Thursday, January 31, 2013

Walking on Water: Part 3

One of the threads that runs throughout Walking on Water is Madeleine L'Engle's steadfast belief in maintaining one's childlike creativity. Which is not to be confused with childish creativity--but rather, the kind of earnest creativity that we all have as children and is so often stripped away by from us by the time we reach adulthood, even by the time we become teenagers. The kind of creativity that children have--the imagination, the desire to believe in magic and miracles and the unseen, the belief in the impossible--is very much like Christian faith.

I love the way she compares the undiluted imagination of a child to faith, and furthermore, how she views all creation as co-creation, a chance for us to "help God write the story." L'Engle has a way of thinking about art and faith as so necessarily linked, and now that I've had a chance to do my own reflection, there's really no other way to think about it.

Because L'Engle's own words are so beautifully strung together, I thought I would pull out a few excerpts from different parts of the book on childlike creation and the links between creating and Christianity.

With God, even a rich man can enter the narrow gate to heaven. Earthbound as we are, even we can walk on water.

To be able to be childlike involves memory; we must never forget any part of ourselves...If we lose any part of ourselves, we are thereby diminished. If I cannot be thirteen and sixty-one simultaneously, part of me has been taken away.

Creativity opens us to revelation, and when our high creativity is lowered to two percent, so is our capacity to see angels, to walk on water, to talk of unicorns. In the act of creativity, the artist lets go the self control which he normally clings to, and is open to riding the wind

Something almost always happens to startle us during the act of creating, but not unless we let go our adult intellectual control and become as open as little children. This does not mean to set aside or discard the intellect, but to understand that it is not to become a dictator, for when it does we are closed off from revelation.

Jesus told us to call the Lord and Creator of us all Abba. Not only Father, or Sir, or Lord, but Abba--Daddy--the small child's name for Father. Not Dad, the way Daddy becomes Dad when the children reach adolescence, but Daddy, the name of trust.

God is constantly creating, in us, through us, with us, and to co-create with God is our human calling. It is the calling for all of us, his creatures, but it is perhaps more conscious with the artist--or should I say the Christian artist?

He gave His disciples no job descriptions; He did not disqualify Mary Magdalene because she had been afflicted with seven demons; He did not spend a lot of time looking for the most qualified people, the most adult. Instead, He chose people who were still childlike enough to leave the known comforts of the daily world, the security of their jobs, their reasonable way of life, to follow Him.

If we allow our "high creativity" to remain alive, we will never be bored. We can pray, standing in line at the super market. Or we can be lost in awe at all the people around us, their lives full of glory and tragedy, and suddenly we will have the beginnings of a painting, a story, a song.

Isn't her writing, and more importantly, her thinking, marvelous? 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

DIY Inspiration

I need your help! I've mentioned a few times that we have these beautiful notes our wedding guests wrote to us to read on our one-year anniversary. I really want to preserve and show them off in an artistic way (rather than just putting them away in a box somewhere) and I've been racking my brain for inspiration. Normally ideas for projects like this come fairly easily, but I'm having a hard time! I thought I'd share some possibilities and see what you, my dear readers, think.

Here was my original idea--to frame them in a grid in a large gold frame (it would have to be quite large to hold all of the notes--the inside would need to measure 16' by 20'). The backing would be some kind of cream matboard. Part of the problem is finding the right frame that is large enough yet doesn't cost a fortune.

Another more recent idea I had was to decoupage the notes, again in a grid to keep it neat and tidy, on top of a cream-colored dresser or a table-top. I have mixed feelings about this. In the photo below, I love how the map looks decoupaged to this sideboard. But I wonder if notes would look tacky? If I used a dresser, I thought it would be fun to paint the dresser ivory and the drawers gold (two of our wedding colors), but again, I can't decide if the decoupage element would look classy or forced. What are your thoughts?

Image Source / The Painted Hive

The last idea would be to break up the cards into three gold frames of different sizes and create a little gallery. This would surely be more affordable, because the frames are small and I could even possibly use thrift-shop frames and paint them gold. But the cards would be broken up, and I don't know if the effect would be as dramatic as the single large frame.

