Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Cross-Country Road Trip

Photo from our honeymoon

With our move 6 weeks away (!!) and the knowledge that this is likely the last time we'll live in this part of the country, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and take a trip out West. Tomorrow I'm flying to San Francisco to spend the weekend with a dear college friend, and I'm also spending a night with my beloved sister-in-law who happens to be in the area for work. Seeing her is a bonus--it was totally unplanned and perfectly serendipitous!

On Sunday I'm taking a 12-hour train ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which might sound horrible to some people but I actually can't wait. Apparently this particular Amtrak route is famous for being incredibly scenic and a lot of people say it's one of the best ways to see the California coastline. I reserved a seat on the upper deck and I plan to type on my laptop and read the books I just bought on Amazon and gaze out the window at the cliffs and the ocean. I think I'm going to thoroughly enjoy myself.

In LA, my sweet husband will pick me up! He started out the trip last week and has been visiting friends in Houston, Tucson, and LA. I've been missing him like crazy and I think it'll be really fun to rendezvous in a city neither of us have been to before. He might even twirl me at the train station, who knows. We booked an adorable Airbnb (it used to be a Hollywood hotel and has been converted to apartments) for one night and the next day we drive together to the Grand Canyon, which I'm sure will be spectacular.

From there we'll go to Santa Fe to see some family, then to Dallas to visit my older brother for a night, then to Houston to see my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and some college friends. Then a 10-hour drive back home. Phew!

I'll admit that I was a little bit reluctant at first to commit to this road trip. My husband had the idea and has been enthusiastic about it from the get-go--me and my worried brain had a little more trouble getting on board. I've been so focused on this complicated move that I didn't have room to think about anything else, and this trip is definitely ambitious.

But after we found a house and things finally started falling into place I was able to relax and turn my mind to other things and I realized that my husband is right. This is a once-in-a-lifetime sort of adventure! An opportunity like this may not arise again. And seriously, I must be a little crazy because--when your husband asks you to travel across the country with him, you say yes.

Beautiful American West, here we come.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mother Nature

We had a wicked thunderstorm yesterday that woke me up sometime in the middle of the night. I love thunderstorms but this one was actually quite scary. The thunder was so loud it sounded like it was coming from my bedroom, and the lightning was so bright and constant that I had to turn away from the windows in order to get back to sleep. My husband is traveling too, so I didn't have him here to reassure me.

Anyway, it made me thankful that I've never lived in an area where natural disasters constantly threaten. In Upstate New York and in South Bend, Indiana there are blizzards, but I've found it isn't too hard to stay safe in a blizzard. You just don't drive, and make sure that you have tons of blankets and candles and preferably, a gas stove to keep you warm if the power goes out. I lived in New York City when Hurricane Irene came through in 2011 but it ended up being fairly minor and again, pretty easy to stay safe if you were inside. There are tornadoes in Alabama but they're not very common in our area (there was one this week but it was in northern Alabama). And our soon-to-be home, Virginia, is all-around pretty tame when it comes to extreme weather.

But in so many places, natural disasters are a part of regular life and that's a scary thought. Earthquakes and wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes, tsunamis and avalanches and volcanoes. Mother Nature is beautiful but she is powerful and can be so frightening.

I'm pretty wimpy when it comes to this sort of thing (you know those signs on the side of the road that warn of rock slides?--they terrify me) so I'm very grateful to have lived in areas that are mostly safe from natural disasters.

What about you? Do you live in a place with lots of earthquakes or hurricanes? How do you deal with it? I'm always amazed at how cavalier Southern Californians are about earthquakes--they simply know what to do when one hits and don't seem to stress about it at all!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Let's Get To Know One Another: How Do You Find Peace

Jumping right from favorites scents and go-to snacks to finding peace--I told you I wanted to get into some deep and delicious topics!

So this could be a really broad question, but I want to know specifically, how do you find peace at any given moment? You're having a mediocre day, maybe even a lousy day. You really want to get out of the funk and you want to feel better and calmer, right then and there. What do you do to find that serenity?

Obviously, peace and stillness is sometimes fleeting. If only we had an instant cure-all! But I've learned that knowing how to get yourself out of an anxious or stressed-out mood, even for just a few moments, is important and healthy.

