The Blessed Life

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" John 10:10

Manicure Monday: Spring is in the Air!

Hello lovely people!

I’ve never really done a things to know about Jen post, but if there’s one thing you should know about me, other than the fact that my ultimate weakness is dessert  and that I have an inexplicable fear of popsicle sticks, it’s that I LOVE {read: love} doing nails. Which lumps me together with about 99.9% of the female population. Go figure.

Anyways, I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and I’d attribute this talent to my mom, who’s good at everything girly: hair, makeup, nails, the works. I can remember her doing my nails when I was 10 and making me feel like I had just gone to the fanciest spa in town. Since going to college, I’ve had to learn to do it myself…and I’ve gotten pretty good, even at the left hand!

So I’ve been obsessed with the mint trend that’s been going on recently. Just ask my phone case, favorite pair of shoes, and purse. This manicure makes use of that as well as a bright pink and some plain white…

I am loving these Sally Hansen Xtreme Effects. They’re like $2.99 at Target and they go on perfectly with just one coat! You’ll also need some white nail polish and a topcoat {this is what I had on hand} and a nail polish with a very thin brush, like the Deco one I have here.

Let’s get started! You’re first going to paint all of your nails with the mint green. Because you’re doing a decoration on top you don’t really need two coats, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

For all of the nails except your ring finger, you’re going to do one row of white dots. I used the nail brush to make mine, but if you wanted them to be more precise you could dip a toothpick in the nail polish and make them like that.

The second row of dots is going to go in between the other ones, giving it a staggered look. I was in a rush so these dots look kind of messy…oh well. Finish the rest of the nail in the same way!

To be fancy, we’re going to do the index finger a little bit different. Using the same thin brush, do three strokes across your nail.

On either side of each white stripe, add a thin stripe of pink. And then for some extra pizzaz…do a little stripe of glitter in between the pink.

Annnnnd you’re done!

This was my first nail polish tutorial…hopefully it was somewhat informative. Maybe I’ll do them every Monday…we’ll see ;)

Peace, love, and springtime!

Sprinkles and Pink: Sugar Cookie Bars.

Hello lovelies!

So I know I haven’t been on the blogging grind since getting back home to Wisconsin, but that’s because I’ve just spent the most few days at home with my roomie Danielle. During that time we baked {a lot}, ate {a lot}, went to Chicago, and explored my lovely hometown. She left Monday and I miss her tons already :( Who else is going to impress me with their acrobatic skills at Lake Michigan?

Some other really exciting things have happened, and I haven’t even been back a full week! I got a job my first day back and I absolutely ADORE it. It’s a local place called Robert’s Roost which serves up breakfast in a really quaint downtown scene. I’ve never been a waitress before, so it’s been challenging learning the ropes, but I love it. The people that you meet there are incredible {including the former guitarist for my favorite band!} and I actually don’t mind waking up early to head to work. Plus, our uniforms are adorable.


I also decided to try out the ombré for the summer. It took two appointments and eight hours, but I am loving it! I was kind of scared to try it but I’m so happy with how it turned out :)

I’ve also spent a lot of happy time in the kitchen, which is what I’m bringing to you today! This recipe has been on my Pinterest board for a few months and I’ve been dying to try it. Sugar cookie bars—all of the wonderfulness of a sugar cookie, without all the mess of frosting and stacking individual cookies. I knew the recipe was going to be good because it has sour cream in the batter, which adds a lot of flavor. The recipe is incredibly simple and gives you a 9×13 pan of sugary goodness in no time!

Because this recipe was super simple I didn’t do a step-by-step with the photos. Let’s just get down to the frosting, shall we? I did a criss-cross pattern because it looked really cute, and I was feeling rather girly today so I stuck with the pink. Sprinkles are mandatory.

Sprinkles and pink. Pinkles and sprink. Try saying that five times fast!

If you’ve ever had those really cake-like sugar cookies from the grocery store and loved the texture, but not the flavor, these cookies are for you. They are incredibly soft and thick, but they also have a light vanilla flavor that goes really well with the frosting. If anything, I would have made more frosting…because you can never have too much of that.

Confession: I planned my summer workout and eating plan while I was making these cookies. This is why Jen can’t have a nice body. Oh well…at least I have sprinkles and pink!

