Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nightstand Decor

I think it was the arrival of Spring that inspired this fun project. I decided I wanted to liven up my nightstand, make it cute but keep it practical, and I wanted to use only items I had around the house (which, minus the lampshade, I did successfully). I really love my nightstand but I hadn't quite figured out how to make it look pretty. It's also a rather large surface, and keeping it too simple just makes it look bare. Here's the before.

Simple and basic--a plain lamp, books, lotion. I've put a lot of thought into a lot of areas of our house, but somewhere along the way my poor nightstand got neglected. Within just a few hours, it was transformed into this.

A big improvement, if I do say so myself! Other than primarily using items I knew I already had lying around, it was also important to me that my nightstand not look overly "styled," if you know what I mean. I try to take this approach in all of my decorating--I want my home to look natural and lived in, and I think that certain decorative touches can sometimes make a home look too "done up." For this project I mixed practical items with decorative items, and I think (I hope!) I achieved a look that's natural and simple but still pretty.

So here's what I did. I decided to use this square mirror as a tray (something I saw recently on a blog) and put just a few items on it--a clear bottle with flowers I gathered from the neighborhood, hand lotion, and a little dish for small items like bobby pins and lip balm. The print behind the tray is one of three New York City prints that my husband and I bought a few years ago. I haven't found a place in our home for all three to hang together, but I thought this would be a perfect place to display one of them. The photograph is of the Brooklyn Bridge in the wintertime.

A nightstand is never complete without some books, and I thought these would look sweet resting under my lamp. I swapped out the basic lamp for this antique lamp from my grandmother that wasn't currently being used. The cut glass reminds me of Hollywood glamour (I'm not sure why) and the one item I did buy was this modern, white linen lampshade to go with it. Tucked in the corner is a bottle of homemade lavender linen spray (livened up with a homemade label) which I spray on our freshly cleaned sheets and pillows. 

And that's it! I love the way it turned out and it's amazing how much more beautiful our bedroom feels as a result. It's a healthy mix of useful (hand cream, lavender spray, bowl for small loose items, books) and decorative (flowers, NYC print, mirror tray). Furthermore, I spent very little money, used items that were not in use elsewhere, and had fun doing it!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One-Piece Bathing Beauties

I stumbled upon a fantastic collection of vintage beach photos (called "Before the Bikini") and had so much fun looking through them. Aren't these women glamorous and gorgeous? I just love the look of so many of these vintage bathing suits, and they got me thinking.

You see, I'm over my bikini days. I still have most of my old bikinis, and I do wear them sometimes--like when I'm reading by the pool in my neighborhood. But for swimming, or going to the beach with family and friends, I've discovered the beauty of the one-piece. I don't know if I'll ever really go back. 

And it's not because I have anything to hide--at the risk of coming across the wrong way, I'm actually quite happy with my body (hey, if you don't love your body at 25, when will you love it?). I've simply found that one-pieces are so flattering, so feminine, and most importantly, they leave more to the imagination. They're mysterious and retro, and in this "bare it all" culture of ours, I think erring on the side of not baring all is a brave and beautiful choice.

And lest you think that modesty is not sexy--believe me, it is. First of all, look at all of these women from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. They're absolutely stunning! My husband has also told me that he prefers my one-piece suits to my two-piece suits. He thinks they're becoming and feminine. And there are so many interesting and flattering options these days for one-pieces (I think they're coming back into fashion--yes!). A few years ago, my mom and I found a beautiful black, ruched suit with ultra-thin straps. I still love it. A few days ago I added this inexpensive Target suit to my collection. And I'm pining after this lovely (total splurge) one-piece from Anthropologie.

(I know this isn't a one-piece, but it may as well be, right?)

I would love to hear what all of you think about this. Do you wear one-pieces? Would you? If you haven't worn anything but bikinis in years, I encourage you to at least try on a one-piece. You might be surprised at how beautiful you feel in it.

(Images Source)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

(Battle Hymn of the Republic; words by Julia Ward Howe; Image Source)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Currently: Volume 18

Well, I'm off to a later start than usual for my Sunday Currently! I've been busy with a couple of fun decor projects, which I'll be blogging about later in the week. Here's a sneak peek. Hope you're all having a wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day weekend.

Reading Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos. I often find myself reading contemporary novels during the spring and summer and hunkering down with classics in the fall and winter. Isn't that funny?

Writing this post and some to-do lists.

Listening to the air conditioning humming.

Thinking about how today has been flying by--I actually totally forgot about writing the Sunday Currently until just now. I've been a busy bee!

Smelling my new basil grape hand cream (pictured in the green bottle above) which was on sale at Ulta this week. It smells incredible.

Wishing....I can't think of a single thing. I suppose that means I'm feeling pretty happy today, huh?