One thing that works really well for me is to sit down in a quiet spot, close my eyes, and listen to one of my favorite soul-lifting pieces of music. Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart is a piece I play myself (Liszt arranged it for the piano) but the version for choir that was composed by Mozart is the one I've been listening to and really connecting with lately. It's a sacred piece so it feels spiritually renewing to me, and of all of the composers I love so very much, I think Mozart's music is the most heavenly (Beethoven's too). I let it wash over me and it's like praying without the words.

So, your turn--how do you find peace? By calling a girlfriend? Sweating it out on a treadmill? Journaling or crafting? Taking a bath? (I fully approve of that one.) I'd love to know.

Friday, April 25, 2014


When it comes to clothes I'm all about basics and neutrals. Good quality tees in mix-and-matchable colors, well-fitting jeans, lots of greys and charcoals and whites. I've also come to a few resolutions lately for how I'm going to shop for tops from now on. I've gotten really tired of cuts that sort of hug the arm and armpits--it's so uncomfortable!--and I've always loved the looser, more flowing look. I realized there's no reason to put up with shirts that I don't find comfortable. Loose tops are sophisticated, classic, effortless, and there are so many beautiful and stylish options available these days that are feminine-slouchy, not sloppy-slouchy. (Read this post from a favorite blogger for more on the topic.)

Anyway, I've discovered Everlane's Ryan Tees and think they're lovely--the perfect fit, the right amount of looseness while remaining super flattering and shapely, and so classic. I love the tomboy-ish front pocket and think they're so cute tucked or untucked, alone or under a cardigan or blazer. Plus, this company's customer service? Well, I have a story for you...

I bought my first Ryan Tee a few months ago in heather grey and have worn it obsessively since. So I was bummed out when I noticed a teeny-tiny hole down toward the bottom one day last week. I think Everlane makes beautiful quality shirts and I believe this was just a random fluke. Maybe it snagged on something as I was walking? It wasn't even really that noticeable but since I know this company prides itself on quality and making its customers happy I decided to type out an email to their help desk. I raved about this shirt and said I thought it might be worthwhile to email, that perhaps I could get a small discount on a future purchase?

Within an hour or two I got an email from Justin at Everlane telling me that they would be more than happy to put credits in my account, enough to cover one new Ryan Tee plus shipping. That's $33 worth of credits. I was blown away. They didn't want me to send this one back, they were simply happy to help me out on a future purchase and glad I wanted to keep supporting their business. Is that not unheard of in the customer service world?

So, inspired by Everlane's (and Justin's) generosity, I ordered three new Ryan Tees instead of one. This is the kind of company I like to support, and that level of service totally deserves an enthusiastic customer response. (Also, I couldn't decide between this, this, or this, so I didn't!)

This is not a sponsored post, just a story about a company that really impresses me. I highly recommend trying one of Everlane's tees for yourself!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Power Of Red Lips

Do you have a favorite beauty pick-me-up? Something you do or wear on days when you're feeling a little blah? For me, it's red lipstick! It doesn't matter if I'm just at home and not wearing a stitch of makeup otherwise. I'll go into the bathroom, swipe on one of my favorite reds, and I'll magically feel lifted and fresh and a little glamorous. 

One day earlier this week I was wearing super minimal makeup--just tinted moisturizer, mascara, and a little under eye concealer. My hair had air-dried that morning and I threw it up in a clip while putting groceries in my car (Alabama in April = hotter than you'd expect). I wasn't even wearing my usual tiny diamond stud earrings. There's nothing wrong with days like this but I felt in need of just a little midday boost. I put on a layer of this lipstick and instantly felt put together and feminine.

(One trick for wearing a deep red lipstick during the day and still looking pretty natural: after applying I blot my lips with a tissue to create more of a stained look, and with my finger I sort of blur the edges a little so the lines aren't too defined or severe.)

What about you? Do you have any beauty pick-me-ups? Another one of mine is washing my hands with a special scrub. The scent lingers all day and my hands feel silky smooth! Amazing what a little pampering can do.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Sweet Moment

We witnessed the cutest thing in church a few weeks ago. There was a family sitting in the pew in front of us--a mother and father, a daughter who was maybe 6, and a son who looked like he was about 4. The kids were really sweet and spent most of the service coloring quietly. At one point, the little girl got up to show her dad a drawing she did of a man and when my husband and I caught a glimpse of her drawing as she showed it off, we thought it was the cutest thing in the world.

She had drawn (very prominently) black plug earrings in the man's ears, identical to the ones her own father was wearing. And she specifically pointed them out to her dad as she beamed and he lovingly smiled back at her. 