I need your help! Which idea do you like, if any? Or, do you have a different idea? Don't be shy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Book With History

Have you ever bought a used book and noticed an inscription inside? I just bought a used book of Brahms pieces on Amazon. I already own a copy of this music but it happens to be in storage, so I bought a second version to work from in the meantime, as I revisit some pieces I've been studying and playing on and off for years. Brahms is my favorite composer and this book is filled with some of my favorite music in the world, so I am happy to have this redundancy in my music library.

When I opened the book, I noticed this little inscription on the inside.

Happy 74th! Wow. The image these words conjured for me is such a sweet one--a little old man, working on Brahms Rhapsodies, his gnarly fingers finding the notes and his heart finding joy. I don't have any idea if this man was a trained pianist, or just loved music; if he taught himself or took lessons; if Brahms was his favorite composer among many, or if learning these specific Rhapsodies was a lifelong pursuit for him.

I imagine that the reason this book was for sale was because this man, Mort, has since passed away (judging by the date, he would be well into his upper eighties by now). Sadder still, maybe he's still out there but has stopped playing the piano in the last years of his life. It will always be a mystery but I'm thankful to have this book for myself. There is something so intimate about an inscription like this--there's a story and a history in the pages, and shared beauty between two strangers who love Brahms.

Monday, January 28, 2013

My Wedding Planning: DIY Bridesmaid Cards

Well, it's taken me a while to blog about these "Will you be my bridesmaid" cards because I had to borrow back the card I made for my maid of honor in order to photograph it! We finally got together and so now I can share it with you.

I asked my 4 bridesmaids (two of my husband's sisters, my best friend from high school, and my best friend from college) to be in our wedding almost exactly two years ago, in January 2011, which was almost a full year before our December 2011 wedding. I wanted it to be special so I made these cards and sealed them in an envelope tied up with twine and a piece of dried lavender. As you can see, this card is a little bit worse for wear--it has done a bit of traveling (she lives in Atlanta and had to retrieve the card from her parents' house in New York) and the gold ink is fading, the dresses are beginning to come off the paper, and it's a little bit crumpled. But I think the homemade/vintage/simple quality is preserved, and that's what I was going for when I made them. I wanted these cards to be sweet and pretty and from-the-heart.

For the bouquet on front, I bought little satin flowers and glued them on the front of the card and drew in the stems. I made the wedding dress out of doilies, and I cut the bridesmaid dress from a piece of ribbon that was similar in color to the actual "rhubarb" dresses. To get the stamp just right, I bought a magnetic stamp alphabet (similar to this) which made it quite easy. I simply lined up the magnetic letters on the magnetic tin and stamped it on the card. I love how the words are relatively lined up but it still has that homemade, "typewriter" look to it.

And they all said "yes!"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Currently, Volume 3

Today's devotion


Reading The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I finished The Woman in White and was absolutely enthralled all the way through. I highly recommend it. Over the last few months, the Mother-Daughter Book Club has taken a little hiatus, and we've just decided to put The Age of Innocence next on the agenda.

Writing this post, and not too much else!

Listening to Ingrid Michaelson. I love her music and think she has a beautiful voice.

Thinking about how quickly January is flying by. Don't you think?

Smelling French Lavender hand soap I just put in our bathroom. I love how the scent lingers on my hands.

Wishing I didn't have to go grocery shopping today. I usually don't mind it, but this last week I've felt uninspired when it comes to cooking. That might be a middle-of-January phenomenon. While I'm not ready for the spring/summer heat, I am ready for summer produce!

Hoping I'll figure out a pretty, lasting way to display our one-year anniversary cards when I visit my favorite local antique shop today. I've been looking for a few weeks and haven't found anything quite right. I have an idea mulling around my mind though, so I'll keep you posted!

Wearing this comfortable robe/cardigan in an oatmeal color. I bought it last year to wear on my wedding day as I was getting ready, and it was perfect! Cozy and easy to slip off without ruining my hair and makeup. Since then, I've loved wearing it with leggings for plane trips, over jeans at home when I'm chilly, and I think it might be cute belted and worn as a dress with tights, too.

Drinking a strawberry banana smoothie with flax seed and oats. Yum!

Loving the cute, single-serving, red blender I bought last weekend at Target, which I used to make this morning's smoothie.

Wanting to move out of the South. Our time here was supposed to be much more temporary than it has proven to be and I'm feel very anxious these days to relocate.

