Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Would A Stranger Learn About You From Your Home

Have you ever thought about what a stranger could learn about you just from seeing the inside of your home? Here are my guesses on what they might notice in ours...


From the wooden cross above our door, they would know we are believers.

From a stray dust bunny, they would know that we are more interested in keeping things tidy than we are in keeping things spotless.

From our book collection, they would know that we are into C.S. Lewis, George R.R. Martin, dictionaries, and a biography or two.

From the tin of smoothed-from-use wooden spoons by the stove, they would know that most of our meals are made at home.

From the twin copies of Notre Dame Magazine on our coffee table (one addressed to him and one to me) they would know that we were college sweethearts.

From the snake plant and aloe plant, they would know we aren't confident in our abilities to keep greenery alive.

From the lack of a black box in our living room, they would know that we value conversation and intimacy in our home, and also that we make good use of our Netflix account.

From the humongous bag of scarfs, hats, gloves, ski pants, and mittens in our front closet, they would know that we haven't always lived in Virginia.

From the art on the piano studio walls, they would know that Bach and Beethoven are favorites.

From the eucalyptus branches hanging from the shower, they would know that the inhabitants of this home are a little quirky.


What does your home reveal about you? I would love to know all the juicy tidbits.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cleansing Oil Hand Wash

I bought this Bobbi Brown Cleansing Oil awhile ago to try as a face wash and ended up not loving it for my sensitive skin. I hate to be wasteful so for the longest time I kept it with my bath supplies because I couldn't justify throwing it out. 

But! Then I thought, why not use it as a hand wash? My hands are perpetually dry in the wintertime and most soaps only make them more parched. So I plopped this pretty little bottle on the sink and it's now such a treat to wash my hands. The formula is really light and not at all oily, if you can believe it. It smells incredibly fresh (jasmine!) and makes my hands feel clean but also moisturized. Hooray for re-purposing!

What do you use in the wintertime to keep your hands soft and healthy? (I've also been loving this hand cream.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Choose To Be Brave

What if instead of feeling anxious or upset by something going on in our lives, what if instead we chose to feel brave?

If we begin to think of ourselves as brave rather than put-upon, brave rather than burdened, brave rather than vulnerable, suddenly the hard thing we're going through becomes a little bit lighter.

We each have our own soft spots that could use a dose of bravery. It might mean drawing away from a friendship that has turned toxic. It might mean breaking out of a rut or giving up unhealthy habits. It might mean moving through a difficult phase in life with grace and elegance.

Whatever is hard in your life right now, dear friends, just remember that you can choose to be brave. There's no doubt that feeling sorry for ourselves is the easier choice but I think bravery will do more for our hearts and minds and characters, don't you think?

Watercolor background source

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Eucalyptus-Scented Shower

A few years ago I discovered lavender essential oil, and since then I've become obsessed with all-natural ways of making my home/clothes/towels/pillowcases/you-name-it smell divine.

I mix up my own lavender linen spray for our sheets and pillowcases. I make lemon-scented room spray and keep it in our living room for last-minute air freshening when we have guests. I'm addicted to the Trader Joe's lavender dryer bags (and not just for the dryer--you'll find them tucked in just about every sock, underwear, linen, and towel drawer in our house). 

But my latest aromatherapy experiment is possibly my favorite yet--I tied some eucalyptus branches to our shower curtain rod! I got the idea from this post and while it sounds a little strange, it's actually amazing. The steam from the shower causes the earthy, fresh eucalyptus aroma to surround you and it's so refreshing and awakening first thing in the morning. 

An added bonus is that eucalyptus is pretty beautiful. I arranged the stems in a bouquet and hung it upside down with a little bit of kitchen twine and I'm loving the way it looks.

What do you think? Will you try it? (FYI, for all of you who have a Trader Joe's near you, a bundle of fresh eucalyptus is only $2.99!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Lately, my Dad has become fascinated with early--and I mean early--human history. Cave drawings and unearthed skeletons and archaeological digs and other such things. When we were up in D.C. this weekend he was telling us a little bit about what he's been reading and I keep thinking about something he told us.

