Friday, December 31, 2010

{ Christmas Eve }

christmas eve was lovely.
we spent the evening with mike's parents and his sister amaryah
at his parents' house.
dinner was a glorious spread of appetizers, more than five people could possibly eat:
and that's just the main course hors d'oeuvres!
{i forgot to take a photo of the dessert spread--my oh my, it was delicious!}
my personal favorites were the bacon-wrapped little smokies, the caprese skewers, and the baked brie {below}.
amaryah, you rock at making hors d'oeuvres.
you are welcome to use us as guinea pigs any time.
we all went to the christmas eve service together. it was a lovely service: lots of Scripture reading, beautiful arrangements of carols, hot drinks and cookies for everyone.
afterward we went back to the family home and everyone opened a few gifts.
here is mandy giving dan some sugar after he gave her the china she really wanted {spode fairy dell}. both amaryah and her dog, diesel, look a little disturbed at this display of affection, don't you think?
it was a beautiful, mellow, happy christmas eve.
thank you Jesus.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

{ Christmastime is HERE! }

How is it already only three days till Christmas?

Really, where has December gone?

I spent Monday and Tuesday this week bundled up in bed and on the couch, fighting off a nasty cold/flu. It hit me on Sunday evening at work, and I barely did anything besides creep from one sleeping spot to another for the next two days. I'm much better now, though still very sniffly. Thank you Jesus that Mike hasn't gotten it!

Tonight I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that Christmas is in three days! This month has flown by, I think largely because Mike has been working such long days. Our evenings together have been short and late. It's funny: Last Christmas, I pinned my hopes on 2010: "Next year, when I'm not in this stress/anxiety/illness cycle..." The past few days, I've caught myself doing the same thing for 2011: "Next year, when Mike isn't working two jobs and we have time to do XYZ..." I'm trying ardently to nip such thoughts in the bud; in the midst of all the daily life-ness of this year, this has been a really good Christmas season.


We're reading through Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree Advent devotional--not every single day, but since the readings are relatively short it's easy to get caught up.

We've had fun with the Advent tin I made last year; about half the little prompts/notes are new this year. We haven't had time to actually carry out nearly as many of them, but I'm okay with that.

We've "given" Christmas presents to Jesus via the World Vision Gift Catalogue.

We've had a downtown Seattle Christmas date--something I've always wanted to do!

I haven't run out of hours with all the Pandora Christmas music listening I've been doing :-)

Christmas presents were a breeze this year--thank you, Amazon Marketplace! I did the majority of my shopping online this year, and it was so much less stressful than going to actual stores in hopes of finding a gift that would be at least somewhat appropriate. Even with paying for shipping, I'm sure that with the time I saved, it was worth it.

Last night we watched The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader with friends. {By the time it was over, I had a pile of wadded-up napkins I'd used to blow my nose. I hope the people around me didn't mind!} It was in 3D, too--my first time. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Much as I love the cinematic beauty of it, and think Aslan is absolutely spot-on, I will always have a special place in my heart for the old BBC version.

Advent candles lit, rosemary rolls fresh out of the oven, chicken barley soup simmering on the stove--I think it's time to close this post and enjoy some real-life Christmas cheer!

Monday, December 20, 2010

{ Daniel of the Year }

So humbled and encouraged by this article in WORLD magazine...what a difference one life dedicated to Jesus can make for so many thousands of people!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

{ Festive Weekend, Part Two }

Mike surprised me with an all-day date on Sunday. It began with breakfast from our favorite, delicious, two-minutes-from-home {and thus very dangerous} donut shop. The usual for Mike: An apple fritter. Plus an old-fashioned donut for good luck. {Or something.} The usual for Nikki: A maple bar. Divine!
Downtown Seattle, here we come!

Though a "Pineapple Express" was dumping torrential rains upon this lovely city, we were undeterred. We sloshed down puddle-filled sidewalks, pants soon soaked several inches up. We stopped to look at displays in department store windows. We grinned at the kids having their photos taken with Santa in the window at Nordstrom. My jaw dropped at the amazing display of hundreds of vintage sewing machines in the windows of All Saints Spitalfields, a new clothing store.

I've wanted to ride this carousel for years, but never have. It's only up at Christmastime, and
this morning there was no line, so we had our pick of brave steeds upon which to ride.
I love carousels {here's proof}. They make me think of Mary Poppins!

I think I giggled the whole time: A carousel playing Christmas music, with horses that really go up and down, a gingerbread latte in my hand, and Mike yelling "Yee-haw!" and pretending to slap his steed next to me.
And this was only our first stop!!