Recipe from Jaclyn at Cooking Classy:

Sugar Cookie Squares

From:  Cooking Classy

Yields 24 squares

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1 Tbsp sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 recipe vanilla frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 13″ x 9″ baking dish, set aside. In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy about 3-4 minutes. Stir in egg and egg white. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until blended. Slowly add dry mixture and stir until well combine. With buttered hands, gently press (so gently almost patting) mixture into buttered baking dish. Bake 16 – 19 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and edges are lightly golden. Cool completely, then frost and cut into squares.

Vanilla Frosting

Ingredients:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp half and half
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
Several drop food coloring (optional)
In a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, whip together butter and powdered sugar and half and half until fluffy. Stir in vanilla and salt. Add in food optional food coloring and mix until well blended.
Peace, love, and SUMMER! :)
Jen

Thank You.

Exactly eight months, one week, and four days ago, I walked into an empty dorm room in Nashville, Tennessee, carrying a U-Haul’s worth of books, clothing, school supplies, and Ramen. In addition, I was probably carrying several invisible truckloads full of questions, anxiety, excitement, and dreams.

Today is April 30th. I am walking out of a empty door room in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m bringing back about a U-Haul’s worth of books, clothing, and school supplies, although I ate all the Ramen. But the best things I’m bringing back aren’t going to fit in there, so I thought I’d write about them here instead. These are the things I’m bringing back.

Going to Two Old Hippies was my first taste of quintessential Nashville. This ruby red guitar made me think of the reason I came to this city in the first place, being a girl who had Taylor Swift dreams since she was fifteen. I still have dreams of coming back to this store someday and shelling out $15K for it. Until then, I’m keeping this as a reminder that this is a city that will always be kind to the big dreamers.

Living in Wright/Maddox was such a cool experience. Confession: my first night in my dorm I cried because I felt like I had just signed up to live in a prison cell for an entire year. I totally didn’t think I had the guts to handle meeting new people. Turns out that I could, and did, and ended up loving it. Although I’m going to be in a gorgeous penthouse apartment next year, I’m not going to forget community showers, random date nights with the guys in Maddox, or college nights at Chick-Fil-A. Those are the moments that I’ll be carrying with me, forever.

Known as the “Buckle of the Bible Belt”, it wasn’t hard to find a church to go to in Nashville. But I didn’t find a church: I found a family. The people that I’ve met at Forward have changed my life forever. Whether it was having service in a field because we got locked out of the school we meet in or serving homeless people under Jackson Bridge or playing with the world’s cutest kitten at worship practice on Thursdays, I’ve never been around a group of people who have helped me to know the love of God so much.

Living in Music City and going to a music school is one of the most amazing opportunities I’ve had this year. Sure, I’ve seen more bands than I know what to do with {Skrillex, Taylor Swift, Owl City, Maroon 5, Carrie Underwood, The Civil Wars, Zac Brown Band, Local Natives, Fun…it goes on forever} and it’s been unreal.

But I also got to experience the incredible talent of the many musicians here at Belmont. It’s been an inspiration to me as a musician to see so many talented people all in one place. In a place like Nashville it’s easy to feel like you’re just another musician. But at Belmont, the respect that everyone has for each other as artists is really inspiring. It’s music for the sake of music that makes me love it here.

I’ll admit that I’m a little more than in love with Belmont. And that’s because it really is all they said it was going to be. I’ve visited several other schools this year and for some reason, Belmont will always feel like home. And it’s not just because of our cool mascot, or the fact that we play real-life Slender on campus, or that Nashville comes and films at our school, or that we go to March Madness. It’s because even after eight months I can still walk up to someone I don’t know and make new friends. Belmont kids may be called out as hipster and overly musical, but I can’t say that there’s been a time where I didn’t feel like I was welcomed or loved.

Speaking of loved, someone that I will be bringing home, at least for a week, is this lovely angel, my roommate Danielle. I knew we were going to be perfect for each other when we found out we loved the same baking blog. Throughout this entire year, Danielle’s been with me through sickness and health, through Spring Break 2013 and Honors, through good times and bad. She inspires me every day with her love for life and people, she makes me laugh with her addiction to gum and tendency to spill things, and she makes me happy with the light she just exudes. I’m crazy about her, and she’s crazy enough to be living with me again next year!