Needing a haircut! Luckily I have one scheduled for Wednesday. For the last few months, I've been sporting an all-one-length, collarbone-length cut (this was my inspiration) and I really love it. I don't think I'll go back to layers for awhile.

Feeling ready for a new week.

Clicking on this Daily Bible Devotion app I just downloaded for my iPhone. There is an "AM" Bible verse and a "PM" Bible verse, and each one is accompanied by a short Christian message. I just started using it but so far I find it inspiring and a good pick-me-up.

(Linking up with Lauren.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

An Exciting Bit of Press

At the risk of appearing less than humble, I have to announce an exciting bit of press our cookbook received yesterday--we were given a lovely little review in the New York Times! The part I'm most proud of is the word they used to describe my little brother's photos. The book was described as "beautifully photographed," and while we already knew that, how wonderful for the New York Times to recognize it too. They couldn't be more right.

Since the pear bread recipe was mentioned, I thought I would share it with you all today. This is adapted from a recipe submitted to us by Blackman Homestead Farm in Lockport, NY.

Pear Bread

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup buttermilk or yogurt
1 cup ripe pears, peeled and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour a loaf pan.

With an electric beater, beat together the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until creamy. In a separate bowl, blend together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and nutmeg. Stir these dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then stir in buttermilk or yogurt, and finally the chopped pears. 

Pour batter into pan and bake for 1 hour. Cool. Try serving with cold cream cheese!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Walking on Water: Part 2

"We are all asked to do more than we can do. Every hero and heroine of the Bible does more than he would have thought it possible to do, from Gideon to Esther to Mary."

I love the message that is in these words. I'm now writing about chapter 3 of Walking on Water and am finding wisdom in almost every page. The idea that Madeleine L'Engle is exploring here is the idea that none of us are "qualified" for the life God asks us to lead. God is ever asking us to do better, to reach higher, to love more fiercely, to overcome fear and hardship, to mimic His son Jesus Christ. And it is only by the "sheer gift" of God's love and grace that we are able to be whole and healed and to fulfill the mission God has set for each of us. She writes this:

In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own.

The most beautiful example that I can think of, and the one that Madeleine L'Engle chooses to point to, is the deafness of one of the greatest composers who ever lived. Beethoven wrote these painful lines to his brothers, in 1802:

Born with a passionate and excitable temperament, keenly susceptible to the pleasures of society, I was yet obliged early in life to isolate myself, and to pass my existence in solitude. If I at any time resolved to surmount all this, oh! how cruelly was I again repelled by the experience, sadder than ever, of my defective hearing! — and yet I found it impossible to say to others: Speak louder; shout! for I am deaf! Alas! how could I proclaim the deficiency of a sense which ought to have been more perfect with me than with other men, — a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection, to an extent, indeed, that few of my profession ever enjoyed!

By every earthly measure, Beethoven was "unqualified." He was asked to do more than he could do. But anyone who knows his music would be hard-pressed to deny that his most sublime, most transcendent, and heavenly works are from the years when he was fully deaf, not able to hear even one note of the music that ran through his mind and in his veins. L'Engle asks, "Could Beethoven have written that glorious paean of praise in the Ninth Symphony if he had not had to endure the dark closing in of deafness?"

On a much more humble level, I can see the truth of this in my own life. My parents still find it highly amusing that their quiet little daughter, the one who would freeze up when all eyes were on her, and become a terrified statue when the softball was hit to her, was the one who became a performer--on a stage, in front of people. No, my personality has not undergone major changes since I was 10 (though I am much less shy than I was). Like with each one of us, God has asked me to do more than I can do. He has given me a passion that requires me to do something highly uncomfortable for me, something that very much goes against my reserved nature. I don't think I will ever love to perform. But I love music and I love the piano. This is why I perform, and through the grace of God, I am able to do it.

L'Engle closes the chapter this way:

And for each one of us there is a special gift, the way in which we may best serve and please the Lord whose love is so overflowing. And gifts should never be thought of quantitatively. One of the holiest women I have ever known did little with her life in terms of worldly success; her gift was that of bringing laughter with her wherever she went, no matter how dark or grievous the occasion. Wherever she was, holy laughter was present to heal and redeem.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DIY Birthday Card

My sister-in-law has a birthday coming up and so I thought I'd make her a special card, especially since we (sadly) live so far apart. The idea for this came from one of my favorite DIY bloggers, Erica from Caught on a Whim. (Here's her version of the card--beautiful, isn't it?). 

