Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wedding Gift Ideas

When you hit your mid-twenties, suddenly it feels like everyone you know is getting married. It's wonderful! One of my favorite things is finding special wedding gifts for friends and family members, something unique I hope the couple will cherish for years to come. I thought it would be fun to gather up some of my favorite wedding gift ideas today, to provide a little inspiration in case you have some weddings coming up on your calendars. (I may even make this a regular series, as I'm always finding new shops and pretty things, and there's always another wedding to go to, right?) 

So here we go!

Studiopatró makes the prettiest tea towels (I really like this "All You Need Is Love" towel, which is currently out of stock, but worth checking back for). A set of these tied up with a few wooden spoons would make for a really sweet kitchen-inspired gift.

A slate cheeseboard (this one comes with its own soapstone pencil for labeling your cheeses) is an ideal gift for the couple that appreciates things that are rustic yet refined. A bottle of wine thrown in for good measure would be a nice touch.

These adorable salt and pepper shakers are just right for newly-married lovebirds. They're classic and cute.

A white, 100% cotton hemstitch tablecloth will never be out-of-date or unstylish. This one is so simple, and the beautiful hemstitched edging gives the tablecloth some texture and a lovely finish.

A set of golden dessert spoons--what could be more special? Tucked into a bowl of ice cream, these spoons would look absolutely stunning and would make dessert time feel extra indulgent and romantic.

Do any of these strike your fancy? What do you like to give to newly married couples?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Antique Find: Iron Sconce

Last weekend, we gave in and purchased a fabulous antique that we've been eyeing for a few weeks. This sconce (is that the right word for it?) really had me swooning when I first spotted it in a local shop. I love everything about it. The fact that it's made of iron and reminds me of a medieval castle. The distressed gold leafing and the five beautiful little candle holders. The "Made in Spain" stamp on the back and the fact that it isn't perfectly symmetrical. The uniqueness of it.

As you can see, it's just resting on the floor for now. We don't plan to put it up in our current home but are envisioning it in our one-day dining room. For our wedding, my parents gave us a gorgeous dining room table, chairs, and sideboard (not matching, but perfectly complementary--just the way we like it!) which are in storage right now until we have the space for them. Our dining room furniture is a perfect blend of traditional and modern and I think our new sconce is too. In some ways it's quite ancient looking (like I said--it belongs in a medieval castle) but I think the iron and the distressed gold lend it a modern and almost industrial touch. 

We can't wait to see it in action in our dining room someday. It was just too good not to snatch up, even though we won't be using it for awhile. I'm imagining crisp white candles burning in its holders (we will definitely be using this to actually burn our candles!) as we entertain family and friends around a table brimming with good food and laughter.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Chicken Tacos

I have a new recipe up over at the Happy Wives Club! Here's a sneak peek for you...

"These chicken tacos fall into the healthy, quick and easy category which makes them an ideal weeknight dinner. My husband and I love them for many reasons. Using tender shredded chicken thighs instead of ground beef as the base is not only more nutritious, but we think they make for a more interesting, chunkier taco. 

We pile on fresh cold veggies, with varying textures and levels of crunch, so they’re light and refreshing for hot summer nights...."

To finish reading and for the recipe, click here.

Here I served the chicken tacos with watermelon and delicious homemade kale chips.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hats And Sunscreen

I really try hard to protect my skin from the harsh summer sun, specially the delicate, more sensitive skin on my face. A little vitamin D is actually good for you, but I think that skin cancer, sun spots, and premature wrinkles are more important considerations. I once heard that 15 minutes of exposure to the sun each day (sans SPF) can be healthy, but any more than that is not a great idea.

The two biggest ways I protect my skin are by wearing hats and by using skincare products with mineral sunscreens in them.

I love Clinique's City Block Sheer SPF 25. It has a very slight tint to it which is nice and it doesn't have any harsh chemical sunscreens. It's also packed with antioxidants like vitamins C and E and helps to wick away moisture on hot summer days. I use it both alone, on days I'm not wearing any other makeup, or as a primer for the next product I'm about to show you.

