Friday, October 31, 2014

5 Common Cheese Plate Mistakes

Well, since today is the last day of American Cheese Month, I have partnered up with Whole Foods to share 5 mistakes that you shouldn't make when providing a cheese plate for your guests. I also wanted to show three American made cheeses that don't have anything to do with Kraft Singles :) 

Can you spot them in the photo below before scrolling? 

1. Don't only provide one type of cheese. Venture out with different textures, softness, creaminess, flavor profiles, and even countries of origin if you want. This will ensure that different guests with different taste preferences can all find something they will enjoy. I like to go with three varieties. Chipotle Gouda  is ALWAYS a hit.

2. Don't forget about your pregnant friends! Make sure when you are buying fancy cheese, that you get at least one that is pasteurized for your pregnant friends. Preggos like cheese too! They just need to make sure it's safe for the little one swimming around in their belly.

3. Don't forget to label! You can get cutesy with a cheese board or even a chalkboard cheeseboard to label, or go as simple as putting the label right beside the cheese so guests know what they're eating. Otherwise, if I don't know what it is, I'm usually not brave enough to try it. This will also keep you from having to man the appetizer table and telling people over and over what cheeses are there. These cute chalkboard labels can just be stuck into the cheeses, themselves. 

4. Make sure to have adequate silverware, cutlery, and serving ware out. Do you have some sort of jam or preserves to go along with your baked brie or goat cheese? Make sure to have a little spoon out for it. Have a different cheese knife for each type of cheese if you can, as well. Otherwise, people will use their crackers to dip and/or slice and make a huge, unappetizing mess. 

5. Don't put the cheese out right when guests are starting to arrive. By allowing the cheese to sit out for about half an hour before guests arrive, you will allow for optimal flavor AND easier slicing. 


((items and cheese shown here: coupole aged goat cheese - made in vermont, deliciousness whiskey peach jam - made in denver, whole foods brand plain crackers, finocchiona, avalanche cheese cabra blanca - local award winner - made from goat milk, vella dry jack - made in california)) 

If I can be honest, I think I've made all of these mistakes. Do you have any more cheese plate do's or dont's?

love.

Friday, October 24, 2014

H&M Grand Opening Event ((come see me!))

Hey  y'all! 

This post is specifically for local ladies, or even people who are visiting the Denver area this weekend. I'll be hosting the Grand Opening event for H&M at Southlands Mall and I would LOVE to meet you! There will be an hour or so of meet & greet and then I get to pick TWO people to style. Those random folks will also get a gift card to purchase the items we pick! 

They are giving out gift cards all weekend and it will be a super fun time! More details can be found here

See you there!

love.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

4th Annual Handmade Holidays Gift Guide ((call for applicants))

It's that time of year again, y'all! I can't believe it. 


One of my greatest joys in running Oh, Sweet Joy! is featuring handmade shops, creative businesses and independent boutiques that work so hard to create amazing products. Along those same lines, it's great for me to share these shops with people/readers not necessarily within this "handmade/blogging bubble" to find wonderfully unique gifts for their loved ones. 



The FOURTH ANNUAL Oh, Sweet Joy Handmade Holidays Gift Guide is the perfect solution to help me do both! The Gift Guide Giveaway alone received over 15,000 views last year. My following has grown tremendously since then and that will definitely benefit you during this holiday promotion! Since the gift guide stays up as part of my searchable blog content, your handmade wares can be seen by over 180,000 viewers by the end of year (based on typical blog traffic).


I am opening less spots this year (as in - half of last year's amount), to make it more exclusive, more viewer friendly and mostly - more "do-able" for me. Handmade shops, small businesses, online Boutiques and the like - you WON'T want to miss your chance to be a part of the FOURTH annual Handmade Holidays Gift Guide!

Here's how it works:
This year it will be FIVE straight days (think of it as a baller handmade PARTY!) of featured shops in the following categories:
For the Littles (baby + children)
Jewelry (typically the largest and most shopped category!)
Paper (stationery, printables & frameable prints)
Accessorize (hats, scarves, headbands, handbags, knitted/crocheted items)
Wear (clothing, boutiques, graphic tees, etc)

After that? We will have a GIANT giveaway. Weeee!!

The fee for each participating shop will be $75 (most shops will only have to sell a couple products to make that back!) and will be paid via paypal. Your Gift Guide feature includes more than just a spot in the gift guide (details upon acceptance, but think social media mentions, product pins, ad space, IG shout outs and more!). Shops will also be asked to supply a discount code for the "Handmade Holiday" Gift Guide readers to encourage sales. You can see the general idea of  layout of the Gift Guide posts here. Participation in the finale giveaway is recommended, but not mandatory. 

