Friday, February 20, 2015

DIY Leather-Wrapped Vase

Working creatively with your own two hands is so therapeutic, isn't it? My favorite supplies for my DIY projects are ones that look and feel natural and earthy--copper, marble, leather, milk paint, rope, paper.  So I was thrilled to get this lovely leather cord in the mail last week from a German company called Endless Leather (they were kind enough to send me this pretty sampling of their wares for free). This Regaliz leather cord is serious--I haven't seen anything like it in the craft stores I normally go to for materials. It's thick and sturdy and as soon as I saw it I had this vision of a slender leather-wrapped glass vase, sort of a modern, masculine piece.

So I hopped on Amazon and bought a glue gun. I can't believe I didn't already have one! I typically use some sort of super glue for projects but I knew this leather cord would need something stronger to hold it in place.

I already had this glass vase which ended up being the ideal size and shape. It was tricky going at first but once I got the hang of the gluing and wrapping, gluing and wrapping, I sort of zoned out and let my mind wander. The best sort of relaxation.

I decided that some muted green eucalyptus stems would be the perfect contrast to the rich, cognac leather, and I am loving the whole effect. It's rustic yet elegant and those two words together in the same sentence never get old for me.

Happy weekend, friends! Make it a creative one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Tea I Drink With Him

I just read the most beautiful tribute to marriage, Madeleine L'Engle's Two-Part Invention. Have you read it? L'Engle is probably most known for A Wrinkle in Time but I think her non-fiction writing is just exquisite. She brings the most honest, simple yet sublime insights into relationships, faith, art, the human condition.

Two-Part Invention got me thinking about those little things we do in marriage that can give us so much pleasure if we let them. In our house, I'm the hot drinks-drinker. I've gone through coffee phases but my main standby in the morning is strong black tea made from loose leaves and with a good splash of cream on top. I also have been known to drink a cup of jasmine green tea in the afternoon. And ever since I got a milk frother as a gift from my parents I love making steamed milk with cinnamon and sugar, often as an after-dinner treat.

But my husband, for the longest time, resisted the hot drinks habit (even in college?!) and so for the first part of our marriage I would always make a lonely pot of tea for one. A pot of tea for one can be nice, but a pot of tea for two is better. There's something sophisticated and cozy about starting the morning together with two steaming mugs--at the breakfast table during the week and in bed on the weekends, outside on the porch on mild summer days.

I don't know what eventually wore him down but I'm thinking it might have been my irresistible ability to produce a mean cup of Earl Grey. I got him to try it and he was hooked. It's still not an every morning thing for him as it is for me but on those mornings when I ask and he says, yes, he will take some tea, I find such pleasure in making it for him, brewing it to the right strength and adding a quarter inch of cream and letting it cool a bit the way he likes it.

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread.

This is the poem Madeleine L'Engle's husband read to her when he asked her to marry him and from what I can tell, the spirit of it infused their whole marriage. Making tea for my husband is a small thing, tiny even. But I think Conrad Aiken had it right. The tea I drink with him is more than tea. 

What a gift to live our lives together in this way, don't you think?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Natural Breath Mints

This is a recent discovery of mine that I've been loving--whole cloves as all natural breath mints! Apparently, the oil in cloves kills bad bacteria in your mouth and actually freshens your breath whereas standard sugar-free mints do no more than mask odor. You wouldn't want to actually eat the clove, just pop it in your mouth for a few minutes and maybe nibble it a bit to release the clove oil. The taste is strong but warm and earthy and nice, and there's a bit of a menthol-like kick too. It's noticeably refreshing.

Would you try it? (I filled an empty mint container with cloves to put in my purse so I'll always have some when I'm out and about!)

Monday, February 9, 2015

We're Going To Japan!

In May! On Vacation! With friends!

I'm probably most excited about that last bit. Traveling to Tokyo and Kyoto and breathing in an entirely different cultural world will be incredible. But I think the company will make it the trip of a lifetime. 

We're going to Japan with another couple, good friends of ours here in Charlottesville. My husband and I both went to college with the husband half of this couple and his sweet wife we've gotten to know over the past year since they've been married. They were originally planning this trip for just the two of them and on a whim, we were invited. (I wasn't there when it happened. It's possible my husband invited us.) In any case, all four of us are thrilled and excited and giddy to be taking on this adventure together. I think we'll make great travel buddies.

I don't know much about Japan--except that they turn out incredibly disciplined classical pianists by the fistful--so I've been looking things up left and right. I downloaded a "Learn Japanese" app and while so far I have only "yes" and "no" under my belt, my goal is to memorize at least a few words a week before the trip. (This week I want to master "breakfast," "lunch," and "dinner," which all sound remarkably alike.) Eventually I'll make my way to guidebooks but I've heard such good things about this book that I decided to snatch it up at Barnes and Noble this weekend. I'm really fascinated by the Japanese standard of cleanliness and order. And it goes without saying that I can't wait to eat in Japan. I think I might need to get a book describing all of the different foods so we know what to order and what not to miss out on.

My husband and I have never gone on a trip like this before and it feels equal parts reckless and exhilarating. The fact that we feel a little reckless just makes us even more giddy and excited. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and do something that feels a little out there, indulgent even, but that you know will bring you priceless memories and experiences you won't ever forget.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Earth Has Music For Those Who Listen

Today I was having a bit of a low morning mood-wise, plus we needed groceries and trash stickers.

(Don't ask.)

Only a few select places sell the stickers required for our city's very strange trash pickup system and I decided that this was as good an excuse as any to go to Whole Foods, which is one of the places that carries them. I'm a bit too frugal to actually shop at Whole Foods for most things so I devised a plan. I would take myself on a little "me" date to Whole Foods and then go get our groceries across the street at Trader Joe's. Perfect.

When I got there it was blissfully uncrowded, it being a Wednesday morning, and I walked past the carts and baskets and straight to the coffee counter to order myself a small coffee with cream. This is a decadent thing for me these days since I've pretty much given up coffee, and not for lack of a taste for it. Already I was feeling better.

Drink in hand I sauntered over to the beauty aisle where I leisurely browsed the organic soaps and all-natural lotions and sipped. I considered getting myself a treat (the chamomile and lavender moisturizing mist tempted me) but decided instead that just wandering and sniffing and looking at the pretty packaging was more fun. The goal here was pure therapy by way of zoning out and indulging in the senses and I really didn't need to buy anything to get that.

When I was done with my coffee I went over to customer service, bought my trash stickers and a book of stamps from a very kind cashier and left feeling noticeably refreshed. It was lovely.

And then, to top it off, Trader Joe's didn't let me down. I came home with blood oranges and the makings for BLTs and dark chocolate coconut almonds.

You know, I have this theory that when things seem a little bleak that's actually when we notice and recognize small beauties most clearly. On a normal day blood oranges are just blood oranges, but on a dreary day they can become something special and purposeful. When our emotional state has room for improvement we are suddenly in a position to rejoice over anything that might cross our path, anything that might lift us, anything our heart chooses to latch on to.

Another thing I discovered at Trader Joe's was their greeting card section, which I hadn't ever noticed before. One card was blue and yellow and pink and beautifully designed and it said, The Earth has music for those who listen.

I couldn't help but think that card was for me. Because of circumstances that I would change in a second if I could, I was feeling low. But also because of these circumstances I was listening with all my heart for guidance and watching out for every bit of loveliness I could cling to.

It's true. The Earth has music for those who listen. My music this morning was a cup of coffee and a basket of blood oranges. And a good helping of grace.
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