Hoping that the next few days go well. My husband has some appointments in Huntsville, AL and I'm going up with him to explore the area. I've heard that Huntsville is quite cute, so I'm excited.

Wearing linen capris and a black and white striped tee. And spray paint, which splattered my right hand when I was working on a project earlier!

Drinking water with lemon.

Loving lots of things--the neighborhood pool, afternoons absorbed in a book, fresh lobster (which was our lunch yesterday), little decor touches around the house, lots of time spent with my husband.

Wanting to head to the pool with my book (now that I've mentioned it!).

Needing to run one more errand today.

Feeling thankful, as I am every Memorial Day weekend, for our nation's military.

Clicking on not much, today. It hasn't been much of a computer day. But I'm looking forward to catching up on the other Sunday Currently posts a little later.

Enjoy the rest of the long weekend!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Favorite Blogs

As I promised in my latest Sunday Currently, I'd like to share with you a few of my favorite blogs and daily reads. One of the best parts about blogging, I think, is being surrounded by so much inspiration and creativity and artistry, and so many interesting women! The list of blogs I follow is too long to count but here's a sampling of the ones that I really look forward to reading each day. I hope perhaps you will discover a new blog or two (or ten!) that will become part of your list of daily reads.

Joanna Hyatt
I really like Joanna's blog because she regularly posts about important topics (marriage, sex, love) that aren't always easy to talk about. More importantly, she isn't afraid to move against the grain a little bit, and her posts always impress me with their honesty and straightforwardness. She's a lady to be admired! I hope you'll check out her writing.

Not Without Salt
This is an exquisite food and cooking blog, with the most amazing recipes and tantalizing photos and an occasional cooking video. But it's more than that--Ashley has a wonderful way of mixing life into her food and recipe musings, and I especially love her Dating My Husband series. Ashley and her husband have weekly date nights centered around great home-cooked food and intimate conversation and alone time, and the way she writes about these nights is so beautifully sweet and romantic. And she recently announced that she is working on a book! I can't wait.

String of Pearls
It's always fun to have a personal connection to another blogger, isn't it? While I haven't met the wonderful woman behind this blog, I know three of her five sons (!) from college and my husband and I think the world of these guys. It's been so much fun to get to know their mother a little bit through her lovely blog, which is sometimes funny, sometimes sweet, and always bursting with love for her family and her faith. She's quite a gifted writer--as further evidence, Mrs. Pearl also recently wrote a novel! 

Like Ordinary Life
What I love most about Tina's blog is her poetic way with words. She tells stories about life, about struggles, and joys, and through it all runs this beautiful, whimsical thread. I think she could easily write fiction if she wanted to. It's also been fun for us to discover that we have similar hopes and yearnings for our futures, and it's always nice to connect with like-minded women. Do pay her a visit.

The Small Things Blog
Not only does Kate have a lovely name, she also has a lovely approach to the world of fashion and beauty. Most of her posts are light-hearted--a fun new hair tutorial, a guide to the best makeup products, a homemade foot scrub--and she has a way of infusing these posts with grace and femininity and a true love of what it means to be a woman. She occasionally writes more serious posts, and each time she does I'm really amazed by her faith and her desire to do God's work in all that she does. Also--she's seriously funny.

In Honor of Design
Anna's posts are a perfect mix of family life, faith, personal stories, design tips, fashion shoots, and DIY projects. It's truly a "lifestyle" blog and I just love the artful photos she posts of her sweet family. She's currently expecting her third baby and she has the most adorable way of dressing up that baby bump! I will certainly be using her as inspiration in that department someday.

The Lettered Cottage
This is a husband-and-wife blog and the two of them couldn't be cuter. Their blog mainly centers around their home renovations--design, decorating, labor--and they are always posting really helpful "how-to" tips, along with paint color ideas, flea market finds, and before and after photos (with some humor and bits of their love story sprinkled in along the way). They are based in Montgomery and it's nice for me to know that there are other Alabama bloggers out there!

Loverly She
I was thrilled to find Katie's blog! She's a pianist, a Christian, and a young wife, so we have quite a bit in common. She's so stylish and chic and puts together the best outfits (and she's looking cuter by the day--she's expecting her first baby!) and she also writes very thoughtfully and honestly about issues that concern us as women. I love her blog and look forward to each new post.

Betsy Transatlantically
Betsy has a very sweet way about her and she's currently in a phase of life that all of us women get excited about--wedding planning! It's been fun to follow her progress as she anticipates her big day and her marriage. Additionally, Betsy loves Bach (here's a beautiful post she wrote on him) and she lives in Washington, D.C. (which is where my parents just moved) so we've been able to connect on a few levels. I really enjoy her spirited posts!

