Friday, December 18, 2015

sugar cookies using coconut oil

Last night I decided to bake some cookies for my husband's office.... except we didn't have any butter :( I opening the pantry and saw a jar of coconut oil and decided to try a new recipe! Plus I'm always down for simple, healthy swaps!


These cookies tasted super yummy and I had to share!

Sugar Cookies with Coconut Oil

2 3/4 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1t baking powder
1 egg
1 cup coconut oil
1t vanilla
1t butter flavor (optional)


Mix sugar and coconut oil together until smooth. Add remaining ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.



And enjoy!!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

testimony

It's been 3.5 years since I posted my testimony and I thought I would share it again, with a major update! You can read the original one here.

___________________

I grew up in a Christian household and went to a Baptist church in the Bible-belt. My parents were in the church choir, in group ensembles, and the hand bell choir. My sister and I were in the children’s choir and in the plays. I did a short stint in the children’s hand bell choir, but it wasn’t for me. We went to Sunday School just about every Sunday and we were expected to sit quietly during “big people church.” We were at the ground breaking for the new sanctuary. I’d say we were pretty active in our church.
On February 24, 2000, that all changed. It was a Friday afternoon and I was called out of class for early dismissal. My dad had been in Myrtle Beach for a business trip so I assumed he was just picking us up early. When I walked into the office, no one was in the waiting area. I was taken to the principal’s office (which for the record I had NEVER been in) and I saw my Nanny and sister. They were crying – not good. My dad had passed away the night before of massive heart attack. Not even two weeks before that, his cardiologist told him it wasn’t his heart – I’d say that 90% blockage in his aorta and an enlarged heart that resulted in a heart attack at 46 would be a HUGE indication that is was, in fact, his heart.
The next three days were a blur. I remember turning into our neighborhood and seeing a lot of cars parked out front. I remember walking in and seeing my mom for the first time and hugging her. I remember sitting with my mom and dad’s best friends, holding on to his sweatshirt for dear life. I remember my best friend, Lesley, and her father picking me up to spend the night with them so my mother could have some private time. I remember fighting with family over which dress I would wear to the funeral. I remember hundreds of people showing up for his visitation and funeral. I remember the double rainbow over the funeral home. Mostly, I remember feeling very betrayed by a God my father so faithfully served.
So, I stopped going to church. Maybe it was my way of “punishing” God for what He did to me and my family. I don’t know but I know I was mad. I couldn’t understand why God would take my dad from me.
For 4 years I only went to church when my mom made me – which wasn’t often (Easter, Christmas …). I am so thankful that my mom didn’t force me to go and that she let me figure out my own way back. I think my faith would have been damaged further if she would have demanded that I go.
I remember one time I braved my “demons” and went to try out for the children’s musical. When I didn’t get a decent part, I just didn’t go back. At the time I remember thinking that God owed me. He owed it to me to give me a decent part and when I didn’t I wasn’t too happy.
I started going back when I was in 7th grade. I went back because the boy I had a major crush on asked me to come. Pure and simple, right or wrong - that is how it went down. My faith grew for a while and I became…. popular…. I know weird word to use but I kind of had. Adults were telling me that I was a great example for their children and that I was a great example of a Christian. A lot of kids wanted to hang out with the little circle I had built and I went to all of the youth events.
Remember that boy that invited me? Well we “dated” on and off for two years. It was our freshman year in high school, and things started to back slide. He was into a punk-phase, which I mostly supported. We were both trying to figure out who we wanted to be and I noticed his faith was slipping. Instead of trying to lead him back, I followed him. We both started questioning our faith and eventually we both stopped going to church. I could make up a bunch of excuses and blame other people but I know that it was my choice… and the path I was supposed to go down.
In 10th grade, I spent some time at an Episcopal church. My two best friends went there and I felt like there was less pressure and more acceptance there. The youth group was smaller and fun. The leaders were caring and down to earth (that isn’t to say those at the other church weren’t, I just felt more at ease at the Episcopal church). I went to youth events and even served as staff on one. When my friendships started to fade…. again… I stopped going.
When Vincent and I started dating, it was known that we were both Christians but not active in a local church. It never really seemed to be a problem. We got married and the prospect of finding a local church in North Carolina didn’t seem “right.” We visited one church in the area but after no one spoke to us we didn’t go back. We found multiple excuses as to why we weren’t in church. We didn’t say grace before meals and I know I wasn’t praying at bedtime. I couldn’t even tell you where our Bibles were. When he was deployed, I sang in the choir with my mom and sister but still felt … weird.
It wasn’t until his accident that I found my way back.
Our 4 year anniversary is in 2 weeks and I started to reflect on all the things we have been through since we got married. And honestly, we have been through more life-changing events in the last four year than most couples do in 20 years.
In the first two years we went through a 7 month deployment, death of a sibling, death of a parent, traumatic motorcycle accident, and loss of a career because of motorcycle accident. We also got into a good bit of debt (I mean I’m not talking $100,000 or anything but for 20… it was bad…). In the last two years we have adjusted to Vincent’s injury (which he has taken in stride, I might add), accept our time in the military was over, gotten out of debt, move back to SC, and started school and working.
But “when life knocks you on your knees, you are in the perfect position to pray.” So I did. A lot. The day I got the call from the EMT about his accident, I spent the first half talking to my best friend and the other half I spent praying. I know people say there isn’t a wrong way to pray but I’m pretty sure going, “God- nope. You can’t have him. I won’t let you take him from me” – is not the best way. While he was in the hospital, my prayers turned into, “Lord, I’m scared. But I trust you.”
Because of the anger I had after my dad’s death, I was genuinely afraid my faith would falter after Vincent got hurt. But my faith got stronger. Instead of asking God to fix things, I asked for the patience and guidance to face my fears and trials head on. Sure, on December 1, 2009, our lives took a dramatic u-turn but I am happy where we are at.
In 2010, my sister was engaged and I was shooting several weddings in Columbia, so when Vincent and I would come into town we would go to church with my sister and brother-in-law. It was nice but we were still living in NC so we never fully developed that church family connections.
In 2011, Vincent was discharged from the Marines and we headed back home to Columbia. 
On the way to my sisters house for New Years, I cried to Vincent about how lonely I felt. I love my family but we had no one else to hang out with in Columbia and I missed the military community in NC. So, my 2013 New Years resolution was the make friends.
It took us a little while but we finally found a church home and really loved those around us. Our Sunday School teacher was amazing and out preacher spoke directly to our hearts. It was amazing. We still struggled with making friends and stepping outside of our comfort zones. I joined a girls Bible study and spending one evening a week with those ladies made my relationship with God grow. 

