Wednesday, December 28, 2011

dormant dreams

The seed catalogs have begun arriving.

Two yesterday, stuffed in the mailbox along with a couple straggling Christmas cards.

I sat down on the couch and wanted to take a long look. I was ready to pull out a black Sharpie and circle my favorites. They're my grown-up Sears wishbook, those seed catalogs. Barbie and Skipper replaced by heirloom purple pepper seeds. Who woulda thought?

I haven't cracked them open yet. I probably won't. We're going to be gone all summer, and when that decision was made, another one fell behind in rank. We won't be growing a garden in 2012.

It's sad.

Oh, we are going some wonderful places this summer. The home of my dear, dear sister. Europe. Our little mountain town that we count a second home. For a soul smitten with wanderlust, it' s a dream summer.

Not all dreams can be lived at once.

The garden dream is a little sacrifice. Just some vegetables and flowers. In the scheme of life, not a big deal.

Yet what about the bigger dreams? The ones God planted in the soft, broken-up soil of my early 20s? The dreams cried and prayed out from the gross carpet of a small dorm room?

It is still true: not all dreams can be lived at once.

Economists would call it opportunity cost. I call it as Psalm 16 does: "Lord, you have ordained me my portion and my cup."

The garden waits.

The dreams wait.

But, look, here is today, and He is the God of today. This is not lesser life than holding the sick in India. This is not lesser life than being a momma. This is not lesser life. This is the apportioned cup...the overflowing cup.

The unfulfilled desires? Are they from Him? Then they will last. God's dreams don't come with an expiration date. They don't have a shelf-life.

Today I live something as eternal as it gets. It's a different dream than I thought, and I'm living it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

handmade gifts

Merry Christmas Eve!

I was going to post this over a week ago. Then I couldn't find some photos from last Christmas, and I got mad and abandoned the post. Now I'm back with a little more temperance. I'm too late to give you any ideas for this Christmas, but perhaps you could squirrel away some inspiration for next.

The older I grow, the more appealing a handmade Christmas sounds to me. It's less expensive and generally more thoughtful. How cool to be able to give someone something that you crafted with your own hands!


Tiny Pouches

I am so excited about this one! I made tiny pouches for each of our K-Life leaders this year, using this tutorial. I would describe my sewing skills as novice-in-transition-to-middle-level. Haha. Therefore, the first pouch I made took me a while, but by the fourteenth one, I was whipping these babies out in twenty minutes.


Coffee Cup Sleeves


One of the projects I could not find my pictures of. (Image from House on Hill Road , where the tutorial is also located.) I made these for my small-group girls last year. I bought disposable coffee cups and filled them with a gift-card to our local coffee shop, hot cocoa, and a couple bags of tea.

Notebooks


Again, one of the misplaced images. (Picture and project idea from B*spoke.) This one is super easy and quick! I made these last year for our K-Life leaders. Here is the . This project is made a lot easier with access to a long-arm stapler.

Placemats and Napkins



I sewed these double-sided placemats for a dear friend. The idea came from Centsational Girl. I used a fabric pen to draw the design on the tan side.


Soap

Our gal Martha has some good recipes for soap. I made oatmeal honey last year, but all of the recipes look pretty fun. You can get glycerin at Michaels (they usually have some 40% off coupons floating around).


Bread and Butter

We gave Pull-Apart Cinnamon Bread and Cinnamon Honey Butter to our K-Life board families. I bought pint-sized canning jars and filled them with the butter.


In keeping with my frequent (ridiculous) desire to make everything appear magazine-picture-worthy, I had a vision of how I would package these. I sent Aaron to the store with vague instructions to get bread-shaped bags if available, and if not, plain ziploc bags. He returned with huge bags covered in...penguins!


The Holy Spirit gave me extra grace to release my silly expectations, and I was able to laugh about the penguins and not send him back to the store to re-do. I did, however, redeem the penguins with some pretty striped ribbon.

Fun Stuff in Jars

I think a cool jar takes food gifts to a new level. This image has been floating around Pinterest. Cookie or sweet bread mix in a milk bottle - super cute.