Smitten Kitchen
I think Smitten Kitchen takes the award as the first blog I ever really followed religiously. I discovered it at a time when I couldn't get enough of cooking, new ingredients, new recipes, new cookbooks. I had just moved into my first apartment after college and had my first full-time job, and I was loving being an adult in the real world. I would plan what I was going to make for dinner while I was at work, then on my walk home I would shop for the necessary ingredients. I think most of my pay check went towards things like fresh hunks of parmesan and white pepper kernels and fancy olives. Cooking up a gourmet dinner after work was my relaxation. I will always associate Smitten Kitchen with this period in my life, and I think that a lot of what I know about cooking comes from Deb.

I hope you'll pay some of these wonderful blogs a visit!  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Spring Lamb with White Beans

"This dish, to me, is an ideal marriage of rustic and elegant. Rustic, because of the earthiness of the lamb and the rosemary, and the savory richness of the juices that infuse the beans. Elegant because of the perfect balance in flavors, the softness and delicacy of the tiny white cannellinis. I can imagine this roast in the homes of ancient Greek peasants, just as I can imagine it at the banquets and feasts of their rulers. Deliciously simple, yet somehow exquisite...."

Click over to the Happy Wives Club to read the rest of this post, and for the recipe!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ambassadors for Marriage: Andrea and Jack

Today I have the pleasure of sharing an interview I did with my friend, Andrea, who I've known since 5th grade. I interviewed Andrea about her husband, Jack, and their beautiful young marriage. I'm very excited to be kicking off what I hope will become a series on Something Ivory. As I wrote in a recent guest post on a friend's blog, I believe it's important for us happily married young women to share our stories, to be ambassadors for marriage. Instead of always hearing from me I thought it would be fun to interview other young women and friends of mine about their marriages, their joys and struggles, and the beauty they have found as they share life with another.

As you'll soon see, Andrea and Jack are so inspiring. They met in Jack's home country of Kenya, navigated an international relationship and engagement, and are now living together happily in Upstate New York. They have been married for a little over two years. As she was working on her answers Andrea emailed me this: "So far it’s made for a super fun trip down memory lane and honestly it makes me love Jack even more. I think that there is so much power and emotion in writing your thoughts down on paper." Absolutely! Welcome to the beautiful world of blogging, Andrea. I hope you, dear readers, enjoy this.

Describe how you met your husband and how you felt as you got to know him.
Jack and I met in a peculiar way, I think. We never really know how to briefly answer this question without getting asked several follow-up questions. To make a long story short, we were introduced by mutual friends at a soccer tournament at the local sports ground in Kisumu, Kenya. Jack and a group of friends sat down at our table. He was sitting across from me and was seemingly too nervous to talk to me, so he whispered to my friend to ask her my name. When she told him my name was Andrea he had difficulty pronouncing it, so he proceeded to find a nickname for me right then and there. He said to her “your friend has Mzungu eyes”—Mzungu means "white person." I have blue eyes and it was the first time he had ever seen blue eyes in person; and like a mesmerized child he couldn’t stop staring! Needless to say he just had this wit and sweet innocence that I adored from the start. To this day he still calls me "Blue Eyes." We talk about our first encounter quite frequently, and you can bet that we can’t make it through one memory without smiling giddily.

When did you know he was the one you wanted to marry?
One of the special things about our relationship was that we really built it up during the long stretches of time that we were apart. We used to talk for hours each week over the phone, and I am grateful that we got to know each other and love each other without any sort of physical connection. That helped us distinguish between lust and love, and I think that can be difficult to do at times. He always had a way of making me feel safe despite us being thousands of miles apart, and that to this day is one of his strongest attributes. So it really was probably very early on that I started picturing him as my husband. It felt right and natural and I’ve really never met a man who exhibits such a sacrificial and unconditional love for his family. That’s what opened my eyes to the realization that he is truly good and that he has a pure heart and a gentle spirit.

Additionally, I knew he was the one I wanted to marry when I found myself constantly wanting to put his wants and needs before mine. Being the gentleman that he is, he rarely allows that, but I think it’s notable how selfless you become when you find the person who holds your heart. When I am with Jack, I have a desire to care for him before myself. He makes me want to be a better person. I knew I wanted to be his wife when I realized how badly I wanted to be the one to make him happy. I started feeling like I could and would sacrifice anything of mine just to provide for him, and I knew that those feelings were a sign that we were meant to be together. I know he would do the same for me too.

