Thursday, May 29, 2014

Refresher For Wooden Kitchen Tools

I love my collection of wooden cooking tools. I'll reach for wood over metal or plastic just about every time. It just feels good to stir with a wooden spoon, don't you think? They don't scratch pans, they don't melt, they're a natural material, they are easy to manipulate and the perfect shape for everything from scrambled eggs to soups to saute├ęd spinach. Since my wooden kitchen tools get such hard use they are in need of a refresher every so often--especially my cutting board, which I get out at least twice a day. Obviously soap and water is great for regular cleaning, but wood needs a bit of extra maintenance to keep it in good, clean shape. 

So, I did some research on a food-safe cleaning method. Did you know that lemon essential oil is an excellent natural sanitizer? I've recently been using a drop or two on bathroom countertops to disinfect them, and was thrilled to discover lemon oil is food-safe! I grabbed my salad tongs and my trusty cutting board to start, and using a paper towel I rubbed some lemon oil into the wood for a minute or two. I thought about rinsing it afterward but the smell was too delicious, and the wood completely absorbed the oil. No need to rinse!

You could stop there--the lemon oil alone will renew and thoroughly sanitize your wooden tools--but if you want to really pamper and refresh the wood you can apply a food-safe beeswax furniture polish. I recently bought this polish to moisturize a very dry wicker chair but it can be used on all kinds of wood. After applying with a cotton towel and then buffing the wood to a shine, I noticed the most difference on my salad tongs. These were a gift from my husband and I love them, but they've always been a little on the dry side. You'd think that all the olive oil they encounter would have fixed that by now! The beeswax polish instantly revived the wood and now they feel silky smooth to the touch. The extra moisture has brought out the grain pattern in a rich and beautiful way, too.

In addition to being effective I found this little ritual highly satisfying and enjoyable. Over the past few months I've been gravitating toward natural and simple cleaning products--baking soda, vinegar, good old boiling water--and something about rubbing that lovely lemon oil into my cutting board was really gratifying. It's kind of magical that something so delightfully fragrant is also good at killing germs! Also very neat to see the way the wooden tongs absolutely drank up the beeswax. I can't wait to get to the rest of my wooden tools later today.

Thanks for letting me wax-poetic for a minute. (Pun intended!) But really, grab some lemon oil and beeswax polish and try this for yourself. Your wooden tools will thank you and I bet you'll enjoy yourself in the process.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Just Some Thoughts

A just because photo....isn't this such a soothing image? All the neutrals and orderliness! / Source

I haven't been feeling inspired to write lately which isn't like me. I think it must have something to do with this strange in-between state we're in. I've got one foot out my front door and the other just dying to join it, but we have another two weeks until we move. It's a weird feeling. There's a new front door waiting for me (and it's red, friends!) and I'm going a bit stir crazy with the anticipation and the fluttery energy inside me.

Our house is looking more and more bare by the day and there's still lots left to do. Closing accounts, making sure our mail is forwarded, getting new military IDs. And of course more fun tasks like last visits to our favorite local German bakery and a goodbye dinner with one of my students and his family. It's hard work closing out a chapter of your life! It keeps you busy for weeks and then you're gone and everything is new again. New address, new grocery store, new doctors, new streets, new walls to wake up between each day.

It sort of hit me yesterday that we really lived here in Alabama. It sounds obvious, I know--but as much as I wanted our time here to be temporary and short-term, the reality is that we built lives here. And while I can assure you I'm not feeling nostalgic about leaving or sad in any way (I'm thrilled and beyond excited), it is a little overwhelming to be starting over so completely. This is the first real move my husband and I have done together and we have a lot of newness to navigate, like, where will we get fabulous chicken red curry takeout when that inevitable craving hits on a Friday night? In addition to all the bigger, more life-altering things too, of course. It'll all be fresh--everything from the sidewalks our sneakers will come to know to the very rhythm of our days.

Anyway, I guess this post is just a simple update on how things are in the Harvey household lately. Lots of giddy eagerness for the future, lots of thoughts on endings and beginnings, and lots of praying for smooth and healthy and happy transitions. Thanks for letting me share it.