This Too Faced Beauty Balm (or BB Cream) is relatively new for me. It also has only mineral sunscreens (SPF 20) and contains antioxidants like vitamins A and E and other skin-soothing ingredients. It's light and blends quite well and I think it looks really natural. 

I've become a huge fan of sun hats in recent years. I think I used to think sun hats were very un-stylish but I've completely changed my mind. Now I think they're classic and cute, and I don't mind putting one on to spend an hour at the pool. They're great because they also protect your shoulders and the back of your neck, areas that tend to get a lot of sun when you're outside.

I snapped this last week before heading to the pool.

Beach photo from a few years ago.

I didn't buy this orange hat that I found in 2009 at Eastern Market, but I wish I had!

A slightly less fashionable hat that I've been wearing lately is my (husband's) Notre Dame cap. I wear this when I'm going on a walk outside in the morning, before I've showered and put on my SPF. It's obviously more "sporty" than a sun hat and works well to keep my face protected while I'm getting some exercise.

In addition to trying to stay in the shade as much as possible, these are my tips for summer skin protection. If you have anything to add I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It Doesn't Take Much

If you'd told me when I lived in New York that a Panera was being built right around the corner, I wouldn't have thought much of it. With a million restaurant and food choices at my fingertips, quaint little cafés and lunch spots mere minutes away, a Panera wouldn't have really even registered.

But today? When a local shop owner tells me a Panera is being built in our little town, right in front of the grocery store I go to, a short 5-minute drive from our house, I will tell her that she's made my day. And I will mean it.

Everything is relative, that's what I've learned.

I see lots of baguettes in our future, and Sunday night soup-and-sandwich dates, and cozy mornings spent writing and sipping coffee. 

It doesn't take much to excite me these days. I suppose one really healthy side effect of living in an area you aren't totally in love with is that you end up taking less for granted. And ultimately, that's a good thing.

So here's to chocolate croissants and acai berry iced tea!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


I've noticed that I'm really attracted to all of the gorgeous tribal-inspired patterns I've been seeing everywhere. Sometimes trends can become kind of tiresome and "overdone," but there's such variation in these different prints and the colors tend to be really rich and unusual. A lot of the pieces I've seen are actually quite timeless, I think.

When I was in high school I traveled to Peru with my school's Spanish club and sometimes a certain modern tribal print will remind me of the alpaca wool rugs, hats, scarves, and fabrics we saw in the shops and markets in both the cities and in the countryside during that trip. Perhaps that's partly why I'm loving this trend, because it brings back memories of Peru.

I thought it would be fun to gather up some of my favorite tribal pieces to share with you today. What do you think?









Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Currently: Volume 23

Reading lots of articles online, mostly. I have yet to start a new book!

Writing an essay--and that's all I'll say about that.

Listening to this beautiful song I discovered yesterday. Give it a listen--it's lovely. Also, the rain dripping down outside.

Thinking about going to this event in October in Montgomery. It's being organized by Layla of The Lettered Cottage (you have to stop by her blog if you don't already know it!) and it seems like it will be really fun.

Smelling the fresh linen candle I have burning. Candles and rain just go together, don't you think?

Wishing for more weekends like this one. It was just about perfect. My husband and I didn't do too much other than run errands together and have lots of great chit chats at home, but it felt just right.

Hoping for cooler weather! You know the heatwave that has struck the Northeast? Well, our entire summer here in the South is just one long heatwave. It really makes it hard to enjoy the great outdoors! I did have a lovely dip in our neighborhood pool this week so there are ways to cool off, and we're lucky to have pool access included in our rent.

Drinking jasmine green tea in my favorite tea cup.

Wearing my polka-dotted chambray shirt and my hair in a bun with a headband. I'm going casual this afternoon, if you couldn't tell!

Loving our tradition of listening to a Tim Keller sermon each week on Sunday nights as we eat dinner.

Wanting a certain piece I discovered last week in a local antique shop. I brought my husband to the shop to show it to him this weekend, and I think we'll be going back on Friday when the shop is having a sale. I'll be posting about it for sure!

