getting lost.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

It’s been a while since I’ve gone to the bookstore, left with a book, and devoured said purchased within hours of reading it. If you are a reader, or a writer, you know that books are our food. They feed our souls, our minds, our creativity and our empathy. They teach us, they form us, they sometimes break our hearts a little. My love for books started when I was young, (Harry Potter, anyone?!) and has grown into a steady love affair since. I’m convinced I could live without a television, or another movie, as long as writers kept writing.

I long to be a published author one day, and though I have yet to figure out just what the heck I have to say, I firmly believe that I have to be a good reader to accomplish the goal. Reading is how I learn, how I create, how I am fed. Most every life lesson I am taught, there is a book I can name that helped me, taught me, sculpted me in that season. Most are non-fiction or memoirs, but some are YA, plain old good fiction, and poetry.

If you are not a reader, I encourage you to try. I know that reading isn’t everyone’s thing (which is sometimes unfathomable to my literature obsessed mind) but I do believe there is something out there for everyone. Just like I believe there is an album out there for everyone, I believe there is a story for you.

Just a little celebratory post that I finished a book in less than two hours, in complete silence, on a Sunday. Please, and thank you.

The aforementioned purchased book:

“This is What Happy Looks Like” by Jennifer E. Smith

If you are a fan of Gayle Forman, John Green, or Robyn Schneider, you will love this book. An easy read, a story about a boy and a girl who meet online, through a mistakenly sent email. They keep up an exchange, and then eventually meet in person. As the stories unfolds, unbeknownst to both, they discover each of them has a secret.

Read on, my friends.

Steffanie xo

when it comes to plans.

image

I won’t pretend I know all there is to know about life. I don’t and I’m not sure I ever will, which I think is the whole point. What I do know about life, is that things do not always go according to plan. Things don’t always pan out the way you would like them to. For those of us who live by plans, lists, and time frames, this is one of the most frustrating parts of living.

I planned my life from the time I was little, like maybe age 9. I had goals. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to be a teacher of some form. I wanted to write. I wanted to marry someone I truly loved, and I wanted an old house to live in. I wanted trees in my yard, and I wanted to travel.

Almost fifteen years later, I have a few of those things, but not all. I am married to someone I am truly, deeply in love with. I live in a fantastic old house, with a huge backyard (with like 5 trees!), and I went to college. I write, which I am not convinced that makes me a writer, but a girl can dream. I haven’t traveled, and I am not a teacher, but I did teach dance classes for several years.

If I had stuck to my plan, I would have graduated college two years ago, a newlywed, and I would be preparing a lesson plan right now. I would be writing a book on a fancy laptop, and I would have gone to London by now, for sure. I would have done a lot.

As it happens, I am doing none of those things. I am writing on my couch, in my fantastic old house, on my phone because my laptop won’t start. I work part-time at an office, full of some the funniest, sweetest people and this year I’ll celebrate my third wedding anniversary. I have not been to London, nor is that in the cards for the near future. Oh, and I didn’t finish college.

I didn’t follow my plan. I don’t make as much money as I thought I would, and I don’t have a degree. I don’t have a fancy house, and I don’t have a working computer. I don’t have a lot, and on days when I felt crappy, sometimes that gets to me. I wallow, and moan and groan about the broken garage, the money, the degree.

And then I walk outside. I sit in the middle of my huge yard, under my tree and I look up. I look around me and I remember how stupidly blessed I am. I grab some tea, take a deep breath, and make a list of the things I do have, the plans that did work out, the prayers that were answered. I am married to a man who loves me with a fierceness all stories try to capture. I have trees in my yard! I have a job I love and I have a place to live. I have a dog, who makes my days that much brighter. I have a family and friends, who are some of the most loving and beautiful people anywhere. I have a life that was given to me by the most amazing Creator. I have love and I have life.

Your life will not go as planned. You won’t always get that thing you want or pray for, and you will go through hard times. You will not always be happy and you won’t always feel great about your life. You won’t have it all figured out and your plan may fail.

But be confident, friend, because there are things that you do have. I don’t know what those precious things are for you. If that is family, travels, love, a career you love, a talent you have, whatever, you do have something. Something to be thankful for. And you also have something to learn from. Failed or changed plans can often teach us if we take the time to learn, and listen to what they have to teach us.

I’m thankful my plans didn’t turn out the way I wished. Because I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have the experience of learning to live with a change. Life is constantly changing, and I’m thankful that I’m learning how to change with it.

