4 Ingredient Crockpot Apple Butter // Served 4 Different Ways!


Autumn is my favorite season for hosting and having good people over for great conversation…and food. Last night, I had some friends over for a game night, and my kitchen suddenly entered a fall frenzy. I wanted to cook something up that would be simple, easy on the budget, but incredibly festive.

This tasty recipe only requires about 10 minutes of prep, and then completely cooks itself! Not only is it delicious, but will fill your entire home with the aromas of fall. Don’t be fooled by the minimal ingredients and effort involved: this crockpot delight is surprisingly versatile and packed with flavor. I served my apple butter with pumpkin cranberry crisps and pumpkin muffins, fresh out of the oven. I also highly recommend serving them with a game of Apples to Apples!

_MG_7524What you need:
2 pounds of apples, peeled and sliced
A very generous amount of ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground cloves
A pinch of stevia
1 cup of water

What to do:
Place one cup of water in the crockpot and turn it on high. Peel and slice your apples and throw them into the crockpot as well. Add your cinnamon, clove, and stevia. Let it simmer on high for about 3 hours, stirring every once in a while, and then turn your crockpot on low for another 2-3 hours. Your apples will become soft and you will be able to use a whisk to beat and mash them easily.

The apples add enough sweetness that you really don’t need more than just a tiny touch of stevia. Here are some other ideas and ways you can serve your fall concoction:

Sweet and savory Octoberfest sausages…
I have been absolutely loving Tofurkey vegan Italian sausages. Have a little Octoberfest by serving up some sausages topped with your apple butter, along with a side of sweet potato mash and a pumpkin brew!

Simply sweet apple sauce…
For a decadent, caramel-like apple sauce dessert, simply add a touch of brown sugar and an extra two tablespoons of water to your apple butter.

Hot apple cider…
Add another two cups of water, half a cup of apple cider vinegar, a touch more stevia, and let it simmer in the crockpot where your guests can help themselves to a hot fall drink! I highly recommend topping this treat with whipped cream.

Enjoy your apple month!


Writers Giveaway



“Writers don’t make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don’t work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck’s book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man’s stupid words. And for this, as I said, we are paid a dollar. We are worth so much more.” -Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

All day yesterday, I kept thinking about how I don’t know where I’d be without writing. This simple outlet has given me the creative ability to process and digest my life…my own unique story…and turn it into a redemptive work of art-in-progress. I am incredibly excited about this post today, because I have decided to do a special giveaway to inspire all of the writers out there and encourage you to share your story!

I am giving away:
-3 beautiful journals from Rifle Paper Co.
-A copy of my e-book, “Coffee and Keyboards”, which is packed with information on blogging, how to get paid as a writer, self-publishing, creating an e-book, social media, marketing, and more!

Why “Coffee and Keyboards”, you ask? Because it’s all you need to get started as a writer! Technically, you could even begin with coffee and a journal, which is why I am providing you with both.

Each morning, my soul fills with joy and anticipation to begin the day as I smell the delicious aroma of coffee drip into my favorite mug (I alternate between a beautiful floral mug from Anthropologie, and a classic diner mug from Waffle House). One of the best gifts I have ever received is my Keurig coffee machine, which allows me to fuel my impatient caffeine addiction and wake up for my favorite part of the day: writing.

This book is just a very practical project I decide to work on, because I have learned a lot through trial and error as a young, professional writer. Seven years ago, I started a blog that absolutely no one read (except maybe my mother). Even so, I remained faithful and passionate, and continued blogging almost every single day.

Today, I have thousands of followers, three self-published books that are selling consistently, speaking opportunities, and an online magazine, http://www.IdentityGirlsOnline.com, that I run, overseeing 20 talented writers, which gets thousands of views per day. It’s easy to get discouraged and lose sight of your vision and purpose as a writer. My advice? JUST KEEP WRITING. My reason for writing this book was to inform, equip, and inspire you on your own unique journey. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy getting resourced!

Click on the link below to enter into the writers giveaway, with 3 journals from Rifle Paper Co. and a copy of my e-book, Coffee and Keyboards.

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Vegan Yerba Mate Green Tea Latte

Confession: I love green tea lattes, but used to have a really bad way of telling myself they were “healthy” (it’s green, right?!) while ignoring the 30+ grams of sugar per serving. Unfortunately, sugar hasn’t been my friend for a while. Sugary drinks leave me feeling jittery, burnt out, and sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to let my taste buds down, so I have found some delicious alternatives to my favorite sugar-filled drinks that are actually good for you and don’t lack at all in flavor.