Needing a pedicure, or maybe just needing to paint my own toes. I try to save pedicures for special occasions when I'm really in need of some pampering!

Feeling relaxed and productive this weekend. Sometimes that's a hard combination to strike so I'm feeling great about it. 

Clicking on some reviews of this movie. I think we may watch it later today.

Happy Sunday!

(Linking up with Lauren.)

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Giveaway Winner Is...

Katie from Loverly She!

Congratulations, Katie! Katie has been such a loyal reader and sweet blog friend and I'm very excited to send off this box to her! She also happens to be expecting her first little one in a matter of weeks, so I hope these little goodies will help her to feel relaxed and pampered. Katie, I will be sending you an email later today!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered, and to everyone who reads Something Ivory. I'm blessed to have such wonderful readers.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Washing Away The Dust

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." -Berthold Auerbach

I can't remember exactly where or when I first heard this quote. I had forgotten all about it until recently when I pulled out a notecard from an old journal and was reacquainted with these words, written in my own handwriting. I think I must have written this quote down when I was in college and put it up on my bulletin board. I do that only with quotes that are meaningful enough to have a real effect on me every time I look at them.

And this one surely fits that bill. When I was feeling drowned in the stress and anxiety that always comes my way as I prepare for major performances, this quote would remind me why I was doing this. It would give me strength and force me to keep my perspective open and wide, to remember the joy that comes from making myself vulnerable and sharing my music (sharing my heart and soul, really).

This quote is true for me. And I've been re-discovering that in an entirely new way over the past few weeks. I had been feeling lost, musically, to be quite frank about it. I'm a year out of graduate school and there's been a nagging feeling in the back of mind--feelings of guilt (am I doing enough?) and doubt (how can I fit into the very real, very competitive world of classical piano?) and fear (that old fear, the anxiety, the discomfort I've never been able to shake when it comes to my playing). I've been feeling lost because, for the first time in 6 years, I haven't been surrounded by other musicians, other students pursuing the same hard path. It's isolating to live in a place where your art isn't well understood, yet I realize that I need to become better at forging my own way despite it all.

But over the last few weeks I've felt so reinvigorated. I still don't know any other classical musicians in our area, I haven't totally swallowed those doubts and fears, but I have my music, and it's been doing wonders for me. I'm playing Bach, every day, an exquisite arrangement of one of his most cherished pieces, and not just playing but practicing. It doesn't matter, right now, that I'm not working on it for a specific performance. It's washing away the dust.

I'm working on a Schubert Sonata, one of the ones that poured from his fingertips in the last months of his too-short life, one that wasn't even published until a decade after he died. Yesterday I was sight-reading Chopin Preludes, and decided this one would be a perfect new piece for one of my students. I've been moving my fingers, I've been absorbing sound, I've been relishing in the joy that comes from being able to pick up a score and just play. What Patrick Dunne, in his piece that I recently shared, describes as "doing what the composer once did at the height of his creative genius, thinking what he thought, feeling what he felt, knowing what he knew, moving as he moved, breathing as he breathed, creating what he created."

I still have a long way to go on this path to figuring out my life in music. But for now, these magical works have been joyfully washing away the dust and cleansing my soul, and I couldn't be more thankful.

p.s. Today's the last day! Leave a comment on this post to enter my Favorite Things Giveaway. The winner will be announced tomorrow morning. Thank you all!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Grandma's Jewels

I have a Grandma who is very generous. She also has the most gorgeous, timeless style, and married a man many years ago whose taste in jewelry was matched by few (he passed on this gene to my Dad, much to the happiness of my Mom and me!). Together they traveled the world and they often came home with something exquisite, a precious souvenir for my Grandma, who is never without jewelry. As a result, so many of her pieces come from foreign lands, but she does also have some that were handed down to her from her own mother, or were gifts for special anniversaries or holidays. Her collection is spectacular and over the years she has passed on some of her pieces to me.