I’ll leave you with this brilliant piece of writing I found a couple of weeks ago:

“There are few sure bets in our lives. There’s no guarantee that our husbands will make it safely home from work or that our children will ever be truly safe at school. No one can promise that our deepest, longest-held dreams will come to fruition, or that next week’s schedule will look the way we think it will. Even financial security is a mirage, bringing new and unexpected uncertainty to the few who attain it. Planning and precautionary measures are well and good, but they do not save us.

When it comes to true certainty, our true living hope is our shared inheritance with Christ. It is the salvation of our souls and the eternal hope that is ours through faith in Jesus.” #SheReadsTruth

Here’s to changed plans.

Steffanie xo

The weekend.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I love the tempo of the weekends. The freedom and the rest that they tend to carry, the every once in a while chaos. When people ask me how my weekend was, I usually always say the same thing. “Oh it was great, I didn’t do much of anything.” It’s a fine answer, I guess, but I sometimes feel like it portrays a lack of interest in life. Like I don’t really remember nor did I do anything amazing, so why bother talking about it. I love it when people describe their weekends and days to me. I like details. I like to know the color of the dress she wore, or how melty and delicious the pizza was. I like to know about the stars that night, or the sun that morning. I love it when other people are telling me their beautiful details, but I don’t always pay attention to the details of my stories. I skip them, because I believe them to be boring or insignificant; dull.

This weekend, I decided to pay attention to my details. To the life and beauty and tide of my weekend. 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

+ Friday: I woke up late, around 10:00 and had breakfast with my husband. We chatted about his work, and  I went to do some grocery shopping. That afternoon I took a glorious nap, drank strong black tea and ate the best Irish soda bread of my life. Just as the sun was setting, I went to a skincare launch party for one of my beautiful sister-in-laws, where we had tiny cupcakes and flavored coffee. I also ate Mcdonald’s at 10:30pm that night. Best.

20150324_154132

+ Saturday, I got up early, turned on the Keurig and went to spend a few hours with my nephews. We watched the Lorax, ate cheerios, and chatted about toys and movies. We had a dance party in the kitchen, and I rocked with both boys in their floral armchair. That afternoon was beautiful, so I took one of my fuzzy throw blankets, a book and a cup of tea and laid outside for an hour or two. I read that book all day long, and while doing the laundry and cleaning, I watched Dr. Who re-runs. I made fish and chips using Jamie Oliver’s recipe and left my hair in a bun all day. I took a long, hot, bath that night, and talked to my husband on the phone about work and funny stories. I stayed up super late, no thanks to my noisy neighbors, who eventually had a visit from the police. Fun times.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

+ Sunday: Sundays are always such beautiful days of rest, and today was none the different. Both my husband and I woke up very late, and were onto our second mugs of coffee before we made conversation. It was a super slow start, but we decided to enjoy the gorgeous weather (70 degrees!!) and take Romeo The Brave to the park to walk. We drove the short drive to the park, and walked about a mile and a half, holding hands, chatting with people about the size and beauty of Romeo the Brave. We came home and curled up on the couch, watched a bit of TV, and then the hubs went to work. I read some blogs, made dinner, cleaned the kitchen and took Romeo the Brave to get ice cream. Chocolate chip cookie dough on a waffle cone: perfection. Now, I am writing to you, drinking coffee, and being thankful. Tonight, I’ll take another bath possibly, curl up in my room with a book (possibly a Donald Miller one, or Shauna Niequist) and a mug of steaming tea. I’ll pray for my husbands safety, let Romeo do his rounds around the yard, and go to sleep.

In the best way, this weekend was a re-charge. A long, restful, clearing reset. A beautiful, sunny, warm weekend, filled with lovely faces, lots of time, and lots of fresh air. It was a breath, one I very much needed to take. This week has a lot of plans, and I won’t see my husband for longer than an hour until Saturday, but we had this weekend.

You never get days back. Make them count, even if it seems like all you are doing is the same old thing. Choose to remember them well, to give yourself the freedom to love rest and monotony, just for this weekend.

It was a fine one, indeed.

Love to you all!

Steffanie xo

Target Haul

IMG_6110

IMG_6111

I love Target. It’s like every beauty-product loving’s heaven, with the added bonus of being able to grocery shop there. I recently needed um, everything, it seemed when it came to the toiletries section of my bathroom. I decided to give some new products a try this go round, because I was pretty bored of the things I was using. Here’s a peak into what I bought.