What has been the most rewarding part of your marriage so far?
The biggest reward, I feel, in having Jack here with me and being husband and wife, is that we are finally able share in each other’s accomplishments and experience everything life has to offer together. With marriage comes an entirely wonderful, strong feeling of being an inseparable and unstoppable team. And I believe our circumstances have intensified that even further. Can you imagine leaving the only family and life you have ever known, moving to a foreign land and starting all over?  Jack loved me enough to follow me blindly to the United States. When he moved here with me he had never before actually left East Africa. He did not even know one person in my family apart from having talked to them on the phone or on Skype, so he had nothing to go on except for love and trust in me. And so because of this situation, we have had to rely on each other for everything, and with that we have had the privilege of experiencing many “firsts” together. Amongst a list a mile long, this includes his first plane ride, his first time in the USA, his first college experience, his first winter, many firsts with food, my first career, his first time driving a car, buying our very first home, our first time grieving together with the death of our grandparents, etc. And through all of these experiences we have made memories together that have really strengthened us as partners and as friends.

What have you learned about your husband that you didn't know before you got married?
This is a fun one because so much of what I know about my husband has been learned since we’ve been married and living together. It really is the little things that bring you closer….
*I’ve learned how incredibly hilarious he is. The stuff that comes out of his mouth… my word!
*I’ve learned that he likes to keep the house at 75 degrees in the winter and 60 in the summer. That totally stumps me!
*I’ve learned that he does not like any food, cold. It’s only hot cooked meals in our house unless you want to see a 27 year old man whine.
*I’ve learned that he has an incredibly dry sense of humor. He has watched every episode of The Office at least 30 times and still laughs so hard he cries. And his laugh is contagious!
*I’ve learned that he does NOT like snakes or worms or anything that slithers. Have you ever seen a grown man stand on the top of a car because of a worm in the driveway?
*I’ve learned that he snores on his stomach and not on his back. How backward is that?
*I’ve learned that he is one heck of a hard worker: there are days that I come home from work and the entire house is sparkly clean, the dishes are done, and the laundry is clean and folded; and that’s all after he’s put out the trash, worked out at the gym, gone to school and finished his class work!
*Lastly, I’ve learned that he is capable of anything and everything he sets his mind to. He has already far surpassed any expectations I had of him as a husband and a as a provider, and with his drive I know he will continue to take on the world.

How would you describe "the ideal wife," the one you strive always to become?
The ideal wife will be different from person to person and marriage to marriage. It’s hard to describe exactly how I want to be as a wife, but here are several adjectives that sum it up for the most part: respectful, nurturing, supportive, loving, attentive, light-hearted, playful, strong, and selfless. I always try to find the right balance of taking care of Jack and allowing him to take care of me. I do believe that wives should be pampered too…Jack knows that!

How do you face challenges in marriage? What are your strategies for overcoming the inevitable hard moments or hard days?
Over time we have learned when to push harder to work it out and when to step back. It’s really a matter of learning what makes the other one tick and respecting that we have different responses to emotions like stress, joy, or sorrow. We really are so much stronger when we support each other, so any little tiffs get nipped in the bud fairly quickly. We learn to compromise. In terms of life challenges that we face together, it is all about communication… and body language! It’s amazing how much easier it is to get through a hardship when you are looking someone in the eye instead of acting distracted or disengaged. I think it shows them that this is important to you, too. Also, a simple hug or hand hold can make a world of difference. Those little things serve as a reminder that we are on the same side and that we love each other…and so I think that really helps! 

What lessons have you learned throughout your journey to becoming husband and wife?
Our situation is unique in the fact that we did not have years of ‘dating’ before marriage. With him in Africa and me in the US the majority of the time, we only managed to spend about 7 months together in person before getting married. Despite the distance and separation, we did our best to look for the light at the end of the tunnel; that one day we would be together. Our marriage was the most significant event in my life to date because it simultaneously closed a chapter in our lives that was filled with struggle and sacrifice, and blessed us with the opportunity to finally begin our life journey together.

Getting to the point where we were able to get married was a bit of a nightmare. The decision that we made for Jack to move here was hard enough, and then it became a matter of going through all the legal procedures that our government has in place for immigrants. We went through a period of time when there was so much doubt and fear looming over us that we questioned whether or not it was actually worth it. It was challenging to remember the solidity of our relationship when we were continents apart and our fate was stuck in the hands of someone else (government). We had absolutely no control and that is really very intimidating! We had close friends who chastised us for being naive enough to believe that we could make our relationship work, and that doubt made it difficult to trust in our own decisions. Overall it was a detailed and stressful process that took months of patience and faith, but one that taught us a lot. I thank God for His guidance through it all and for blessing us with families that supported us and prayed for us every step of the way. God makes the impossible, possible, and we are all living proof of that. Throughout our journey so far, that has been the message that has been made most clear to me.

