3.30.2014

homemade take 5 bars

Confession: I could probably eat the entire pan of these amazing Take 5 bars. They're that good. 
The perfect combination of salty + sweet, these bars are packed with a few of my all-time favorite ingredients: pretzels, peanut butter, caramel and chocolate. And if you haven't had a store-bought Take 5 candy bar, rest assured you won't have to once you have this recipe in your arsenal.

Made up of 5 tasty layers, while the recipe takes a little bit of time, every bite is worth it! 
My Second Confession: The crust itself is so amazing I ate a spoonful of it plain! But could you blame me? It's made up of crushed pretzels, brown sugar and melted butter. 


INGREDIENTS

PRETZEL CRUST // Layer 1
2 cups crushed pretzels // I used Snyder's GF Pretzel Sticks
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup light brown sugar

PEANUT BUTTER FILLING // Layer 2
1/2 cup butter, room temperature (softened)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar

CARAMEL & PEANUT FILLING // Layers 3 & 4
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 TBSP light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 TBSP sour cream
1 cup Honey Roasted Peanuts, chopped
>> Candy Thermometer <<

CHOCOLATE LAYER // Layer 5
2 cups (1 bag) milk chocolate chips // Our favorite are Ghiradelli 


DIRECTIONS

CRUST
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Lightly coat a 9x13 pan with butter
3. In large bowl, combine crushed pretzels, melted butter and brown sugar. Stir until combined. 
(Be sure to taste a spoonful just to make sure it's just right!!)
4. Press into 9x13 pan, packing tightly
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Cool completely.

PEANUT BUTTER FILLING
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat peanut butter and butter together until smooth
2. Slowly add in powdered sugar, beating until incorporated
3. Spread on top of cooled pretzel crust.
4. Chill until ready to spread caramel and peanut layer.



CARAMEL & PEANUT FILLING
1. In a medium heavy saucepan, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and water.
2. Bring mixture to a boil without stirring until temperature reaches 340 degrees on a candy thermometer (Takes about 10-15 minutes). Be careful to not burn caramel. I cooked ours on a low heat but high enough to keep it boiling. 
3. Once it has reached 340 degrees, remove from heat and immediately add heavy cream, butter and sour cream. Mixture will bubble up and will be VERY hot! 
4. Stir until combined and set aside to cool.
5. Once cooled, stir in chopped honey roasted peanuts and spread on top of peanut butter layer.

CHOCOLATE TOPPING
1. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. 
2. Spread over caramel layer.
3. Chill until ready to cut into squares. 

Enjoy! 
P.S. I dare you to eat just one!

3.29.2014

a quick + easy taco salad

If you asked what I eat on a regular basis for dinner, one of my answers would be "taco salad." I don't know what it is about it, but I don't think I could ever get sick of it! A big bowl full of hearty, crisp romaine lettuce, topped with perfectly seasoned (& a little bit spicy!) grass-fed beef, sharp cheddar cheese & my favorite taco topping - black olives -- and I just can't get enough! 


Taco Salads are so versatile and most importantly - SO easy! As a mom, there are days that I don't want to spend more than 10 minutes putting together a dinner for Dustin and myself. Some nights the thought of cooking is so exhausting that I would almost rather sleep than eat. (No, seriously). But fortunately for us, the taco salad has saved us on many of those nights! 


The beauty of the Taco Salad is that you can make it however you want. As long as you have some form of lettuce, protein & taco seasoning, you can customize it to suit your taste.

Our Favorite Taco Salad always includes:

Fresh chopped romaine lettuce

Grass-fed ground beef or Shredded Chicken
>> Seasoned with Trader Joe's taco seasoning or your favorite homemade seasoning! <<

Black beans, pinto beans or refried beans*
>> *Our favorite are Amy's Organic Vegetarian Refried Beans: Traditional (ahhh-mazing!) <<

Thinly sliced sharp cheddar cheese
>> The sharper, the better! <<

Our favorite basic corn chips (available here), slightly crushed 

And our favorite taco toppers: black olives for me & some form of fresh salsa for Dustin

You can dress your taco salad with taco sauce, any kind of salsa, tabasco or hot sauce, or just leave it plain like I do. The meat is so tender and juicy and the seasoning is perfect, so I don't even need a "dressing" on top. Whatever your favorite way to finish it off, this is a great and easy weeknight meal that is sure to please every palette! 

3.28.2014

ginger sesame chicken salad

I am always on the hunt for new salad recipes that are flavorful and full of healthy ingredients. This ginger sesame chicken salad is just that -- packed with fresh vegetables and the most tender and delicious chicken, this salad is sure to become a new favorite at your dinner table!


INGREDIENTS

Marinade & Dressing
1/4 cup soy sauce // We use Liquid Aminos
3 TBSP fresh ginger 
1/4 cup canola oil
2 TBSP hoisin sauce
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 tsp sriracha sauce
1 tsp kosher salt // I left this out because I didn't want it to be too salty
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
Boneless, Skinless Chicken breasts (1 breast per person)

Salad
1 lb Napa Cabbage, sliced thinly // I just used a 2-lb head and had leftovers
2-3 carrots, grated // Approximately 1 cup grated carrots
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup freshly chopped cilantro
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 tsp white sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp black sesame seeds, toasted // I used closer to 1 TBSP of each because I LOVE sesame seeds

Garnish (Optional)
Toasted Black + White Sesame Seeds
Toasted Slivered Almonds

DIRECTIONS

To Make Marinade: 
Whisk together soy sauce, ginger, canola oil, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, sriracha (and salt) to make marinade. Marinade chicken in 4-5 TBSP a minimum of 30 minutes. 
I marinated ours overnight. 
Reserve the rest. 

To Make Dressing:
To the reserved marinade, add in the 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar and 1/4 chopped green onions. 
I also added 2-3 TBSP of water to make the flavor more mild. 
I don't like huge red wine vinegar flavor. 

To Prepare Salad:
Cook the marinated chicken breasts in a dutch oven in sesame oil or on a hot grill.


In a large bowl, add the sliced napa cabbage, grated carrots, green onions, cilantro, toasted sesame seeds and toasted almonds. Add the cooked sliced chicken. Coat the salad LIGHTLY with the dressing and toss together. Garnish with extra toasted sesame seeds and almonds. 

Other Thoughts:
>> This recipe requires a little bit of planning and preparation but is totally worth it!
>> Be sure to taste the dressing before coating salad; I like very little dressing and a little bit goes a long way! 
>> The chicken is so tasty on its own due to the marinade that I will definitely be using the marinade recipe by itself in the future (and I think marinating it overnight added SO much flavor!)
>> You could easily sub napa cabbage for traditional cabbage if you want more of a crunch; napa is very light and rather soft
>> Very filling but super light! I made it with girlfriends last night but can't wait to make it again for my husband! 