I found these Weck canning jars from Crate and Barrel, and they would be so fun filled with a treat, even just a stack of cookies.


And there you have it. The beginnings of a sweet handmade Christmas 2012.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

sprucing the house

Linking up to Melissa's Christmas Home Tour!

christmas-home-tours-3001.jpg





Sprucing the house...for Christmas! Get it? Spruce...a type of evergreen tree? Sprucing...putting out decorations? So funny, right? If you could please laugh now, that will make the awkward moment after a weird joke so much shorter.

Thank you.

(The pun would be even better if our Christmas tree was a spruce; alas, it is a pine.)

Very well.

The house is ready for Christmas. I love it. I love adding touches of Christmas all over the house. It takes me a couple of days or even a week. I have one box of Christmas decor and other than that I use stuff from our yard (sticks, pinecones, greenery), and I tweak and fluff and spruce (last time, promise) until I like the way everything looks. Natural, simple, and best of all, not expensive.

If you're looking for ideas or just like looking at other people's houses (I do), here's our Christmas tour.

I added some new ornaments to our collection this year. I think found the Scrabble ornament idea on a blog. I had a bag of old Scrabble tiles, so I hot glued them together to make words like light, adore, joy, hope, peace, king.


I borrowed this idea from Heather, who I think found it on Pinterest. Why I would spend time covering ornaments in fabric and twine was a great mystery to Aaron. But he told me it was pretty anyway. :)


The full body shot. Our tree skirt is a piece of burlap that I pull and tuck until it looks nice.


I took the leftover branches that we cut off the bottom of the tree and wove them into this grapevine wreath, along with some faux red berry strands.


Across our piano, I did a simple banner with twine, mini clothespins, and old letter cards from the game Probe.



On top of the piano I put cranberries and white candles in mason jars. Pottery Barn had a similar look at their store with small glass lanterns. I already had the mason jars, so I improvised.


If you try this, use tealights that are contained in a plastic or metal case. Votives by themselves will get you this:


Sort of looks like frost, eh?

Along the fireplace mantle, I swooped a garland I made out of paper circles. I saw the idea at Anthropologie. I think they must have used much thicker stacks of circles, because their stacks fanned out more than mine. I was hand-cutting my circles, though, and I didn't want to cut that many!



A grouping on one side of the mantle. The puzzle is an Ansel Adams picture.


My personal philosophy on poinsettias is a little goes a long way. But this little guy is the perfect touch of red for the entryway.


My friend Kyndel had the idea to make snowflakes out of old clock hands we found while antiquing in October. Love it!


This sign is a free printable from Jones Design Company.


Doilies have made a comeback. Our little lacy friends are once again in vogue. And I think they look like snowflakes, which means I'll probably leave them around until February.


I know this looks like a big bunch of branches. It is. But look closer. There's a Christmas card! Way to go Grandpa and Grandma on being the first Christmas card to reach us! I got the idea of hanging our cards from branches from Martha Stewart. So no hatin'.



Some other little spots around the house, sporting a touch of Christmas cheer...





Let's keep it totally real...


Whop, whop. I dropped the vase that the branches were in while I was talking to my mom on the cell phone. And there's my glue gun cord. And a left-behind branch.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

our thanksgiving: in list

We drove north last week to celebrate Thanksgiving for four-stretched-out lovely days.

1. I did the best job packing I have ever done. Thorough. (I cannot tell you how many times we have had to stop to buy various toiletries or undergarments that I forgot to pack.) Creative. Ahead of time. I decided to lay out all my outfits piece by piece. It was really fun, and I realized how many cute clothes I do own! Another perk of No-spend November.


2. We spent Thanksgiving day at Aaron's grandma's house. His step-grandpa, Dennis, always fries up something delicious to munch on before the meal. This year it was frog-legs and alligator. A little exotic spin on the traditional fare, no?


3. On Friday, we traipsed about a Christmas tree farm to cut down a tannebaum for Aaron's parents' house. What a fun tradition--and it's a lot easier to watch your strong husband saw through a trunk than to fluff fifty-jillion faux tree branches. It's official. I've passed over to the "real tree" side.