This ring my grandparents got on a trip to Japan in 1961. It's made of rose gold and pearls and I think it's just stunning. I remember admiring it on my grandma's hand several years ago, and she gave it to me that Christmas, I think (or maybe it was a graduation gift) to have as my own. It's a true "statement" ring!

This braided bracelet was the first Valentine's Day gift my Grandpa ever gave to my Grandma. It was in 1945, three years before they were married, and she's told me that she wore it constantly. It's so special to me. Without their love, my Dad wouldn't be here today, my brothers and I wouldn't be here. What a powerful reminder.

This opal necklace is one of my favorites--I wear it all the time. The opal belonged to my Great-Grandmother Maddox (Maddox is my given middle name). When my Grandma gave it to me, it was on a longer, heavier gold chain, which I exchanged for this delicate, short gold chain. It sits right at my collarbone and I love how petite and simple it is.

My Grandma gave me this locket years and years ago, and being the little "mother" that I was, I filled it with a picture of my baby brother. My Grandma didn't remember the exact story on it but I vaguely remember my Dad telling me it was from their trip to Hawaii. A sweet quirk of this locket is that it opens so that the person wearing the necklace can look down and see it, instead of the traditional design which is meant for showing off the picture to others.

This strand of pink beads was first given to my Mom, then my Mom passed it to me. My Grandparents got it on a trip to Greece and my Grandma says she fell in love with it because she "always liked pink!" I love adding color to my outfits primarily through jewelry and other accessories while keeping my clothing mostly neutral, so this is perfect for me! It's gorgeous against a simple black or white top.

Heirloom jewels, with their histories and stories and memories, are about as special a gift as you can give. Thanks for letting me share these with you. And thank you, Grandma, for these priceless beauties.

p.s. Have you entered my Favorite Things Giveaway? I'll be picking the winner this Friday morning, so make sure you leave a comment on this post before then!

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Lovely Essay

Last night, I read an article in the latest issue of Notre Dame Magazine that made this piano teacher's heart sing. It's a sweet, short, little essay called, "Not calling it quits" and it's about the beauty and richness that can come from not giving up on piano lessons as a young child (as so many do).

Patrick Dunne, ND class of 1960, writes this:

So how do you respond to your child's "I want to quite piano" plea? 

Think. How would you answer a youngster's desire to quit going to school, quit behaving well, quit taking baths, quit wearing clothes? Some things a responsible parent must insist on. 

Nagging and iron discipline are not the answer. Instead, take an interest. Care. Once your child connects with a piano teacher he really likes, you're home free. Practice makes perfect, so the logical goal is to make piano practice fun. Once the budding pianist falls in love with daily practice, all difficulties disappear.

The goal need not be to become a "concert pianist." The thrill of performing a Beethoven sonata or a Chopin étude or a Bach fugue well is the true province of the amateur pianist. Even for the accomplished pianist, the quintessential audience is himself, herself. For therein lies the rapture, the life-enhancing joy of personal creativity.

I just might frame it.

p.s. There's still time to enter the giveaway for a fun box of some of my favorite things! Just leave a comment on this post. Thank you!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Currently: Volume 22

The tastes and colors of summer (fresh watermelon and ice water with lemon and basil).

Reading nothing at the moment because a few hours ago I finished reading The Light Between Oceans and it was absolutely exquisite. The end had me sobbing at a few points and running to give my husband big hugs. You'll understand why if you read it, which I highly recommend you do. It's a deeply moving story.

Writing this as well as a post for Happy Wives Club.

Listening to one of my favorite recordings of the Goldberg Variations.

Thinking that I will take this lull in my book reading to catch up on the Notre Dame Magazine we got in the mail.

Smelling lemon and basil.

Wishing my parents a fun getaway in Canada! They deserve this little trip.

Hoping for another thunderstorm tonight. Yesterday's storm lulled me right to sleep.

Drinking that yummy flavored ice water pictured above.

Wearing bright red shorts and a neutral v-neck knit shirt.