He said that the thing he's been most struck by in all of his study on this subject is just how hauntingly similar these humans who lived 30,000 years ago were to us humans living today. They had vivid imaginations and were compelled to creativity. They sketched each other's faces. Scientists have discovered drawings done by young boys that are strikingly graffiti-like, that depict the same kinds of things today's young boys are interested in--roughhousing, lewd imagery, that sort of thing. They were motivated by fear and love. They had religion. My Dad was saying that it's all very poetic and beautiful to think that they really weren't all that fundamentally different from us.

So if we aren't very changed from the humans who roamed the earth 30,000 years ago, how different are we really from other humans living today?

I think we tend to notice and even emphasize the differences we see and feel between ourselves and other people. Differences are indeed there and they're largely positive--they make us interesting, they give us depth and richness, uniqueness. But how lovely to remember, at the same time, just how alike we are. It's funny--I've gotten 7 or 8 calls and emails over the past 10 days from people looking to begin piano lessons. That's about as many inquiries as I got in all of November and December. But in January we humans like to set resolutions, begin new beginnings, try things we've never tried before. What better time is there to learn to play the piano than in the early weeks of a new year? We are all in agreement on that, apparently.

I'm really not much of a science girl but I sure do enjoy when science collides with beauty and love and art and helps us to understand things beyond the purely physical. Thanks Dad, for sharing this with me.

Image Source

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Story From Yesterday

Yesterday, something pretty shocking and quite awful happened on our usually quiet little street. A driver came careening up our street and managed to hit four separate cars parked on both sides of the street before my husband (who heard the screeching) ran out into the road and yelled at her to stop driving and get out of the car. It was scary and the worst part, we soon discovered, was that she had been drinking. And texting. And driving.

All of the neighbors whose cars were also affected and who had heard the noises were immediately out front, trying to decipher what had happened, wondering why she didn't stop after slamming into the first car. She was sobbing and people walking by were stopping and it was all quite terrible.

Then the police came and handcuffed her.

The horribleness was tempered, though, by some pretty amazing neighborly camaraderie. We were all astonished and upset together, we felt protective together, we stayed out in the cold together for over an hour talking to each other and the policemen. We managed to laugh a little when we discovered that three of the four damaged cars were insured by USAA. Because that's pretty amusing.

After we went inside I couldn't stop thinking about what happened and couldn't shake this anxious feeling. Driving under the influence is so disturbing, and I'm finding that today I'm mostly just grateful. For the wonderful people who live on our street, for my husband for preventing further damage, for insurance companies, for calm policemen, for safety. For the fact that no one was crossing the street or stepping into their car during those few seconds.

It's unusual for me to write about something like this on my blog but I thought that both the powerfully bad and powerfully good parts of this story were things worth sharing. Drinking and driving is horrendous. Good neighbors are worth their weight in gold. We should be thankful that it wasn't worse, because it could have been.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Musings

It's been a nice week! Everything is getting back to normal after the happy chaos of Christmas/Anniversary/New Year's and it's good to be restored to my quiet routines, like musing on Friday mornings...


My parents gave each of us kids the most amazing Christmas gift this year. My Dad had all of our childhood photos scanned and digitized and over the course of many months he spent hours sorting, editing and labeling every single one of them. Talk about a labor of love. Then he uploaded almost 1000 photos on digital picture frames for each of us so that we can enjoy them every day. Isn't that amazing? Ours is tucked in with our books on our shelf and already the photos have prompted many story-telling sessions. We are so lucky to have these precious childhood pictures saved forever.


I finally found a yoga class that I'm excited about! I haven't been yet (the first class is tonight) but I have a good feeling about it. I loved yoga so much when I was in New York, not only for the exercise but also because I find it so mentally relaxing. Since then I just haven't found a class that I love and that fits in the budget (why are yoga studios so expensive?). Anyway, tonight's "Relax and Restore" class is specifically aimed at stress relief and it's only $5. I'm quite looking forward to trying it out!


It felt great to get back into my normal teaching rhythm this week. Almost all of my students found extra time to practice over the holidays so that was a nice surprise. And one of my younger students just graduated from 30 minute lessons to hour lessons--tangible evidence of her progress. This particular student not only works hard but has such poise at the piano. Her hands and wrists just look so natural and graceful as she plays. (Not always the case, especially with young beginners!)