How do you feel about “young” marriage?
I do not wish to sway people in their beliefs about marriage, but more so to be a testament to the potential benefits of finding a life partner at a young age. I realize that I cannot generalize our entire population, so take this as you wish, but I think our culture has taught us to be wary of marriage rather than embrace it and respect it. Divorce rates are high and that is disheartening and daunting, but ultimately that is something that I believe we can combat. I think it comes down to marrying the right person for the right reasons at a point in time when we are mature enough to handle the commitment. I think that so much of that comes back to identifying and respecting the difference between lust and love. I realize that our twenties are known to be the time to live it up and be young and free. And while I admit that that is probably fun at times, from my own experiences in my twenties, I have never found as much happiness and contentedness as I have since marrying my husband. I’ve never made as much progress in life as I have since I’ve been married either. I just love the feeling of being settled. Marrying Jack has made me want to be a better and more productive woman. To me, marriage is peaceful, comforting, and gratifying. During the most stressful times of life when I feel like nothing is going quite right and I’m searching for something to lift my spirits and look forward to, I am blessed to go home to an amazing man and a house and life of our very own. My marriage is my safe haven and is by far the biggest blessing in my life so far!

Thanks so much Andrea! Your story is beautiful.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Currently: Volume 17

I got a sweet request recently from a family friend and new reader to do a post on my favorite blogs and daily reads, so when I noticed that today's Blog Every Day in May prompt was to write about five favorite blogs, I thought it would be a perfect way to accomplish two things at once. But as I was trying to figure out which five blogs to pick I realized that picking only five is too hard! I'll dedicate a post to my favorite blogs later in the week, and for now I'll stick to the Sunday Currently.

Reading Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, still. I'm almost finished and my mom and I have plans to start reading this together soon.

Writing this post, and a special email to our friends regarding my husband's 30th birthday this November. It's a big one, and I can't wait to celebrate it.

Listening to the hum of the AC.

Thinking about how neat some of the perks of small town-living are. Last night we went to our favorite local restaurant (the only really nice restaurant in our town) to celebrate a little blog milestone I reached. Whenever we go to The Rawls, the chef comes out to chat with us at least two or three times--about the menu, wine suggestions, how he prepared a certain dish. It's fascinating and makes the experience so personalized and fun! He chats with all of the tables, but at this point he knows us a little bit, and we enjoy catching up with him each time we go there.

Smelling the hand cream I just put on.

Wishing away the heat and humidity. Please, let's just have a nice, mild summer!

Hoping to see my brother, who is in Atlanta for the summer, really soon!

Wearing white pants and a grey long-sleeved shirt.

Drinking a tall glass of water.

Loving the incredible meal we had last night. Fried green tomatoes with lump crab, foie gras (which both of us had never been daring enough to try before), seared scallops and filet mignon. And cheese for dessert. It was divine, every bit of it.

Wanting to go back to Napa Valley. We were reminiscing about it yesterday and I just can't wait to visit it again. One great thing (among many) about taking a honeymoon in the U.S. is that it can realistically become a place you visit again and again. I think that would be more difficult if your honeymoon was in, say, Thailand!

Needing to make some lunch!

Feeling happy and young (even though I have a birthday coming up--my 25th!).

Clicking on lots of sites trying to find a dress for a family wedding this fall in Newport. Anyone have suggestions on where to look?

Linking up with Lauren.

Friday, May 17, 2013

First moments

Day 17 of Blog Every Day in May: A favorite photo of yourself and why.

Today's challenge was an easy one for me. I immediately thought of our wedding day and specifically this photo, which captures one of the most beautiful, surreal moments of my life.

This was taken as we entered our reception. When we arrived at the reception venue after the drive over from the church, our wedding coordinator snuck my new husband and me up the fire escape to the second story of the hotel. We were going to make our grand entrance by walking down the stairs and into the main foyer where the cocktail hour was going on, and it felt so fun and playful to sneak up a back stairwell, totally out of sight of our wedding guests.

We convened in my sister-in-law and brother-in-law's room where I took off my fur jacket and my veil and put on my flower headpiece, had a small sip of champagne, and had a really nice, quiet couple of minutes with my bridesmaids, sister-in-laws, and my husband. Then we went to the top of the stairs to wait. I was so giddy with excitement!

My Dad then stood at the bottom of the stairs and gave the most amazing speech. My Dad is a writer and has a way with words that I will always admire, and his speech was just so heartfelt. It was beautiful and special and unforgettable. Then my little brother took the microphone and introduced us as husband and wife, and that's when we began walking down the stairs to lots of cheers and clapping and smiles.

I will never forget the joy of that moment, looking out at our beautiful loved ones, the man of my dreams at my side, our very first seconds facing the world together as husband and wife. I get butterflies in my stomach just writing this, and I'm so thankful to have a photo to remember that feeling by.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Day 16 of Blog Every Day in May: Something difficult about your "lot in life" and how you're working to overcome it.