+Tresemme PERFECTLY (UN)DONE Shampoo, Conditioner & Wave Creation Sea Foam

This range smells and is one of my favorites from Tresemme. Being that I have naturally curly hair, this range has relaxed my curls a bit, and make for a better hold when I actually use a hair wand on it. To use the Wave Creation Sea Foam, I blow dry my hair with a pump of it already in my hair, and then work a bit into my hair after I have curled it. It’s give the needed texture and hold to your waves, without making it crunchy or sticky or stiff. It’s good stuff.

+ Eos Sweet Mint Lip Balm & Raspberry Pomegranate Shave Cream

I love the eos brand. They make such moisturizing products, and I love their packaging. Their hand creams are one of my favorite things! This lip balm smells good enough to eat, and being that it is all organic, you probably could. You may get super weird looks when you are using it, but I love it too much to care. This is probably my 20th bottle of the shave cream and it is still my favorite scent. So moisturizing and hydrating, I’ve never found a shave cream like it.

+ The Wet Brush Squirt

I’ve heard so many people talk about this brush. They swear by it, saying that if you have tangly, messy hair to buy this. So I bought the mini, because it’s cute and a perfect fit for my shower, and I am so glad I did. It glides through my hair after I have washed it. Like literally glides through it. No tangles, no knots, no snags. All gliding. (I’m so serious about how well this works I dare you to try it on your tender-headed niece, nephew, daughter, or anyone you know with a mess of hair.) I keep mine in my shower for any time I need a good brush after I wash my hair.

+ Mitchum Deodorant for Women

I usually use an aluminum-free deodorant by Tisserand, but sometimes, that just doesn’t cut it. I’m all about healthy pits, but not when I start to smell. That’s a no-no. I used to use Dove, but it always itched (TMI?) so I stopped using it. I saw this in Target and actually had looked for this in several places, when I just happened to find it. It smells SO GOOD. And no itchy pits here.

+ Rimmel ScandalEYES Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

My Maybelline Eyeliner finally dried up. I think I was going on two years with that one. I picked this one up after having a browse between all of the brands liquid liners. Really liking it so far. No smudging, easy to apply, lasts forever.

+Simply Venus Disposable Razors

They’re razors. They work. The end.

 

And with that, I say adieu! Let me know if you have found anything at Target recently that you are loving! 

steffanie xo

 

Bath Bombs for a Cause

IMG_6044

I know a girl who has a heart of gold, and her name is Harper. Harper is a fantastic human being. She’s smart, hilarious, and incredibly brave. She also recently started a campaign against bullying, right here in good ol’ Oklahoma. Having experienced bullying and unkindness firsthand, she decided to do something positive. She started making bath bombs.

Yep, that’s right, bath bombs. Sparkly, fizzy, essential-oil-infused, homemade, bath bombs. She calls them “Bully-B-Gone Bath Bombs” and she sells them for $3-5 a bomb. To be used in your bath, they lift your spirits and de-stress your mind. The bombs smell amazing (especially the Relaxation one, with real lavender leaves thrown in), are so moisturizing and a great reminder to slow down, run a bath, and reflect. I was lucky enough to be able to try a couple of them and to blog about them. Harper donates the proceeds that she makes from sales of the bath bombs to the Kind Campaign.

The Kind Campaign is an internationally recognized movement, documentary and school program based upon the powerful belief in KINDness that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl “crime.” It’s a movement to stop bullying and to promote kindness within schools and specifically towards girl on girl bullying. It was started by two college girls, Lauren and Molly, who both want better stories for girls than what they had at their schools. It’s an amazing campaign, with a ton of resources to inform about bullying.

Harper, Molly and Lauren want a better story for her friends, and for girls everywhere. I’m so blessed to know someone who is so insanely brave and smart and lovely, and to be able to share this bit of her story with you all. I hope that you will check out the Kind Campaign and Harper’s story, and buy a bath bomb or two. They would make amazing gifts, especially for a little girl who you think may need a pick me up.

Everyone should be this brave and this determined about kindness.

To learn more about the Kind Campaign, click here.

Be kind. Be brave, my friends.

Thank you to Harper for allowing me to blog about this and try your awesome bath bombs! You’re an amazing soul! xo,

Steffanie

the record player.

IMG_6040

About four-ish years ago, I received one of the best presents I have ever received, from my husband. Brooke Fraser, who is a singer/songwriter/person that I am in love with, came out with an album called Flags. She self-produced, wrote and designed the entire album herself, and collaborated with other artists to create the beauty that is the album. When she made this album, she made a coffee table book, filled with drawings, lyrics, pictures and snippets of her time making the album. She also included a vinyl with four songs on it, a signed copy of the CD, and a documentary of her time making the album. It was one of the first times I ever became so excited about an artist and their music.