We browsed through Restoration Hardware, where I found many of my decorating dreams-come-true--and our budget entirely shattered. But it sure was fun to look and dream!

Is this chair not adorable? It's so Hobbit-y...English...or something I can't quite put my finger on. I l-o-v-e it!

Mike also found his new favorite chair. I could barely pry him out of it.

Every year, the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle hosts a Gingerbread Village to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Northwest Chapter. {Am I the only person who sees the irony in a candy village display to benefit diabetes research?} The Sheraton's chefs team up with several well-known Seattle architectural firms to design and create gingerbread houses {there's a different theme each year} which are then displayed in the Sheraton's lobby. You can view the display, vote for your favorite, and make a donation to the JDRF.
This houseboat was pretty sweet. I loved that you can look through the sugary windows and see little candy people doing all sorts of things inside.

Skittles + M&Ms + imagination = a seaplane!

It was really fun to recognize the different types of candies and other foods that were used so creatively in each house.

This Rice Krispy treehouse is probably my favorite. The theme this year was "Home for the Holidays," and each branch of the military was represented here.

The attention to detail in each project was amazing. It's harder to appreciate through a camera lens, but you get the idea.

Mike really liked this interior scene. Rudolph konked out on the rug in front of the fire is pretty funny!

This one even had a representation of the troll that lives under the Fremont Bridge! Awesome!
We went to The Cheesecake Factory for a delicious lunch before heading to church. The only thing Mike had planned that we didn't have time for was going on a carriage ride through downtown and Pike's Place Market. I've done the carriage ride with friends several times before, but he hasn't. We decided it gives us something new to look forward to adding to our downtown Christmas date next year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

{ Festive Weekend, Part One }

Our friends Dan and Christie invited us over to make gingerbread houses on Saturday evening. Designing and constructing a gingerbread {or, in our case, graham cracker} house from scratch is a marriage- and laughter-building exercise if ever there was one! We all had a blast. Christie had purchased a great assortment of "building supplies" {read: candy} at WinCo; it was really cool to see the creativity each person brought to the project.

Here's our finished house. That chimney, carved from graham crackers, is Mike's labor of love. The snowman, who has to be propped up with toothpicks because he is apparently top-heavy, is mine.

Dan and Christie and their psychedelic '70's A-frame complete with a back patio, fire pit with flames, rainbow sidewalk, snowman with a crown, and gummie bear keg party...they went all-out!

Monday, December 13, 2010

{ a theory }

if you fall asleep while getting your eyebrows waxed, you're either really tired or the beanbag-hand-warmer and heated foot pillow totally relaxed you. and if you've only been awake for six hours when you fall asleep while hot wax is ripping hair off your face, i'm going to have to choose option two.

if only they had done a better job shaping my eyebrows, i'd go back and test this theory...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

{ Thankful }

For a teenage brother who writes sweet, sincere, chatty thank-you notes
For crisp, sunny winter days
For Handel's Messiah

For eggnog-laced coffee and chot chocolate {why oh why isn't eggnog sold year-round?!}

For Christmas decorations up early and with minimal stress
For my husband--I think he loves eggnog even more than I do

For the frequent giveaways on A Cup of Jo, Rockstar Diaries, and The Pioneer Woman--though I haven't won anything, I love the anticipation and looking at the pretty things that someone is getting free!

For pomegranates
For an excuse to make soda cracker candy, Oreo truffles, butter toffee, and fudge

For secrets and planning and gifts to wrap
For a new Winco, minutes from home
For Yankee Candle Co.'s incredibly authentic-smelling Christmas tree candles

For a bachelorette party full of Apples to Apples, Twister, pedicures, Pride and Prejudice, and a chocolate fountain {did you know that Fritos dipped in chocolate are really tasty?}
For flash mobs singing the Hallelujah Chorus
For the opportunity to see the Nutcracker ballet with my mom- and sister-in-law
Yes, I am intimidated by my sister-in-law's runway-ready looks.
Lucky for me she's as sweet as she is gorgeous.
For Chelle's really easy chicken pot pie recipe
For a great library system and a library three minutes from home

For an excellent church
For plans to go to the Christmas Eve service at our church with Mike's family

For this Advent devotional
For a husband who is eager to do Advent
For a few activities that are starting to feel like "our" traditions, now that it's our second Christmas since getting married

For candy canes, cinnamon pinecones, and peppermint candles
What are you thankful for?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

{ Learning to be still }

One of my deepest needs is for alone time, for quiet and space to just be. To think, pray, journal, process, write, decompress. Ironically, choosing to use my time this way is one of the most difficult things for me to do nowadays, even though I have repeatedly reaped the disastrous consequences of not making this choice.