I stumbled upon a fantastic recipe a couple years ago from my good friends at Grace and Salt, who are always coming up with new ways to cook, create, and cultivate beauty. This particular tea (organic yerba mate from Trader Joes) has been a favorite of mine for a while because of it’s incredible taste and health benefits. I have never had the strongest immune system and have a whole pile of random health issues. Organic yerba mate tea has 90% more antioxidants than regular green tea, and has been proven to help with mental clarity, focus, digestion, and is a natural stress reliever. Give your morning a delicious and healthy start.

All you need is:
A splash of unsweetened vanilla soy or almond milk (I have recently become addicted to Silk Soymilk, as it really gets a nice creamy consistency)
Touch of Stevia or honey
One bag of organic yerba mate tea

Place one tea bag in your favorite mug. Pour hot water and let it steep for about 5 minutes. Remove tea bag. Add sweetener and milk of choice, stir, and enjoy!

Be Boundless //

image (33)

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul; you have a body.”

Growing up in Florida, the majority of my childhood memories include heat and humidity. Most days after school, I would finish my homework as quickly as possible (making my big brother secretly help me) so that I could go jump in the pool. While this happened quite often, there is one summer day that I will never forget…one of the first times I experienced something I couldn’t understand or explain.

My Papa had been living with us for a while as he battled his melanoma. To get some fresh air and exercise, he would take afternoon swims in the pool with me…his paper thin, porcelain pale, already-cancer covered skin lathered in SPF 100. Papa and I were warming up to it, dipping just our toes into the clear, cool water. They say that scent is the strongest of the senses…and I will truly never forget the combination of his sunscreen and aftershave combining with the also very potent smell of chlorine. I was eight years old and the tiniest in my class, as usual. All in an instant, I remember him taking one single step…and suddenly everything froze.

Time stood still as I watched both of his feet come out from under his large, yet frail, adult body…his entire physical being tilting in slow motion, me knowing that his head would soon hit the hard concrete. All I remember is reaching around him with my little arms…grabbing onto my Papa with all of my might. I began to pull him toward me…and judging by his smooth arrival with feet placed back on steady ground, and the look of shock and disbelief on my mother’s face as she watched this quick moment happen from behind the sliding glass door, it occurred to me that something miraculous had taken place.

Roaring laughter erupted from my Papa’s gut, as he let out a sincere and confused, “How did you do that, little lady?”

To this day, I don’t have the answer to that question. How did eight year old little lady lift up a grown man? We hear stories about mothers lifting cars off of babies. Just yesterday, I was shown a video of a young man who was kicking a fence, playing with it, and suddenly looked up and turned in the other direction. That same moment, a car came crashing through the fence. Do we consider it all coincidence? Credit it purely to adrenaline? Or is it possible that there is more…that this thing called our intuition that we so often ignore is deeper than we ever imagined?

Yesterday, one of my best friends, Zhailon Levingston, preached a powerful sermon at our church. It left me pondering the significance of my spirituality…my soul…this huge part of me, no, the ME that is neglected while the physical, emotional, and intellectual take precedence. He said,

“The spirit is everywhere, always moving and flowing and waiting to collide with our awareness of it.”

This is what happened when I lifted my Papa. It’s not the my spirit suddenly stepped in. It has always been there. But it collided with the physical world…it disrupted any logic I could seek. I was aware of more. Zhailon went on to say,

“Trying to meet a force that is limitless with something that can only measure limits (the mind) is an illogical practice. The body will fail. The mind can only take us so far. The spirit is the only force contained and boundless, held within and shared with the universe. Connecting one to the whole. It is the God in us that moves with the god around us into God in the other.”

There is more to us, to this planet, to this universe than the tangible, understandable facts. Science, and life, is ever changing. My eyes witnessed a blood moon just last night. I wake this morning to various articles telling me there is water on Mars. If our intellectual world can evolve, so can our understanding of our spirituality. This week, I challenge you to connect to your true self…your spirit…to open your eyes to miracles…to be okay with not having all the answers, and knowing that perhaps it’s really because the truth is already in the depths of your soul. There is more. We are more. Be boundless.

Macarons of Los Angeles

Those who know me are aware of my macaron addiction. It all began with my first chocolate bite from Laduree, which a friend brought me from her trip to Paris. Yes, starting out with macarons from Paris set the bar pretty high for my taste buds. Since that first perfect cookie, I’ve also had macarons from Seattle, NYC, San Francisco, and of course, LA.

I’ve been talking about doing this post FOREVER, and after a strenuous year of research, it is finally time. Today, I am sharing my top 3 favorite places to get the best macarons in Los Angeles (so far!).