Enjoy! And Happy Weekend!

3.27.2014

the 5 love languages | week 4

I am excited to be sharing the final week in my March series on the 5 Love Languages. In Week 1, I gave a basic introduction & overview of the 5 different love languages (available here), in Week 2 (available here) + Week 3 (available here) I looked at each of the five languages much closer & discussed how to determine your primary love language. This week I will be discussing how to determine your spouse's primary love language(s) and how to apply it to your marriage.

Last week I talked about discovering your own primary love language. 
To recap, below are three questions you can ask yourself to more easily discover your primary love language:

1. What does your spouse do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply? The opposite of what hurts you most is probably your love language. 

2. What have you most often requested of your spouse? That thing you have asked for most is likely the thing that would make you feel most loved.

3. In what way do you regularly express love to your spouse? Your method of expressing love may be an indication of what would also make you feel loved.

In the same way you would determine your own primary love language, you would determine your spouse's. 

First off, consider requests:
What does your spouse request most often of you?
Does your husband mention how much it means to him when you fold the laundry or run errands? 
Does your wife ask for more uninterrupted date nights? 
Does your husband request a back rub after work? 
Does your wife share on a regular basis that she has been wanting a love letter? 
Look at your marriage on a daily basis and see what your spouse is requesting of you or talking about most often. That will give you a big clue as to what makes them feel most loved. 

Secondly, consider how love is being shown:
How does your spouse SHOW you love? Does your husband give you gifts often even though it isn't your primary love language? That could mean one of his top love languages is "Receiving Gifts." Does your wife always stay on top of getting the car washed and the house cleaned? Maybe that is because she is trying to show you -- through those acts of service -- how much she loves you and that could indicate her primary love language is "Acts of Service." Regardless of which it is, examine how your spouse is SHOWING love to YOU. We most often express love in the way that we feel most loved. 

Third, try the process of elimination: 
Maybe you know for certain that "Acts of Service" is not your primary love language. That leaves four. Ask yourself, "If I had to give up one of the four, which one would I give up first?" Maybe your answer is "Receiving Gifts." Then ask yourself, "Of the three remaining, if I had to give up another, which one would I give up?" 

In the book Chapman gives the example of a husband using the process of elimination. He eliminates Receiving Gifts right away and then Quality Time. Next, he concludes that apart from sexual intimacy, he could give up Physical Touch (he could get along without hugs and holding hands). This left Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. While he appreciated the things his wife did for him, he knew that her affirming words were really what gave him life. He could go a whole day on a positive comment from her. Thus, Words of Affirmation was his primary love language and Acts of Service was his secondary love language.

Fourth, ask your spouse:
Whether you are certain as to what your spouse's primary love language is or not, ask them! Go directly to them and have a conversation about it. Better yet, go out for a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning and bring up the topic of love languages. About a year into our dating relationship, Dustin and I spent a lot of time reading the book and then sharing our thoughts and feelings. We both had a good idea as to each other's primary love languages but after a long conversation about it, we could both be sure. You know yourself, maybe better than anyone else knows you. Share with your spouse what yours is and ask them what they think theirs is. And remember -- you can have more than one!


My Primary Love Languages: Words of Affirmation, Receiving Gifts & Quality Time 
Dustin's Primary Love Languages: Physical Touch & Acts of Service

God is creative, isn't He? Of course it would be too easy if we both had the same love languages! God has challenged us in our marriage to love each other in ways that maybe don't come natural to us or that we don't receive the same way. I absolutely love that Dustin and I are totally split in our primaries. It sure makes for a lot of fun!

SO WHAT? Why does this even matter? 

Remember the LOVE TANK from Week 1? The "emotional love tank" that Chapman refers to throughout his book is an indicator of how loved a person is feeling. The need to feel loved unconditionally by one's spouse is at the heart of marital desires. By speaking your spouse's love language, you fill their tank. When they speak yours, they fill your tank. If you are showing love to your spouse in a way that is not their primary love language (such as writing love letters to someone who does not feel fulfilled through Words of Affirmation), their love tank will continue to be low or even empty. But if you begin to show your spouse love in the way that they feel it most, such as when Dustin brings home flowers for me -- receiving gifts -- or writes me a card -- words of affirmation -- or plans a date night -- quality time -- he fills my love tank. 

Once you discover your primary love language and the primary love language of your spouse, you will both become more effective communicators of love in your marriage. When your spouse's emotional love tank is full and he or she feels secure in your love, the whole world looks brighter and you spouse will move out to reach his or her highest potential in life. But when the love tank is empty and he or she does not feel loved, the whole world can seem dark. Often, a person's sense of self-worth is fed by the fact that their spouse loves them. That is why affairs, divorce, etc. are so devastating to a person -- it makes them question if they are worth anything, worthy of being loved. Loving your spouse builds their self-esteem, and enhances a person's sense of significance. We reason, "If someone loves me, I must have significance." 
Above anything, it is most important to know who you are in Christ and your identity should be found in Him alone, but while we are on this earth and in a marriage, our husband plays a pivotal role in building us up, helping us reach our fullest potential and carry out God's plan for our life. 

Finally, remember that love is a choice. No matter what you have gone through -- how hurt or angry you are, how resentful you have become, how bitter you may be, or how deeply broken your marriage is -- you have to make the choice to love your spouse before anything can change. They also have to make the choice to love you. Obviously, this is way easier said than done, but until you realize that love is a choice (and an action) and not just a feeling, you will likely struggle through your marriage. If your actions are based on your hurt or disappointed feelings, it is likely your marriage will remain broken. If you are interested in learning more related to love being a choice, Chapman discusses this in his book significantly and a few weeks ago I did a Marriage Minute titled "Love is a Choice" (available here). 


Love is something you do for someone else, not for yourself. Chapman states, "Love is not the answer to everything, but it creates a climate of security in which we can seek answers to those things that bother us. In the security of love, a couple can discuss differences without condemnation. Conflicts can be resolved. Two people who are different can learn to live together in harmony. We discover how to bring out the best in each other. Those are the rewards of love."