It was easy and fun to make, and I had all of the supplies on hand. I cut the two cupcake liners and glued them on first. Then I poked holes in the cardstock on either side of the candle, and threaded a piece of kitchen twine through to tie the candle in place. I was going to tie a bow, but the twine unraveled as soon as I cut the end! So I cut it close to the knot and I think it worked out fine. I then drew on the letters, wrote my note on the back, and I was done!

I chose to make mine very simple, but if you wanted to make a card like this you could make it as elaborate as you wished. Erica added a flame to her candle and added a puffy chocolate cupcake peeking out of the paper holders. It looks really adorable. Or, you could make it even simpler than mine and use only one cupcake holder and draw on your candle. 

Do you like making homemade cards? Would you make this for someone with a birthday coming up? Share your thoughts!

Monday, January 21, 2013

French-Inspired Surprise Dinner

On Friday night, I surprised my husband with a French-inspired dinner for the two of us. I made Ina Garten's braised short ribs and mashed potatoes, and the French Chocolate Pudding recipe from our cookbook for dessert. It was all delicious! I even put on a black dress and red lipstick, and played this French piece for my husband after we ate.

(Sorry for the poor photo--I was having trouble with the nighttime lighting!)

Have you ever made a themed dinner? I had never done anything like this before and it was really a blast. I got quite into it, as you can tell! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Currently, Volume 2

Table set on Friday night


Reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It's a Victorian mystery and I'm completely hooked on it.

Writing a birthday card to a very special sister-in-law (well, I plan to later today) and thinking of using this very cute DIY as a model.

Listening to the water in the kettle beginning to boil for tea.

Thinking about who the woman in white could be (I told you I was hooked!).

Smelling nothing at the moment. Soon I'll be smelling oats and brown sugar!

Wishing we weren't 10 minutes late to the beginning of Les Mis yesterday. We made a last-minute decision to catch the matinee and considering how long previews typically last, we thought were going to make it. But on the way out the door my husband couldn't find his wallet, so we spent 10 precious minutes looking for it!

Hoping for happy changes to come soon, and peace in the meantime.

Wearing my Ikea black-and-white-striped blanket wrapped around me. It's finally chilly here!

Drinking a cup of hot tea with cream. I really love morning coffee but I'm trying to drink less caffeine (even one cup has a lot) so I've been having more tea in the mornings, and also lattes, which require only half a cup of coffee.

Loving my husband! (Told you this might be a consistent answer.) He's just fun to be around. Yesterday we were both cuddled on the couch sharing a blanket and reading our books. It was heaven.

Wanting to have a really relaxing day. Lots of reading and yummy meals and quiet talks with my husband. Yesterday, for no reason at all, I felt a little bit tense (does that ever happen to you?) and I'd like today to be more calm.

Needing the holiday tomorrow. One extra day of "weekend" with my husband will be so nice.

Feeling happy that my husband enjoyed the French-inspired meal I made him on Friday night (more about this tomorrow!).

Clicking on this really weird story. Apparently, the girlfriend of ND's Manti Te'o, who supposedly died of leukemia last year, never existed. Someone created an online personality and duped Te'o into believing it was a real woman. It sounds like Te'o was not at fault and I feel terrible for him--how embarrassing and cruel! Although, he probably shouldn't have given his heart away to a woman he never met in person. The internet is a scary place!

(Linking up with Lauren)

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Classics

Do you buy books or do you go to the library? I love to do both. Going to the library allows me to get a big stack of books and look through them all at home, where I can decide which ones I'd like to read. It's fun to check out newly published books at the library, or lighter reading that I might take on vacation with me.

But when it comes to classics, I almost always buy them. I love books and I love having them in my home. I envision having floor to ceiling built-in bookshelves someday, the way my parents did in our living room growing up. They were organized by genre and theme and the bookshelf containing classics was my favorite. Looking through that shelf as a teenager was what led me to read Grapes of Wrath; Pride and Prejudice; Jane Eyre; Willa Cather's Shadow on the Rocks; Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone. I was introduced to the classics as a result of those bookshelves much more than as a result of my high school English classes.