This is SUCH a great way to drive extra traffic to your shop during peak shopping months. You will be exposing your shop to not only my faithful readers, but also to every other participating shops' "fans" as they tell their customers about "Handmade Holidays!"

Want to be included in the fun? 
CLICK HERE to fill out a form to apply. Applications will be closed October 30th
You will be emailed upon acceptance((I wish I could accept everyone, there's just not time for that. womp womp))

There are limited spots available in each category, so please apply pronto. Not everyone will be chosen, unfortunately, but my goal is to help promote as many shops as possible. I'm more than excited to highlight and feature so many talented shops...and help you get your Christmas shopping done early! I'm so excited to feature you :)

love.

NOTE: this is not a giveaway, but simply a gift guide in the form of a highlight and feature. The giveaway is optional for participants. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Favorite Fall Treats



What are your favorite things to enjoy during these weeks of crisp weather and falling leaves? I know most people go to Whole Foods for healthy things, and I do too most of the time - but this time of year I just want Fall-inspired treats. Anything Apple or Pumpkin inspired will do. Just in case you find yourself in the mecca of kale and dansko wearing health nuts, here are a few things you should pick up that may not be what you think of when you think Whole Foods ;)

1. Apple Cinnamon Cookies - These precious little seasonal cookies can be found in the bulk cookie section or pre-packaged. It's a spiced play on a typical sugar cookie. They're by Gianna's which are my favorite cookies to splurge on. They're just so pretty and delicious, to boot.
2.  Autumnal Leaf Cookies - Same as above. I just love the marbled icing :) Take a look at all her seasonal options!
*TIP: package these in cute little glassine bags to leave on friends and neighbor's doorsteps or for those pesky cute little trick-or-treaters. 
3.  Pumpkins - I mean, why not? You can eat them, carve them, paint them, or just put them on your front porch for the squirrels to eat decoration. 
4.  R.W. Knudsen's Cider & Spice - SO good warmed up in your favorite mug while you wind down from a long day. 
5.  Justin's Peanut Butter Cups - Okay, so I devour eat these year round but it's whatever. You can buy them in hopes to hand them out to trick-or-treaters but we all know better ;) Plus, they're local (for me). Hashtag Winning.

Oh, and for the record... don't buy a ton of these treats if you don't have time in the first few days to photograph them for a blog post. Your husband may or may not eat the majority of them. 

BONUS DEAL: all purchases made on the whole foods e-store will be 10% OFF from October 17-29. This is great to order appetizers, desserts, and such for parties!  You just select your store and find what's available in your area. 

So, please please tell me your kryptonite when it comes to Fall treats and eats! Is it a pumpkin spice latte? Butternut squash soup? COOKIES? :)

love.

Monday, October 20, 2014

the tough questions

There are seasons when the words simply don't come and motivation is hard to come by.  You haven't put on make up or real clothes in far too long and you don't particularly care. Inspiration is out there somewhere, but you'd rather take a nap or go explore an old homestead with your family than research Spring trends or look for Holiday fabrics, even though you "should have" done that weeks ago.  



There are days when you question everything you are putting your efforts into and wonder if you are making a difference in people's lives in the work you are doing...or if it's worthless.  If it is worthless - then why are you striving? What are you striving for? And if it isn't worthless - then how do you know if you're in it all for the right reasons? Is it pointing to Jesus or do you just want it to point to Jesus? ((Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice. A.W. Tozer, 1948))

There are weeks when you get a glimpse of what it would look like to not have so many obligations. When you realize no one actually cares if you go three days without instagramming or if you go a month without blogging. When you actually s l o w   d o w n  because your body simply demands you to and to your dismay and delight, all at the same time, you ((gasp)) enjoy the pace. 

Or maybe that's just me. 

I'm going to embrace it either way, but I have a feeling I'm not the only one in a season such as this, wrestling with these types of questions. It's good for us, I think. To be honest with ourselves and not get caught up in progress or "success" for a bit. It's good for us to ask ourselves tough questions and be willing to take action when we come to a conclusion that's not ideal or the easy road. It's okay to be frustrated with all the "let's be brave!" fluff or "tell people they're awesome!" overkill. Because life is about more than just passing out candy to strangers or building up an already self-absorbed generation. It's about getting the gospel - REALLY getting it - and letting it transform you from the inside out. It's about pointing people to Jesus rather than yourself. 

That's a difficult thing to live out, though, isn't it? How do we live our lives intentionally and pursue our passions - that are sometimes worldly - boldly to ultimately reflect our Creator? The reality is that we'll mess it up and Jesus has already paid for that. But we have to be able to call a spade a spade and be self-aware enough to know when we're striving for things we have no business striving for, don't we? We have to be willing to say, "Oh, shoot. I got this one wrong. This was all about me..." and humbly take a step back, right? 

