics and dancing are two of your most favorite things right now, and you are so dedicated and good at them. peyton76
You love television and you love games, but more importantly you love to learn. You could spend all day on your homework and not be in the slightest way upset. Your teachers love you and I love watching your mind grow and learn.

To my dearest boy, I love you, from here to the moon and back. I pray you continue to grow, that your thirst for truth never stop, that you never shy away from telling others about Jesus, or helping me be a better mom. I pray this year would be a truly special one, and that you know just how lucky we are to have you in our lives.

I love you sweet boy, forever.

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I have never been a dancer.

Like ever.

Back in high school whenever we had to dance for cheer I was always very strategically tucked back in the corner.

I was awkward and uncomfortable just trying as I could to fit in and not stand out too much. You know, just doing what was necessary to get by. Making sure I didn’t look different, and always worrying who was watching.

Steps and rhythm didn’t come easily to me, and still don’t. I am always invited to Zumba and I always very graciously decline, I can feel myself blushing as I type this, thinking about people seeing me stumble through the steps.

But today my audience was different.

The song came on, you know, the one that just makes you move no matter how bad you try not to.

Turn it up.

Now it was louder, the music was just making her move. She danced in her seat, swinging her hair, clapping her hands, not a care as to who may be watching her.

I turned it up a little louder, I looked back at her again, the sight of the girl who I always wish I could be, she stopped and smiled at me.

The music was still going strong, my insides wanting nothing more than to just move to the beat and leave my cares behind about who may see me.

But she saw me, and in that moment I let go…

and I danced.

I danced, and I smiled, and I sang, and I laughed.

We sat there at that light and we danced our little hearts out. We clapped and danced and didn’t care that every person at that stop light was watching. Because it’s all about those moments. The ones where we just live life in the exact place that we are in. Where we let go of the worries allowing the moment to consume us.

It’s funny how these little people teach us more about the person we want to be. They teach us more than I feel we could ever teach them.

And just because I know you guys wanna hear it and dance like no one is watching right now, here ya go, and know I am dancing along right there with ya.

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My biggest goal for this school year was to be more creative and intentional about packing lunches.

I am proud to say that so far I have been pretty darn successful, granted we are only a month into it, but its the little things people.

I have mentioned many times before about my second borns food allergies and the challenges we face with processed foods. One of the main things that I struggled with for awhile was condiments. Pretty much any and all condiments are overly processed and filled with every single thing he is allergic to.

After spending way too much money over the years on ranch dressing, which is a beloved childhood favorite, I decided to take a chance on making my own. What I found out very quickly was that it is so much more delicious and easy to make. Most of the ingredients you use can be found in your refrigerator and spice cabinet making this an incredibly inexpensive recipe to try. Much more inexpensive than buying the organic all natural ranch for sure.

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So, where I was going with the school lunch thing is this. Buy a container that has a bunch of little compartments. Spend what you may, but know I purchased mine at target for four dollars. I know they have all these fancy expensive ones that most bloggers swear by, but these work amazingly for us, and they are cheap enough that if your child forgets it you wont cry yourself to sleep at night.

The compartments make it more fun for them to eat, giving them a variety to choose from. And what I have found is that less truly is more. I give them smaller amounts but a bigger selection. Filling each compartment with fruits, veggies with a little ranch, proteins, and a treat. They almost always come home empty and I don’t have little kids begging for the gross cafeteria food. We will see if I can keep up with this as the year wears on, but I know right now we both are a little happier with lunches.

I hope my little snippet of school lunch wisdom has helped and please friends, enjoy.

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Homemade Ranch Dressing

|Ingredients|

1 1/2 Cup Mayonnaise

1/2 Cup Milk

1 Tablespoon White Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Fresh Dill chopped

1 Tablespoon Fresh Green Onions diced

1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

1/2 Tablespoon Onion Powder

1 Teaspoon Ground Mustard

1 Tablespoon Fresh Cracked Pepper

1/2 Tablespoon Salt

more salt and pepper to taste

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Homemade Ranch Dressing

Directions

In a small container add the vinegar to the milk, allowing it to thicken up while you prepare everything else. In a medium bowl combine the mayonnaise with all of the seasonings and stir to combine. Next, add in dill and green onions and combine well.

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Next add in the thickened milk and stir completely. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference. Serve with cut up vegetables or your favorite salad. Store in an airtight container for about a week. Although I doubt it will last that long. Enjoy.

//original recipe and photos

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 We saw the flashes of light before we heard the rumble of the thunder.

Teeth were brushed, pajamas on, sheets were pulled back, and goodnight’s were said.

But the rain. Oh the rain.

After the loud crashes from the thunder we heard the drops hit the roof.

There was no ease into the storm, it was as though the heavens had parted and the water ran down.

We peeked through the windows at the storm that was happening all around us, and then on a whim I just let go.

At first we just sat and watched under the patio.

Watched the water pouring off the roof and the dirt quickly turning to mud. We watched as puddles began to form all around us. Puddles that soon turned into small lakes that just screamed out to the little feet so patiently waiting to be set free.

Go.

They just looked at me as I said it, no one really registering the words that just escaped my mouth.

Go. Run. Be free.

Three simple commands and that was all that they needed. They exploded out into the yard as if they had been caged in their entire lives. They danced, they ran, they screamed, and they just oozed pure joy.

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They had no cares, nothing was holding them back. They looked up at the sky and let the rain pound against their faces. They splashed in the puddles that just moments ago were calling out to them. They covered themselves in grass and rain and mud and they ran.

…they ran and they laughed.

Oh the laughter. The laughter that can’t be forced. The laughter that sounds like music escaping the soul. Like Jesus himself is breathing life into those that hear it. Pure uninhibited joy escaped their bodies as they ran through the water

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The joy didn’t stop when the rain finally did. They continued for quite some time until I finally reigned them in. We cleaned up, tucked in, and kissed goodnight, only to have the laughter continue.

I will remember this forever…

Those words were spouted off between the beds. I sat and listened smiling deep inside my heart, because maybe just maybe this memory will be one that sticks out to them as the years go on, but what I watched last night, what I witnessed as they danced and splashed and kicked up the rain, that moment, that memory, that piece of my life will be one I take with me all the way to the moment when I get to thank my heavenly father for orchestrating the most beautiful sight I have seen in quite some time.

Sometimes the yes’ are worth it.

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