And add these two to the dream team: Alessandra, the Peruvian supermodel, and Sarah, the Disney princess. They are some of the most amazing people I know AND they’re living with me next year. How did I ever get so lucky??

This red flannel shirt is probably my favorite piece of clothing from this year. I got it from Thriftsmart {where all the cool Nashville hipsters go} and it’s been with me through adventures where I almost died {like this one} or when I just needed to cuddle up and forget about the world. I have a feeling that I’ll be rocking this number when I’m a grandma and there’s absolutely no shame in that.

Speaking of college and actual academics…this was my favorite book that I read this year. The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama was a huge eye opener for me. Not only did it help me learn about a faith perspective outside of my own, but it was also a really good way to focus on the big questions in life: who am I and why am I here? Although I came to Belmont as an undeclared major, I’m leaving with some idea of what I’m doing {although I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly} which is really exciting. Currently I’m a double major in Social Entrepreneurship with a concentration in Environmental Studies and Mass Communications. Basically what I want to do is make the world a better place through social empowerment and environmental responsibility. What that’s going to look like in the long run is completely hazy, but I feel like this is what God’s put on my heart, and it’s really exciting.

So I’m leaving this city today. And these wonderful people. All these little moments that have come together and made something beautiful.

And I guess all I can say is…thank you.

Thank you to God for filling this entire year to John 10:10, for making it everything that I thought it would be and more. Throughout every high and low, every success and mistake, You were always there for me. Thanks for showing an eighteen year old from Wisconsin that no dream is ever too crazy enough to pursue.

Thank you to every person who’s made Nashville feel like home to me. Thank you for saying hi to me, for going to coffee with me, for playing music with me, for inspiring me, for making fun of my non-existent accent, for loving me when I needed it most.

You are a part of my story, and honestly, this has been my favorite chapter.

I love you, I love you, I love you.


Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread.

Hey y’all! I’m writing from my favorite chair next to the window here in Racine. After a LONG bus drive, I’m back home for Easter weekend. Today’s been my first free day in the kitchen, and I knew it was time to do it.

Do you ever have moments in your life that you end up remembering forever, even if they don’t seem like a big deal?

One day my junior year, I was browsing Pinterest and came across a picture of this incredible looking recipe. I went on the blog it was linked to, started reading, and was hooked. Every blog post since, I’ve faithfully been following Joy and her adventures through life and baking. I’ve picked up some of her writing lingo {major, fancypants, any other words that seem too cool for me}, aimed to capture food with a camera the way she does, and even tweeted her on Twitter {and died when she tweeted me back!} In a lot of ways, Joy was the reason that I started my own blog, because she was able to inspire me, through food and life lessons and pictures of cats. And I’ve wanted to do the same.

That recipe was Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart bread. And making it today, I feel like I’ve come full circle.

Let’s do this.

We start out with the usual suspects: flour, sugar, salt. There’s also yeast but I activated it by whisking it with 3 tablespoons of very warm water and a pinch of sugar and letting it sit for five minutes. Then I added it with the wet ingredients: butter, milk, water, and vanilla extract. Eggs also find their way in there somehow.

Bonus style points if you’re jamming to JT while this magic is being made.

After the dough is combined and set to rise in a warm place, the fun stuff starts happening.

Cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg. Bliss!

Bucket also likes to get her nose into things. Literally.

After the dough is punched down and kneaded a little bit, it’s rolled out into a 12×20. Then it’s slathered in brown butter and that lovely mixture of sugar, spice, and everything nice.

The dough is cut vertically into six pieces, stacked on top of each other, and cut into six piece again. Six perfect little cinnamon sugar pillows.

Stack those babies in a greased and floured 9×5. And then let it rise for another 30-45…that totally rhymed. It’s not like I go to a music school or anything…

And then let’s turn up the heat. This loaf of heaven goes into a 350 for 30-35 minutes until it’s really golden brown.

Hot. Dang.

I can’t believe that I waited for almost a year to make this. What was I thinking?

And now that I’ve tempted you with this, you should probably head into your kitchen and start cooking. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Recipe a la Joy the Baker can be found right here!