I'm just worried I see too many gals (myself often included) working hard to prove themselves to...well, who knows. Their peers? Their instagram followers? Themselves? Their dads? God? Well, that's garbage.  I just want to take them all to coffee one by one and sit close to them. I want to hear them out and put my hand on their shoulder and look them in the eye and say, "Sweet girl. You are trying too hard. He already delights in you. You don't have to prove yourself to anyone."  

So I guess this is my way of telling you that, in case you need to hear it. And if you don't? Well, then I'm preaching to myself. Sorry you had to see all the stuff I have to tell myself ;)

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with singing. ((Zephaniah 3:17))


Wowzers. That got a bit deeper than I was planning for on a Monday morning. I'll lighten the mood before I sign off. I'm good at lightening the mood, but it usually involves a fart joke and there's just no way to tie that in at the moment..so some photos of the first time I got dressed in too many days to count will have to do. Knox steals the show, anyways. 

vest* (sold out but try this one or this one) // lace tee - old f21 - similar here // skinnies // booties* // cross body bag





love.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

PSA ((tip of the day))

So, this is a little random and outside my normal posting topics, but I wanted to share this tip that's been saving me so much time and stress. 

A friend from college posted a recipe that I tried out  a few months ago and then in her post she mentioned what kind of chicken she uses. It was probably overlooked by most but it has been a COMPLETE game changer for me and I wanted to share it with y'all. 

You see, I love soups and stews and yet - I need them to be really hearty ((hardy?)) and there to be lots of meat and such so that it's filling and I don't go running for the oreos an hour later.  We usually make chicken based soups, but I get so tired of cooking it in a skillet and then either shredding it with a knife or two forks or even putting it in the kitchen aid to shred for me ((with the paddle attachment)). Too many dishes to clean! I've used rotisserie chicken often in enchiladas and soups and such, but even tearing that up is messy and time consuming. 

Well, little did I know that you can buy around 3 lbs of PRE-SHREDDED rotisserie chicken at COSTCO. It's around $11-12, comes in a little vacuum pack and it's over by the prepared food section ((you know, like the pasta dishes you stick in the oven with a sign above it that says $3.99per pound. The "per pound" is in the tiniest font ever and you might think you're getting a great deal until you get home and realized you paid $15 for 6 stuffed peppers. Not that that ever happened to me or anything **wide eyes*)). I feel like it's a good deal ((the chicken we usually buy is $7 a pound and I still have to go home and cook it)) AND it saves me a boat load of time. I divide it up the first time I open it into 3-4 bags and either pop them in the refrigerator for meals later in the week or in the freezer for the next time I need chicken. 

I've used it successfully in several of my favorite dishes including:
Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas ((which I need to redo this recipe because I've since made it SO much healthier))
Thai Chicken Soup ((originally a slow cooker recipe but it makes it so much quicker!))

I know there's only a handful of you that would get as excited as I did about this, but I hope it's helpful nonetheless! Also, no photos because chicken isn't the most glamorous thing to photograph ;)

love.



Friday, September 12, 2014

On Choosing Joy & The Heart Behind my Fall Line




This time last year, I felt so fragile. Life was chaotic and the Lord was allowing us to feel one struggle after another. 

1. We were kicked out of our apartment when the windows started leaking copious amounts of water due to all the rain from the Boulder Flood. Our carpets were soaked and previous tenants had cats so when the carpet got wet, it released bacteria and odors that were unbearable from urine ((tell me again why ANYONE would want a cat?)). Chase is allergic to cats so the now exposed dander made it impossible for him to sleep. Every single hotel in a 50 mile radius was booked from people whose homes were entirely flooded. We were fortunate, but still down & out.

2. We celebrated our 5th Anniversary with all of our furniture pushed to one side of our apartment with the carpet removed and fans blowing everything dry. We ate pizza on the floor while Knox snoozed. 

3. We stayed with some generous friends from church that we hardly knew at that time right when Knox started cutting his first tooth and was still not even close to sleeping through the night at 5 months old. I definitely hadn't gotten a hang of the whole "being a mom and living on no sleep" thing...I was on the verge of tears at all times. 

4. I was preparing to go to a conference and sell my handmade items at a market. I couldn't even get to my sewing machine. My life felt like it was in shambles and traveling to Indianapolis was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to hunker down and pick up some pieces. We road tripped to Arkansas for a friend's wedding. We found out the hard way that Knox does not like being in the car for more than an hour. ;) 

5. Just prior to all of this, my car broke down when we tried to get away and go to the cabin for less than 2 days and it was a pricey fix. We had to get it towed back to Boulder from Buena Vista.  

