Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Three Years

The list of things I love about marriage is long and wide and deep but in year three, here's the thing I've loved most. No matter what happens in life--in work and with friendships, in events that are out of our control, in the parts of our days that cause anxiety or pain or a sense of vulnerability--no matter what, we always have someone who will lift us up. Someone who cares just as much as we do.

Likewise, when life gives us joy and dreams fulfilled and hearts that sing we have someone to share it with, someone who will dance with us in the kitchen and reflect our toothy, giddy smile and say exactly the perfect thing.

We are one and we are a team and his happiness is mine and my pain is his and our joy together is magnified for having shared it. There's no other relationship that comes so close to the perfect one we share with God.

Happy anniversary, dear husband. Thank you for another year of lifting me and grounding me all at once, and for bringing me so much joy.

Photo Credit

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Surely The Lord Is In This Place

It's important to my husband and me that our home at Christmastime (well, year-round really, but especially at Christmas) reflects our faith. Now I hope it isn't sacrilegious to say so but I'm personally not a huge fan--aesthetically speaking--of really ornate, over-the-top religious mementos in the home. I prefer the subtle and understated, in almost all areas of life come to think of it.

Anyone who visits our home would be able to deduce that we are serious Christians--from the books on the shelves, the wooden cross hanging above our door, the simple John the Baptist icon in our bedroom. This time of year, the Nativity scene and Advent wreath and many of our ornaments remind us of our faith.

Our house is filled with our Christian beliefs but it's all very, well, subtle and understated is the best way to say it. Kind of like the early Christians who marked their homes with a fish crudely carved above their doorways. There's such power in this simplicity. Of course, there are times when God calls us to shout from the rooftops. He would never want us to hide our faith or shy away from sharing it. There is a time to be bold and wear your heart on your sleeve, there is a place for incredible religious monuments. Take me to St. John the Divine in all its ornate majesty and I'm overcome with emotion and awe and spiritual power.

Faith is the most important thing in life. But it's also at its core supremely private and personal. God hears every whispered prayer and counts every breath and understands every ounce of who we are. He knows every child before it is conceived and He sends us signs from above and guides us from deep within our hearts.

God is always with us. Sometimes, of course, His presence is tangible and obvious and those moments are precious. But most of the time He moves mysteriously and delicately, subtly. Most of the time He doesn't hit us over the head but instead loves us through nudges and coaxes and quietly answered prayers. Most of the time He goes totally unseen and it is our job to believe without seeing.

I suppose that's why I prefer to fill our home with these simpler sorts of religious icons. To me, God is most powerful when He's subtle, when He makes us strain to hear Him. In real everyday life it isn't always easy to find God. Life can be so, so difficult. But as Christians we know without a doubt--whether we're in St. John the Divine or in our homes or in the most desolate wilderness--we know that surely, the Lord is in this place.

Merry Christmas, friends! May it be holy and bright.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Virtual Choir

A lovely friend of mine introduced me to the most beautiful thing, and I can't believe (especially being a musician) that I'm just now hearing about it.

It's called the Virtual Choir. Eric Whitacre is a contemporary classical composer and conductor and he is the musical genius behind the idea. For each piece they perform (they've done a bunch), Whitacre puts out a call for YouTube submissions from singers around the world. He makes his scores available and asks singers to record their part--soprano, alto, tenor, bass--and then the voices are spliced and edited together to form this incredible, 21st century, international choir.

You must watch and listen.

I keep hitting repeat on this video and every time, I get chills and my eyes well up. This is what art is all about. It's transcendent and fundamentally human and soulful and despite the oceans and continents and languages that separate these people, here they are making heavenly music together. It's astonishing, really.

I hope you love it as much as I do.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Musings

I find myself really looking forward to weekends these days. There's something so special about December weekends--cozy, twinkly, not overly planned, full of cider and tea. This weekend I hope to finish up my Christmas shopping and gift wrapping and convince my husband to watch Love Actually with me (a Christmas tradition, and actually, he loves it too). ;)

Now for some Friday Musings...


I enjoyed this insider scoop on Kate Middleton that was published in Vanity Fair this week. How I wish I'd gotten to see her in New York!


I was invited by my neighbor to the most fun event this week--a sing-along to Handel's Messiah. This was the 47th year it has been held at UVA and while I'm not a singer, I had such a wonderful, giggly, time with my neighbor and her friend. There's something so exciting and festive about a bunch of people, musicians and non-musicians, singers and non-singers, getting together to make music and belt out those jubilant choruses.


You can probably tell from some of my past posts, but I'm convinced I'm the luckiest piano teacher in Charlottesville. My students are the most kind, interesting, curious, funny, sweet, and dedicated group of people and how did I ever get them to sign up for lessons with me each week? I'm not sure, but I feel so blessed to get to work with each and every one of them. (And they all practice!!!)