I would say it's pretty atypical for a dad to have plug earrings and lots of tattoos and a mohawk. The point of this isn't what he looked like or what I thought of it (he actually pulled it off quite well--maybe he was in a rock band?). The point is that this girl's dad did have these things, and she was proud of him and looked up to him and loved him exactly as he was. She drew his quirky and unusual style choices into her drawing of him, and beamed with pride as she shared it.

It made me think of my relationship with my own dad--not because he has plug earrings or a mohawk (!) but because of that adoring look I witnessed between father and daughter. I think any Daddy's Girl would have recognized that look. It was such a sweet moment. I feel lucky to have seen it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Decorating Slowly

Let's be honest! One of the best things about moving is getting a whole new place to decorate and play with. We are renting a very cute little house (that we haven't seen in person yet!) and I just can't wait to fill it with our things and hang art on the walls and get out my hammer (and maybe a paint brush?) and really make it ours.

But as eager and excited as I am, I have made a resolution to decorate slowly. And here's why. I truly believe that the most beautiful rooms have an eclectic, natural feel to them. They don't look styled, they don't look planned. They look put together and collected but completely organic at the same time. The most beautiful rooms look like the people who live in them.

I think rooms like this are a natural result of taking things slowly. One of my favorite design bloggers wrote once, "I've learned the rooms I like the best aren't usually designed with moodboards in one day or even a week. I think you'll be most happy with your space if you move a little slower and try to decorate in layers."

So my plan is to settle into our new home using what we already have (and we are very blessed--due to my parents' downsize at the same time of our wedding, we have a lot more furniture/art/rugs/kitchen supplies than most young couples). I want to get used to the light and the layout and the quirks of the house (it was built in 1946 so it's bound to have quirks! hooray!). I want to use each space and take our time figuring out practical and aesthetically pleasing solutions for storage, or lighting, or any number of things we're sure to encounter. I think it will be fun to test out different furniture configurations and try our art in various spots and DIY whenever possible.

This is not to say that we won't be buying anything new, but in the first few weeks I hope to keep the spending to a minimum. There are of course things we will need right away but whenever we can wait for a sale or wait until we find a version of something we really love, as opposed to a version we think is just ok, I want to try to wait. Also, as usual, thrift shops will be my friend as I hunt for things for the house.

Not only is this approach going to encourage us to be thrifty and make better design decisions, I think it will also make for a more relaxed move-in. I'm looking forward to playing with what we already own and filling in the gaps carefully and thoughtfully as we go.

 What about you? How do you decorate? What have you learned by trial and error?

(All images via Pinterest, picked because these rooms feel earthy and natural and cozy and because they inspire me.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

   And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise.
-Mark 10:34

Good Friday is the really difficult part of Easter weekend. We know that Easter is coming and the joy and hope it represents, so it can be easy to forget today. But it's important not to forget today--to forget that our salvation came at a price, that God asked His son to do something unimaginable, all because He loves us so very much.

The part of the crucifixion story that is most painful for me to read is when Jesus cries, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus' humanity, his divinity, and both his physical and emotional suffering are all wrapped up in this cry. His pain was real. 

Good Friday is a sad day for Christians but without it, the joy of Easter wouldn't be half as bright, and wonderful, and brilliant. May we all remember what this day means and be thankful.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Easy Choice

Tulips for Easter and Springtime and new beginnings

Finally, the cat's out of the bag! Thanks so much to my dear, sweet readers for being excited and happy with us! Charlottesville is a vibrant, wonderful little city and I'm pretty sure we're going to love it there.

These last two years in Alabama were very much not a part of our plan, as I'm sure you have gathered from my posts. We thought we would live here together as a married couple for three months, max, but it's been close to 24. We also thought we'd be in a very different situation by the time we left Alabama than we currently are. Life has surprised us.

But you know what I've learned? That this trying, frustrating, patience-testing, worry-filled, big unknown phase of our lives has been one enormous blessing in disguise. God had a plan for us and my husband and I both honestly believe that we are in a better place as a result of the chaos of the last few years (the details of which I won't get into here). If that isn't a praise-worthy revelation I don't know what is.

We are moving to Charlottesville because my husband got the unexpected opportunity to go back to school in order to pursue a career change (a career of the "dream" variety). We're moving there to be close to our families--my in-laws are a little over an hour away and my parents are a little over two hours away. We are moving there so that I might feel more stimulated artistically and creatively and hopefully grow as a musician and a teacher and a writer. We are moving to Charlottesville because it's a beautiful and interesting part of the country. Simply put, we like it there.