Looking back, it was the beginning of a year that was spent being knocked down to the Feet of the Father and also being picked up by Him by the armpits while I was limp and helpless. It was a year of heartache and changes.  

Fast forward to this past May. We bought a house and the next weekend, my life seemed to crumble.  Chase was out of town for a class he had to finish for school. We had found out about a month or two prior that we were expecting baby number two, for which we were surprised by and giddy about at the same time. It was a huge reason why we sought to buy a house in the first place. 

A happy change and an event that was supposed to be joyful and exciting was tainted by heartbreak. I had been "spotting" all weekend but didn't know until I had to bump up my doctors appointment for an emergency ultrasound Monday morning that we had lost our baby. A child that we were so excited about and had already been making plans for. We loved that baby just as much as Knox and we had yet to meet them. Sitting in that ultrasound chair while the ultrasound tech failed to find any sign of a heartbeat was the most heartbreaking moment of my life. I think I was just trying to hold onto hope that everything was okay until proven otherwise up until that point. I remember thinking...hm, she must be new at this...just to try and not believe the actual outcome. When she labeled two things "baby A" and "baby B?" - I lost it. I asked her to turn off the tv monitor and the sound while she finished. After an excruciating two hour wait for my doctor, it was all confirmed and I was sent home - in complete shock and devastation - to let nature run it's course.  I'll spare you details,  but after a sweet friend stayed the night with me while I labored, after complications and some amazing friends rushing me to the ER the next morning, after my parents flew in from Texas and Chase flew back early from his trip. After a surgery and the hardest 48 hours of my life - I still couldn't wrap my head around it all. 

Over the next few months, I tried to let myself grieve and process. Many days, I would just try to distract myself. There were days that I felt the joy of the Lord and saw beauty - whether that was in gorgeous summer weather or the therapeutic nature of planting our garden and landscaping around our home. There were days that the Lord showed me over & over that He was right there beside me, but I didn't want Him there. I fell into this dark state that was hardened, calloused and cynical. I truly doubted the goodness of the Lord at times. 

In one of my darkest weeks, Chase asked me to read a section of a book by Eugene Peterson ((a long obedience in the same direction)) and I said "No." He read it to me anyways. We were driving somewhere, he had the book in his backpack, and he started reading it to me. It was a turning point in my grieving. 

"For God does not want us neurotically dependent on him but willingly trustful in him. And so he weans us....God hasn't abandoned you and you haven't done anything wrong. You are being weaned...You are free to come to God or not come to him. You are, in a sense, on your own with an open invitation to listen and receive and enjoy our Lord." 

For me - I felt the Lord was weaning me from my own self-sufficiency. Even from my instinct to simply distract myself with work and designing. I couldn't control what happened. I couldn't stop it once it was happening. I couldn't even control my own emotions after it happened. But once I realized that it was a choice I was making to be cynical and doubtful of the Lord's goodness - I could truly start to turn that on it's head and CHOOSE to find joy and CHOOSE to trust that He is for me and CHOOSE to believe that He is good - EVEN especially  in those days that are hard and sorrowful.  

I've hesitated writing about this because it seems way too vulnerable and personal and raw to expose. But I wanted to explain how much this change of seasons is meaning to me. So what does my miscarriage have to do with my Fall line?

This Fall is more than about pumpkin flavored beverages  and flannel and boots...it's about a fresh start and a reminder to choose joy as a new season approaches - whether it's smooth sailing or full of refining and devastation. It's part of the reason I am so excited for this Fall line I just launched. To me, it's a tangible symbol of getting my feet back on the ground, trusting God to use and shine through the creativity He's given me, and hoping in the new mercies He's promised every morning. Because sometimes, we have to take things a day, even  an hour,  at a time because that's all we can handle. Putting our hope in our to-do lists or distractions or elusive "me time" won't get us anywhere. So, this might just look like a pretty font on a flattering tee - but it's my heart on a product. It's my hope for y'all : That you would choose joy instead of wallowing in despair for so long - like I did. That doesn't mean that you just brush off your feelings. I'm still sad about those few days in early May several times a week and I don't think the heartbreak will ever truly go away.  Please feel your feelings and take all the time you need to grieve. But believe that He makes all things new (2 Cor 5:17) and that He cares for you (Zeph 3:17). My heart and soul are both so intertwined in this line of headbands, kimonos, and tops. I hope you love it as much as I do. The excitement of a new season is so refreshing and rejuvenating - I want to embrace it and squeeze it for all it's worth.


love.

((photo details: tote & skirt from gypsy threads, choose joy tee found here ))