When I choose to love Dustin, I am doing it for him, not for myself. I do not work to fill his love tank so that I will be reciprocated or so that I will benefit. I love him selflessly. I choose to love him in the ways that he feels most loved (in his primary love languages) because that is what God calls me to do as a wife. God calls Dustin to love me in the same way -- selflessly, to lay down his life for me and to put my needs ahead of his own. He does this, not because of what he will gain, but because of what I will gain. See how it works? When I choose to love Dustin and he chooses to love me, we are both being fulfilled in the ways that it means the most. We are able to live together in an environment filled with peace and without strife; we are able to parent alongside one another in agreement; we are able to fellowship with other believers & build relationships in accordance with God's will; we are able to work through disagreements, become better people and ultimately, advance God's kingdom together. 

Isn't that why we got married in the first place? I believed that I could do more for God being married to Dustin than I could do alone. And when I continually choose to love Dustin -- in the ways he feels most loved -- and to fill his "emotional love tank" on a daily basis, that unlocks the door to endless blessings in our marriage! 
If you have a personal story about how learning the 5 love languages has impacted you, I would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me. And I love your sincere comments, they fill my heart! 

3.18.2014

cashew chicken lettuce wraps


The perfect balance of fresh, sweet + tangy flavors, these lettuce wraps are sure to satisfy you for a quick and easy weeknight meal. The buttery cashews on top of the warm, tender chicken add a delightful crunch and with every bite you are convinced you could eat lettuce wraps for the rest of your life (okay, so that's just me).

I N G R E D I E N T S
For sauce:
2 TBSP soy sauce (we use liquid aminos)
1 TBSP rice wine vinegar 
1 TBSP brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil

For filling:
1 chicken breast per person (boneless, skinless, free range organic)
1 head of butter lettuce, rinsed and leaves separated 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup cashews, chopped
S + P to taste

Optional Garnishes: Sliced green onion + extra cashews

D I R E C T I O N S
1. Mix all sauce ingredients in glass bowl, being sure to dissolve brown sugar completely; set aside
2. Heat olive oil in pan/dutch oven over medium-high heat; brown chicken on both sides, cooking through; remove from heat and set aside; slice into thin pieces
3. Cook onion and garlic in olive oil after chicken is removed; once translucent, add chicken back into pan and stir together
4. Add sauce and coat thoroughly; sauté mixture for a few minutes and turn heat to low
5. Add cashews and mix in
6. Fill lettuce cups with filling, add garnishes & enjoy!

the 5 love languages | week 3


This month I have been sharing about the 5 love languages -- something that has been so beneficial in my own marriage and hopefully something that will bless yours as well. 
In Week 1, I gave a basic overview of the 5 love languages (available here) and last week I discussed 3 of the 5 love languages in greater depth (available here). 
This week I will be sharing more about the love languages of acts of service and physical touch, as well as how to discover your primary love language (if you haven't already!). 


ACTS OF SERVICE //
Doing things you know your spouse would like you to do

Examples of Acts of Service from the book include cooking a meal, setting a table, washing dishes, vacuuming, cleaning, changing a baby's diaper, filling up the gas tank, paying the bills, mowing the lawn, walking the dog, giving a foot rub, setting up appointments, etc. 

Each of the above activities require thought, planning, time, effort and energy; if done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.

If you think that acts of service is your primary love language, remember the importance of making requests of your spouse and not demands. Instead of demanding your spouse mow the lawn or clean the garage, give guidance by making a request and say, "It would mean a lot to me if you would clean the garage this weekend," or "It would really make me feel loved if you kept the lawn mowed in the summer." You cannot create the will to love in your spouse; each of us must decide daily to love and by showing your spouse love in the way he/she feels it most, it is likely that he/she will do the same for you.

Also keep in mind that learning the love language of Acts of Service may require you to reexamine your stereotypes of the roles of husbands and wives. Most men did not grow up seeing their fathers vacuum the house or cook dinner, but if that is what means a lot to you (as a wife), it is okay to request that your husband does that for you. It may take time for you both to shift your perspective of gender roles, but if Acts of Service is your primary love language, it will be well worth it! 
In my life, I tend to do most of the so-called "domestic" activities, but once a week Dustin cleans the floors and vacuums for me. If I am busy at home with Olivia, Dustin stops at the grocery store after work to pick up some things I'll need for meals that week. If I have somewhere to go early the next morning, he fills up my gas tank at night so that I don't have to make a stop when I am on my way somewhere with V. I love to cook dinner for him, pack his lunch at night before bed and rub his feet after he has had a long day. These are all acts of service and they are meaningful to both of us. 

If you think Acts of Service may be your primary love language or your spouse's, here are a few ideas to discover & encourage it:
1) Make a list of all the requests your spouse has made of you over the past two weeks; select one this week and do it as an expression of love before your spouse has to ask
2) Ask your spouse to make a list of 10 things he or she would like you to do during the next month and then ask your spouse to prioritize them 1-10, 1 being the most important; use the list to plan your strategy of love.
3) Perform a major act of service (like organizing the home office) and leave a note that reads, "To _____ (your spouse's name) with love."
4) Ask your spouse to tell you the daily acts of service that would really speak to him or her, the "little things" that mean a lot (for Dustin, it is having his lunch packed each night)

PHYSICAL TOUCH //
Expressing love to your spouse through touch

We have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous research studies in the area of child development have reached the conclusion that Babies who are held, hugged and kissed from birth develop a healthier emotional life that those who are left long periods of time without physical contact. Physical touch is a powerful vehicle for communicating marital love; whether by holding hands, kissing, embracing, or physical intimacy, for the spouse whose love language is physical touch, this is what creates a deep feeling of being loved.

In his book, Chapman discusses that love touches may be explicit and demand your full attention, like a back rub, or they may be implicit and require only a moment, such as putting your hand on his shoulder as you pour a cup of coffee. Explicit love touches obviously take more time, not only in actual touching but in developing your understanding of how to communicate love to your spouse in that way. Implicit love touches require little time but much thought, especially if physical touch is not your primary love language or if you grew up in a family that was not touch-oriented. Sitting close to each other as you watch your favorite movie requires no additional time but may communicate your love loudly. 

My husband Dustin's primary love language is physical touch. If he has had a long day at work, something as simple as a hug resets his entire day. If we are in an argument and he is upset, all it takes is me holding his hand or sitting by him to calm him down and change the course of things. If Dustin is feeling down or stressed, a back rub from me communicates that I love him and think highly of him, and that I want to give him my time and energy in the form of physical touch. Keep in mind that just because your husband enjoys sex does not mean that physical touch is his primary love language, but if it is his primary love language, sex will obviously be of even more importance in keeping a healthy emotional climate in your marriage. Chapman explains that for the male, sexual desire is physically based. Many men make the mistake of assuming that physical touch is their primary love language because they desire sex so intensely. This may be true but the whole picture needs to be considered. If a man does not enjoy touch in other ways (such as holding hands or receiving a massage), it is unlikely that Physical Touch is his primary love language. 