In November of 2014, we found out we were pregnant! We were both shocked because it happened very quickly. My pregnancy was pretty much perfect... until week 31 we found out that Mila had some kind of obstruction in her bowels. On July 8, 2015 at 36 weeks, Mila made her grand debut. She was taken into surgery that night and by the grace of God her surgery was a success and 7.5 weeks later she came home! During her NICU stay we moved to a new city (living with my nanny for a month so we would be close to Mila) and Vincent started a new job. You can read more about that crazy-ness here & here! My faith was never stronger. Sitting in that NICU for hours and hours, I felt so close to God. His promises, His presence, His love. I knew He would take care of my little girl and He has. Always. 

We started our new life in a new city and I'll admit, it was hard. Vincent's job required a lot of hours and I was alone a lot with a special needs baby. I started to try and make connections in our neighborhood and I can't thank God enough for blessing us with such an amazing community. I am in awe of how quickly we made friends, especially after struggling so hard in Columbia! God is good! 

We are trying to find a church home in our new city but our schedules have been so crazy. I started a girl Bible study with my neighbors (which just adds to the awesomeness of this place!) and I'm excited about spending time with these ladies!

I still have my moments... even days, but I have learned to rest in His peace. It's not always easy and I fail Him daily, but I am so grateful that He loves a sinner like me. 
I have become better at praying. I have become better at saying “thank you Lord” instead of “can you do this Lord.” Through it all, I know now that even when I am angry, don’t understand, and feel alone…. that I am not. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel discouraged, just means I have a way to get out of it.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

this life

Although I do consider myself a very independent woman, I will be the first to admit that I am who I am because of my marriage. I know who I am outside of my marriage but my life with Vincent is something I am very proud of.

I am incredibly proud to say that Vincent and I have built our life together from pretty much nothing. We come from amazing families but getting married at 18 doesn't leave much room for financial stability. We received a lot of help from our families in the beginning but we became finically independent after three years of marriage (mostly meaning, my grandma stopped paying for my car). We decided it was time to be adults and it stunk.

