Monday, April 14, 2014

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist




This was the perfect book for me to read in this season of my life. The chapters were short but each one contained a heartfelt story that really resonated with me. The way she talks about food makes me want to run to my kitchen to start chopping and dicing right this very instant. (Which is saying a lot because I'm a rather hesitant cook) But this book is about more that just food, it's about life. The good the bad and the ugly, how we all go through hills and valleys and just as life connects us all, so does the food.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the chapter City Love where Niequist is talking about how one of her favorite memories of her wedding day was eating the leftovers with her new husband back in their hotel room overlooking Chicago after all the wedding festivities were done. She says this...

"When we want something to be momentous, it rarely is. Life is disobedient in that way, insisting on surprising us with its magic, stubbornly unwilling to be glittery on command." (page 222)

How true is this? You can plan and practice but life will give you magical moments even in the most unexpected of times. My favorite childhood memories are from everyday life. Dancing in the kitchen with my sisters, making cities out of boxes and paper for our stuffed animals, my dad justifying the cookies the came home after his grocery trip by proclaiming they jumped into his cart.

Yes, special occasions like Christmas and Birthdays contain wonderful memories too, but there is just as much magic throughout everyday life.

Even big things like my wedding day contain unexpected moments that bring a smile to my face. I planned, pondered and made big, expensive decisions because I had dreamed about this day my whole life. I spent a lot of money on dress that I wore once but, do you want to know one of my favorite pieces of my carefully designed outfit was? At the last minute someone asked if I wanted flowers in my hair. Yes, I thought, of course I wanted flowers in my hair. So they rounded up some white orchids and the hair stylist pinned them in my hair. And whenever I see the pictures I smile because I got married with flowers in my hair. To me that is such a beautiful and romantic thing. It was last minute and I loved it.

But back to the book. The copy I read was from the library but I definitely need to own this book. The recipes sound delicious I am definitely going to make the Basic Vinaigrette and I want to try the Maple Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, the Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee and the Blueberry Crisp. Even though I more of a "good reheater" than a cook, I still think I can tackle these. Reading this book has given me more confidence in the kitchen. She admits that not every recipe she tries turns out the way she hopes and that's okay. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don't, with food and in life.




Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pillow Fight!

I am a big fan of use-what-you-have decorating. Although, I am not always the best at practicing what I preach. I give into the the it will look better when we have more money mentality sometimes, but really, that is just an excuse.

So today I challenged myself to use what I have and shake things up by moving some pillows around (which was so strenuous because they are so... you know... heavy...) anyway this is the results.

The Front Room:
First up is the pillows that came with the couch. I like the colors, the round pillow is slightly odd but I think it works.

Next up is the pillows from the family room. This is probably my least favorite in here. Something about the red, blue and gray seemed too patriotic for me. Also, since the pillows were all the same size it felt very flat if that makes any sense.
These teal-blue pillows are from our new bedding set. This option and the original pillows are my favorites on this couch. Something about that shade of blue and the gray menswear type fabric of the couch look so good together in my opinion.

The Family Room:

These are the pillows that normally live on this couch in our family room. My mom made the pillow covers to go over the stock pillows. She made these when we still lived in our first apartment so this has been this couches "look" for quite some time.

I thought these pillows would totally clash with the yellow on beige thing they have going on but I actually really like them in this room. The photo hanging above the couch (which I cut out in every photo but the last one) is from our wedding day when we stopped by this little dirt road to take pictures. The surrounding grass has a lot of yellow in it which I never noticed until I moved the pillows in here. I also love how the big pillows balance out this big couch.
I grabbed this gray pillow from a nearby chair and although I love the way this looks, I think five pillows on a couch might be too fussy for they way we live. Most of the time the pillows get moved around or end up on the floor for back support when playing video games.
Here it is with the teal-blue pillows from the bedroom. I kept the gray pillow because I thought it looked nice but again five pillows is probably too much for our family. I like the teal with beige though, it definitely freshens things up a bit.
So what did I end up with?

The front room winner is:
The teal blue is my favorite in this room. I'm not too worried about missing these upstairs because we always moved them when we went to sleep and they very rarely made it back to where they belonged.