DISCOVERING YOUR PRIMARY LOVE LANGUAGE //

Discovering the primary love language of your spouse is essential if you are to keep their emotional love tank full, but first you need to know your own love language. Having heard the five love languages (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service & physical touch), some individuals will know instantaneously what their own primary love language is as well as the primary love language of their spouse. For others, it will not be that easy. 

Begin by asking yourself this question: What makes you feel most loved by your spouse? What do you desire above all else? If the answer to those questions does not leap to your mind immediately, try looking at the other "negative" side: What does your spouse do or say or fail to do or fail to say that hurts you deeply? If, for example, your deepest pain is the critical judgmental words of your spouse, perhaps your primary love language is "words of affirmation." If your primary love language is used negatively by your spouse -- that is, he or she does the opposite -- it will hurt more deeply than it would hurt someone else because not only is he/she neglecting to speak your primary love language, he/she is actually using that language to hurt you (even if unintentionally).

Another approach to discovering your primary love language is to look back over your marriage and ask, "What have I most often requested of my spouse?" Whatever you have most requested is probably in keeping with your primary love language. For a long time, I requested that Dustin write cards or letters to me. I came to discover that was because "words of affirmation" is one of my primary love languages. 

Finally, another way to discover your primary love language is to examine what you do or say to express love to your spouse. Chances are what you are doing for her is what you wish she would do for you. Remember how in Week 1 I shared that for a long time I was writing cards to Dustin and hoping for a big reaction from him that I never really received? Words of Affirmation wasn't his primary love language so cards didn't fill his emotional love tank the way it did for me. But because it was mine, I naturally showed him love in that way without even realizing it.  

In summary, here are the questions you can ask yourself to more easily discover your primary love language:
1. What does your spouse do or fail to do that hurts you most deeply? The opposite of what hurts you most is probably your love language. 

2. What have you most often requested of your spouse? That thing you have asked for most is likely the thing that would make you feel most loved.

3. In what way do you regularly express love to your spouse? Your method of expressing love may be an indication of what would also make you feel loved.

Next week is the final week in this month's series and I will be sharing more about discovering your spouse's primary love language and then how to apply everything I've shared to make it work to benefit and bless your marriage. 

3.17.2014

roasted red peppers

Olivia just can't get enough of roasted red peppers lately and I can't get enough of how amazing they smell coming out of the oven, hot and steaming. 
They fill our kitchen with the comforting scents of olive oil and rich hearty Italian food. 
Plus, roasted red peppers are full of nutrients that are excellent for you and your babe. 


5 Health Benefits of Red Bell Peppers
1) Red peppers contain almost 300% of your daily vitamin C intake // Besides being a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C is also needed for the proper absorption of iron

2) Red bell peppers are a great source of Vitamin B6 and magnesium // Vitamin B6 is a natural diuretic and magnesium has so many incredible health benefits (read more here)

3) Red bell peppers support healthy night vision // Because they are high in Vitamin A, they help to support healthy eyesight and healthy night vision 

4) Red bell peppers are packed with antioxidants // The combined effects of Vitamin A and Vitamin C create a great antioxidant capacity, and with lycopene in the mix, red bell peppers become a top notch superfood (lycopene is what makes red bell peppers and tomatoes red); red peppers are one of the highest veggies in lycopene which has been shown to aid in the prevention of many cancers

5) Red bell peppers are low in calories but high in fiber // One red bell pepper only contains about 30-40 calories; they make a great snack for you to have on hand whenever you get hungry and they provide a satisfying crunch

Directions
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut organic red bell peppers into wide slices, removing seeds and stem
Spread on a baking sheet and coat lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and S+P
Roast for approximately 20-25 minutes or until fork tender (peppers will wilt and may char slightly)
While still warm, puree in a food processor to make baby food
>> Serve immediately or freeze for later use <<
If feeding a toddler, let cool and then cut into appropriate-sized pieces for your child's age.

Enjoy!

3.14.2014

marriage minute | on finding balance

Today's marriage minute is all about balance. Since Olivia was born (almost) 10 months ago, Dustin and I have both worked continuously at finding a healthy balance in our lives. Often,  balance as an individual can be difficult to achieve. But balance as a family, especially with a young one, can be even harder. Fortunately, through trial and error over time, we have reached a point where we are both really satisfied with the balance we have as individuals, as husband & wife, and as parents. 
So today I wanted to share a little of my insight on finding balance in a marriage and what is required to do so.

Balance Requires Respect for Your Spouse
Dustin works Monday through Friday, so naturally I am home with V each day during the week until Dustin gets home from work. We are renovating our downstairs bathroom right now and because Dustin is a Master Licensed Plumber, he is doing the majority of it himself (3 cheers!). Dustin could easily come home from work and spend 5+ hours working on the bathroom every day. When you're in the middle of a project that you enjoy working on or that you are anxious to finish, it can be difficult to call it quits. But after an hour and a half, Dustin does just that -- he stops for the day. And he stops out of respect for me. He cleans up, takes a shower and then devotes his time to Olivia and me for the evening. This gives me a little time to myself and it gives him time to be with V -- just the two of them. I appreciate his willingness to work hard at a project that we will both benefit from (a new bathroom) but I appreciate his willingness to stop and devote time to me and our daughter even more. That is finding balance. And that requires respect.

Yesterday was another perfect example of how balance requires respect. Dustin had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference yesterday afternoon. I had the opportunity to spend some time in the evening with my mom -- just the two of us. It was important to Dustin that he was able to attend his conference, so naturally it was also important to me. The same was true in reverse -- Dustin knew the importance of me having time with my mom because it is a priority of mine when I am given the opportunity. Instead of one of us doing something we want all day or all night, we each take turns doing things we enjoy -- Dustin went to his conference all afternoon and then I went out for a mother+daughter night with my Mama. I respected his decision to take the afternoon off work and attend the conference and he respected mine to spend the night out. When time is precious and you are always considering your little one, it requires us to be mindful of how we are using our time -- whether as an individual or as a couple. It also requires us respecting the other in how they choose to use their free time.