   Photo taken in 2009 by my friend Jules for my then-boyfriend, now-husband. 

Sometimes, the only thing that's within your control is your attitude. I'm trying to remember how powerful that is.

I've been incredibly blessed with the "lot" I've been given in life. I was born into a wonderful, loving, Christian family, I went to a great college and graduate school, I have an amazing husband who loves me more than I deserve. I could go on and on.

But over the last year I've been tested. When I married my husband I became an Army wife, just like that, and being an Army wife, an Army family, means that "our lives are not our own," as I like to say. That's the best way I know to explain it, especially to people who don't exactly understand why we're still living in Alabama, why we can't leave. Because our lives right now are not our own. And I don't mean this in a negative way (ok, sometimes I like to vent and complain that my life is not my own), but it really is an accurate portrayal of military life. The official papers my husband receives every few months from the Army that describe where he needs to be and how long he needs to be there are called his "orders," and orders they are. Many, many things are out of our control at the moment.

But I don't really consider this to be our "lot in life" because that implies that we had no say, that things just happened to us. It's true that we're in unusual circumstances and that things haven't gone according to our plans, or even the Army's plans. There have been some twists and turns, and sometimes I do still get upset about that one particular "lot" we were thrown, the one that injured my husband's back and changed his life. But even that is just part of living. Dwelling on our lack of control, dwelling on unfortunate accidents, dwelling on what we can't have is no way to live.

Sometimes, the only thing that's within your control is your attitude. I'm not always good at remembering this and putting it into practice--my husband, on the other hand, is a master at it. But I've found that when I consciously look for the good in each day, when I thank God for all that we have, when I delight in one small thing that our little town does have to offer, life is easier.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Meditation Through Music

How do you meditate?

I think that traditional meditation is wonderful--it's restorative, and it calms your mind (that's the best part, for me). But I think traditional meditation is also really difficult. Most of us don't have the focus, or maybe even the time, to just sit still for a stretch of time. If you're committed to meditating, you might devote 5 or 10 minutes to it per day.

But I've realized there are other ways to find that concentrated peace that you catch a glimpse of when you sit in one spot, without moving, focusing on the breath. There are other ways to be still, other ways to quell your racing mind, other ways to sharpen your focus and just be.

I've discovered a piece of music that I can only describe as meditative--listen to it carefully and it will lull and calm you. I heard this piece in a concert with my parents on my trip to D.C. a few months ago and the audience was mesmerized, totally silent, absorbed. In fact, as an interesting 21st-century twist, the pianist played from an iPad that she placed on the music stand, and when she needed to "turn the page," she ever so gracefully and slowly lifted her left hand and swiped across the iPad, then returned her hands to the keys. Even this movement became part of the performance, part of the slowness and sereneness, part of the contemplation.

This piece was written in the second half of the 20th century by an Estonian composer named Arvo Pärt.  I hope you enjoy it, and that it brings you peace.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

10 Things I Learned From My Mother

A few weeks ago, I read this sweet post on A Cup of Jo and it inspired me to write my own post of 10 things my mother has taught me (there are hundreds more, but I'll keep it at 10 for today). I think that mothers and daughters have a very special relationship--just look at this Mary Cassatt painting, and all the others she did of mothers and daughters together. Little girls learn so much from their mothers, often simply by watching them and spending time with them. 

So here's my list--what would be on yours?

Painting by Mary Cassatt / Image Source

When you're cooking, clean up the kitchen as you go and save yourself some headache after the meal.

Taking a hot bath is one of the best ways to relax. And baths are always better with a book.

Going to the bakery for bread, the butcher for meat, and the Greek imports store for olives is the most fun way to shop for food.

Staying home to raise your children is the best gift you can ever give them.

Learn to communicate well--keep in touch with people, follow up if they contact you--it's such a simple way to treat others with kindness and respect.

Money spent on books and music is money very well-spent.

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a cinch (at least she always made it look that way!).

Clothes-shopping in a large mall is the least pleasant form of shopping (growing up, I didn't understand this; now, I completely, 100-percent agree).

Even if you haven't cooked a thing in two days, the stove may or may not be on every time you pull out of the driveway. Better to pull back in and check.

"Let go and let God"--when you're stressed, anxious, worried, overwhelmed, sad. Or call your mother-- she'll remind you to "let go and let God," and throw in some wonderful advice and love on the side.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Currently: Volume 16

A recent photo of my Mom in her new abode on the water. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you!