Things aren't perfect now and we still have our struggles but I look at our beautiful daughter, our amazing family and friends. in our amazing home, in a wonderful city and I am so grateful. I am grateful for a husband who, despite having crummy 80+ hour weeks during tax season, is a hard worker. I am grateful that we are both stubborn and are willing to fight for his marriage no matter what is thrown our way. I am grateful for the life WE have built together.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mesothelioma Awareness Day

Yesterday was Mesothelioma Awareness Day. You probably didn't know that did you? I feel like the most we hear about Mesothelioma is on those law firm commercials - you know the "If you were exposed to asbestos..." ones. But do you really know anything about this scary and aggressive form of cancer.

I remember when I first really learned about asbestos. My high school was going through a major face lift my junior and senior year. They torn down the original building, that was built in the late 1960s, and I remember seesing signs on doors that said, "CAUTION ASBESTOS." The first sign I saw was on the door to the Little Theatre - aka the drama room. A room I spent hours and hours in. I remember asking my friend what asbestos was and he gave me a very simple definition. Even though is was a simple definition I knew how serious it was. And it's scary. We need to open the discussion because this cancer is VERY RARE and VERY SERIOUS.

Heather Von St. James is a survivor with an incredible story. Three months after giving birth to her daughter she was diagnosed and given 15 months to live. Yes, 15 months. She is now approaching her 10th year as a survivor. As a mother, I can't imagine the struggle and fear. 

So today, I ask you to read/watch her story and share this post.



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

at-home, natural pregnancy salve

So, the first thing I worried about when I got pregnant was, "oh my gosh, I don't want stretch marks!!" I immediately went out and bought every over the counter cream I could (mind you, I was 6 weeks pregnant... I didn't "show" until almost 21 weeks).

Anyway, I just didn't care for the stuff I bought so I made my own and I thought I would share! I love it and although it isn't cheap, I really think it works the best. Plus it's much more natural - I mean what mom-to-be wants to be putting a lot of chemicals on their tummy?!

First I will tell you what I used and why, and the recipe will be at the bottom.

Coconut Oil - When applied to the skin, coconut oil has a moisturizing effect. It sinks in deep, conditions, moisturizes, and softens skin. It isn’t pumped full of water or petroleum byproducts like many commercial cleansers or lotions either. Coconut oil naturally clears away dirt, grime, and dead skin cells. *

Tea Tree Oil - This essential oil is known for its uses as an antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral agent. But tea tree oil is also lesser known for its skin healing properties. Many users have reported that applying tea tree oil to scars and stretch marks on a daily basis works to reduce the appearance noticeably. **

Shea Butter - All all natural Vitamin A cream. It's great for dry skin, relieves itching, and has been shown to help with stretch marks.

Cocoa Butter - Is what the Palmer's brand uses as it's main "focal point." Provides extreme moisture and is said to help improve the elasticity of your skin,

Vitamin E Oil - vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects and repairs your skin. It helps support new skin cell growth and speeding up cell regeneration.

Beeswax - Helps heal damaged skin, restore skin's own elasticity, and keeps the skin supple. 


Ok, so I picked these as my base and I really love the outcome.



At-Home, Natural Pregnancy Salve
7oz of Coconut Oil (raw, refined, and organic)
.25oz of Tea Tree Essential Oil
1-2oz beeswax (I use beeswax mostly to thicken the mixture, so I don't have an exact measurement)
2oz Vitamin E Oil or BioOil
1oz Shea Butter
1oz Cocoa Butter


I placed all of the ingredients in a large mason jar, then placed the jar in a small pot of boiling water. I watched it carefully and made sure to stir it often. After all the ingredients had melted together, I poured the mixture into a heat safe tupperware bowl. *Tip: do the beeswax first, it takes longer to melt.*

The mixture last me about 2 months. I will warn you, because of the tea tree oil, it does have a strong oder but I actually have grown to love the smell. I apply it at night so that it can soak in over night. It is pretty oily, and you can add more beeswax to help cut that or add less Vitamin E. 









**Disclaimer** - I am not a doctor or nurse. I did research on natural things for skin and scars and this is what I finished with. I love it. Suggestions are welcome!**


* - more information - http://www.sunwarrior.com/news/is-coconut-oil-good-for-skin/
**Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/030419_scars_remedies.html#ixzz30bF3eNdI

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

in mourning

Let me preface this post by saying I was taken aback by the flood of emotions I started feeling last month ago. I started to feel sad. Confused sad. Weird sad. You see I am currently in mourning.