Balance Requires Time Apart
Balance in a marriage also comes in the form of being together and being apart. I know personally, it is so important that I have time to myself or time with another person other than my husband or daughter on a regular basis. Maybe it is dinner with a girlfriend of mine, a morning spent at my women's bible study with close friends from church, or maybe it's time with my mom or grandma. Sometimes its just at hot yoga by myself, in a room full of strangers. 
Regardless of how I spend that time, I feel so much closer to Dustin after I have taken time away from him and given time to myself. After Olivia was born, whenever we had a free night out or a few free hours during the day, we always spent that time together. We enjoyed ourselves, of course, but then we came to realize that we needed a more appropriate balance because as individuals we struggled to feel like ourselves. After a few months, I learned that it was okay if we had a few hours to ourselves and we didn't spend them together. Maybe Dustin went out to lunch with a friend and I went to the gym on my own. Or maybe I ran errands and he napped at home while Olivia was with Grandma. Time apart helps bring balance and so many benefits to your marriage, even if it seems counterintuitive. 

Balance Requires Discernment in Our Commitments as a Couple
Finally, balance in our marriage comes in what we commit to as a couple. It can be easy to always be entertaining, saying "yes" to every opportunity and accepting offers left and right. We are active in our church and have so many wonderful friends that we love to spend our time with, as well as an incredible family, but we also know the importance of saying no, and spending time resting and relaxing as a couple. 

Another thing that happened after Olivia was born was that I was entertaining friends and family all the time! I remember thinking to myself that I could never have people over right after having a baby and guess what? Within a week, I was hosting a dinner party! Who knows what prompted me to do that, but probably because I love people so much and I love to open my home and bless others with my cooking, baking and hospitality. But I also needed balance. At the end of the day, most days, we don't have energy to entertain friends or to go out to a special event or get-together. Some days we do, but most days we are content just cooking dinner together at home, playing with our sweetheart, tucking her in, and ending the night together catching some Zzz's. We discovered the importance of being discerning in what we commit to and what we pass on.

We achieved balance in these three areas by sitting down and spending some time talking about what was important to us. We shared our thoughts and feelings related to time management and how we wanted to spend our time, whether together or apart. We set up guidelines as to how we would approach opportunities, projects, etc. Through those conversations, we came to understand what was important to each other and what we expected of one another related to our time, because after having a baby, we had to learn a "new normal" in time management.

These questions may help you in doing the same:
In his free time, what is important to your husband?

In her free time, what is important to your wife?

What are your husband's favorite activities? What does he need to do on a regular basis for himself? 
(For Dustin, it is having time each week to go to the gym and uninterrupted time to read each night)

What are your wife's favorite activities? What does she need to do on a regular basis for herself? 
(For me, it is going to yoga and having time at my bible study)

What commitments are you going to make a priority as a couple? 

What activities as a couple (just the two of you) do enjoy doing and want to make a priority when time allows?

How are you going to decide to say yes or no to an opportunity? 

These are questions we discussed and through answering them, we came to understand a lot more about each other and a lot more about our goals in our marriage as we adjusted to caring for a new little life. And while we have some days where finding a balance is difficult, more often than not we are really content with where we're at. 

3.13.2014

Roasted Zucchini

One of Olivia's favorite foods right now is roasted zucchini. It is so light and fresh tasting, and SO easy to make! And with a baby that is constantly on the move, I am all about easy these days! Plus, it goes well with almost everything else she loves, so it's a win for us both.
Zucchini is packed with so many nutrients that will benefit both you and your babe. In the summer, we love to throw long slices on the grill, but this winter I have been roasting it for V in the oven. 

The health benefits include:
Magnesium // Plays a central role in muscle contraction and contributes to strong bones by making up a component of bone mineral
Fiber // Aiding in digestion, maintains low blood sugar
Folate // Helps support metabolism
ALSO:
High Water Content // High in Vitamin C + Lutein // High in Vitamin A + Potassium
Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Slice zucchini at an angle into approximately 1-inch thick slices
Coat lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and S+P
Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tinfoil
Roast approximately 12-15 minutes or until fork tender
While still warm, puree in a food processor to make baby food
If feeding a toddler, let cool slightly and then cut into appropriate-sized pieces for your child's age.
Enjoy!

3.12.2014

The 5 Love Languages | Week 2

Today is Week 2 of my 4-Week series this month on the 5 Love Languages. Last week I shared a little bit about what the 5 love languages are and why they matter. If you haven't read last week's post, it is available here. This week I will be discussing 3 of the 5 love languages in greater depth: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time and Receiving Gifts. This series is based on the book "The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts" by Gary Chapman (available here).
The first step to discovering your own primary love language and your spouse's love languages is to learn more about what the love languages are, so we will be looking at each of them in depth over the next two weeks. I am sharing them in the same order as the book, but ironically, the three I am sharing today are actually my top 3 as well!

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION // 
Expressing love by using words to build your spouse up whether by verbal compliments, words of appreciation, written words in cards or letters, or a short love note 

Verbal compliments are powerful communicators of love; sometimes they are expressed in simple, straightforward statements of affirmation, such as "You look beautiful in that dress," or "Thank you for always grocery shopping and cooking delicious meals." Words from your spouse that affirm their feelings toward you or about you significantly impacts the emotional climate of a marriage in a positive way when they are expressed and heard regularly. In fact, when we receive affirming words we are far more likely to be motivated to reciprocate and do something our spouse desires. 

Words of Affirmation is one of my top love languages and it always has been. Remember last week when I shared about how I used to write cards to Dustin in hopes that he would love them as much as I do? I never quite got the reaction I was hoping for. I quickly learned that was because cards and words didn't fill him up the way they filled me. Ever since I was young I have loved words -- written and spoken. After Dustin and I got engaged in 2011, he really began to work hard at filling me in this area. He now writes me a card every week, sometimes with a simple message and other times very deep and lengthy expressions. He leaves me love notes around the house for me to find after he has left for work, and he texts me regularly throughout the day thanking me for all my hard work at home with Olivia. The fulfillment my heart gets from his words of love, appreciation, encouragement and gratitude is incredible! I know as a wife & mom, it is easy to feel under appreciated (or unappreciated completely) because we do so much and don't always receive the thanks for it. When Dustin expresses how much he APPRECIATES me for WHO I AM and WHAT I DO for HIM and OLIVIA and OUR FAMILY, I am so fulfilled in my marriage. 

Words of Affirmation can also come in the form of ENCOURAGING WORDS. 
The word encourage means "to inspire courage." All of us have areas in which we feel insecure. We lack courage and that often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things we would like to do. Perhaps giving your spouse encouraging word will lead them to try something they've been wanting to try but haven't had the courage to do so, or to develop a new talent or potential; they may give your spouse the courage necessary to take that first step. Encouragement requires empathy and seeing the world from your spouse's perspective. We must first learn what is important to our spouse; only then can we give encouragement. With verbal encouragement, we are trying to communicate, "I know. I care. I am with you. How can I help?" We are trying to show that we believe in him or her and his or her abilities. Most of us have more potential than we may ever fully develop and what holds a lot of people back is often a lack of courage. 