Because I was homeschooled and lived on a very rural farm till I was nearly 18, I did not realize the necessity of alone time to my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health till I was an adult. Growing up, solitude was at my fingertips. I was surrounded by acres of empty land, thousands of opportunities to be alone with God and my thoughts. I could choose to spend hours by myself, recharging my batteries in the calm of the outdoors, whenever I wanted. Even after I moved to the city and began attending college, I still had plenty of space to be "me." Most of my free time was taken up with studying {a blessedly solitary task}, and the fact that I didn't have a car or many local friends meant that downtime was still relatively easy to come by.

Still I did not see how these margins of quiet fed my soul. Still I did not recognize how absolutely vital these times of solitude were to my well-being.

When I began volunteering at the new evening service at church and attending a community group {fancy lingo for Bible study} full of other singles, my social life blossomed. I made friends. I met Mike and swooned. My free time was suddenly full of girlfriends, movie nights, group swing dancing lessons, texting Mike, and after-church get-togethers. Alone time? Who needed that? I was surviving on five or six hours of sleep a night, thankyouverymuch! I certainly didn't need to take a few hours on Saturday to journal when I could be doing something much more exciting!

I crashed and burned last November. It was terrifying and so, so, so humbling. Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about it was realizing how poorly I know my own self. I was the last person to recognize the crippling physical symptoms and panic were the results of suffocating myself under busyness, endless tasks, and a lifestyle where literally every single minute was packed with something to do, to the point where even sleep seemed like a waste of time. I am the one who chose to make to-do lists and checking off boxes the highest priorities in my life. To be sure, there were stresses beyond the personal ones: Work was truly a nightmare, demanding every ounce of strength and long, long hours of overtime. Mike was restarting his business and I was the only one bringing home a paycheck. But on top of that, I wanted to be (A) in control, and (B) perfect. And I certainly couldn't afford to take long walks or journal when pursuing control and perfection!

You'd think I learned my lesson. I am realizing, however, that "every intention of the thoughts of [my] heart [are] only evil continually" {Genesis 6:5}. I cling to Jesus when I am at the end of my rope. I set boundaries and define margins when I have no other options. Gradually, as sanity and health and wholeness begin to feebly re-emerge in my heart and mind, I immediately fill newly-erected margins with "stuff:" the same stuff that broke me in the first place. How quickly I forget the pain of being my own god! How rapidly I turn from Jesus to the death from which He saved me!

Ours is a gracious and merciful God. I have learned that people {primarily my husband} are more important than tasks. I don't mean to scare you, but my standards of housekeeping have lowered considerably over the last year as I learn to choose nurturing relationships over cleaning the bathroom. But more often than not, I still cram activities, events, and people into places in my life where only quiet should be. I fill margins that ought to be left open, time for Jesus to speak into my heart. Time for me to process what's going on in my life. Time to pick up my scattered thoughts and weave them into wholeness...time to process, time to think, time to be.

I had a meltdown earlier this week. I refused to go to community group, snapped at my husband, chose to clean the kitchen and do laundry rather go on a date with him, and cried because for weeks there have been literally multiple trails of grey-green mold growing in the toilet bowl. I felt suffocated. And deep inside, I knew that what I really needed wasn't to make a list of tasks and accomplish them. What I needed was time.

In His mercy, the Lord gave me a gracious husband who forgives me when I sin against him. He also gave me another choice: A Saturday morning completely alone {Husband is out of town this weekend} and the opportunity to fill this space with either to-do list tasks or the things that feed my soul. Considering that I'm writing one of the longest blog posts in history, you can probably guess which I've chosen.

May the words of my mouth and the
meditation of my heart
be pleasing in Your sight,
O Lord, my Rock and my
Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

Thursday, December 2, 2010

{ Now that's the Christmas spirit!!...I think }

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to a nursery that is famous (in the local sense, anyway) for its Christmas decorations: 32 themed Christmas trees, each in its own area, surrounded by dozens of dazzling, coordinating ornaments. We went last year as well, and had so much fun meandering through the Christmas glitz and glitter and picking out an ornament for our first Christmas as Mr. + Mrs.

This time, we'd browsed nearly the whole premises when we turned a corner and saw a most unexpected message, spelled out in alphabet blocks on a shelf just at eye level. I imagine some teenage boy, out of his mind with boredom, happened upon this display. It originally read, "JOY PEACE BELIEVE," but he realized that, with a little rearranging and a block or two from the neighboring shelf, a much more....ahem...lively message could be communicated:

Our mirth was uncontainable.