(I happened to find this picture of my parents' shelves in my photo collection. My brother took this photo of me modeling one of the dining room chairs my parents gave us as a wedding gift (aren't they beautiful?!). The "classics" bookshelf is right behind me.)

A few days ago, I was at Barnes and Noble looking for the Wilkie Collins book pictured above, on recommendation from my mom (who just read one of his more obscure books and said I needed to read The Woman in White before reading Armadale) and was very happy to notice the "Buy 2 Get 1 Free" sale on all Barnes and Noble Classics. This gave me an excuse to find two more books! I really like these editions, too, because they are inexpensive and often contain helpful footnotes and interesting introductions by an expert. So I bought The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton and a collection of Selected Stories by O. Henry (can you tell from these choices that I was an American Studies major in college?). There are so many great, timeless books out there and I love building my own collection of them to have and to read. I'm beginning with The Woman in White which is so far really captivating.

I believe the Barnes and Noble sale is still going on. What three classics would (or will) you choose?

Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Modern Dating

My husband and I have begun to notice something. Too many times, when out to lunch or dinner together, we've noticed a man and a woman at another table who were not talking to each other, not in between conversations in pleasant silence, not looking interestedly at their surroundings (all normal things to do in a restaurant), but typing and scrolling away on their phones. The first time it was pretty shocking. We were in a cute pizza shop and a young couple walked in, ordered, and for the rest of their lunch they were both staring straight down at the phones in their hands. We actually didn't see them say a thing to each other. It was fascinating, and strange.

Another time, we were in a very nice French restaurant on our recent trip to California and a very attractive couple, probably in their late 20s or early 30s, sat down. They weren't wearing wedding bands (I notice that sort of thing) but it definitely appeared to be a date. What happened was even more sad than the pizza shop story--this time both of them didn't immediately begin tapping on their phones, only she did. I was sneaking glances at him because it really was shocking, and he looked so lonely--he was forced to gaze around the restaurant and feign interest in the decor while his date was absorbed in her email or texts. Eventually, after minutes of silence, he took out his phone too.

Of course, we've all been guilty of being on our iPhones--which always seem to be calling to us--when we should have been paying attention to something, or someone else. But on a date? At a restaurant? For extended minutes at a time? To me, that kind of behavior is the height of disrespect and only adds to my worries about the direction modern dating is heading. Last week's New York Times story, "The End of Courtship?" provides further cause for concern. The article talks about Facebook, and how a search of someone's profile can take the place of a first date and provide a false sense of knowledge and intimacy. How so many recent college graduates have no idea how to relate to the opposite sex outside of the hook-up culture. How casual, non-committal text messages and group outings have taken the place of sincere requests and planned dates and honest effort.

This "dating" culture isn't something that's been perpetuated by men or perpetuated by women. It's something that most young people of my generation are entrenched in and both men and women play a role (as well as many other things). And as my stories above indicate, it's not just men who have become less romantic and thoughtful and serious when it comes to dating. However, I do think that there are probably many more women who are disheartened by their experiences with young men than the other way around, and the final few paragraphs of this article point to a powerful alternative:

Even in an era of ingrained ambivalence about gender roles, however, some women keep the old dating traditions alive by refusing to accept anything less.
Cheryl Yeoh, a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco, said that she has been on many formal dates of late — plays, fancy restaurants. One suitor even presented her with red roses. For her, the old traditions are alive simply because she refuses to put up with anything less. She generally refuses to go on any date that is not set up a week in advance, involving a degree of forethought.
“If he really wants you,” Ms. Yeoh, 29, said, “he has to put in some effort.”

Not all women want traditional romance and marriage and families, but so many women do. And so many women are having a hard time finding it. I feel for those women, but I don't think that their situations are hopeless--far from it. Women have this wonderful ability to inspire men to be their best selves. Many of the women interviewed for this piece were disgusted by the way they were treated by men. Yet this woman quoted at the end, Cheryl Yeoh, was the only one who seemed to realize that if she wanted something different it was up to her to request it and, more importantly, that the men worth seeing would live up to that request.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Roasted Collard Greens

I love collard greens--not only are they incredibly healthy but I love their slightly bitter flavor and robust crunch. I love spinach too, but I think collard greens are more interesting. The other day I was racking my brain to come up with another way to cook them, other than steaming or sautéing, and a thought popped into my head: why not roast them? They are hearty and sturdy enough to withstand the high temperatures of the oven and I imagined that roasting would bring out a different flavor and texture in the greens.