Reading Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman. It's a really fascinating look at how French parenting differs from American parenting. The differences, for the most part, have really surprised me--for example, it turns out that the majority of French infants, starting as young as 2-3 months old, sleep straight through the night! I suppose I was expecting to read that French parents are looser and freer, but this bit of evidence points to something different.

Writing this post, and not much else.

Listening to this absolutely beautiful song from The Great Gatsby, which we went to see yesterday. In fact, I was blown away by the entire soundtrack--it was a high mix of 20s Jazz Age music, rap and hip hop, classical organ music, and synthesized beats, and often these were layered on top of each other in the most creative ways. My husband commented that the movie was very similar to Moulin Rouge in that way (and then we found out that these two films share a director). I almost want to see it again just for the music!

Thinking about how deeply I slept last night. My husband downloaded a white noise app on my phone a few weeks ago because there's an obnoxious dog in our neighborhood who starts barking at 1 am every night. So far, the white noise works like a charm.

Smelling nothing. A clean house, I suppose!

Wishing my husband didn't have to travel this week.

Hoping my brother's move out of his dorm goes well! He's finished with his freshman year of college--I can't believe it.

Wearing nothing cute at the moment.

Drinking tea with soy milk--my blog friend Betsy tells me that the English would be horrified by this!

Loving my Mom. I'm so thankful that we just keep getting closer as the years go by. I hope that someday soon, we will be physically closer too, so I can see her and my Dad more often than once every few months.

Wanting to play the song linked above on repeat all day. I won't, but I want to.

Needing to discover more ways to use coconut oil. I'm very into eating healthful oils these days. Yesterday, we made homemade popcorn in coconut oil, tucked it into my bag, and ate it in the movie theater. We're so rebellious!

Feeling very positive and hopeful today. I love this feeling!

Clicking on some fashion shots from The Great Gatsby. This is my favorite look from the movie. I just adore that headpiece.

Here's my Mom with my Mother-in-Law. Two beautiful ladies, if I do say so myself! We hope you both have a wonderful day.

Linking up with Lauren.

Friday, May 10, 2013


Months ago, I wrote a post about a new women's magazine called Verily that I had recently discovered. They had just released an online teaser issue, to generate interest before going into print, and I fell head over heels in love. It's wholesome and real, it's feminine and so beautiful, it's serious and meaningful. It's not at all trashy, it's respectful of women and what makes us who we are, and it's smart. I admire the women who put their hearts and minds into this project--this world was in desperate need of a magazine like Verily.

I subscribed the second I finished the teaser and since then I've been eagerly awaiting my first issue. (In the meantime, I've been tiding myself over with Verily's blog--which is also wonderful.) Over the last few weeks, the editors at Verily have announced that print subscriptions will be sent out very soon, and a few days ago they revealed the first cover! Isn't it beautiful? I'm dying to know what will be inside its pages.

I recently learned that an impressive circle of D.C. women are encouraging subscribers. I've been pleased to see some positive buzzing about Verily here in the blog world. I was recently speaking to a journalist at a Catholic magazine and when I mentioned Verily, she said she wrote an article for the first issue.

This magazine is getting attention and I want to do my small part in encouraging you, my dear readers, to consider a subscription for yourself. Based on everything I've seen so far, I can recommend it wholeheartedly, and I believe this is exactly the sort of publication we women should support.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Morning Ritual

Day 9 of Blog Every Day in May: A moment in your day

Truth be told, this isn't a moment from my day today--I snapped this shot a few weeks ago. But it may as well have been taken today because without the ritual represented by this photo, my mornings wouldn't be my mornings and I wouldn't be me.

You see, I grew up in a family of tea snobs. A family who mail-ordered loose tea from the finest sources and always made sure to replenish the stock before the last teaspoon of Buckingham Palace made its way into the teapot (even the names of our teas are a tad pretentious). A family who hesitates to order tea even in the best restaurants, fearing that a tea bag might make an appearance. A family who wouldn't drink Lipton if you paid them.

Ok, I'm exaggerating a little bit. We really aren't that bad. Let's just say this: I know how to make a mean cup of tea. My mornings revolve around it. And if you ever visit, I promise you will reap the benefits of my tea snobbery.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Piece of Advice

Day 8 of Blog Every Day in May: A piece of advice you have for others.

Notice Beauty.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Homemade Tapenade

When I wrote about my homemade tapenade on Sunday, there was a little bit of buzzing about it in the comment section. So I thought I'd post about it today and share my "recipe" (I really just throw it together).

You have to have a food processor for this. A blender might work? But I'm not sure. A food processor really is the best way. I've made this twice now and adjusted it slightly the second time--it was just perfect.