Life lesson #1: Cinnamon and sugar make life better.

Life lesson #2: Inspiration comes in the strangest of places. Who knew a loaf of bread would lead to The Blessed Life?

Hoping your Easter is full of family, friends, and God’s love.

Blessings,


The News.

Hey all! It’s been a while since I posted. Spring Break just kind of came and washed me clean of any kind of motivation. Needless to say, when I got back to Belmont I was totally overwhelmed by all the things I had waiting for me.

Pro tip: When life gets hard, run to the beach. It will be kind to you. I promise.


One of the things waiting for me was my audition for the School of Music. Since I’ve gotten to Nashville, there was a small part of me that wanted to be Taylor Swift—that’s been there since I sang in front of the Grand Ole Opry with my sister in seventh grade. So I started taking lessons and early in the morning on the 16th, I faced a panel for my audition.

I’m going to be totally honest: my audition was totally not my best. Part of it was due to lack of sleep, and part of it was the fact that I had been so overwhelmed with class and other things that I hadn’t had enough time to focus on my pieces. I didn’t feel good about it at all.Then I got to thinking about the fact that I already felt this stressed and overwhelmed, and it was only for the audition! How was I going to brave Music Theory, or practicing for panels, or making time for performances? Suddenly the prospect of minoring in music looked less like an opportunity and more like an obligation.

I got the decision today. Like I had thought, I didn’t make it.

Yes, I felt a pang of disappointment—the same one I did when I got rejected from one of my dream schools, Stanford, during my senior year. But that feeling was replaced by relief. Yes, I still love music, and I like to think that using my voice and writing makes people happy. I’ve seen that first-hand.

But I feel like my pursuit of music is something that has to come naturally. Obviously I want to learn more about it and improve, but I don’t want to have to make it something on my to-do list or something to put on a calendar. For months before my audition, I had been telling myself  ”You have to do this if you want to be a better musician.” Being surrounded by talented musicians made me feel like I had to emulate them if I wanted to be confident in my voice and abilities.

But I didn’t have to do that at all. I realize that God’s blessed me with the ability to express my feelings and encourage people with music. And it makes me happy when I do it. It doesn’t have to be an academic career. It doesn’t have to be on a stage in front of thousands of people. If I’m doing what I love, that’s all that matters.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m feeling relieved by this decision. With all the things I have going on at Belmont, I know I wouldn’t have been able to pursue music academically without compromising some other area in my life. In addition, I am so excited to have finally declared my double major: Social Entrepreneurship and Mass Communication. I’ve already started my classes for both majors and loved them, and I’m excited to see the ways that God’s going to use me.

Life lesson: Everything happens for a reason. Everything. Good, bad, and ugly. Sometimes it just takes a while to figure it out.

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes and support. It means the world to me, regardless of the outcome. And I promise I’ll be writing more soon!

Spring Breakin’.

So currently I am up to my eyeballs in midterms, stress, meetings, sickness, projects, and general February madness. It’s to the point where every hour of my life from now until Friday is planned {this is my scheduled free time hour…it’s sad when you have to schedule free time.} Every kid here at Belmont has it in their eyes, the glazed-over please-kill-me-now-or-send-me-to-the-Bahamas look.

But rescue is coming soon!

Spring Break 2013 is a mere few days away. I’ll be heading to Florida {the quintessential collegiate destination} with my two best friends Zoe and Danielle. It’s going to be real.

Packing is happening.

What I’ll be wearing 90% of the time in Florida: A cute bikini. A classy coverup. My favorite pair of flip flops. Sweet shades. An oversized beach hat.

What I’ll be toting around: Good reads {read: anything by Billy Collins}. My Spring Break Playlist, a la Victoria’s Secret Pink Nation. The Canon. Strawberry-Kiwi Snapple.

There’s not really much else that you need in the world.

Florida, I’m so ready for you. Marco Island and Miami, welcome me with open arms. Bronze my skin with your sun rays, embrace me with your warm ocean breeze, let me sink into the sand and…

Relax.

In order to make this as clean a “break” from everything as possible, I’m going to try and shut off my phone as much as I can and stay off social media {including this blog!} for the week. I promise I’ll be back, bringing sunshine and sparkles and hopefully some amazing stories.