Last week we signed a lease on a cute house to rent and--get this--we did it all sight unseen! Something I wouldn't have imagined doing in a previous life but I guess I'm getting gutsy and learning to be flexible. To be fair, my mother went to see it and proclaimed it adorable and perfect for us. (Also, it has a red door and a screened porch. Sold.) We can't wait to see it and move in.

It's a wonderful feeling to have made this relocation decision together as a couple and to know that it is the right one for us. It was weird, sometime over this past summer I started to feel a pull to Virginia generally and Charlottesville specifically. As we thought about it more and more the decision pretty much made itself. It was an easy choice and after months of hard choices or too few choices, that felt great.

It goes without saying that there are still unknowns in our lives (there always will be) and issues to overcome (of course!) but we feel so hopeful for this new chapter and the changes it will bring.

(Not least of which is the happy reunion that will take place when I get to unpack the boxes filled with wedding gifts. I've had many a daydream about Grandma's china and our white embroidered pillowcases and our pretty dining room chairs.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

When Life Endears You

Sometimes life has a quirky way of endearing us to it.

Yesterday at my hair appointment, my hairstylist was describing her sixth-grade son's "serial killer handwriting" and her story and hand gestures were so funny that I was laughing and leaning forward in my chair (I'm a forward-leaner when I'm laughing hard) and there were tears in my eyes.

I spoke to two different customer service representatives from two different companies yesterday and both were as cheerful and helpful as can be and my problems were resolved in a matter of minutes (that never happens, right?!).

And then there was the lizard quandary.Yesterday afternoon I got in my car to drive to the grocery store and noticed that a cute little lizard was peering right at me from the hood of my car. I pulled over in my neighborhood and got out to shoo him off. He ended up jumping down into the tire and at that point I didn't know what to do--I didn't want to crush that little guy! Just then, a few Saudi Arabian flight school students (they are trained at Fort Rucker) stopped because they thought I had car trouble. I explained the lizard situation and they both jumped out and got on the ground and tried to see if he was still in my tire. One of them said that snakes like to get into the hood of the car so we should check there, and I said that it was actually a lizard and I knew he was in the tire. He didn't know the word lizard so I described to him what they look like. I think they thought I was way too weirdly nice to be so concerned about hurting one of those.

Anyway, we couldn't find the lizard so I decided to just start driving very slowly and the guys who helped me were going to drive in front and look back to see if the lizard jumped out. Sure enough, after about 3 seconds of creeping along slowly, I got an ecstatic thumbs up and a hand signal that could only have meant that the little critter skittered off safe and sound! The whole thing ended up being hilarious and sweet.

Then later in the day I had a very honest, real, meaningful text-chat with a dear friend. Let me just say that she's a keeper, that gal.

It was a regular yet oddly endearing day. One of those days when you connect with people, friends and strangers alike, in a way that makes you feel happy and grateful.

Have a wonderful weekend friends!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mid-Week Musings

I'm reading The Luminaries and loving it. This novel won the Man Booker Prize and its author, Eleanor Catton, is in her twenties! I'm always amazed by people who reach such success at such a young age, aren't you? I'm only about halfway through (it's over 800 pages and extremely complex and winding) but I think the writing is brilliant. I recommend it if you're in the mood for an epic read (that will take you straight into the month of May!).


I'm so into houseplants these days. I'm not too good at taking care of plants but I've realized that many houseplants are actually quite easy to keep alive. Did you know that certain plants can help purify the air in your home? I also love how vibrant green plants add a freshness and a pop of color to a room.


I'm not completely sure why, but I've been thinking a lot lately about how proud I am of my family--husband, parents, brothers, in-laws. I just feel so lucky that they're mine and that I get to be Kate Zinsmeister Harvey.


I think Alabama is trying to butter me up with this terrifically gorgeous weather we've been having. There have been a few rainy days but also plenty of days that to me, are perfect--in the 60s, sunny with a cool breeze, not at all muggy. What a gift.


Do you watch Call The Midwife? Season 3 started last week and so far it's just as lovely and earnest and poignant as the previous two seasons. There are a lot of births on the show, as you might imagine, and I think I cry pretty much every time.