1. Bottega Louie
Part of the macaron experience is in the atmosphere, and if you can’t eat yours in Paris, I believe that Louie is the next best place. This gorgeous restaurant is pure magic. The macaron(s) of your choice will be topped with edible glitter and placed inside a lovely box you won’t want to throw away.
Favorite Flavors: Earl Grey and Chocolate Mint

2. Lette
Beverly Hills & Glendale Galleria
What I love most about Lette is that their macarons are always fresh and packed with tastes that truly leave a lasting impression. They have really fun seasonal flavors, such as: apple cinnamon, green tea, pumpkin, and candy cane.
Favorite Flavors: Earl Grey and Coconut

3. Napoleon’s
Glendale Americana
Napoleon’s is one of my favorite places to grab a macaron for an evening stroll. Located in a quaint kiosk at the Americana, you can people watch, shop, and take in the city lights while enjoying a delicious treat.
Favorite Flavors: Blueberry Lavender and Rose

My Los Angeles macaron tasting tour isn’t over yet, so stay tuned for more research to come. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

My Painted Desert: O J A I


We want it all, don’t we? The excitement and opportunity of city life, along with the quaint, peaceful serenity of being far from traffic, overpopulation, and constant work. Living in balance isn’t always an easy thing for me to navigate, but I have found that it is crucial to my overall health. There truly is a time and season for everything. Sometimes the hustle is necessary, but there is also a time to turn it all off and get out. Every once in a while, I need to swap my city lights and street noise for sunsets and crickets. While I must admit I love living within walking distance to grocery stores, shops, movie theaters, and 4 Starbucks’, my busy mind sometimes needs to feel small in this great big world.

I recently spent a couple of weeks in upper Ojai, where I found balance, breath, and renewal that my soul had been depleted of…where the definition of “fast food” meant going for a walk and picking tomatoes and peppers, rather than taking my Aveo through a drive-thru window. While in the midst of nature, it felt only right that Brian and I began reading, “Through Painted Deserts” by Donald Miller. For anyone who is currently feeling overwhelmed with the day-to-day routines in life, my hope is that my Ojai photographs and these quotes from DM will be a breath of fresh mountain air for you. Seek rest. Seek adventure. Seek the life you need and desire.

“And if these mountains had eyes, they would wake to find two strangers in their fences, standing in admiration as a breathing red pours its tinge upon earth’s shore. These mountains, which have seen untold sunrises, long to thunder praise but stand reverent, silent so that man’s weak praise should be given God’s attention.” 
_MG_6688“I could not have known then that everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing.”

_MG_7005“It’s funny how you can’t ask difficult questions in a familiar place, how you have to stand back a few feet and see things in a new way before you realize nothing that is happening to you is normal.”

_MG_6648“I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.”


“Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.”


“So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right.”


“We get one story, you and I, and one story alone….It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.”

_MG_6509Nothing is normal. It is all rather odd, isn’t it, our eyes in our heads, our hands with five fingers, the capacity to understand beauty, to feel love, to feel pain.”

_MG_7030“When you build a city near no mountains and no ocean, you get materialism and traditional religion. People have too much time and lack inspiration.”

_MG_7048“Life is a dance toward God, I began to think. And the dance is not so graceful as we might want. While we glide and swing out practiced sway, God crowds our feet, bumps our toes, and scuffs our shoes. So we learn to dance with the One who made us. And it is a difficult dance to learn, because its steps are foreign.”


“It occurred to me, as it sometimes does, that this day is over and will never be lived again, that we are only the sum of days, and when those are spent, we will not come back to this place, to this time, to these people and these colors, and I wonder whether to be sad about this or to be happy, to trust that these moments were meant for some kind of enjoyment, as a kind of blessing. And if feels, tonight, as if there is much to think about, there is much we have been given and much we have left behind. The smell of freedom is as brisk as the air through the windows. And there is a feeling that time itself has been curtained by darkness.”  


“And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?”_MG_6624

I Am Here //

I write/rant/journal every day, but tonight, I intentionally wrote a little letter to myself. This is not perfect, eloquent, over-analyzed, or orderly. It is just my truth…a message to reflect and remind myself that amidst the pain, personal progress is always here. Thank you off allowing my rant…to grow…to share my journey and thoughts…to be here.

2015 has been beyond a whirlwind. Loss…death…mourning. The loss of myself, the gaining of myself. Redemption became reality. Grace became tangible. I became human. My soul feels fully integrated for the first time in my entire existence. It costs personal fear to be authentic but the reward is integrity. It is scary. “Scary close” as Donald Miller would say. However, it feel good to be someone I know.

The emotions can hit hard every once in a while, but just this past week, I realized they didn’t control me anymore. Sometimes I’m still sad…really sad…but I’m no longer afraid. The monsters turned out to be just nightmares…that’s the only place I find them now…and even those are becoming less frequent.