In case any of you are as freezing as we currently are here in Virginia, I have a soup suggestion for you. Sauté some spicy Italian sausage and then add chicken broth (I used chicken broth and beef bone broth for added nutrition), chickpeas, and kale. I tossed in a little extra fennel, some salt and pepper, let it simmer for a while and that was it. Simple and tasty and warming.


My husband and I are driving up to D.C. tomorrow to visit my family and see this production of Fiddler on the Roof! I think it'll be a lovely day trip.


I hope your first full week of 2015 was a restful one. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Dreamiest Dining Room

Dark, rich, moody walls. Pewter pitchers and plain white dishes. A long farmhouse table with rustic wooden chairs. Dim sconces casting shadows. Antlers and framed black and white sketches and photographs. A crackling fire. Gorgeous hazy sunlight filtering through the windows. Neutrals layered upon neutrals.

Ok, what do you think--any guesses? You might think I'm sitting here describing my dream aesthetic and you wouldn't be far off from the truth.

But no, this room actually exists, at least in the way that Lady Mary and Mr. Bates and secret-wielding servants and breakfast trays for married women exist. I know it's far less glamorous than its upstairs counterpart, but the servant's dining room is my favorite room in Downton Abbey. I just love it.

Wouldn't it be so much fun to model your own dining room after this one? (Apparently the paint they used was mixed up from historical paint recipes, and you can buy it!) I would do it in a second. This room is just so tasteful and earthy and elegant.

(Don't even get me started on the kitchen. Open shelving, copper pots, stone cannisters! To die for.)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Craving Change

This is completely unoriginal but every January I find myself itching for some change, and often this happens in the form of an appointment at the hair salon!

I do usually think about the potential new hair cut/color for a few weeks first, but not this time. I decided on Saturday morning that I was going to schedule an appointment for that day and that I was going to try something different. The decision was between chopping it up to shoulder length or keeping it at my collarbone and adding bangs. I didn't actually make a decision until I was in the car on the drive over! (Very unlike me!)

Anyway, I went with bangs and I'm really pleased with how they came out. I needed this change and I think I also needed the rush that comes with doing something a little daring and spontaneous. It felt a tad brave, dare I say.

What do you do in January to add a little spice and freshness to your life?

p.s. The last time I did this was in January 2012, right after our wedding, when I decided to get blonde highlights! 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Something Ivory in 2014

In January, I wrote about how The Future Is A Phantom....because I'm learning that it's best to live bravely in each moment instead of worrying about tomorrow.

In February, I argued for sharing your favorite recipes and kitchen tricks....because good food shouldn't be kept a secret.

In March, I discovered jogger pants....and my long legs rejoiced because these pants are supposed to graze your ankles.

In April, I announced our move to Charlottesville, Virginia with a little silliness and flair....because this was BIG news and worth getting silly over.

In May, we traveled across the country and back....because that's what freedom looks like to a man who has just gotten out of the Army, and his wife was happy to oblige.

In June, we became Virginians and you all celebrated with us....confirming for me that you are the sweetest and loveliest bunch of readers around.

In July, I made myself a little writing nook....because those who write need nooks, and even better when the nook comes with books.

In August, I wrote about becoming un-stuck....because clouds do lift, friends.

In September, I bought a very beautiful little notebook and pencil for my studio, because businesses require paper and pencils....and because these ones match the piano.

In October, I wrote about a homemade pizza I was proud of....because homemade pizza has never been my strong suit but I'm finally figuring it out.

In November, I experienced an oddly wonderful week at a time when I least expected it and most needed it....and undeserved blessings such as these are worth writing about.

In December, I wrote about a gentle, subtle, sort of Love....because I'm trying so hard these days to notice nudges and coaxes and quietly answered prayers.

It's January again, and I'm still working on laughing at the future and still figuring out my teaching business and still looking for those pink jogger pants....but I have a feeling that something will be different about 2015. I'm thankful for this past year and so very hopeful for the next one.

Happy New Year!

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