And I'm happy to say that my intuition was right. Collard greens do something amazing in the oven. The smaller pieces become paper thin and flaky and absolutely melt in your mouth, while the more substantial pieces become perfectly cooked with just the right amount of crunch and softness. They really are delicious and somehow feel elegant too (I think anything roasted tends to feel more fancy!). You could serve them with salmon or any kind of steak or pork, or stir them into a pasta dish along with olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Roasted Collard Greens

Turn your oven to 425 degrees

Toss your collard greens in a baking pan with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste (I use my hands and really massage the olive oil into the greens)

Roast for 8-10 minutes, stirring once (and be careful not to let them burn)


Monday, January 14, 2013

Walking on Water: Part 1

I've been reading Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, and so much of it is resonating with me that I thought I would write a blog series on the book as I'm reading. (The first book I did a blog series on was The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After. Here is the link to Part 4; Parts 1-3 are linked at the end of the post.) I love blogging about great non-fiction for several reasons. It helps me to really think through what I'm reading and gives me a chance to record some of my responses along the way. And it's a wonderful way to share ideas about great books and to (hopefully!) inspire you to read along too.

Just about every sentence of this book so far is worth underlining and mulling over, but I want to focus today on something L'Engle writes at the end of the first chapter. Here, she says that great artists are not masters of their work, but rather, that they are in service to their art. 

When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist; Shakespeare knew how to listen to his work, and so he often wrote better than he could write; Bach composed more deeply, more truly than he knew; Rembrandt's brush put more of the human spirit on canvas than Rembrandt could comprehend...When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens.

This aligns perfectly with my ideas about great art, though I've never thought of it this way before. Truly masterful music is transcendent; a certain poem or short story can make you feel closer to God than you might feel even in church. Great art is like that; it is "better" than the artist, it is divine.

L'Engle goes on to write that only hard work and commitment to one's art can lead to the point where the work "takes over." And then she makes a beautiful comparison to how this whole process is just like prayer. She writes that as Christians, we must pray daily to God, and whether we feel like it or not we must talk to Him and "fumble through the prayers of words, of willful demands." This part is the hard work, but our reward for this hard work is that when God has something to say, we will be able to listen. She writes it this way: 

Unless I ask God for something, I do not know whether or not it is something for which I ought to ask, and I cannot add, "But if this is not your will for me, then your will is what I want, not mine."

So often when we pray for something and put the desires of our hearts into words, we will see that our prayers are answered, though not always in the specific way we want them to be. If we had never prayed to begin with, it would be much harder to see those answers as true answers from God. It would be so easy to miss them and to be left longing for the solution we had in mind, to be left feeling unsettled and unsatisfied.

When it comes to my work as a pianist, I can never experience the divine and the majesty in a piece I'm playing until I've spent hundreds of hours on fingering and notes and pedaling and memory and passage work. When I, as the artist, have put in this time and energy, only then can the music really speak.

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to know.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Currently

I bought these rustic brown paper apples yesterday at Michaels for 25 cents a piece! I think they're the perfect addition to the windowsill in my living room. I'm tempted to go back and buy a few more so that I could arrange them like real apples in a decorative bowl as another option. 

Today, I've decided to start a new tradition by linking up with other bloggers to write a weekly "Sunday Currently" post. A new goal I have for this blog is to try to collaborate more--with other bloggers, other writers, other women--and this is a small step in that direction. Furthermore, this happens to be my 100th post! This feels like a milestone to me and I find it fitting that my 100th post is landing on a day when I'm doing something a little bit new.  


Reading Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle. She writes about being a Christian artist, and I plan to write a series of blog posts on the book. I've been able to relate to so much of it so far.

Writing emails to friends and thank-you notes.

Listening to this song. My husband and I watched "Ghost" over our honeymoon and since then I've been obsessed with listening to this. It's even better when my husband sings along--he has a really great voice and has all of the inflections down to a tee!

