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!

Monday, October 11, 2010

{ Recipe Madness }

I need a better system. Actually, take a peek at the photo below: I need a system period!

That junior-size binder is one I blithely bought years ago, the first time I thought I was going to learn how to cook. {There have been many such occasions. Mike's appearance in my life was what actually brought me to the kitchen in any sort of productive way.} I have a few pages of recipes written down, a few dozen recipe cards, and scads--reams and reams!!--of recipes printed off the internet.

Most of my recipes come from the internet or from Taste of Home's "Healthy Cooking" magazine {thank you, mama, for the subscriptions!!} or from the sweet little recipe box Chelle gave me at my bridal shower. I chose not to photograph a two-year pile of cooking get the idea, right?

My question is this: Is there a way to have an organized recipe system? I can't fathom copying all these recipes onto notecards, though I love recipe boxes and being able to pull out just the ONE recipe I'm working on. I don't really want a giant 8 1/2" x 11" binder cluttering up my limited countertop space. What do I do?? Any suggestions? I know I'm not the only one who pulls stuff off the internet, magazines, cookbooks, family I hope there are some helpful tricks floating around, too!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

{ This is kind of embarrassing... }

You know how some people have a fear of flying? Or a fear of spiders? Or heights, or snakes, or hospitals? Today, in the span of 45 minutes, I both realized the existence of and faced a fear of this magnitude. I'm even going to publicly humiliate myself by writing about it on my {public} blog and then publishing it on the world wide web! I must be a glutton for punishment, mustn't I?

Remember my loving letter of chastisement to Pioneer Woman? And how I've had to start exercising {in the comfort of my own living room} as a result of consuming meals constructed from her calorie-laden recipes? Well, in addition to packing on some extra weight, apparently I have also gotten old. Not only does my workout DVD kick my butt, it also kills my knees. For a few days I was actually baffled by my knees hurting: "What on earth has happened?" Slowly it dawned on me that perhaps jumping jacks and lunges and the other hairbrained antics that are supposed to melt fat off my body are also apparently grinding the cartilage from my kneecaps. When did this happen, people?! Seriously! I have no idea when I went from being a dewy young bride Decrepit. Slayed by a 25-minute workout DVD. Dude, this is not okay. Weight, I can deal with. Crumbling joints when I'm not yet 30, no way!

At Husband's suggestion, I decided to use the tiny gym at our condo complex. Per Husband, who actually uses the facility, there is an elliptical machine, which is a lovely contraption for those among us with knee complaints. {I'm complaining, all right!} I was going to go this morning, but successfully convinced myself that staying in bed was a much safer option than venturing out in the pre-dawn chill and possibly injuring myself further. Hypothermia was one concern that kept me safely beneath our down comforter. I'll go when I get home from work, I smiled to myself.

As soon as I got in my car to go home this evening, it hit me: I am afraid of gyms. The way "normal" people are afraid of heights or flying or MRI machines. I am horrified by the thought of sweating and gasping and exerting myself in front of other people. I'm downright opposed to it. Frantically I called Husband; we'd barely exchanged pleasantries before I blurted, "I'm afraid of the gym the way people are afraid of flying!"

Bless his heart, he tried not to laugh.

I decided distracting myself was my best option. I changed to workout clothes as soon as I got home, and as I walked to the gym, I composed a very long text message to husband so I didn't have to look up and see people afraid in public. Or something. And it wasn't that bad. There were a total of two other people there, and they both ignored me as completely as I ignored them.

Interestingly, I found another reason to avoid gyms like the plague: Television, especially one that you cannot turn off or mute. I had envisioned spending a breathless, sweaty 25 minutes on the elliptical machine, having a lovely time of prayer to somewhat redeem the indignity of the situation. Instead I learned all about three murders {two of them teenagers}, a suicide {another teenager}, an Amber Alert, tax increases, and new Facebook privacy concerns.

I hope my knees decide they're 27 instead of 72 real, real soon.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

{ Today }

Today, Lord, it is hard:

hard to sift "wants" from "needs"

hard to balance thankfulness for today's daily bread--Your incredible abundance!--with desires for the future

hard to discern the godly and practical from the selfish and lazy as I dream of tomorrows

hard not to think that the grass is greener in tomorrow than today

hard not to be impatient

It's hard to see my life with Your eyes, Lord: I feel like I'm struggling, thickly veiled, to see today as You see it. How can I see my life as the string of eternal Todays that it is for You, outside the trappings of time? I ask for grace. I want to give thanks in all circumstances, not just those that are pleasant or those whose purposes I easily understand as "good." I want to be thankful for every jot and tittle of these days, to be thankful for every morsel of the life you've given me, even if it does not seem good to me.

...give thanks in all circumstances... 1 Thessalonians 5:18