(On another note I highly recommend this new Ingrid Michaelson song, Wonderful Unknown, which also features her husband. It's beautiful. Let's let unknowns be wonderful!)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

One-Piece Inspiration

Last year I blogged about one-piece bathing suits and my thoughts on their beauty and elegance and femininity. As we approach swimsuit season 2014 I thought it would be fun to gather up some of my favorite one-piece looks, for a bit of inspiration. Each of these proves that one-pieces can be so flattering and lovely--if you're not yet convinced by them, maybe by the end of this post you will be!

The loose top and cinched-waist on this first one makes for a really flattering and perfectly casual silhouette. I bet it's very comfortable too. My one concern would be about the top staying up, so you'd have to try this on to make sure.

This one is so glamorous and anything but frumpy. The lines and the gathering details and the touch of mesh make it special. And how about the back?! Stunning.

This one is very expensive, but I liked it too much not to include it, at least for inspiration. The peplum feature is definitely girly but the rest of the suit is simple and the v-neck provides a nice edgy contrast. I love this suit. Paired with a broad sun hat, you'd feel like Audrey Hepburn.

This one is sold out, but this is mostly an inspiration post anyway, so I'm including it. Doesn't this suit look like a watercolor painting? I'm going to keep on the lookout for a similar one. 

This is not a one-piece but it's pretty close. These high-waisted swimsuit bottoms are so elegant and when paired with a slightly-longer-than-normal top, you've got a modified one-piece sort of look! Perfectly retro yet timeless and classy. 

What do you think? Will you be adding a new (or maybe your first) one-piece to your collection this year?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Train Travel

I had it in my head that I wanted to take the train.

When my husband and I were making plans for our recent road trip we had to figure out a way for me to get from San Francisco to LA, where he would pick me up. I researched several options and found that taking Amtrak's Coast Starlight was the cheapest ($60), the longest (12 hours 40 minutes), and the most scenic (farmland, cliffs, and hours along the Pacific).

Yes, please! I was sold.

This route goes from Seattle all the way down to LA and back and it's known as one of the most beautiful Amtrak routes in the country. Honestly, I got pretty giddy about it while doing my research. I wasn't looking at it as my way to get from one place to another but as an adventure in and of itself. A way to see California's coastline and have a day of quiet alone time amidst a very social trip. 

Something about train travel feels old-fashioned and elegant to me. Is it the romantic in me or do you feel the same? I picture Edith Wharton-esque scenes of old trunks filled with ruffled dresses and cars for smoking and playing cards and women in their hats and traveling clothes. Modern train travel has lost a lot of this glamor but it takes only a bit of imagination to bring it back. 

The hours actually went by pretty quickly. In between looking out the window and snapping photos I took little naps, read my book, ordered a burger for lunch in the dining car, called my mom, and daydreamed. We took a "Fresh Air Break" in San Luis Obispo and I found myself pacing the platform along with a very sweet old gentleman who also seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the trip. It was fun to notice how people were spending their 12 hours on the train. Some people seemed to sleep the whole time. Other people had carefully laid out their newspaper and snacks next to them and looked settled and content to be there. Other people were mostly gazing out the windows. 

This route is amazing because for much of it, the train is by itself, cutting through fields and along cliffs. Sometimes it ran parallel to a road but even then the roads were often sleepy ones. I loved seeing the fertile California land and I must have witnessed several dozen fields full of perfect rows of lettuce or kale, so vibrantly green and bushy. And when the land gave way to the ocean about halfway through the trip it was breathtaking. Lonely stretches of coast and a setting sun and old ramshackle structures. The scenery we rode through was incredible.

Here are some snapshots I took in case you'd like to see. If you ever have the chance to take this train, do. I have a feeling that when I'm 80 I'll still remember the solo train journey I took through California when I was 25.

Friday, May 16, 2014

On My Mind

Sometimes random mish-mash posts can be fun, especially on a Friday, don't you think? Here are a few things on my mind these days.

I spotted these shoes when shopping with my sister-in-law in Houston and it took some strength to resist the temptation to even try them on. I think they're perfect, but I don't need anything new right now. Maybe I'll watch for when they go on sale.