The family room winner is:
I was completely surprised how much I like these pillows in here so I think I will leave it like this for a little while and when I change my mind again it will take, oh about two seconds to switch everything around.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What I Read Wednesday: Notes from a Blue Bike

I just finished Tsh Oxenreider's new book called Notes from a Blue Bike which was released earlier this year. I am a fan of Oxenreider's blog The Art of Simple and her podcast by the same name (formally called Simple Mom.)

Notes from a Blue Bike is a memoir style book where Oxenreider shares stories about her families travels and experience as ex-pats and how all of this has lead them to a life where they intentionally choose to live simple. I really enjoyed the parts about her life in Turkey. She described the culture such as the open air markets so well I felt like I was experiencing it for myself.

My favorite quote from the book is:

"Most of life's decisions don't come with black-and-white answers, and that's a beautiful, marvelous thing. We're each given freedom to choose our decisions, and that responsibility is the very definition of living with intention, after all: making daily choices so that your life lines up with your passions and values. It should all make sense in your head." (page 214)

I this is such a great quote to keep in mind. It seems like everyone has an opinion about everyone else's life these days (oh they're getting married really young, or why aren't they married yet, etc.) When it is really up to the individual to live their life in the way that best suits them. In the book the Oxenreider family chooses  to home-schools their children for a season or two so that they can pursue their passion of traveling. While other people may not understand their decision, it's okay because it make sense to them and their family.

Overall I really like the stories she shared and I liked that the chapters were crazy short. This make it feel like I was flying through this book and allowed me to read a chapter here and there, on my lunch break or waiting for water for boil for dinner, etc.

I look forward to her next book.

Monday, March 31, 2014

My Sister is Awesome

I have two sisters and they are both very awesome individals but I want to take a moment to brag about my sister Alex for a minute here. See, Alex can sew, like really good (the girl made her wedding dress and it was beautiful) and she recently lauched an etsy shop called Alex and Ally where she is selling adorable baby items she makes herself.

Gender Neutral Bib Set in Indian Summer

I am so proud of her for making these beautiful, quality products in the most adorable fabrics. And she's doing all of this while she's pregnant with her own little bundle of joy. So along with preparing their hearts and home for their future baby she has been hard at work making these beautiful baby items. She has a lot of gender neutral things, which can be hard to find these days.

Along with the bibs she makes pacifier clips and burp cloths.

Gender Neutral Burp Cloth in Black and White


 Pacifier Clip in Purple Triangle
If you know any little babies out there who need some adorable accessories please check out my sisters shop. I can't wait to see this become a huge success for her. You can find her shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/alexandally




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What I Read Wednesday: Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

A few weeks ago I finished Happier at Home  by Gretchen Rubin. This is her second book following her bestseller The Happiness Project. In Happier at Home Rubin makes a handful or resolutions each month focusing on a particular home related topic. She cover many topics including belongings, neighborhood and community etc. I listened to this book on audio and I really enjoyed the way ti was read.

There are a couple of things that really struck a cord with me.

One of Rubin's resolutions was to Celebrate Holiday Breakfasts, even on smaller holidays such as Valentines Day or St. Patrick's Day. She did this as a way of making even minor holidays special. This idea is something I want to start incorporating into my own life. We might not celebrate breakfast specifically since that doesn't really work well with our schedule but I want to make each holiday special. I already dropped the ball on St. Patrick's day but if at first your don't succeed, try try again. April Fool's Day is coming up (I'll have to think fast) followed by Easter. I have a collection of ceramic bunnies that my grandmother gave me in my Easter basket every year. I'd like to get them out and have them on display around the house. I'd like to do something special for my husband on Easter Sunday instead of just handing up a bag of jelly beans and calling it a holiday. I'm not sure exactly what yet, but I'd like to make all holidays, major and minor, special in some way.

What I will not be doing is celebrating Easter with candy.

In the month of December Rubin decides it would be less stressful to just give up sweets all together instead of worrying about all of the tempting holiday treats. Some people questioned her decision as too extreme but she responded

"By giving myself limits, I give myself freedom." (page 124)

I have done this before. The first time was near Easter a few years ago. The abundance of Easter candy had me over indulging and it was simpler for me to just say no to everything instead of using up my willpower trying to only head one handful of jellybeans instead of the whole bag. By giving myself the limitation of no sweets, I was able to freely enjoy everything else about the season knowing I wouldn't have any sugar related regrets later.