I am mourning the end of my time pumping.

Yes. You read right. Pumping.

On July 8, my little Miss turned one and I was still pumping 3-5 times a day. I never in a million years thought I would pump for over a year. There are several reasons why I kept pumping, the most important being that Mila was a premie with a major surgery and the second was for financial reasons.

Last night, the Main Squeeze, who is also a CPA, and I guesstimated that I have spent over 32 days pumping. Yes. You read correctly I spent over a MONTH attached to that pump.

46,800 minutes
780 hours
32.5 days

The past year flew by in a lot of ways but I was shocked with that number. Thirty days! After her first birthday I started the slow process of stopping. I have heard horror stories about trying to wean from breast feeing or pumping so I wanted to take it slow. I was so excited to stop! I wouldn't be confined to a room. I wouldn't miss any fun conversations with my family. I wouldn't be in pain if I was a few hours late. Excited, I was!

When I got down to once a day, I was very confused and was sad. I've heard about women struggling with their little ones weaning from breast feeding but not from pumping. I felt very silly as to why I felt this way. I mean, hello!, after a year attached to a machine you would think I'd be excited.

When I told the Main Squeeze he was just as confused as I was. He couldn't understand why I was sad about something I have been complaining about for over a year!

I started to realize that a lot of the emotions I was feeling were similar to the 5 Stages of Grief. After loosing my dad and grandpa, I am very familiar with the stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, & acceptance).

I was in denial that my daughter was one and would not longer need breastmilk (although I have a lot of frozen so guess what Mila, you ain't done!). When she was in the NICU and was unable to eat due to her surgery, pumping was the one thing I could do for her. I was one thing I had control over in a terrible, uncontrollable situation. I was angry that I didn't understand why I felt so attached to pumping, something that I have really hated doing. Well, hate is a strong word, but I really didn't enjoy it. I began to bargain with my emotions. I justified my feelings and also tried to ignore them. I became depressed, and this I still feel like I can't explain. I assume hormones. And now, I accept that my feelings are ok and that this time in my life has ended.

the day I said goodbye


Like any habit, it's a hard one to break. So much of my days for the last year were consumed with "GET MILK!" I can't even begin to tell you how many times I said, "I have to go pump."

I officially stopped pumping July 27th. The first couple days weren't the most comfortable but after 8 days I was back to "normal." It felt strange to not be tied down to the pump but after about a week the sadness went away. Thankfully, I have a good bit frozen so Missy Moo will still be getting breastmilk for the next 2 months.

I am proud to say I pumped for over 12 months and I am glad it's over ;)








Monday, August 3, 2015

sweet adeline

Baby Adeline,
         I'm not always the best with words but I hope you know how excited I am to meet you. I have been waiting a very long time to be your aunt and in less than two months I will get to hold you! But, there is something I want you to know. 
         Your mommy & daddy are two of the most beautiful people I know and I know they will be awesome parents! They have spent many years loving each other and soon they will get to share that amazing love with you. You are one special lady! 
         I hope you get your mom's smile and your dad's sense of humor. I hope you are opinionated, strong, and kind. But mostly I hope you know how much you are loved. Even now, before you make your grand debut, you are incredibly loved. You are loved by your mommy & daddy. You are loved by your entire crazy (but fun!) family. You are loved by friends. And you are loved by the Savior of the World. 
         Sweet Adeline, I love you so very much and I feel so honored to be apart of  your life. I hope I can be a friend when you need me, a source of adventure, & the cool aunt I always wanted to be. 
  
                                                                                                   Love,        
                                                                                                          Aunt ML



((Photography by me: Mary DeCrescenzio Photographer))
















Thursday, May 28, 2015

burlap & lace gender reveal

So when my sister told me she was pregnant I immediately started thinking about the gender reveal! Again, we struggled with a theme but my sister loves burlap so I thought burlap and lace would be so cute! Masculine and feminine. Perfect!

We also decided on a waffle and grits bar! Everyone loved it and the day was awesome!

Pretty much everything was bought from Hobby Lobby, Dollar Tree, or Target. Most of the food was bought at Trader Joe's or Publix! If there is something specific you'd like to know about let me know! (mltd54@aol.com)

HUGE thank you to Brittany for co-hosting and Barbara for allowing us to use her beautiful home!!!






























 Team Boy!
 Team Girl!