I'll remember that message every time I go ornament shopping for the rest of my life!

Monday, November 22, 2010

{ World Traveler }

A few nights ago I was working on a Christmas project, waiting for Mike to come home for dinner. I wasn't in the mood to listen to myself think, so I logged onto Pandora. This is the first song that played, and I was transfixed by his beautiful descriptions of the longings for travel, marriage, and children--those have been my three biggest desires for most of my adult life.

Here are the lyrics, in case you can't {or don't want to} listen:

World Traveler by Andrew Peterson

I grew up in a little town
A southern mix of lost and found
Where most folks seem to stick around
But I could hear the highway song
I'd sit out on the dock till dawn
And dream about the great beyond

(I dreamed that I was)
A world traveler
Set me loose to find my way
Just get me out on the road someday
With my sails unfurled
So many mysteries
I wanted to unravel
If I could travel the world

Soon enough I had my way
I saw the world the Lord has made
Mostly from the interstate
But I had hardly seen a thing
Until I gave a golden ring
To the one who gave her heart to me

(And I became)
A world traveler
That's the day I hit the road
'Cause I walked the hills of the human soul
Of a tender girl
I'm a world traveler

She opened the gate and took my hand
And led me into the mystic land
Where her galaxies swirl
So many mysteries
I never will unravel
I want to travel the world

Take a left at the end of my street
Just a few doors down
Up the hill and into the trees
There's a hole in the ground
Where we traveled the caverns so deep
We wandered the wonders so wide
It was right beneath our feet
All this time, all this time

Tonight I saw the children in their rooms
Little flowers all in bloom
Burning suns and silver moon
And somehow in that starry sky
The image of the Maker lies
Right here beneath my roof tonight

(So hold on tight, I'm a)
World traveler
Pack yours bags and dig down deep
Let's ride the storms and sail the seas
To the distant pole
I'm a world traveler
Into these uncharted lands
To blaze a trail in the vast expanse
Of the heart and soul
In the grace of the God of peace
Let's wade into the battle
Come on, come on with me
And get up in that saddle
There's a million mysteries
I never will unravel
Come on, let's travel the world

I still dream of traveling: Italy, Greece, the British Isles {anywhere in Europe, actually}, South Africa, Israel. I know the reality is that international adventures are not financially possible for us now {along with most other middle-class Americans}, and that since we want to have a large-ish family before we're middle-aged, such travel will probably not be feasible for many years to come, if ever. I sometimes struggle with feeling that I deserve more than my woefully mono-continental life {unless Hawaii counts as another continent!}. Our self-absorbed consumer culture makes me feel antiquated for choosing marriage and family and fiscal responsibility over grandiose vacations. This song really struck me because it speaks to the tension between these desires. It acknowledges that choosing to say "yes" to one opportunity may mean the response to another opportunity must be "no." That's not only ok, it is good and right. While I may not need my passport in the near future, I have chosen to explore the world of a lifetime shared with my husband.

It is still a choice that I find myself facing many times each week. Sometimes it seems like a daily battle with envy. Perusing blogs, receiving Travelzoo's Top 20 Travel Picks each week in my inbox, reading magazines and news articles, all remind me of beautiful, fascinating, faraway places I'd love to explore. I love my husband, I love the life God has given me, and I am so glad that we're able to own a home in this economy.

And yet there's that little tug...don't you want to see the places Jane Austen wrote about? Don't you want to volunteer at an Agathos village in South Africa? Don't you want to vacation in the Greek Isles? Don't you want to visit Cinque Terra and every other lovely spot in Italy? The answer is yes. There's nothing wrong with dreaming of exotic locales or hoping for a trip someday. Sin arises when I feel jealous that others get to travel and I don't, when I give envy, bitterness, and ungratefulness a foothold in my soul.

I never thought this would be such a struggle for me. In spite of my desire to travel, I've only done a little. And I am a homebody at my core who is much happier crafting at home on a Saturday afternoon than getting dressed up and going out. When I was younger, I'd mentally store up adventures for my future: "When I'm married, I'll go to _____" or "When I'm married, I'll do _____." I abhor lonely adventures. I'd almost rather not go somewhere new or do something new if I have to do it alone. So maybe I'm only a world traveler in my dreams.

Now that would be convenient! It fits quite nicely with my life, don't you think?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

{ In the quiet place }

I have a new favorite time of day.

This morning I woke up at 4:20 a.m. No particular reason. I couldn't quite fall back asleep, but I wasn't dead tired either.