Another resolution Rubin made that stuck with me was Suffer for Fifteen Minutes. What she means by this is spending fifteen minutes a day on a task you've always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten around to yet. In the book she focuses on organizing her family's photos and home movies. In my life I'd like to use this idea as a challenge to get some things done around my house. I have a spare room that sort of a catch-all for the stuff I don't know what to do with. The thought of cleaning out the room seems like an overwhelming project but when I spent just fifteen minutes in there last week I was surprised by the amount of cleaning I got done. I hope to keep this up and then move onto other tasks. Maybe spend fifteen minutes a day leaning or polishing a skill, like photography or calligraphy. Over time small steps make a big difference.

Those are just a few of the things from Happier at Home that have really inspired me. I have not read The Happiness Project yet but it is definitely on my list. You can learn more about Gretchen Rubin and her works at her website http://www.gretchenrubin.com/

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Travel Bug

This week Frozen and Saving Mr. Banks came out on DVD. I didn't get a chance to see them in theaters but I was able to get in line for them at the library. Normally, I am person number five hundred in line (or least it feels that way) but this time I was the second in line for both of them! I'm going to buy these movies anyway because I love them (I still need to buy Tangled also) but none of that is the point. The point is that I watched Disney movies this week and that combined with scrolling through my photos of our Disney trip last fall means... I want to go back.

Cinderella's Fountain
Pirates of the Caribbean is one of my favorites. It's such a classic. We rode it twice while we were there but I want to go back and ride is a hundred more times.
Epcot. We only spent a half day here because we wanted to check out Downtown Disney but I'd like to ride Soarin' and Test Track again along with spending a bit more time walking around the World Showcase.
World of Disney is a huge Disney store, I think it might be the largest in the entire world. Sitch spits out water on passers by. Downtown Disney is such a cool place.
This is after I rode the Rockin' Roller-coaster. I am an Aerosmith fan so I was singing the whole time on the ride. Then I immediately sent this picture to my dad :)
 The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom. I loved all the shows we saw here, The Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo Live. I wish I would have rode Expedition Everest, oh well, I definitely will next time :)
The parade at Animal Kingdom had a bunch of these primitive floats. I love the detail and the colors. Whoever designed them is a genius, they could be operated by one person while walking in a parade. I mean come on, that's brilliant.
 Mr. Walt Disney himself. Tom Hank's did a fantastic job of portraying him in Saving Mr. Banks.
Ahh, a Dole Whip. Kevin has mentioned wanting one of these since we've been home. I only had a few bites of it while we were there but those few bites were delightful. I've been on Pinterest checking out copycat recipes that I'll have to experiment with this summer.

Anyone else have the travel bug? I've even started looking up prices for airfare and hotel so I can start saving for our next trip!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What I Read Wednesday: Balancing it All


I recently finished Balancing it All  by Candace Cameron Bure (she played D.J. on Full House.) Both Bure and her brother Kirk Cameron are outspoken Christians in the acting business and since I'm a Christian myself, I was curious of what her book was all about. This is actually her second book, but I have not read her first one, Reshaping it All.

I was excepting this to be more of a "how-to" book but it was actually more of a memoir. She shares personal stories as she travels from childhood into motherhood and one of the most important stories woven throughout the book is her Christian journey. She was very honest with her struggles and I definitely feel like I "know" her better.

(FYI it's about to get a little personal)

In the last chapter of the book, called The Power of Prayer she shares that she has learned to make her prayers more specific than vague so that when the answer comes, even if it's a 'no,' she knows it's from God and not just a coincidence. This made me reflect on how I pray and honestly, most of the time my prayers were quite vague. I always thought praying with lots of detail meant I didn't leave room for God's will to work in my life, that I would being too restrictive. Which is silly because God's will is going to happen no matter what my prayers are. Actually being more specific might allow me to see God's will even clearer because I can more easily recognize when His answer is yes, no or not right now.

I'm definitely inspired to do some more reading on prayer. I hadn't really thought about it much before so I'm glad Balancing it All opened my eyes to a new topic to explore.