Five Fantastic Podcasts

Over the past couple of years, I’ve started listening to a number of different podcasts. Podcasts are perfect for when I’m driving around running errands, doing mundane tasks at home, or when I’m taking a long walk with our dog. Today I’m sharing some of my favorites, both old and new.

Five awesome podcasts you should check out.

Five amazing podcasts that you should check out.

What Should I Read Next 

Anne Bogel is the author of the very popular blog Modern Mrs. Darcy and the voice behind this fabulous weekly podcast. Both are chock full of book recommendations, which I appreciate as an avid reader. So many of the great titles I pick up are books I heard about from Anne. Each week she interviews a fellow book lover, asking her guest to share three books they love, one book they hate and what they’re reading now. After some discussion, she then gives the guest three book recommendations. If you need an endless to-be-read list, then I highly suggest you tune in.

Five amazing podcasts that you should check out.

God Centered Mom 

Heather MacFadyen is the mother of four boys, and she is the most humble, sweet-natured woman. Each podcast is designed to help other moms be the best they can be, by encouraging them to “replace me with He.” By making God the center of our lives, we give Him the power to make us the mothers that our kids need us to be. She interviews other moms, authors, child psychologists, and many others with a wealth of wisdom for all of us in the daily trenches of motherhood.

Five amazing podcasts you should check out.

Serial

I admit I was late to the game on this one. Friends told me it was great, but I waited a long time to check it out… and then I got completely hooked. IMHO, the first season is better than the second season, but both were very interesting. Note: this is not a family-friendly podcast. There’s some bad language and the content is not appropriate for children. Season one explores the 1998 conviction of teenager Adnan Syed in the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. The investigation and trial are broken down into weekly episodes focusing on specific aspects of the case. For example one week might investigate cell phone records or the timeline of the murder. It’s not as gritty as it sounds, and each episode had me convinced that Adnan was either guilty or not guilty. You’ll have to listen and decide for yourself.

Five awesome podcasts you should check out.

Pantsuit Politics

With Sarah Stewart Holland representing the left and Beth Silvers on the right, these two ladies address current events and political issues with the grace and mutual respect that we all deserve. They prove that you can be on opposing sides of the political fence and still discuss issues without hostility. I appreciate that the goal of this podcast is to talk through both sides of current events, presenting facts and opinions, without descending into angry battles. It’s proof you can share your own thoughts on controversial issues without trying to convince another person that they are wrong. If you’re interested in politics, you should try this one for sure.

Five awesome podcasts you should check out.

Sorta Awesome

I recently discovered this podcast while listening to the main host, Megan Tietz, as a guest on What Should I Read Next. Sorta Awesome is a cornucopia of inspiration. There are a few different cohosts and they cover a large variety of topics. For example, the last episode I listened to was “8 Habits that Build a #HappyAwesomeLife.” The hosts also share the “Awesome of the Week” each episode, where they each share something that’s making life a little better, more inspiring, etc. I love the upbeat vibe and the variety in this show.

Whether you’re already devoted to your favorite podcasts or you have yet to dive into the podcast pool, these five are great starting points. Each has a distinct focus and I enjoy them for vastly different reasons. I hope you find one that you like!

What are your favorite podcasts?

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Blinded By Love

Happy Valentine’s Day! Whether you enjoy this day or despise it, it causes the focus to shift to all things love. You can see it everywhere you go. The stores are full of displays of candy and flowers. There’s red and pink all over the place. For better or worse, it’s hard to ignore the expectations tied to February 14th.

Let's be blinded by love and choose to love others without reservation.

What would happen if we shifted those expectations? What if instead of associating Valentine’s Day with the romantic kind of love, we flipped that idea on its head? How could we make a difference by changing our perception?

For today, let’s be blinded by love. 

Blind to the differences between us, whether political, religious or social.

Blind to those who offend us.

Blind to those who see the world differently.

Blind to those whose words make us angry.

Blind to the people who say we can’t or that we shouldn’t or that we won’t.

Blind to those who speak words of hate and fear and ignorance.

Blind to that which seeks to divide rather than unite.

For today, let’s be blinded by love and open our hearts.

Open our hearts to those who we don’t understand.

Open our hearts to those who don’t understand us.

Open our hearts to those who don’t know how to communicate without hurting others.

Open our hearts to those who don’t know how to raise themselves without bringing others down.

Open our hearts to those who crave real, unconditional love but cannot grasp it.

Open our hearts to those who draw attention to themselves because they are so desperately alone.

Open our hearts to those who don’t seem to deserve it.

For today, let’s be blinded by love and open our hearts to those who need us.

It’s not easy to shut off our reservations and our frustrations. It can feel impossible to ignore the anger or the hurt that others have caused. But hope is greater than fear. Love is greater than hate. If we can only show love to those that we think deserve it, then our hope is diminished by our hesitations. Let’s choose to be greater than our fears of giving more than we receive. Let’s be blinded by love.