Loving the feeling of being reinvigorated. I've been having so much fun practicing and learning new pieces lately, and I'm thankful for that. Sometimes I don't feel quite so inspired.

Wanting tolix chairs. I think they have such a fun, retro, industrial look to them. I would love to own several someday. They're quite pricey usually but I just found one in this style for a fantastic price on the Atlanta craigslist page, and I'm negotiating with the owner to pay for it now and pick it up in a few weeks! I plan to use it as my "teaching chair" and I think it will look awesome against the dark wood of my piano.

Needing to figure out how to use Spotify. Any tips for me?

Feeling deeply moved. I think this book will stick with me for a long time.

Clicking on this frightening article I read yesterday. Not everyone will agree with me, but I found so many of the quotes by the women who were interviewed to be quite crass and very sad. It even seemed like the journalist was surprised by some of the things these women said.

p.s. Have you entered my one-year blog anniversary/favorite things giveaway? You can check out the box I'm giving away by clicking the link above, and to enter simply leave a comment at the end of the post! I will pick a winner this Friday. Thank you!

(Linking up with Lauren!)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Something Special For A Blog Anniversary

It's been exactly a year since I wrote my very first post here on Something Ivory. That post was hard and scary to write, and hitting "publish" was even more difficult. It certainly made me feel vulnerable, and a little nervous that no one would be interested in what I had to say. While it still is sometimes scary to hit publish, and I certainly have so much more to learn, after a year of blogging I can safely say that I've loved every minute I've spent typing out the 237 posts I've published since last July 12. The writing has been so stimulating and has kept me thinking and creating, your comments have been so lovely to receive, and I've made some really dear blog friends. Writing this blog is one of the most rewarding things I've ever committed to, and it's becoming more fun every day.

As a thank you to you--all of my lovely readers who are supportive and kind, interesting and thoughtful, in your comments and your emails--I decided to put together a little giveaway of some of my favorite things. Each of these goodies is something I use and love, and I can't wait to see which lucky reader will win! I only wish I had a box for every one of you.

All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment at the end of this post. I will choose one commenter at random next Friday, July 19, first thing in the morning and I will post who the winner is that day. So make sure to leave your comment by Thursday night!

Now, for the contents of the box:

Green Tea and Aloe hand soap--the best-smelling hand soap around. This version is the foaming variety which somehow feels more luxurious, don't you think?

My favorite Aveda hair product. I put a dime-sized amount of the Smooth Infusion in my palm after the shower and run it through my damp hair. It helps to prevent frizz, keeps my hair soft and protected, and makes my hair smell heavenly (Aveda is known for their fantastic-smelling products--I look forward to the Rosemary Mint shampoo each time I get my hair cut).

Jasmine Green Tea. I love drinking this in the afternoon or evening after a meal, and it can be made into a delicious iced tea too. I find that both its taste and scent are relaxing yet energizing. And green tea is so good for us!

Polka-dotted cupcake or muffin liners. These liners make homemade cupcakes and muffins look extra special, and the blue color is really fun and lively!

Homemade lavender linen spray. I make up my own bottles of lavender spray using distilled water and lavender essential oil and I spray it on our freshly cleaned sheets. I know I've raved about this before, but it's truly wonderful. It helps to erase wrinkles and the scent of lavender is known to be calming and sleep-inducing.

My all-time favorite red lipstick (Dubonnet by Clinique in their long-lasting lipstick line). It's the color I'm wearing in my blog photo off to the right, and I'm convinced it's a universally flattering red. Whoever the lucky giveaway winner is, I may insist on a photo of you wearing this!

Evian Mineral Water Facial Spray. I brought a bottle of this with me on our honeymoon and it was a lifesaver for the long flight to California. My skin tends to get dry when I fly, so I sprayed this on my face once during the flight and once afterward. It made my skin feel refreshed and hydrated. It's also ideal for hot summer days when you just can't seem to get cool enough. It's fantastic!

Assorted note cards. I really enjoy sending mail and there's nothing better than using pretty paper and cards to write special notes on. These neutral cards have some fun textures to them, and they would be lovely for just about any occasion.