This lipstick has become my go-to perfect holiday red.


A few weeks ago I found myself craving Jane Austen. But I've read all of her six novels and I'm not a big re-reader, so I headed to Barnes and Noble and found this collection of her unfinished works and I just started reading it yesterday. I couldn't agree more with the scholar who writes this in the introduction: "There are some great writers who wrote too much. There are others who wrote enough. There are yet others who wrote nothing like enough to satisfy their admirers, and Jane Austen is certainly one of these. There would be more genuine rejoicing at the discovering of a complete new novel by Jane Austen than any other literary discovery, short of a new major play by Shakespeare, that one can imagine."


Happy December weekend, friends. May yours be cozy and bright!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Homemade Christmas

Unsurprisingly, I like to decorate for Christmas the same way I like to decorate the rest of the time--simply, putting hand-me-downs to good use, re-purposing in creative ways, making instead of buying when I can.

For me, this is the most wholesome and refreshing and in-the-spirit way to approach Christmas. I've been very conscious this year, perhaps more so than in other years, of keeping my focus on Jesus, of nurturing peace in my heart and in my home, and making this most special holiday simple, lovely, and joyful.

As I look around our home the words "Homemade Christmas" jump into my mind. My brothers and I were raised on gluing together our own ornaments, baking and frosting warm sugar cookies, stockings that were sewn by Grandma. And I suppose I've now adapted that homemade spirit for adulthood.

Instead of purchasing an expensive garland for our mantel, we asked for the discarded evergreen trimmings we saw in a pile at a local Christmas tree farm. From those I had more than enough to fill our mantel and transform my fall wreath into a wintery one. I found some holly (holly look-alike maybe?) in our yard and stuck a few sprigs on the wreath, and I dotted the mantel greenery with some of the leftovers from this unexpected fall bouquet. I foraged for the red berries during a walk to the park.

Our advent wreath is a little on the makeshift side but I love its simplicity. These greens also came from this bouquet. We arranged them in a rustic circle and set out four white votives and a larger Christ candle in the middle.

Everything is so simple and wintery and the only thing we've purchased (other than gifts) is our mini live tree. I felt so content and peaceful as I unwrapped things we already had and found a place for them in our new home, as I snipped berries from the tree outside our window, as I positioned baby Jesus and Mary in the place of honor on the mantel.

So while it's certainly nice to have the traditional pink or purple Advent candles, I don't think Jesus minds that we've chosen to honor him with plain white votives instead. After all, Christmas isn't about acquiring things and it isn't about perfection. It's about love and joy and celebration and family and it's about a heart-bursting kind of hope.

In that spirit, a Homemade Christmas sounds just right to me.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Wandering Into The Men's Section

This post is about wandering into the men's section. No, not to buy your husband or brother or dad a Christmas gift. This particular wander is a bit more risqué than that. 

The first time I did it was at Target and it wasn't planned. A perfect-shade-of-blue and white pinstriped collared shirt caught my eye and I found myself ducking through the stands of polo shirts to get to it, trying not to be seen. I grabbed a size small and admired it. I mean, they just don't make women's collared shirts like that! The fabric was heavy, it was surprisingly well-tailored, and the length was sort of a tunic top length, hitting right around my hips. And it was masculine without being overtly manly. Which, in my opinion, is the whole point of a woman wearing a collared shirt, anyway. No thank you, darts and pearly buttons. Collared shirts are meant to be adorably tomboyish.

So I bought it. For myself! From the men's section! I wear it constantly.

The next time I did it I felt like an old pro. I shamelessly sauntered right across the line from the women's department to the men's, no ducking necessary. And this time, I even brought my mom with me.

We were at the Gap and my mom was on the hunt for a comfy flannel shirt for winter. She'd recently spotted a woman on the street wearing boots, leggings, a flannel shirt, and a fur vest (all of which my mom has in her wardrobe, except the flannel) and was inspired to recreate the look. So I said, "Ok Mom, I know just what you need, but you have to trust me." 

(Shameless sauntering.)

"So Mom, these are men's shirts. But! I grabbed the smallest sizes, and look at how cute the cut is! Loose and boxy but not at all shapeless. And they're nice and long, perfect for leggings."

She loved them! We both did, actually. They were on sale and my mom insisted on buying one for me too. 

I consider myself a very feminine person. I love feeling pretty, I love skirts and tights and dresses and jewelry, I love lipstick and getting dolled up. But when it comes to fashion I'm a firm believer in contrast. Black paired with white, flowy on top and fitted on the bottom, edgy mixed with sweet, and above all, a hint of the masculine to offset the feminine. 

(Tip: the first step is to try on your husband's clothes. I wear this sweater of his more than he does.)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sweet Things

I didn't really mean to take such a big blogging break this week. Yikes! I had a bit of a funk going on early this week but it's turning out to have a sweet ending. So let's talk about sweet things....