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Best of Sweeter Still 2016

Happy New Year, friends! I took a break from blogging last week and it was really nice to be focused on the holidays with my family. I have some big goals for this little blog in the new year, but I want to first say thank you for stopping by! I’ll be sharing all my goals for the next year soon. Before we get too far into 2017, I want to share some of the most popular posts of 2016, along with some of my personal favorites.

Sweeter Still's best posts of 2016.

1. Our Updated Kitchen Reveal – This January marks the two-year anniversary since we moved into our new house. The kitchen definitely got the most intense update and you can see all the befores and afters in the most popular post of 2016.

We took a poor layout with outdated details and replaced it with a bright, welcoming space. 2.

2. Home Tour – Another popular spot on Sweeter Still is my work-in-progress Home Tour page where I share a lot of before, during and after shots of our newish home. It’s a lot of fun to see how far each room has come.

Check out how we turned an outdated bar area and turned it into a family-friendly work station.

3. A Harry Potter Birthday Party – In May we hosted a super fun Harry Potter-themed party for our daughter’s 8th birthday. We all love the books, so it was very much a family effort to plan and it was a blast to host.

We turned our house into Hogwarts for this magical 8th birthday celebration! Find all the details that made this one of the best parties ever.

4. What I’m Reading – Some of my favorite posts to write are when I’m sharing book recommendations. Reading is such a huge part of my life that I love to talk about what I’ve been reading and my thoughts on each book. (I’ll be doing a book round-up each month this year.)

Looking for a great book recommendation? Here are some of the mysteries I've been loving lately.

5. The Whole30 – In October I attempted my first Whole30, and despite being derailed by the flu at day 22, it made a big impact. Afterward, I felt much more comfortable in my own skin and it was really nice going into the holiday season 9lbs lighter than the year before. I’m planning another round for the near future!

Are you thinking about trying the Whole30? Read about my experience and some tips to make it go more smoothly.

6. Visiting New York City – I was fortunate to take a trip to NYC with my sister in June. It was a whirlwind weekend of sightseeing and eating, and it was fun to look back when I shared my five favorite places.

Eataly NYC is one of the best places we went to eat during our trip to NYC. Check out my top five spots that I visited.

7. The One Room Challenge – In the spring, I decided to participate in the ORC and update our living room in six weeks. One of my most popular posts was when I shared my plans for the living room. Now I’m feeling super guilty because I have yet to share the actual end result! Truthfully, I got caught up planning our Harry Potter birthday party and ran out of time. It’s on my list of posts for 2017. (Try not to be super jealous of my mad sad graphic design skills!)

The One Room Challenge is just 6 weeks to update a room in your house. Here are my plans to update our living room.

8. The Elf on the Shelf & the True Meaning of Christmas – Heading into the Christmas season, I shared how I was planning to use our elf a little differently this year to help our kids focus on the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

Three ways the Elf on the Shelf can help teach kids about the true reason that we celebrate during the Christmas season.

9. How to Have a Stress-free Holiday Meal – It’s a lot of work to host a major holiday meal, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. I shared some suggestions to help make hosting more enjoyable and run more smoothly.

Five tips for a stress-free holiday meal.

10. Ten Days of Advent – I love helping my kiddos to feel the magic of the Christmas season. It’s also really important that they understand that celebrating Jesus’ birth is the reason behind all the festivity. I shared ten days of ideas to help you celebrate Advent as a family.

So that’s it. That’s ten of the top posts from Sweeter Still in 2016. I’m planning for 2017 to be the best year yet for my little corner of the internet so stick around!

 

{Linking to The Inspiration Gallery}

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#MomFail

Last week we went to the pumpkin patch. Not our regular pumpkin patch, but a big time, fancy-schmancy place that took 45 minutes to get to from our house. Forty. Five. Minutes.

We started strong. The drive was a little long but we had excitement on our side so there wasn’t too much complaining. When we arrived, it was busier than I expected. Then the nice lady taking our money handed us our tickets and told us the next hayride was at 1:00… two hours later! The web site stated that hayrides run every half hour, but she explained that they had a few class field trips that had reserved hayrides for their group. Umm, that would have been nice to know. I probably could have called ahead, but given that this was the tail end of two weeks of fall break from school, I was not bringing my A game to this adventure. So here we were with two hours until we could go on a hayride and drumroll please… NO LUNCH.

That’s right ladies and gentleman, I am a seasoned mother of two young children who did not pack a lunch for this occasion. #momfail I have been in countless situations where after having eaten only an hour previously, my children have acted as if they were on the brink of starvation so if you’re thinking “who is this amateur?” I don’t blame you.