I've been getting really into the look of Turkish Kilim rugs lately and have learned that eBay is a great place to find them. Wouldn't this one be gorgeous on hardwood floors against white walls?

My sister-in-law (a different one, I'm blessed to have 3!) sent me this awesome video last week. I really liked it and believe its message is a powerful one. Watch it and let me know what you think.

Occasionally, I like to see what's going on at my alma mater. I stumbled on this article and I'm quite captivated by this new interdisciplinary sacred music drama about Joan of Arc that is being created and performed by several collaborating departments. It's called "I Was Born For This" and I imagine it's incredibly moving.

I can't wait to try out this studio when we're in Charlottesville!

My friend Kristyn recently re-branded her handmade jewelry shop and her new collection is stunning. I bought the Arch Earrings (pictured above) and they arrived last week. They're simple and feminine and exquisite. Do check out her shop--I think you'll be impressed.

What's been on your mind? I'd love to hear. Enjoy this middle-of-May weekend, friends!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Handmade Hummingbird iPhone Case

I got my first iPhone about two years ago and I proudly kept the same case the entire time I had it. By the end it was falling apart, and it was never a very nice case to begin with. When I got a new phone a few weeks ago I decided that a pretty case would be a priority, a little treat for myself because I had put up with my old boring one for two years!

I found this beautiful, handmade case on Etsy and I just love it. Kayla, the owner of Case Cavern, makes her phone cases out of gorgeous vintage pendants and each one is entirely unique. I chose the hummingbird but I also thought the elephant and the giraffe were very sweet.

One thing I was a little nervous about when I ordered the case is how far the pendant would stick out, and would it get snagged on things? But it hasn't been a problem for me at all. The hummingbird pendant is very slim and fits pretty flat on the back of the case, and Kayla does a good job securing it down. It looks delicate but it's actually quite sturdy.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share with you in case you're in the market for a beautiful and unusual case for your phone! These would make for a lovely gift too. 

This post is not sponsored. I just wanted to share a beautiful handmade product with you and support a small creative business in the process.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Home Again

Well hello!

It feels great to be drinking my tea at home and typing up a blog post this morning. We are back from our cross-country road trip! Our vacation took us across six states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California) and to the doorsteps of so many family members and friends that we don't get to see often enough. Between my husband and me we have five siblings and we got to see three of the five. My husband visited a flight school friend, two high school friends and a college friend, I met an uncle on my husband's side for the first time and spent three days with one of my best girlfriends from Notre Dame. In between we had two days to ourselves at the Grand Canyon. Oh, and that train trip I took from San Francisco to LA, the one that takes 12 hours? The countryside was just as wonderful and scenically beautiful as I'd imagined (that train ride is a blog post in itself, actually).

The whole trip was a spectacular adventure we will not soon forget. It was the perfect way to celebrate my husband's newfound freedom and to end our time in Alabama. It was a welcome distraction from some of the stress that's been on our plate and it gave me so much perspective on my own life. 

When we were at the Grand Canyon I remembered a trick I'd heard once. Here it is: when things feel overwhelming or you feel sad or discontented, picture yourself throwing your worry into the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon represents every moment of your life, from birth to death, the past and present and what has yet to come. Imagine today's worry and how infinitely tiny it is when up against a lifetime of joys and struggles and triumphs and everyday life. I had used this trick before but doing it while standing on the South Rim with the Grand Canyon before me was really powerful. Finding peace through perspective.

We got back last night which was exactly, to the day, four weeks from our move to Charlottesville. The house looked a little bare when we got home because of all the packing I did before I left, and it made things feel so real. Our brand new lives are on the horizon! The plans are set, the truck is rented and the piano movers hired, the lease has been signed. June 9th can't come fast enough.

Today will be spent doing laundry and getting groceries and spending some much-needed time alone to recharge my batteries. Regular life after a long and lovely vacation might be a letdown to some people, but to me it just reminds me how rich and wonderful normalcy can be. I've written about it before--traveling is incredible but so is the joy of coming home. 

To all of our loved ones who made this trip so beautiful--thank you! We had the time of our lives.

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