4. Saturday morning, we got some reading and online Christmas shopping done at Gusto, a fun coffee shop in Lee's Summit. Daily coffee fix, check.


5. We spent our last night at ALoft, a modern hotel in Leawood, Kansas. It was nice, but a little too modern for my taste. Too much gray can be a bit depressive.


6. A fancy dinner at the Cheesecake Factory was a fail, due to a 1.5 hour wait list. Since we had tickets to the symphony, we opted to grab cheesecake to-go. As for dinner, what better Plan B than Denny's? (Also the only restaurant in near proximity to the symphony hall.) Delicious food. We might have been a little overdressed.



7. The symphony was amazing. Kansas City just completed a new symphony hall, and it was majestic. The music, a compilation from Russian composers, led us through a gamut of emotions from elation to dread (as most classical music has the capacity to do).


8. On Sunday, we flew through a flurry of amazing shops: World Market, Anthropologie, Target, Pottery Barn, and Crate and Barrel. Result: ample Christmas decorating inspiration and all of our Christmas shopping done! (Daddy, remember our online shopping, lest ye think we bought your gift at the aforementioned. )


9. We pulled into Bolivar just in time to have chili at my parents' house. After dinner, my mom asked us to help set up and decorate her tree. It's been a tradition for the last couple years to play in the Christmas tree box with my niece and nephew. As they're gone this year, we promised them pictures of Peter and I doing the same. All was going swimmingly until Peter broke the box.


Classic in-front-of-tree pose. Either a) we're on our knees, b) my mom has a ginormous Christmas tree, or c) we're dwarfs and you never realized it.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

waking up to your life

The real issue of No-Spend November has been to lay bare the idols of money and stuff in my life, yet a few other things have been uncovered too.

I am becoming more grateful.

I am learning to read this life in the language of what I've been given, not of what I do not have.

Sunday night we gathered all our K-Life leaders in close. We set out turkey and rolls, and they brought the other mainstays: stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans. We borrowed a mishmash of tables and lined them up end to end and sent brown kraft paper rolling down the whole thing. We lit some candles, and Aaron put on a CD of cello music.


We're not afraid of cheesy, so yes, we sang the Doxology whilst holding hands, and yes, we partook in that time honored tradition of sharing what we are thankful for.


When it came my turn, I said,

"Sometimes I look around my life and think 'What can I not be thankful for?' That part in Philippians where Paul wrote about being content in plenty and in want--sometimes I feel like I have never had a season of want yet."

The thing about thankfulness is that is expands your soul. What you once thought a small, cramped, hole-in-the-wall flat is now a huge farmhouse with lofty, beamed ceilings. What you once thought such meagre furnishings, in need of total overhaul, are now catalog worthy displays, artful and lovely.


While, really, nothing in the circumstance has actually changed.

Only your heart.

I used to read blogs about home decor and fashion and lust after all the pretties. "If only," I would sigh.

If only Aaron made more money. If only I made some money. If only we could afford to buy new furniture instead of someone else's hand-me-downs. If only I could shop at Anthropologie and Ann Taylor Loft instead of garage sales and thrift shops.

This month, the "if onlies" have begun to slink away. I feel like I am seeing the abundance of my life for the first time. It's not about me, either--about what I've collected and curated finally being enough. No, it wheels me around 180 degrees and plants my face in front of God, and I am broken by His goodness and anguished that I have missed so much of it for 27 years.


May we take a long look at our lives, today and every day. May we breathe in and out thanks. May we, we who have never deserved, make much of the One who has always given.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thoughts on food

Hello, and welcome to a post that I have thought about for a long time. I've even taken pictures for this post and stockpiled them up. Today I read something that finally motivated me to write about

food.

The blog post I read was about the paleo/primal diet. I had never heard of that diet, and from what I can gather, it sticks to strictly fruit and veggies, nuts, eggs, and meat. The big no-no is refined sugar.

I don't think we'll ever eat that reduced of a diet, but we do try to eat in a healthy way. If you remember this post, I came into our marriage with more of a bent to eat well, and Aaron has been a slow convert. It took at least a year, but now his palette appreciates whole grains and fresh foods in a way that he never did before marriage. I am glad that I was able to save him from that food captor of most single American males: ramen noodles.