1/2 cup green olives
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 Tablespoon ground flax seed
Freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Put the olives in a colander and give them a quick rinse. This will cut back on a little bit of the saltiness--it will still be plenty salty though, don't worry! Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to a food processor and pulse until combined. Drizzle in the olive oil while the machine is running, scraping it down once or twice, until desired consistency is reached. This is meant to be a dip, so don't make it too runny! Serve with crackers or thinly sliced bread. 

You could substitute pine nuts for the walnuts, or use a different kind of oil (grapeseed oil might be nice). You could skip the garlic or add more of it, and you could experiment with different kinds of olives. I imagine stirring in crumbled feta at the very end would be delicious too. You should have fun with this and experiment away!

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Hard Question

The prompt for Day 6 of Blog Every Day in May is this: If you couldn't answer with your job, how would you answer the question, "What do you do?" I'm taking sort of a loose interpretation of this and talking in general about the question, "What do you do?"

Since graduating from my Masters program, the question, "What do you do?" always catches me a little bit off guard. I usually answer, "Well, I'm a classical pianist and I'm a serious writer, and I teach piano too." One time, a hairstylist actually asked me (before asking me anything else) "Where do you work?" Where, as in, where do you go every day to make a living? Just saying "home" didn't seem adequate based on the phrasing of her question, so I stuttered a little and said, "Oh, I work out of my home, I'm a pianist and a writer." It was so much easier before when I could just say that I was in grad school.

So you see, I don't have an easy response lined up for this question. I can't say "I'm an architect," or "I work in finance," or "I work at the hospital." I could say, "I'm a piano teacher," but that's only one part of me, and I don't even feel like I've fully deserved that title yet. To further complicate things, I've only begun to scratch the surface of what I hope to eventually do with music, and with writing. What I do now doesn't fully describe me, and what I hope for.

The way I see it is that I'm in the very early stages of carving out a life for myself that includes my music and my writing and leaves the most room for what matters most. I've thought long and carefully about my future, and I feel so blessed and thankful for my passions, thankful that medicine, or finance, or law were not my calling in life. I've been given a gift, that my interests don't require me to be away from home all day, because an office or hospital or courtroom job could never win against raising my children day in and day out (in my book). I feel intensely lucky that I will be able to continue to play and teach and write while staying home and being a mom, the most important job I'll ever have.

It's difficult for me to answer the question about what I do because I haven't yet become the pianist and the teacher I want to be, I haven't yet become the writer I want to be, and I haven't yet had children. Today, I don't feel like I have the right words for that question, "What do you do?"

But I am a wife, I am preparing for motherhood. I am a pianist, this is my craft. I am a writer, whether or not I'm paid, or publishing regularly in places other than my blog. I am a teacher, my students are learning, I am passing on knowledge and skill and beauty. What I am right now will lead to who I am tomorrow. I will continue to work on carving out the life I want and remember that sculptures don't take shape in a day.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday Currently: Volume 15

Reading books I'm slightly embarrassed to be reading, but we all have guilty pleasures, right? Over the last three days I've devoured one and a half Emily Giffin books, and will probably be done with the second one by the end of today. They are pure "chick-lit," very light reads, but the writing is actually quite good. I saw them at the library and decided I was in the mood for a little bit of fluff.

Writing not much besides this post.

Listening to the washing machine clean our sheets.

Thinking about the yummy Orange Apricot Muffins (from our cookbook) I made for breakfast this morning. I made six, and as you can see from the photo there are two whole ones, and two nibbled ones left. I blame my husband for the nibbles!

Smelling fresh, gorgeous air breezing into through the window. It's a stunningly cool day for this area and this time of year, and I'm in heaven.

Wishing it wasn't so expensive to take out an ad in the church bulletin. I'm looking for more students and assumed that advertising in a church publication would be free--but I was wrong! Even with the 10% discount for artists, it's completely unaffordable. Ah well.

Hoping our little niece has a beautiful birthday! She's 6 today.

Wearing jeans, a black cami, and a mocha-colored long sleeved top.

Drinking a tall glass of water.

Loving dates with my husband. This weekend we went to see Iron Man 3, and we also discovered a delicious, new (to us) Thai restaurant that was as good as any Thai food I've had in New York.

Wanting to finish my book! Oh I'm so hooked.

Needing to snack on some of the tapenade I made yesterday. Yes, needing. This is the second batch I've made this week and I have a feeling it might become a staple in our fridge. It's so easy--I just food-process green olives and kalamata olives, walnuts, garlic, some ground flax, ground pepper, and olive oil. It's divine.

Feeling thankful for girlfriends. I've had some really nice exchanges with friends recently, including a "checking up on you" call on Thursday night from a friend who I'd told recently about some struggles of mine. Her call really touched me.

Clicking on Bloglovin', trying to get used to it. It's not that intuitive so far, I must say, but I'm trying.

Linking up with Lauren today!

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