Even though I am naturally introverted, I have always loved and needed time with my people. But during the mourning process, hiding felt necessary. It was healing at times. I am now coming back out of my shell. Or was it a cocoon? Was I healing in the hiding? Perhaps the safety of it all was nurturing who I needed to become. Being alone meant I didn’t have to perform. As my friend Nancy told me the other day, introverts who love people (like us) can do great with others. But it’s like this iPhone I’m currently typing on. It serves it’s purpose…it can go out everywhere with me and do more than I can wrap my mind around. But it is only capable of these functions if I leave it alone and let it charge first. It needs to be isolated…untouched…uninfluenced for a while. I am getting my charge back.

In moments of deep despair and loneliness, God whispered to me through the evening breeze. He spoke to me about my place, my significance, through a mountain in Ojai. He breathed life over me with each sunrise. I was never alone. I was never unseen. I was never unimportant.

I am learning to see the progress in the little moments. I can look people in the eye again. I can speak without holding back tears. I believe that being myself is enough. What a victory. It hasn’t all been perfect…I haven’t been flawless. But we cannot be judged by a season. We are all too complex and beautiful for that. I am learning to trust that some people can and will love who I am in process. So I continue to grow. Outside of the confines of fear, and outside of the comfort of my cocoon, I will fly. I am here. I am present.

Get Up And Move.

This past year, in the toughest season of life I’ve endured yet, these words have sort of been a proverb for me that has kept me going. I am sharing this encouragement from Lindsey Pruitt for anyone else who needs it. She has been such an inspiration in my personal and creative journey. This is for the broken…the defeated…the ones at war…the humans. We will get through this. We will get out of the chair and move. And we will thrive. //

“You must be willing to change. You must be willing to break the deal you made with the devils within. You must be willing to leave the past and not be tempted to rebound when times are tough. You must be willing to let go of EVERYTHING and anyone that takes you back to your mistakes. You must be willing to have hope. You must be willing to have hope that you can change and that you will be better. You must BELIEVE you are worthy of change and you are worthy of improvement and you are worthy of the best. You must be willing to set aside selfish/negative notions about life, about people, about hardship, about things, about yourself. You must be willing to stop feeling sorry for yourself while looking at the world move around you. Get up and make something of yourself.”

Live {Laugh} Authentic

“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22

Today, I just have to share a bit about why I love what I do. When I lift a camera up to my eyes and begin to focus in on a person, my goal is to capture authenticity. Genuine moments…laughter that tells us a story…smile that have depth. These are the humans I love doing life and creating art with. Making people laugh is one of my favorite things to do. Maybe I should give it all up and become a comedian. No…no…I’m really not funny. But I’m sharing some of my favorite joy-filled-laughs on the blog today. Some are blurry, out of focus, and candid…but all are real.

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”
-Audrey Hepburn










Ghost Town

“Died last night in my dreams
Walking the streets
Of some old ghost town
I tried to believe
In James Dean
But Hollywood sold out

Saw all of the saints
Lock up the gates
I could not enter
Walked into the flames
Called out your name
But there was no answer

And now I know my heart is a ghost town”

Photography always fascinated me due to it’s unique ability to freeze a moment. It allows time to keep, hold, embrace, internalize, reflect. The emotions evoked and stories told through a simple picture are powerful.

Restless in bed last night with a chihuahua glued to me and a glass of soy milk in hand, I flipped through old photos, and the memories came flooding in. While ugly crying and having numerous thoughts, one of the pictures brought a very strange and potent bitter-sweet emotion to the surface, leaving me with a single question…why on earth did I miss going to weekly counseling appointments with this man I am no longer with?

The photo above was one I took during the same week of a big meeting we had with our marriage therapist, and my heart began to ache all over again. This image made me miss those counseling appointments, oddly enough, because regardless of the fights, debates, or misunderstandings, it was once a week I knew I’d see my best friend.

Los Angeles can feel haunted, after the loss of a best friend, family member, and 6 year confidant in this same city. These places and photos can be overwhelming at times. But don’t get me wrong…I love a good ghost story.

None of the memories are wasted. Even like the counseling appointments that were draining and difficult, I don’t view it as a fail. Much was learned. So I will hold these photos and moments close…to allow myself to grow and process it into something beautiful. I think I’m just beginning to understand this whole “redemption” thing.

The images in today’s post are details in some of my favorite Hollywood haunts. Streets that whisper my name, diners that seem to be screaming past sweet nothings exchanged, bookstores where gazes felt infinite. Thank you for entering my spooky story ;) Thank you for allowing me to be honest, open, and vulnerable with my words and art, even when it isn’t literally or figuratively “picture perfect.”




“I don’t think I’m gonna go to LA anymore
I’d get lost on the boulevard at night
Without your voice to tell me ‘I love you take a right’
The ten and the two is the loneliest sight

I’m gonna steer clear
I’d burn up in your atmosphere
I’m gonna steer clear
Cause I’d die if I saw you
I’d die if I didn’t see you there”