Slowly....I become aware of the quiet. The low hum of the refrigerator. Mike's slow, even breaths. And nothing else: No traffic, no neighbors, no airplanes, no wind. It is a stillness I think I can almost see if I tried.

I snuggle into Mike's shoulder. He nuzzles my forehead with his scruffy cheek. Then his arm creeps over me, tucking me closer to him. Knowing what a deep sleeper he is, I marvel: Even when he's sound asleep, he loves me!

It is so perfectly still, so peaceful, I realize that I don't want to fall asleep. I want to savor the weightlessness of this moment. That's what it is: I feel weightless. Completely free of every care, worry, stress, and deadline that punctuate my waking hours. I try to think of something to worry about. I can't. It's luxurious. I try to sleep. I can't. I'm In this enormous quietness.

I imagine that we are sleeping not in a condo, but in a craftsman bungalow, a sweet little cottage. It's in a wide, moonlit meadow. Gentle old trees surround this house. The sky is rich blue velvet spangled with a million diamond-bright stars. A couple of fawns and their mothers have come for a midnight snack in the meadow. I can see it all so clearly and lucidly, it's not dreamlike at all. And I hear Aslan's voice: "Fear not." Gentle, not demanding, it's an invitation, an invitation to join Him in this peace. This calm. This stillness."Fear not."

My eyelids flutter open, wondering if I will really see the Lion in the hallway, breathing out His gentle invitation: "Fear not." I remember last Sunday's sermon. I remember reading The Horse and His Boy. When Shasta is walking up the mountain, alone in the fog, terrified of the thing he can't see that is walking beside him, and when he reaches the crest and the fog lifts, he finds that it is Aslan! Every time I read it, I cry for the beauty of Aslan's gentle protection of the scared young waif. And now He is speaking to me, so gently, so lovingly, in the midst of all this un-quietness, inviting me to let go of my fears.

I snuggle deeper under the covers, pull the duvet over Mike's shoulders. "Fear not." I've been awake--awake? dreaming? what exactly is this?--for almost an hour and a half. The alarm will go off in a few minutes. I want to carry His words with me today: "Fear not."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

{ Thankfuls }

Some of the things I'm thankful for this autumn...
:: homemade enchiladas ::

:: yellow leaves painting the ground ::


:: spiced apple cider simmering on the stove ::

:: the laciness of naked tree branches against the sky ::

:: knitting ::

:: snuggling under blankets with my husband to watch a movie ::


:: feeling cozy in my coat and scarf when it's cold outside ::

:: cute new flats for cheap at Target ::

:: plotting my Christmas gift creations and purchases ::

:: a new worship album from my favorite band at church ::
:: a clean kitchen ::

:: a new Winco minutes from our home ::

:: savoring two holiday issues of Real Simple {I'm behind on my reading!} ::

:: watching The Blind Side two days ago and still feeling a big tug on my heartstrings ::

:: cinnamon-scented pinecones ::

Friday, November 5, 2010

{ the busy season }

how is it the busy season already?

you know what i mean: ornaments and santa clauses in store windows. one of our neighbors already has a poinsettia wreath on their door. thanksgiving is less than three weeks away, and my plans for a leisurely gift-buying-or-making season are rapidly deteriorating. i mean, there's still hope, especially if i get started this weekend, but is it already this time of year?

i'm mulling over last year's holiday season, trying to sift what i want to do again {meaning, things that were Christ-focused and that we both enjoyed} from everything else. i'm so thankful that we don't have to do a lot of extra purchasing again this year: tree, lights, ornaments--all the little christmasy things that you take for granted till you have your own home, and suddenly BAM! all you have in the way of decorations is one lonely pine-scented candle. {speaking of which, i do need another of those.} we both loved doing advent together. i'd be delighted if a trip to wight's every december for a new ornament becomes one of our traditions. and that christmas cookie exchanged i dreamed of hosting last year? maybe it will come to fruition in 2010. on my list of things not to do again: spend days being nauseated--and missing work--because of stress and anxiety. throw up on christmas eve. spend christmas morning alone in bed because i felt icky and i had begged mike to go celebrate with his family, before i eventually joined them.

i'm hoping for a mellow weekend; regular chores interspersed with happy little jaunts away from the routine. tonight mister and i are babysitting the six-month-old daughter of some friends. tomorrow night is a birthday party for one of mister's friends. sunday we're both volunteering at the blood drive mister coordinates at our church four times a year. perhaps hoping for mellow is a bit of a stretch, eh? ;-)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

{ blessed be Your name }

" heart will choose to say, blessed be Your name!"