As luck would have it, the farm/pumpkin patch had a snack bar. A cash-only snack bar. Guess what else Mother of the Year didn’t have with her?? You got it. No cash. I drove to the outer banks of God-knows-where with two small children, no food and $0.76 in change. #momfail

You guys, desperate times call for desperate measures. We played for a while.  We looked at all the interesting farm-y sorts of things. Then we got our hands stamped for re-entry and we drove back to the very edge of civilization and we ate at Burger King. Now, we’re not the type of family that never eats fast food, but for some reason BK always seems like one of the low men on the drive-thru totem pole. But I’m telling you, we might as well have been at the best restaurant in town. My kids were ecstatic about the paper crowns they received with their kids meals. Everyone’s energy and spirits soared… at Burger King.  It’s dumb I know, but I felt extra guilty and really wanted to accidentally forget the crowns and toys so there wouldn’t be any evidence to remind me of my shortcomings. Alas, my kids held onto those cheap trinkets like the Holy Grail.

After lunch we returned to the farm and went on the 15 minute hayride where we bounced along as we learned all about dairy cows. We picked out our little pumpkins and hightailed it out of there. I felt an odd mix of both satisfaction and guilt at our crazy visit to the pumpkin patch/dairy farm. I was proud for having stuck it out and happy that my kids seemed to have enjoyed themselves, but I couldn’t shake my irritation at having planned this outing so poorly.

Later that day, after relaying the story to my husband, I started wondering why I was struggling with so much momguilt over having a couple bumps in the road. Why do we, as parents and as mothers in particular, hold ourselves to such high standards and at what point do our expectations become unreasonable?

No one is perfect. We know this, and yet the digital world at our fingertips often gives us reason to believe the opposite. We see carefully crafted photos on Facebook, perfectly tidy and staged homes on Pinterest, and an endless parade of pretty images on Instagram. We know the reality behind all these images is not perfection, and yet we still raise the bar and set our sights on higher standards for our own lives. While it can be wonderfully motivating, should we really be beating ourselves up because our pantry isn’t immaculate or because we didn’t turn our child’s school lunch into a beautiful woodland scene made from food?

The truth is that the mom who creates those wonderfully creative lunches has flaws too. Maybe her house isn’t particularly well-kept or she’s chronically late. Maybe she’s incredibly disorganized and forgetful. None of those things makes her less valuable as a mother, just as her lovely school lunch creations don’t give her a one-up on a mom who can’t include “makes woodland creatures out of cheese” on her resume.

yogapants

Some moms are organized. Some are creative. Some are great cooks. Some are talented with a sewing machine. Not one of them is perfect at all things all the time. We are masters at portraying ourselves in the best light possible and social media makes it easier than ever before. We share the picture of our family’s happy, smiling faces at the beach, but we don’t post photos of the argument that took place just minutes later. I’m not suggesting we start sharing all the disasters with the world, but let’s also remember to take what we see online at face value. A perfectly staged living room is just that. It’s meant to be inspirational, not to make us feel crappy because our own living room looks lived in.

What if we let ourselves off the hook for our #momfails at least some of the time? Were my kids more affected by the fast food lunch we ate or the moment when I snapped at them out of frustration with myself? I know the answer. You know the answer. So let’s agree to give ourselves and each other a break once in a while. I’ll look the other way when your kid shares that they pulled their t-shirt from the dirty hamper because the laundry wasn’t done and you can ignore the fact that my kid has a disposable snack bag in their lunchbox today. Chances are they’ll both turn out just fine.

{Linking to Just A Girl & Her Blog, Think & Make Thursday}

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Thankful on Thanksgiving

Yes, I know it’s Sunday. I just couldn’t miss the last installment of Thankfulness Thursdays with Ashley at Domestic Fashionista. We were out of town for the holiday and the trip didn’t exactly go what you would call smoothly. Taking a time out to blog about being thankful was pretty much out of the question so I had to delay my post a little.

I'm taking time each week to reflect on my blessings as we get close to Thanksgiving.

Over the past sixteen weeks, I’ve shared my gratitude for my husband.

For my children.

For my parents, parents-in-law, and my sister.

For the beautiful place we call home.

For my Bible study.

For my closest girlfriends.

I’ve expressed my gratitude for a number of other people and things as well, all of which amount to a very blessed life.

It’s easy to forget all these things in the midst of a sleepless “vacation” on the day when you are supposed to be most thankful. Or when you’re  internally feeling the pressure to be your very best mom-self in front of the surrounding family and the kids are sick and misbehaving and difficult and you mostly just want to be alone and have a complete breakdown, but you can’t because it’s Thanksgiving.

It’s possible that there are moments when you look at those around you and think “I love you so much I would walk through fire for you, but I wouldn’t mind sitting at a different table right now.” But the truth is that even that very unthankful statement reminds you just how gloriously grateful you are to be where you are with the people who matter so very much to you.

While that small sentiment won’t give you back the hours of sleep you’ve lost or wipe the snotty noses or prevent the tantrums, it will help you remember that although you may feel like the worst mom in the world, you are overjoyed that you are the mom to these two wild hooligans that you love to pieces. And even though you feel like the worst wife in the world, it will remind you that you are over the moon for this man and you would never ever want to be anyone else’s wife. So it is with these small, but ever so large statements in mind, that I celebrate Thanksgiving.

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