That's it! Good luck to everyone who enters. And truly, thank you to each and every one of you who reads Something Ivory. It's a pleasure to write for you. Here's to many more years of blogging.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Our Father

I've been trying to implement a new habit. I've decided to try to pray the Our Father over the course of my day to fill spaces that would otherwise be mindless, or to quell a racing thought, or to make a random moment more meaningful and thoughtful. I don't always remember but when I do, I find that the result is an enormous wave of peace. I mull over each word as I go, meditating on the beauty and majesty of each one.

I pray when I'm brushing my teeth, when I'm in child's pose or downward facing dog, on my morning walks, while driving. Of course I pray about other things too and most of the time I make up my own prayers. But there is something so grounding and reverential about saying The Lord's Prayer, and I crave that. My own prayers are often rambling, formed in my mind a few words at a time as I make out my thoughts. I know God is listening and He doesn't care that my sentence structures aren't perfect, and these imperfectly uttered prayers make up such an important part of my life as a Christian.

But the Our Father flows off my tongue, each piece of it so familiar yet capturing something so awesome--for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever--and I find that it turns the most mundane moments into a chance to worship my God.

I used to only say the Our Father in church, and while it's a powerful prayer no matter where you say it, I'm not sure I quite "got" just how meaningful it could be until I began saying it alone. It wasn't until I began to recite these words privately, without the din of other voices surrounding me, when what was always a group profession of faith became a personal declaration of love and adoration, that it began to mean something more to me.

Amazing, isn't it, to be making discoveries and finding new meaning in a prayer I've been saying all my life. God is so good.

p.s. I have something fun planned for tomorrow, which is my blog's one year anniversary! Be sure to stop by!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Happy Visit

Slowly but surely, after a year of living in the South (my husband has lived here much longer but we've been here together for a year), we're finding our way and making the most of our time here. Mind you, we're not getting too cozy--we still can't wait to move North--but we're both feeling peaceful and happy and we're trying to enjoy the last months of our time in the deep South. After all, while I know you should never say never, I don't think we'll ever live this far South again! 

My brother's visit gave us a chance to do some really fun things in the area, and I thought I'd share just a few of the things we did and give you a peek into our weekend and the area we currently call home.

I picked my brother up in Montgomery and on our way to get some breakfast at a cafe, we stopped by F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's home. They didn't live here for very long but it's always neat to see places where historic figures spent time.

We got the sweetest and juiciest watermelon from the farmer's market, and my boys thoroughly enjoyed it!

We didn't even have to travel to see fireworks. Several of our neighbors were setting off their own all night, and they were quite impressive and beautiful. We took an evening walk (sorry for the poor quality on this one) and then sat on our balcony for a while to chat and soak up the sparkling night and (blissfully) cool air.

And, we made cupcakes from scratch. They may not look perfect but they tasted divine.

If you've been around my blog for a while, you know that my brother is a gifted photographer, so I was thrilled when I found out that there was an exhibit of rarely-seen World War II Associated Press photographs being shown at a local art museum. It was fantastic and the images were haunting, moving, and filled with expression. We went the day after the 4th, so it was a perfect time to remember our nation's past and to honor the incredible bravery displayed in so many of the photographs. I snapped iPhone shots (while trying to be quick and discrete, so sorry for the crookedness!) of some of my favorites. Even though my photos of the photos aren't great, I think they at least give you an idea of the incredible sense of humanity that these wartime photographers captured.

A soldier standing in a demolished church.

Paratroopers right before their jump on D-Day.

Soldiers praying before the invasion of Normandy.

Soldiers being given communion by their chaplain.

A little French girl decorating GI graves.

Soldiers at a USO dance in Harlem.

Sailors hanging out of portholes as they approach New York harbor.

On our last night, we went to our favorite restaurant in town. Isn't this back courtyard so beautiful and quaint? It was a perfect end to a perfect visit.

p.s. Something Ivory turns one on Friday! I have something special planned to celebrate and thank my dear, faithful readers, so please make sure you check back!

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