When dusky purple mountains are jagged outlines against a peach horizon, sunrising greeting me as I drive to work, the choice is easy.
When my husband and I have a heart-to-heart, fears shared, dreams timidly verbalized and met with love, tears and prayer and tickling mixed, the choice is easy.
When I feel "in control" of my life--home spotless, food prepared, to-do list accomplished, the choice is easy.
When a golden carpet of leaves covers the ground, bright as a yellow brick road, I am reminded of the whimsy of my childhood; the choice is easy.
It's hardly even a choice: It becomes almost a habit, when one has known the love of God for a long period of time, to thank and bless and be grateful.
When a marriage crumbles, and I know the pain is too great for words, the choice is hard.
Why should I bless Your name for this?
When dreams are deferred, hopes postponed, more of the same-old-same-old in their place, the choice is hard.
When I feel rejected or forgotten or overworked, the choice is hard.
When the lives of others make me envious, greedy to partake of their joys and ungrateful for my portion and my cup, the choice is hard.
He reminds me: You can choose to bless My name. Just because you have the option, doesn't mean it will be easy.
This season is such a juxtaposition: Intense joy and searing pain. Quiet daily satisfactions and niggling daily discontent and discomfort. And thus I am grateful, Jesus, for Your promise that Your mercies are new every morning. My heart chooses to say: Blessed be Your name!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

{ Ikea bedside table, Painted }

I've had a plain white Ikea bedside table for ages. It has been with me through four moves, two beds, and a name change. Little White Nightstand is booooooorriiiiiiiiiing...not to mention that having one stark white piece in a bedroom of dark wood furniture is a little jarring.

I forgot to take "before" photos, so I apologize for the poor quality of the two pictures I present below to jog your memory:

It looks a lot worse in real life. Here it almost looks matchy. I promise it wasn't.


The internet is full of conflicting accounts regarding the feasibility of painting Ikea furniture--or melamine of any kind, for that matter. I really like the color in our hall, we had an extra quart, it goes well with our bedspread, and I figured I had nothing to lose. After removing the drawer, door, and shelf, sanding every possible part, and spreading the pieces across our balcony, the transformation began.

Let me just say that "primer + two coats" turned into "primer + three coats." And that wind is not our friend when we are painting outdoors. And that when you don't get started till 11:30 A.M., chances are you won't be done by the time it's dark.

But I digress.

Here is the finished product. What do you think?

I like it, but oddly enough it's not quite the rich, saturated color it is on the hallway walls. It's definitely an improvement over clinic white, but I think ideally I'd paint it even darker. It's still the oddball of our bedroom furniture; it's just not as odd as it was before.

I'm pretty sure it will scratch and scuff if we're not super-careful with it. I'm not terribly worried, since it is currently very lightly used. If it becomes a high-traffic piece, it'll probably look trashy in no time! For now, I'm happy with the results.

Monday, October 25, 2010

{ Snuffly Weekend }

It’s been a quiet, cozy, snuggly weekend—one of my favorite kinds. On Saturday, Mike worked and I had brunch with a friend before brushing up on my domestic skills: vacuuming, dusting, and crock-potting. The plan was to go to a corn maze with friends at 4pm, and then everyone would come to our house for dinner. However, Mike’s persistent little cold took a nosedive, and we ended up canceling everything because (a) Mike didn’t want to infect people, and (b) it started raining, and being rained on whilst traversing a 10-acre corn maze did not sound like fun. Especially when one’s husband has become Mr. Snuffleupagus with a faucet for a nose. Ahem.

Instead, we spent the rest of the weekend doing what sick people are supposed to do: Nothing. We ate delicious slow-cooker chicken stroganoff and drank about a half gallon of hot spiced cider. We slept in on Sunday. I made cranberry-orange muffins for breakfast and started knitting a blanket for Mike. We watched TV shows. We took a three-hour nap. We ate burritos and popcorn and watched that fantastic gem of 1982 cinematography, Ivanhoe. {Suzy, Chelle, Anna, and Melody: Do you remember playing the most dramatic make-believe games after watching that at one of Chelle’s birthday parties? It’s amazing how epic and romantic and heart-rending it was then, and how…cheesy…it is twelve years later.}

We went to bed early, after having been awake for a grand total of perhaps nine hours. It was so nice to just relax. With Mike working long hours at two jobs, it’s been a really long time since we’ve had a day to do nothing. It seems there’s always a birthday party, or some type of social event, or church…always something to drag us out of the house for a few hours. Yesterday we did none of that. {We even skipped church!}

I love you, Mister. And I love getting to do a whole lot of nothin’ with you, every once in a while. But I hope you get all better really soon!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

{ A Weight Lifted }

God's mercy is overwhelming. His grace, more than sufficient.