In my own life, I sometimes have the desire to begin something new and then doubt sinks in because I'm human and I think about what could go wrong. Dustin always finds a way to encourage me, reminding me all that I am capable of and verbalizing his unending support of whatever venture I take on next. To me that shows so much love. 

Words of Affirmation can also come in the form of KIND & HUMBLE WORDS. 
1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that "love is kind." If we are to communicate love verbally, we must use kind words. This has to do with the WAY we SPEAK, HOW we speak. The manner in which we speak is exceedingly important; the same sentence said in two different tones drastically changes how it is interpreted and received. This is especially true in arguments; instead of using a harsh, loud tone to express how you are feeling, try using a quieter more gentle voice. When you are hearing painful words in a fight, do your best to respond with kind words instead of reciprocating with harsh words, remembering that "a soft answer turns away anger."

Finally, love makes requests -- not demands. If we are to develop an intimate relationship with our spouse, we need to know each other's desires and if we want to love each other, we need to know what the other person wants. The way we express our desires, however, is extremely important. If they come across as demands, we have erased the possibility of intimacy. If instead we make our needs and desires known in the form a humble request, we are giving guidance, not an ultimatum. You can make a humble and kind request and still express love. The husband who says, "Would you mind making that pasta dish I love this week?" is giving his wife guidance on how to love him and thus build intimacy. However, on the other hand if a husband says, "Can't we ever have a decent meal around here?" is making a demand, being immature and his wife is likely to be hurt and possibly fire back. Kind and humble words build your spouse up and still let your spouse know your true thoughts and desires. When you make a request of your spouse, you are affirming his or her worth and abilities. I love when my husband asks me to bake him his favorite dessert or cook his favorite meal or do something for him that I know he enjoys -- it's flattering! It reminds me of how much he loves me and appreciates my talents and strengths. 

Other ways to express words of affirmation include giving indirect words of affirmation -- saying positive things about your spouse when he or she isn't around; eventually someone may tell your spouse and you will get full credit for love. Also affirm your spouse in front of others when he or she IS present. Try writing down words of affirmation, like my husband does. Whether it is scribbled on a post-it or written on a beautiful card, it doesn't really matter. It is the words that are important if your spouse's love language is words of affirmation. Written words have the benefit of being read over and over again. In fact, we have a spot in our home where I display all the special cards Dustin and I have given to each other (though most of them are from him to me!) and as I'm putting the cards up and changing them each season, I sit and reread them all. I have a smile on my face all day long because of all the kind things I am reading that my husband wrote for me.


QUALITY TIME // 
Expressing love by giving your spouse your undivided attention

When you sit with your spouse and give them 20 minutes of your undivided attention, you are giving them 20 minutes of your life, 20 minutes you will never get back. This is a powerful communicator of love. Quality Time can be spent in countless ways, but a few ideas are: a date night (without the kids!), a walk in the park or even around the block, grabbing a quick half hour lunch during the week together, having a game night together, cooking in the kitchen and having a conversation, taking a vacation as a family, plan a picnic in the spring or summer, sit down and share about your day (without any distractions or technology), having a weekend getaway, etc. 

For people whose primary love language is Quality Time, it isn't enough to just be in the same room with someone. A key ingredient in giving your spouse quality time is giving them focused attention, especially in this era of so many distractions. Some husbands and wives think they are spending time together when, in reality, they are only living in close proximity. They are in the same house at the same time, but they are not together. A wife who is texting while her husband tries to talk to her, or a husband who is watching football while his wife is asking him a question, is not giving their spouse their focused attention and quality time. 

Remember that quality time does not mean you have to sit and spend all your time together gazing into each other's eyes. It means that you are DOING something TOGETHER and GIVING each other your FULL ATTENTION. The activity is not what matters; what is important is that emotionally you are spending focused time with each other. 

In my own life, Dustin and I have both noticed that Olivia's primary love language (yes, kids have love languages too; click here to see the book) is hands down quality time. More than anything, she loves when we just sit with her and give her our focused attention. It doesn't matter what we are playing with or what we are doing, but having our focus on her makes her so happy! Because of this, we both make a conscious effort to give our undivided attention to her when she is awake and save our "to-dos" for when she is napping or asleep. 

QUALITY CONVERSATION
Another way to spend quality time together is through having a quality conversation together. By quality conversation, Chapman means, "sympathetic dialogue where two individuals are sharing their experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context." If your spouse's primary love language is QT, such dialogue is crucial to his or her emotional sense of being loved. 

Quality conversation is quite different from the first love language -- words of affirmation -- because words of affirmation focus on what we are saying, whereas quality conversation focuses on what we are hearing -- focusing on listening sympathetically to what your spouse has to say and asking qualities with a genuine desire to understand their thoughts and feelings. Part of this also includes not giving advice when your spouse is sharing something in a conversation; don't try to fix it or create a solution. For me personally, I don't want Dustin to solve my problems or the dilemmas I face, I want him to listen to me and sympathize. I want to feel understood. I'm sure many of you can relate, because a husband's first instinct is often to "fix it" but as women, we want understanding, where our husbands put themselves in our shoes and empathize with what we are going through. 

QUALITY ACTIVITIES
Complete this sentence: "I feel most loved by my husband/wife when __________." 
One response Chapman received at a marriage seminar was, "I feel most loved by my wife when we do things together, things I like to do and things she likes to do. We talk more. It feels like we are dating again." This is a typical response of someone whose primary love language is quality time. The emphasis is on being together. 

Quality activities may include anything in which one or both of you have an interest. The emphasis is not on what you are doing but on why you are doing it. The purpose is to experience something together, to walk away from it feeling, "He cares about me. He was willing to do something with my that I enjoy and he did it with a positive attitude." 
That sentence entirely sums up why QT is one of my love languages. When Dustin does something with me that I enjoy -- like browsing in old book stores or tiny gift shops and finding hidden treasures (like that card holder pictured above!), or when he watches a show or movie with me that I have interest in and we sit together enjoying it, I feel so loved. He chooses to spend his time doing something I enjoy and I do the same for him. Sometimes it is an activity that one of us favors more than the other and sometimes it is something we both love. We find a balance and no matter what it is, we tend to enjoy it because we're together. 

The activities are limited only by your interest and willingness to try new experiences. The essential ingredients in a quality activity are (1) at least one of you wants to do it, (2) the other is willing to do it, and (3) both of you know why you are doing it -- to express love by being together. 