What's on your mind today?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Illustrated Quotes

Here's something light-hearted to start the week out! I stumbled upon these illustrated quotations by designer Ryan McArthur and I think they're quite clever and fun. My favorite is this first one.

I think this one below would make for some cute office decor, matted and framed in white.

And I think that last one is really sweet! What do you think of this quirky artwork?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I'm Doing Just Fine

Scene from yesterday: a billowing curtain and fresh April air.

Sometime last week, I was having a bad day. I was discouraged and getting worked up and not feeling super happy. On that same day, my mom sent me this WSJ article called, "Advice For A Happy Life." My bad day and the timing of her email had nothing to do with each other--purely coincidental--and my mom meant nothing other than to send me an article she knew I'd like. But I do remember reading just the title and thinking--ok good, yes, this is what I need to read right now. What am I doing wrong?! Why aren't things going according to plan?! I'm not having a happy time of things right now, and maybe it's my fault. I need this advice!

And then I read the article and realized, I'm doing just fine.

Here are the author's five pieces of very wise advice for leading a happy life:

Consider marrying young.

Learn how to recognize your soul mate.

Eventually stop fretting about fame and fortune.

Take religion seriously.

Watch "Groundhog Day" repeatedly.

Here I was, thinking I was going to get a very welcome spiel on not taking yourself so seriously, focusing on the present and choosing to let tomorrow's worries go, learning how to laugh in the face of difficulties. After all, that's usually how these kinds of articles go and honestly, I would have been all ears had this been the advice. My fears were getting in the way of my happiness that day, and I suppose I wanted some justification that I was unhappy for good reason. I suppose I wanted to be told that if I can only laugh at myself, I'll feel better. I wanted to be told that these thoughts were normal but ten deep breaths would go a long way toward feeling peace. I guess I wanted this article to sympathize with me and then provide a quick fix.

But this article wasn't fluff. It was wise and honest and true. And it provided me with something much more valuable than justification and some flimsy pick-me-ups. It made me realize, I'm doing just fine.

I don't know what my one-year plan looks like, let alone my five-year plan, but I've got a husband and he's going through every step with me and we're going to look back on this time of not knowing and be so glad for the richness and the lessons and the love in these early years of our marriage.

I don't have control over a lot of the things my heart desires, but I've found my soul mate. My heart has found its resting place and even on days it feels heavy, my heart isn't lost. It belongs.

Wondering how successful I will be as a piano teacher and a musician and an artist scares me, and I don't know what my niche in the creative world will be just yet. Thank goodness I never cared about fame and fortune! I was talking with one of my students last week about when we are planning to move, and he told me that things just won't be the same without me. We started his lessons the same month he relocated to Alabama with his family so he's seen me every week for the whole time he's lived here. It was so touching and helped me to remember that if I can influence and inspire even just one young pianist, I'm doing ok.

I have so much to learn about faith and trust and godliness but I am 100% committed to the discovery. And I'm realizing that God teaches us so much through our trials, I need only be open to what He is trying to show me.

I've only seen "Groundhog Day" once, but I've got time on my side.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Let's Get To Know One Another: Go-To Snack

A lot of you were quite positive about my new series idea, Let's Get To Know One Another. Hooray! I'm not really surprised because you readers are always sweet and supportive and encouraging. I'm so thankful for that. The best part of these posts is learning about you. I write so much about me and I think it's fun to actively invite you to tell me about yourselves.

Anyway, next up in the series--what is your go-to snack? I'm the kind of girl who needs to eat something every few hours or else I will become very hungry and cranky. In fact I recently learned an adorable new word (I think it's British? Betsy, help me!) for meals taken at non-meal hours: elevenses. Perfect, right? Who isn't starving for lunch already by 11?

My food cravings come and go in waves which means that my go-to snack changes every so often. Last year around this time I would have said homemade olive tapenade and crackers. But these days it's tart, juicy, chewy, dried cherries.

My mom was the one who first got me hooked on these. They are totally like candy to us and I think I could probably eat them all day long. Here are my favorite ways to munch on these beauties.

Plain, on their own, by the handful.

Alongside a pile of pita chips and a dollop of hummus (the sweet/tangy, garlicky/creamy, and crunchy/salty combination is just so delicious to me).

On top of a bowl of greek yogurt with a sprinkle of ground flax seed.

With raw almonds and dark chocolate chunks.

Ok, now it's your turn! It's time for your elevenses and the kitchen is stocked--what do you grab?

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