On October 30, 2006, I started my job with about $65,000 in student loans--the cost of a bachelor's degree in diagnostic ultrasound, which is only offered at eight universities in the country. Though I'm extremely grateful that one of those universities was only a bus ride away from my home, private universities are exorbitantly expensive. My minimum loan payments were over $600 per month!

My lofty goal: Pay off all my loans in three years. Or maybe it was five. I can't remember if I said three or five, but it was a ridiculously short period of time. I knew it was a crazy idea and I'd be hard-pressed to pull it off, but I hate hate HATE debt and could not tolerate the thought of dragging these loans around with me for decades.

As of today, October 21, 2010, all of my student loans have been paid in full!


It has taken almost exactly four years to do so. In the midst of that, Mike and I have paid for a wedding and honeymoon debt-free {we did put some on credit, but paid it all within two months of the wedding} and purchased a condo. Now our only debt is the mortgage. Can you believe it?!!

I have dreamed of this day for so long--since I was in college, before taking out the loans! I find myself feeling that I'm peering forward, over an imaginary finish line. What's on the other side? What's this I hear of, a life where your entire bank account isn't regularly emptied and sent to The Student Loan Corporation? What's next? At the same time that I'm curious about what "normal" will be like on the other side of this imaginary line, I'm also hesitant and afraid. This is what I've known for so long; I'm so accustomed looking ahead and dreaming of that bright tomorrow when I'll be debt-free. It didn't look like this. Then I'll be all put-together. I'll have a great hairstyle and no pimples and a plan. Today is not what I envisioned in all those stored-up years of dreaming about "when I pay off my student loans..." I'm I'm also realizing that it's difficult to actually think beyond this point. I didn't realize it till I started this paragraph, but it's really, really hard for me to think beyond the looming, invisible burden of my debt. I used to think that I thought/dreamed a lot about the future, but I'm not so sure anymore. In reality, I think any true dreaming about post-debt-life was quashed by the sheer overwhelmingness of the amount of money I owed. I wanted to dream...but paying off the debt was the dream!

I'm not writing this to be boastful or to brag. It's to acknowledge the tremendous gifts God has given me: an amazing education that cost more than I could afford, and a great job that enabled me to pay the debt off really quickly. I don't think I ever really thought I would get here. As I write this, I'm becoming aware that I have a lot to process. Silly me--I thought this was just about money, not my heart or motives or desires or anything deep like that! :-)

What will the future hold? What is around the next bend?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

{ Girly Trip! }

A few weeks ago I trekked across the state for a long weekend with two of the dearest girls, Chelle and Anna. {Please excuse a small happy dance: Anna started a blog last week! For joy!!} The official excuse: Anna's baby shower. The unofficial excuse: We three, who have known each other since we were wee, are scattered across the entire breadth of Washington, and the fact that the second of us three is about to become a mommy made us all somewhat crazy to spend some time together before this Major Life Change. Please ignore the fact that we've been scattered across the entire breadth of Washington for nine years--I was a teenager the last time the three of us lived near each other. And though it was five years ago that Chelle told us she was pregnant with Annabelle, there's something unexpectedly more immediate about Anna having a baby. Perhaps it's that Chelle is a little older than Anna and I. She married first; of course she'd have babies first. Anna and I have unintentionally crossed a lot of major milestones at nearly the same time. She was born two months before me; our moms were pregnant together and we've literally known each other all our lives. Last year, Tim and Anna got engaged three weeks to the day after Mike asked me to marry him. Their wedding was two months after ours. And now, Anna is crossing the threshold into vastly new, uncharted territory without me waving my arms semi-hysterically either shortly before or shortly after her. It's kind of an odd feeling. I've realized that I had a vague idea in my head that we {meaning Chelle, Anna and I} would all have our families at roughly the same time, and we'd all live in the same area. I don't really think about how far apart we live because it makes me too sad. But this whole baby thing? It's hard to ignore when Anna {whom I have not seen since April, when babycakes was completely unnoticeable from the outside} greeted me at Chelle's house looking like this:

We all spent the first night at Chelle and David's home. There was uncontrollable laughter. Late-night conversations. Early-morning conversations. And oh, the things I learned about pregnancy and sleep and sharing a bed with a pregnant woman! It's really quite funny: Several years ago, when I was in ultrasound school, Anna and I were spending the night at Chelle's house, sharing a bed as we always seem to do. Apparently, in the middle of the night I sat bolt upright and began talking about "the baby" and waving my hands over Anna's stomach. Apparently I was taking my OB/GYN courses a little too seriously.