RECEIVING GIFTS //
Expressing love by giving your spouse a gift

The final love language I will share about is another one of mine -- receiving gifts. 
Gift giving is a fundamental expression of love that transcends cultural barriers. A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, "Look, he was thinking of me" or, "She remembered me." The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn't matter whether it costs money or is handmade. What is important is the thought behind it. 

Mothers often remember the days their children bring a flower from the yard as a gift. They feel so loved, even if it is was a flower they didn't want picked. From early years, children are included to give gifts to their parents, which may be another indication that gift giving is fundamental to love.

Gifts are visual symbols and expressions of love. Most wedding ceremonies include the giving and receiving of rings. The rings are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual bond. The same is true with gifts -- they are symbols that have an emotional value. Every time I wear something that Dustin has given me (whether clothing or a piece of jewelry), I think of him. All day long as I wear it, I am reminded of how much he loves me. Even looking at my bridal set, every day I see it on my finger, I think of how much he loves me that he would plan and save money to choose, purchase and give me a ring more beautiful than I could ever have asked for. That shows love to me. Whether something fancy or simple, the gift itself isn't as important as the intention and love behind it. A gift can even be as simple as a handwritten note or card. I love the cards Dustin gives me because he fills two love languages in one -- a card is a gift in and of itself to me and it is filled with words of affirmation. 

Gifts comes in all sizes, colors and shapes. Some are expensive and others are free. To the individual whose primary love language is receiving gifts, the cost of the gift won't matter. Gifts may be purchased, made, or found. The husband who finds an interesting bird feather while out jogging and brings it home to his wife has found himself an expression of love. He may have been reminded of a special memory they have or a favorite book or verse of hers that has to do with feathers (can you guess my favorite verse?) and in sharing that gift and the meaning behind it with her, she feels loved. 

Finally, there is an intangible gift that sometimes speaks more loudly than a gift that can be held in one's hand. Gary Chapman calls it "the gift of self" or "the gift of presence." Being there when your spouse needs you speaks loudly to the one whose primary love language is receiving gifts. The power of presence is often more powerful than any gift that can be bought. Being there when it is extremely important to your spouse -- such as at the birth of a child, at a special event or performance, or at the funeral of a loved one -- that is a gift to them. For me, this means that Dustin takes time off work every once in awhile to just spend the day at home with us as a family. We don't usually take a big annual vacation, so Dustin has the freedom to take time off whenever he wants throughout the year. His job is important to him, but when he takes a day or two off to just be home with me and Olivia, he is giving the gift of presence to us. 

Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. All five of the love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speak the loudest. When Dustin comes home from work with a bouquet of flowers for no reason at all, my heart sings and melts at the same time; I feel so loved. When he picks me up my favorite snack from the grocery store or when he surprises me with a new book for us to read together, I feel so loved. When he takes something that may be thrown away and turns it into a way to express how he feels about me, I feel so loved. Last Saturday I came home from work and he had taken rose petals (from a bouquet that didn't have much life left) and spread out a message on our bed for me. I felt so loved. That was a gift to me -- so simple but so thoughtful. It takes a little time and some creativity, but if your spouse's primary love language is gifts -- it will be well worth the effort!


Next week I'll be sharing more about the final two love languages -- physical touch and acts of service. I will also explain how to discover your own primary love language -- if you haven't discovered it yet! Happy Wednesday!

3.11.2014

homemade cobb salad

Last week I was just craving a traditional Cobb salad. I always see them in cafes and restaurants but for some reason, I never order them. I had a few hours (to myself) to get some grocery shopping done after my Tuesday morning bible study last week so I headed to get all the ingredients we would need to make our own at home.

Named after the Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant owner -- Robert Howard Cobb -- this salad became a signature dish in the 1930s in his restaurant. Stories vary as to whether the salad was invented by Cobb or by his Chef -- but legend has it that Cobb had not eaten until near midnight so he mixed together leftovers he found in his kitchen and the famous Cobb salad was born.



And if I'm being completely honest, this was one of the best salads I've had in my entire life. Really.

And while a Cobb salad is fairly basic, I wanted to share our favorite ingredients in hopes that it inspires you to make your own for a quick & easy weeknight dinner. While most traditionally include Egg, Avocado, Tomatoes, Chicken, Onions, Bacon & Bleu cheese (EAT COBB), we omit a few of those ingredients and instead favor the following:

Romaine Lettuce & Mixed Spring Greens
>> I love the mix of the hearty and crisp romaine with the light and delicate spring greens and baby spinach <<

Hard boiled eggs (sliced + peppered)
>> Such a great source of protein, I just can't get enough of hard-boiled eggs lately <<

Shredded carrots
>> Sweet and easy to eat <<

Peeled & chopped cucumber
>> So refreshing and a perfect crunch <<

Crispy applewood smoked bacon, crumbled
>> Our favorite is Trader Joe's brand <<

Fine cut sharp cheddar cheese
>> We put this on right after the warm bacon goes on the salad so it melts a little bit! <<

Homemade croutons
>> For me, croutons are a must-have for any & every salad <<

Homemade bleu cheese dressing
>> We get our dressing from a local restaurant, made fresh daily; a lot of restaurants sell their dressings by the cup or pint at a fairly inexpensive price so if you have one you love, call and ask! I'd rather spend $1 on a cup (yes that's all they charge us!) that will last us 4-5 salads than buy a $5 bottle that will go bad before I can finish it. <<

Spread the greens in a large salad bowl and top with all the ingredients, adding bacon while warm, cheese immediately after & croutons to top it off! Toss in dressing as desired; I eat mine on the side (because bleu cheese is so rich) but my husband thinks I'm crazy, so I mix his in from the get-go!
As always -- Enjoy! 

3.08.2014

sweet heavenly molasses

Today is my first "official" post of a new series I'm starting called "To My Daughter." I initially started this blog last year after Olivia was born so I would have a place to document life through motherhood. This blog has turned into so much more than just a place to jot down random things I don't want to forget, and for that I am so grateful. But I still want to share the special pieces of my heart that belong to my dear daughter, and so this series will consist of personal reflections and love notes to Olivia.

Olivia melts my heart more every day minute. 
The best part is that she doesn't even know she's doing it! 
She doesn't even understand how perfect she is, in every way imaginable. 
Dustin and I just praise God every day for making her exactly the way He did. 

There are infinite things I love about my dear girl, 
but this past week, these have stuck out in my mind:

To Olivia //

I love that you giggle endlessly when I kiss your perfect little thighs.

I love that you find so much joy out of watching me vacuum -- you crawl on the floor along with me as I move from room to room and you stare at the vacuum in amazement, and then look up at me so happily.

I love that when I tuck you in for a nap or at bedtime, you lay in your crib and talk to yourself and cuddle your stuffed animals. You don't cry or whine, you just talk up a sweet little storm.