(Aaron inserts: "I still like ramen noodles.")

Shucks.

I want to share a few things about how we eat, but before that, a disclaimer...

I struggled with the beginnings of an eating disorder in college. During that dark time of my life, I cut out almost all food but fresh fruits and veggies. I also ran five or six miles a day, rarely taking a day off. Now, six years later, I have found much freedom from the bondage of food and exercise, but I also recognize that it is an area I am weak in. The tendency to retreat back into that bondage is still there. So when I talk or think about food, I have to remember that while it a healthy diet is important, it should never ever be an idol or stronghold in my heart.

As my dad once told me, "I'm fifty-five years old, and I've eaten margarine all my life, and God will take me when he wants to." Haha. Daddy, I don't fully agree with your philosophy, but you do provide a good point: we should do the best that we can with eating, and we shouldn't let food become the most important issue of our lives. The big issue is GOD-- living lives that glorify Him and finish faithfully at His feet whenever He calls us home.

On the other side of the pendulum, the way we eat can bring glory to God. I think He is honored when we eat food that He created, food that naturally gives us energy and contains oodles of vitamins.

Here are some things we do:

1) Eat as little processed food as possible. The closer you can stay to the food's original form, the better. As I type this, there is a box of vanilla wafers, a bag of chocolate covered pretzels, and a bag of blue-corn tortilla chips in our pantry. Nope, we don't do this perfectly. But, in general, I don't buy a lot of snacky, processed foods. We'll eat them if I do, so it's better if I don't.

2) Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. Aldi is a great place to buy cheap produce. I drug out all the produce that I bought today for a picture.


Ready for this? 3 lb. of apples, 2 lb. of grapes, 1 cucumber, 1 bag of spinach, four zucchini, four pears, three avocados, and a bag of celery for $11.49. That's not bad! Their produce prices are consistently much cheaper than our Wal-mart Supercenter.


Grilling some veggies on the George Foreman, Aaron's favorite kitchen appliance

Smoothies are a great way to get four to five servings of fruit/veggies into one meal. We always throw in a cup or two of spinach to our smoothies. You can't taste it and it adds a lot of vitamins. I make up a new combination every time. My basic ratio is 1/3 frozen fruit, 1/3 fresh fruit, 1/3 liquid (juice, milk, or water), and a little kefir or greek yogurt if I have it on hand.


A smoothie in the making

3) Eat whole grains in place of white. We eat brown rice. We eat whole wheat pastas. I make my own bread. Those are things we've done for a long time, so they don't seem abnormal anymore. I buy a lot of my whole grains at an Amish bulk foods store. It's a 20 minute drive, so I go every other month and get whole wheat flour, oat bran, wheat bran, wheat germ, and cracked wheat. The bread recipe I use is super adaptable, and each week, I add any combination of the above ingredients.


4) We don't eat margarine. I had to mention this one for you, Dad! We use butter 'round here, and it is tasty! I don't keep track of how much fat we eat. This is something I've intentionally let go of since my extreme eating days in college. My basic philosophy on fat is as long as it's natural and in moderation, go for it! We eat butter, and I cook with heavy whipping cream.


The butter's always on the ready

5) Eat ethnic. Not only is it exciting to try new recipes from different countries, they are often healthier than typical American fare. Google search coconut milk, quinoa, or couscous, and try a new recipe!


I love the spices that are in ethnic dishes!

There you go. We're definitely not health-food nuts by any stretch, but I think the things we do are good starting points, and they are pretty simple to incorporate into any diet.

A great resource for eating a more natural diet is the book, In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. I checked it out from our library last winter, and it definitely changed the way I think about food.

The last thing I will say about food: we believe in celebration. In the Jewish culture, God established times of feasting and celebration. Aaron and I think those times are still important for us today, times to commemorate what God has done and rejoice in the good things we've been given. Do we eat in celebratory fashion everyday? No. But, we'll likely never stop eating cake altogether, because the value of celebration means a lot to us!