I've also realized that in all the talking, visiting, catching up, chatting, entertaining little people, eating, giggling, and et cetera, I took miserably few photographs. This makes me really sad! It was such a fun trip, a gift straight from God's hand, and I came away with very little pictorial evidence of it. Here's what I do have:
Isn't Jack-Jack mischief personified?! I love his wispy little mohawk...his flannel-plaid-lined overalls...his spunk...the way he yells at the top of his lungs as he runs around the house...his sweet, sing-song talking when he wakes up in the morning...just everything. Jacky-boy, I love you!

This is one of my favorite photos from the long weekend. Anna is the most gorgeous pregnant woman. Seriously stunning. And Jack crawling around on the table, pleased as punch, grinning for the sheer joy of living.

Our basil breakfast strata (recipe here). Soooooo tastylicious!

I spent the last two nights of my trip at Anna's house, about two hours from where Chelle's family lives. It was really special and I will always treasure that time! It was my first time staying at Anna's since she and Tim got married last fall. Needless to say, a whirlwind tour of their home the day before their wedding is very different from spending two days there! I hadn't spent any time in their town, either, so it was great to do a little sightseeing and get to know Anna's new hometown. It makes talking to her so much more real: I can picture where she is, where she's going, what her surroundings are like. I'm also really grateful to get to know Tim better. Previously, the only times he and I had met were (a) at my wedding, and (b) at their wedding. This weekend was much more "normal" than our previous encounters! Tim and Anna are so cute together: From Tim's passionate football-watching to Anna's evening snacks to their pet names....just so perfect. *sigh*

Don't you love this sign, outside the church where Anna's shower was held? And don't you agree: Stunning pregnant lady???

I'm so sad this is the only decent picture of Michelle from the whole trip! Maybe the fact that I forgot to take photos is a sign of impending old age?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

{ Weekend Ramble }

This week we have been graced with the most glorious autumn weather: Sun-drenched days of snappy cold, wispy clouds, and the occasional nighttime rainshower. My dahlias and I are loving it. Remember my babies? I know dahlias are late summer/autumn flowers, but the fact that they are blooming fast and furious in mid-October? I am awestruck!

Granted, this is not normal fall weather for the Seattle area. We are usually ushering in the rainy/dark/insert-dismal-descriptor-of-your-choice time of year. {This seasons ends in July or August of the following calendar year.} "Normal" autumn means day after bleak, grey day of rain, with dusk seeming to fall noticeably earlier by the week. To see the sun and enjoy dry weather for a prolonged period of time is wildly, deliriously wonderful.

To be fair, the "summer" of 2010 was day after bleak, grey day of rain and cloudy skies, so I may be unfairly biased {read: jaded} regarding our weather patterns.

Nonetheless, my dahlias and I are rejoicing! Their riotous yellow blooms brighten several corners of our home. I'm anticipating a day soon when I'll have to untie these leggy plants from the balcony railing which currently supports them, bringing them inside each evening when the temperature dips below freezing. Mike nearly had a conniption fit when I told him this. He does not think plants belong inside, or that they are worthy of such an honor. *sigh* I don't think he quite appreciates the joy these flowers give me. Pray it doesn't freeze soon, k?

Be it known: Yesterday I shredded chicken for the first time.

Yesterday Mike and I had to take care of some banking. We were in the car, driving away from the bank, when I scratched the back of my knee. And felt a large, soft, malleable mass almost as big as my fist in the crook of my knee. Enter freak-out mode. "What's wrong with my knee? There's something in my pants!" I yelled. "Something" was a dirty sock. I felt like a moron. I must've looked like I had a growth on the back of my knee for two hours before realizing the sock was there. Garsh!

Last weekend I painted the hallway. Here are the before-and-after shots:



The new color is Hot Spring Stones by Benjamin Moore. It's a lovely, rich color--more taupe in some lights, greyish in others; very rich and complex. I like it so much that I'm repainting Mike's bedside table the same color. {I'll let you know how that venture turns out. The interweb is full of contradictory information about the viability of painting Ikea furniture.} On a related note, you know that the contractor used the cheapest paint possible when you're washing a wall, pre-painting, and actually scrub off the original paint, revealing a different color underneath--see below:

All right folks, it's nearly time for brunch, and blueberry waffles are calling my name. I'll be back soon!