I love that at 5am on Thursday morning, after I fed you, you really cuddled me -- so purely and so purposefully. It was the first time it felt like you intended to cuddle. I could have sat there holding you forever.


I love that sometimes you look at me and bat your eyelashes, like you know that I think you're the most beautiful thing I've ever laid eyes on.

I love how cute you look in your new sweat pants.
You look so cozy & small and when you crawl across the room in them it is so darling.

I love how your hair curls above your ear.
Every time I tuck in behind your ear, it goes right back to where it was.

I love how still you lay when I'm clipping your fingernails. You hold your hand so calmly in mine and just smile and watch me as I pamper you.

Most of all, I love that you're mine. 
You have brought more joy to me than I thought was possible in a million lifetimes. 

3.05.2014

the 5 love languages | week 1

This month I will be doing a 4-week series on The 5 Love Languages. I chose this topic because a lot of people have heard about the love languages but do not know very much about them or how much they can benefit your marriage. For Dustin and I personally, learning each other's love languages -- and discovering our own -- has been instrumental in our relationship and has been a crucial element to us showing and feeling love toward each other and feeling fulfilled in our marriage. This series is based on the book my Gary Chapman, titled "The 5 Love Languages" -- available here.

Week 1 -- Basic introduction of what the 5 love languages are and why they matter.
Week 2 -- Exploring Words of Affirmation, Quality Time & Gifts in greater depth
Week 3 -- Exploring Acts of Service & Physical Touch in greater depth & learning how to discover your primary love language
Week 4 -- Learning your spouse's primary love language and putting it to work in your marriage to benefit both of you

What are the 5 Love Languages?

There are 5 emotional love languages -- five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. One of the keys to a lifelong successful marriage, I believe, is learning to speak the love language of your spouse. Seldom do a husband and wife have the same primary love language and we tend to speak our primary love language toward our spouse. 

1. Words of Affirmation -- Expressing love by using words to build your spouse up

Mark Twain once said, "I can live for two months on a good compliment," and if we take Mark Twain literally, six compliments a year would have kept his emotional love tank at the operational level. 

Examples of Words of Affirmation would include: verbal compliments, words of appreciation, encouraging words, speaking with kindness, written words (in a card or letter), etc.

2. Quality Time -- Expressing love by giving your spouse your undivided attention 

When you sit with your husband or wife and give them 20 minutes of your undivided attention and they do the same for you, you are giving each other 20 minutes of your life. You will never have those 20 minutes back again; you are giving your lives to each other. It is a powerful emotional communicator of love.

Examples of Quality Time would include: having dinner and an uninterrupted conversation, taking a walk together, going out on a date, spending time focusing on each other, doing something with your spouse that he/she enjoys doing and doing it wholeheartedly, taking a weekend trip together, sharing a cup of coffee and having a good conversation, etc.

3. Receiving Gifts -- Expressing love by giving your spouse a gift

A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, "Look, he was thinking of me," or, "She remembered me." It is a visual symbol of love. You must be thinking of someone to give them a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn't matter whether it costs money; what is important is that they thought of you. And it is not the thought implanted only in the mind that counts, but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving is as the expression of love. 

Examples of Gifts would include: a bouquet of flowers, something you find in nature that you attach special meaning to, something you take the time to make, an item that your spouse has been wanting for awhile, a new book that you will read together, etc. 

4. Acts of Service -- Expressing love by doing things you know your spouse would like you to do or would greatly appreciate

You seek to please your spouse by serving them, to express your love for him or her by doing things for him or her. The acts of service require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. When done with a positive spirit, they are definitely expressions of love. 

Examples of Acts of Service would include: cooking a meal, setting the table, washing dishes, vacuuming, putting the baby to bed, keeping the car running smoothly, mowing the lawn, paying the bills, walking the dog, running an errand, giving a foot rub, etc.

5. Physical Touch -- Expressing love through physical touch

Physical touch is a powerful vehicle for communicating emotional love in a marriage. For some individuals, physical touch is their primary love language and without it, they feel unloved and can even feel worthless. With it, their emotional tank is filled and they feel secure in the love of their spouse.

Examples of physical touch would include: holding hands, kissing, embracing, massage, intimacy, etc. 

The Emotional Love Tank
Throughout his book, Gary Chapman continuously refers to the "emotional love tank" -- an indicator of how loved you are feeling. The need to feel loved by one's spouse is at the heart of marital desires and if your spouse is not showing you love in the way that fills your love tank (by speaking your love language), over time you will likely be feeling pretty empty. Each individual has an emotional love tank and as you start to pay attention to how you are feeling emotionally, you will likely be able to determine how full or empty your tank is. 

Dustin often asks me, "How is your love tank?" -- A little silly sounding, but an important question, because it allows me to express an area that may be lacking or an emptiness I am feeling. When I do the same for him, I am reminded of how I can show him love to fill him up, even with the smallest gesture. He tells me what he would like more of and I do the same. It is important to check in and see how "full" each other is feeling -- because with the busyness of life, marriage, parenting, work, etc. -- it is easy to lose track of how your spouse is feeling emotionally and emotional emptiness can escalate quickly if it is not addressed. Checking in with one another on a regular basis allows us to fill each other up in the ways we most need it. Think of it as filling the gas tank in your car every week. It would be better to "top it off" and keep it full than to let it run on empty and then you find yourself with a car that won't go anywhere. What a mess. The same is true in a marriage. 

Why do the love languages matter?

Once you discover the 5 basic love languages and understand your own primary love language, as well as the primary love language of your spouse, you can become more effective communicators of love in your marriage. Chapman states, "Your emotional love language and the language of your spouse may be as different as Chinese is from English. No matter how hard you try to express love in English, if your spouse understands only Chinese, you will never understand to love each other."

For example, I used to write cards to Dustin when we were dating. I would buy the sweetest cards and write long messages in them, telling him how I felt about him. I was always so excited to give them to him and while he enjoyed reading them, I never received the reaction I had hoped for deep down. Why? Because "words of affirmation" wasn't Dustin's love language. It makes sense that I was showing him love in the way I feel loved, though -- words of affirmation is one of my love languages! It took time for me to let go of showing Dustin love in that way, but eventually I stopped writing as many cards and instead focused my energy and efforts into the areas that did fill him up and make him feel the most loved. He has done the same for me (see the card he gave me yesterday?) and as this series continues, I'll be sharing more about our own love languages and how we have incorporated them into our marriage.  

Next week I will be sharing more about the love languages of Words of Affirmation, Quality Time and Receiving Gifts. 

Back to Top