Florida, Florida, Florida. I’m ready for ya ;)

xoxo,

GET HAPPY!

Okay. I can’t just leave my last post as a great, big, downer. Yes, life is really hard right now. Yes, we’ve got the winter blues. Yes, there are many of us ladies that are single on Valentine’s Day…but come on. Life is going to continue. Thursday is going to come no matter how much I cry and sit in my bed and eat Nutella. So, here is my personal GET HAPPY! list. Feel free to use it if you’re also a little bit blue, or just need some encouragement. If you don’t…go share it with someone who does.

1. Write/Talk About It. Don’t leave your sadness to yourself. Write it down on a piece of paper, or grab coffee with a friend {as I did tonight} or Snapchat someone your angry face, or lay on your stomach and stare at the ceiling and have an out-loud conversation with God. If you’re feeling particularly bold, you could write a blog post about it….regardless, it’s good to know that you’re not alone in your sadness. Just getting it off your chest will make you feel a lot better.

What NOT to do: Complain, or use your bad mood to bring other people down to your current state of depression. You know what I’m talking about. Rude Facebook comments, starting an argument for the sake of it, and talking about people behind their backs is never a good idea. And it won’t make you feel better. Let’s keep it classy, shall we?

2. Work it Out! Okay. So I am NOT athletic. Read it again. NOT athletic. But recently I’ve been working out and it’s been doing wonders for getting me less stressed. Being able to control/train your body helps to give you a sense of control, especially when your life is a little crazy. It doesn’t have to be in a gym—go run outside, or have a dance party in your room, or skip down a hallway. The sillier you look, the better.

3. Watch Kid President. If you haven’t seen this kid, watch this video now. You know you needed this pep talk. Such a refreshing perspective. And while you’re on YouTube…

4. Keep Calm and Watch Harlem Shake. Whether it be Hail Hall, underwater, or Army style, you know you enjoy watching people in crazy costumes dancing to some sweet dubstep. Am I going to be participating in one this Friday? Yes. Am I wearing a WonderWoman costume? Maybe.

5. Fill Up! Filling your mind with good words and thoughts is always a good way to get out of the dumps. I’ve got a Pinterest board devoted to quotes that aim to inspire and motivate. It’s good to know that other people have some smart things to say about life, and that they’re going through some of the same things you are. Of course, the Bible is always a good place to be, too.

6. Count Blessings. I know this sounds so cliché, but start thinking about your life. The fact that you are on a computer or phone reading this is a huge thing in itself. People hundreds of years ago couldn’t do it, and there are people around the world who still don’t have access to technology or education. As a Social Entrepreneurship major, I’m consistently faced by the great needs in the world…and that puts a lot of things into perspective.

7. Get Involved. When you’ve only got yourself on your mind, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in problems and worry that you begin to isolate yourself from other people. So get up, get out, and get into something! This week our church is doing one act of community service per day at different locations in Nashville. Yesterday we had the opportunity to give groceries to the homeless. I swear that they were serving me through their optimism and outlook more than I was serving them by handing them boxes of crackers. Reality check? Check.

8. Listen to some good music. “These Times” by Safetysuit. That’s all I’m going to say.

9. Do something that scares you. Terrified of talking to strangers? Afraid to ask people for help when you’re struggling? Not sure you can run for 45 minutes without having a heart attack? Go for it. Do something that’s not the norm and that might be a little bit awkward. Turns out it really isn’t that bad, and it can be overcome—just like the things you might be going through right now.

10. Pray. Pray lots. Pray not because some magic miracle is going to happen in front of your eyes, but because you are surrendering control of the situation to Someone who is in control. That in and of itself is a blessing.

And solicit prayers. Right now I’m asking you, if you’ve stuck with me and read to the end, to do one more thing: pray for me. Pray for me, and my family, and for the things we’re going through. Pray that this cloud would be lifted from my heart and that the lies that the devil speaks to me would shrivel up in God’s light. Pray that God will make me strong again so I can help others be strong, too.

If you do/did/are praying for me, thank you so, so much. This whole blog-post about a non-happy thing has scared me a little bit, but I felt like it was the right thing to do. I appreciate your love and support always.