I’ve had that vinyl for four years and have never listened to it, mostly because I didn’t have a record player. When we got married, we hung the record on the wall, and it wasn’t until recently that I began to really think about what was on that vinyl. I’ve always wanted a record player, and my husband, knowing this, took me to Hastings and bought me a Crosley Portable Record Player. Mine is turquoise and gorgeous and I am so in love with it!!

My first record player. @tucker_ballinger is the best husband ever!!!! 😍

A photo posted by Steffanie Ballinger (@steffanieballinger) on

I’ve been using it everyday, winding down at night with Bach, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Romeo & Juliet’s Ballet, and of course, Brooke’s record. I’m loving how the sounds sort of float through the house, making music sound that much more beautiful. I’m currently making a wish list of vinyls on Amazon, and I am so excited to start perusing the shops for some more records. Although, I am covered if I am in need of a Haunted House record, thanks to my husband.

Let me know in the comments which records are your favorite, or if you recommend any good ones out there. I’d love to know!

Steffanie xo

PS. I promise to be back soon with some product reviews. Keep an eye out!

Empties #6

IMG_5956

IMG_5954

IMG_5955

It’s been a good while since I have done an empties post. I’ve been collecting the old tins and bottles in a Lush bag and since it is close to being full, I thought it was a good time to dump them here. Allons-y!

Lush “Cosmetic Warrior” Fresh Face Mask (Not pictured): This mask worked really well to clear up any blemishes, and just overall keep my face clear. The smell is not for everyone (think GARLIC), and it take a little getting used to the texture, but I loved it. I can’t wait to try more of Lush’s face masks.

Lumene Finland Makeup Remover: This is the best drugstore makeup remover I have found. It works great on waterproof mascara, and it doesn’t dry out your face like some other ones. Really liked this.

The Body Shop Body Butters (Japanese Cherry Blossom and Almond): TBS Body Butters are the best out there. period. I loved the Japanese Cherry Blossom for bedtime, and the Almond for the daytime. Both smell amazing.

The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil & Tea Tree Skin Clearing Lotion: I finished these quite a while back, but I do remember using the Tea Tree Oil all the time when I was going through a horrible break out season. It reduces pimples in half with just a few drops. I haven’t re-purchased it, but I do remember really liking it. The lotion wasn’t my favorite, and my husband ended up finishing it.

Mario Badescu Special Cucumber Lotion & Acne Facial Cleanser: Mario Badescu makes really good face products, however I think I need something a bit stronger on the cleansing side. This cleanser is a good one but I prefer the La Roche Posay or Beauty Without Cruelty ones for my particular skin type. The toner was fantastic, and I really need to re-purchase it. One of the best sensitive skin, acne fighting products I’ve ever used!

Ed Hardy Life, Love, Luck Perfume: This perfume smells so, so good. It’s a bit Chloe-esque, but much more girly. Similar to the Marc Jacobs perfumes, but a little less floral. I’ve had it forever, and I absolutely love the scent. Definitely would buy again.

Bath and Body Works Sleep Night Time Tea Body Lotion: If you want a body lotion that aids in putting you to sleep, and smells just plain amazing, pick this up. I rationed out the two tiny bottles I had, because I love it so much, but I don’t think they sell it all the time. I have the body wash too, and I use it every night before bed. Very lavender-y.

The Body Shop Wild Rose Hand Cream: The Body Shop makes some great moisturizing products. I didn’t find this lotion to be too greasy, but just light enough to keep my hands moisturized for hours. Smells great too!

Caress Sheer Twilight Body Wash: Caress makes the most amazing smelling body washes for drugstore price. This one smelled like Bath and Body Works Twilight Woods, which I love. It’s sweet and musky, and lovely.

Lush Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner: I did a whole review of this product here. Best body lotion you’ll ever buy. The end.

Lush Hot Toddy Shower Gel: I posted about this previously too. Let’s just say I was super sad when this bottle ran out.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Face Wash: If you have ever used Proactive, and know how clear that keeps your skin, try this. It didn’t work so well for my sister (sorry, Tiff!) but I loved it. It’s very foamy and very cleansing, so your skin feels squeaky clean every time you  wash it.

Head and Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care Shampoo: This one smelled great, but I have moved away from H&S for the moment. They tend to be too heavy for my hair. My new favorite is Suave Rosemary & Mint shampoo (love!).

And the longest empties post ever is done! Hope you enjoyed my product ramblings.

Steffanie xo