Thinking of making Ina Garten's braised short ribs this weekend.

Smelling fresh coffee and my new "linen and sky" candle.

Wishing for some cooler, winter weather. It's been in the 70s here and it's getting tiresome! I'm craving that crisp and refreshing Northern winter air.

Hoping for so much....mostly for good news and happy changes to take place over the next few months.

Wearing comfortable pants and one of my husband's t-shirts.

Drinking a homemade latte.

Loving my husband. This might be a consistent answer each week. This first year of marriage has been very trying and difficult, but it's been because of certain circumstances and not so much a result of us getting used to being married. I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone (the one we just visited in San Francisco) and she pointed out that my marriage is so strong and that it's partly a result of some of the situations my husband and I have faced this last year together. Her comment reminded me that there are blessings in disguise all around us, and that God's plan is far better than our own plans.

Wanting to see my family. I miss them so much!

Needing to do some practicing today. And feeling nostalgic for my two Steinway pianos, which are both up in New York waiting for us to come get them. Hopefully we are in a position to have them in our home soon. The piano I'm renting just isn't even close to the same.

Feeling thankful for this past week and for good doctors and for a God who is always with us.

Clicking on Highclere Castle's webpage. Highclere is where Downton Abbey is filmed and it's just amazing to think that this is a real place, with paintings and incredibly tall ceilings and ancient books, and that it used to house a real family like the Crawleys. It's so beautiful, and it would be a fun place to visit one day!

(Linking up with Lauren!)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Kindness of a Stranger

Point Reyes, California

On our flight from Atlanta to San Francisco we sat next to a lovely older woman who was going to visit her son and his family in California. This woman was such a dear person, and also quite lively and fun. She found out that my husband is a trained aviator, and when our plane had to turn around before taking off to check on an issue, she quizzed him on what could be going on. She told us wonderful stories of her life as a married woman, and it turned out she had lived in the area I grew up in when her husband was a professor at Syracuse University. She was delighted when we told her this vacation was our belated honeymoon, and also a one-year anniversary celebration.

It was a long flight and so my husband and I decided to split one of the lunch options available for purchase on the flight. When the flight attendant came around, our lovely friend insisted on treating us. She even tried to get us to order a glass of wine (it was a little too early for both of us for that!). It was such a thoughtful thing to do and so unexpected, and she treated our gratitude with just a humble wave of her hand, and then told us a story.

She said that when she and her husband (who has now passed away) were newly engaged, they went out to a fancy dinner together in New York. They were living in Manhattan at the time, and when they went to the restaurant they discovered they had to wait in line to get a table--it was surprisingly crowded and busy that night. She said they struck up a conversation with a middle-aged couple in front of them, and when it came time to be seated, the four of them decided to sit together. She said they had a wonderful evening and when it came time to leave, the older gentleman refused to let this young, engaged couple pay for their meal. And this wasn't a simple lunch or casual dinner--it was an expensive, fancy New York restaurant, and this man wouldn't take no for an answer.

She said that right then, that night, she and her husband decided that in their married lives together, they would never pass up an opportunity to do something unexpected and kind for a younger couple, that they would try to pass on the love shown them that evening. And they did. One time when traveling in South America, they came across a couple about to get married, and the man couldn't afford a wedding band for himself. Our friend's husband took off his own and said, here, take mine.

That story brought tears to my eyes, and I felt so thankful that my husband and I were now a part of this wonderful legacy. It is all too easy to forget the kindness of strangers. How much more difficult is it to mirror that kindness, to pass it along, to take an event that happened when you were young and let it inspire your actions for the next 50 years? We will never forget this wonderful lady. As my dad said when we told him the story, it was a "little blessing from the author of Christmas."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Homemade Latte

Through some simple experimenting I've found a delicious and easy way to make lattes--at home, and without an espresso machine! Here's how:

Make your coffee (I use a french press). You only need to fill your mug half full, so you don't need to make much coffee.

Pour some milk (again, about half a mug's worth) into a small saucepan on the stove on medium-high heat. Whisk it until it is slightly thickened and frothy. Whole milk will result in the creamiest latte!

Finally, pour your coffee into the mug followed by the heated and whipped milk, making sure the last of the foam makes it into your mug.

You can add any kind of sugars or flavored syrups to taste, or enjoy it simple, as is.

Homemade lattes are great for many reasons. You can control the ratio of coffee to milk; it's vastly less expensive than Starbucks; it's a great way to cut down on caffeine, since you're only having half a cup of coffee; and of course, anything homemade is better in my book!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Something Ivory for Christmas

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were given an unexpected gift. Up until now, we have shared one car and we had a goal to make it as long as possible with just that one car. My husband and I don't mind carpooling with each other, we didn't see the need for having a second car right away, and it's a more cost-effective (for us) and cleaner (for the air) way to live.

But our situation changed and we were suddenly feeling like we needed either a new car to replace our current one or a second car. We've been trying to save money for an eventual downpayment on a house (which we want to happen sooner rather than later), and we were both feeling nauseated about spending money on a car. Neither of us are "car" people (well, my husband was in college, when he drove a Mustang, but he grew out of that phase!) and we had hoped to stretch our single-car family years a little longer.

This is where the unexpected gift comes in, and what a blessing it was! My husband's grandmother no longer drives and when she heard we were car shopping she offered us her ivory-colored Cadillac, completely free. It really seemed too good to be true. We were feeling so reluctant about having to spend a big chunk of money on a car, knowing there were more important things coming up that our money should be going toward. Yet we needed a car. We even prayed about it (as silly as that may sound) and our prayers were answered--and in the form of something ivory, no less.

Thank you Grandma Harvey!

Friday, January 4, 2013

One-Year Anniversary Notes

Instead of having our guests sign a book at our wedding, we asked them to write little notes for us to read on our one-year anniversary. We tucked them away after the wedding and we didn't peek at them (I promise!) until our anniversary. It was such a fun surprise to read them and relive our wedding day! 

I'm now trying to come up with a way to make these special cards into a piece of art, so we can enjoy them always. I'm thinking that framing them in a grid with a wide ivory mat and gold frame (our wedding colors) would be beautiful. I really want it to look elegant and pretty, and not at all cheesy! Any ideas?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Back Into Rhythm

We're home from our trip to California! It was the most wonderful, cozy, beautiful, relaxed, and fun vacation! We enjoyed it so very much. Napa Valley is such a gorgeous area, filled with vineyards and rolling hills and grazing cows and sheep and horses. We did a lot of driving and exploring and walking and a lot of oohing and aahing. So many of our meals were delicious and memorable, and we tasted so many yummy wines (and brought 8 bottles home--amazingly, they all made the trip back unscathed!). On our way to San Francisco, which we visited for 5 days at the end of the trip, we headed up to Sonoma to seek out a special vineyard that makes a wine that my husband and I love, and then traveled down to Tomales Bay for amazing oysters and Point Reyes for the most breathtaking countryside and ocean views. Our time in San Francisco was wonderful--it was a fun change of pace to be in the city, and we got to spend time with one of my best college friends. Around noon on Sunday, December 30th, the three of us toasted to one year of marriage with a Napa Sparkling Wine we'd brought her. Such happy times.

This belated honeymoon was filled with so much celebrating and my husband and I feel so very blessed. We celebrated our marriage as if it happened yesterday, and at the same time celebrated our first year together as husband and wife. We had our first Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as a married couple and both were perfect. My mom's birthday and my parents' anniversary took place while we were out west, and we thought of them and sent them lots of love and good wishes. We celebrated a New Year, and I couldn't be more excited for all that I hope 2013 will bring.

When we got home last night, I realized how happy I was to be home, which I think is a sign of an absolutely perfect vacation. It means we planned our vacation for just the right number of days. It means that we made the most of each day and did all we wanted to do. It means we have no regrets about how things went, just very happy memories and warm feelings about a fantastic two weeks. My husband hugged me when we got home and, smiling, said that he loves how many new inside jokes we now have. If that isn't a sign of a good vacation together, I don't know what is.

My plans for today include unpacking, eating detox food (rich restaurant meals always leave me craving quinoa, whole fruits, and spinach salads--my "detox food"), grocery shopping, and catching up on all of the lovely blogs I read, which I've neglected. I hope you all have had a wonderful couple of weeks and Happy 2013!

Designed by Jackie's Design Studio