Grandma's china (my wedding gift from her) gracing our Thanksgiving table in the prettiest possible way.

Our house filled up with my whole family. So. much. fun.

My Dad telling me I'm a calm and natural host (i.e. the best compliment, right?).

Tears from a sweet, sweet piano student who forgot one of her books--if only we were all so conscientious! (And the grateful smile from the dad that followed when I was able to cheer up his little gal.)

The ending of this book, which left me in awe of the goodness and bravery exhibited by so many early believers.

A holiday concert with a friend on the agenda for tonight.

Fun ideas for Christmas gifts buzzing around in my brain.

A certain sister-in-law who always knows what to say and how to say it and who loves her family fiercely. 

Being in our anniversary month. December is magical for me for so many reasons. 

An ever so kind Instagram comment from a reader who said she's been missing my writing. This post is for you, friend. :)

Oh and this, my new lock screen. It helps me remember what's most important in life. (From the She Reads Truth app.)

Have a great weekend, everyone! See you next week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Generosity of Strangers

The best thing happened to me on Saturday morning. It was early in the day, a cold morning, and I was headed to the farmer's market to get fresh apples and brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving. Our farmer's market is located downtown and parking is tricky, so I parked maybe 5 blocks away and started my brisk walk to the market.

I walked by our church, and the historical society, and the library, and as I passed over to the next block something sitting on a stoop caught my eye.

It took me a second to register what that little homemade sign meant. If it had said "free" I wouldn't have thought twice but for a second it occurred to me, "Maybe this sign is for someone specific?!" Hmm. But there is a flower shop next door to this doorway, I noticed. And the greens had been sitting out all night (the water in the bucket was iced). So I eventually figured that they were indeed meant for whoever spotted them first and felt shameless enough to pick up this giant bucket and tote it home.

I decided that was going to be me. 

I needed to get to the market first so I sort of glanced around casually to see if anyone else had noticed the awesome free thing I'd just come upon. Shopkeepers opening up, a few people milling around. There didn't seem to be a ton of interest in my stoop.

So I bought my apples and brussels sprouts and on the way back I quickened my step because the downtown mall had gotten a little busier by now. Surely there are lots of people who would see the potential in this nondescript bunch of greenery, right?!

But no, I guess not, and I have to admit I was ridiculously pleased and giddy to see my treasure still sitting where I'd left it. I heaved up the bucket and made my way back to the car.

I grinned all the way home and couldn't wait to tell my husband the story. (I created a whole narrative for him using the photos I'd snapped.) And then I rolled up my sleeves and set out to turn that bucket of leftover leaves into something seriously beautiful. I knew they wouldn't disappoint me.

And that, dear friends, is a Thanksgiving story if I ever heard one. This bit of good fortune completely made my day. All because of a stranger's generosity and some leftover flower shop greens. 

(And maybe a tiny bit because of my tendency to find silly amounts of joy in unlikely places.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

DIY Repurposed Candles

I love it when I have a spur-of-the-moment inspiration and I'm able to scrounge up all the right supplies to indulge my creativity without leaving the house. That's what happened last week when I decided to "make my own candles" by repurposing some candles I already had and adding a few special touches.

Here's what I did. I have a huge box of inexpensive unscented votives in my china cabinet. I first stripped them of their tin shells and wicks and began chopping up the wax to re-melt. It's best to do this by heating the wax in a jar surrounded by boiling water. (I tried the microwave first and it wasn't effective.) I used a pyrex measuring cup and set it in a tiny pan of simmering water and stirred until the wax was melted. Any kind of glass container would work well, but the measuring cup's spout was helpful when it came time to pour the liquid wax.

I thought it might be nice to add some scent to the melted wax and since I find most scented candles cloying and too sweet, I kept it simple with my favorite essential oils (lavender and lemon). I also made a few jasmine-scented candles using this bottle of roll-on perfume oil.

I hunted around my kitchen for some pretty molds and decided on these teeny tiny china dishes. They're very shallow which ended up being perfect--I was able to use the old wicks from the votives and they were plenty tall enough for these small little vessels.

They were so beautiful as they morphed from liquid into solid. One thing I noticed was that the wax quality seemed better after I melted it and let it harden again. My husband thought that maybe the votives are made with an aerated wax so that less wax is needed per candle, and it results in sort of a crumbly, fast-burning candle. But once melted the wax becomes smooth again and burns beautifully.

This might be a fun pre-Thanksgiving project to try to brighten up your family's feast. I used very little scent so while I usually stick to unscented candles at the dinner table, I think I might sneak these into the mix.

Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Things Come Around

A few years ago I wrote this post about Crowley Hall where I spent many, many hours as an undergraduate, and I wrote about how I developed such a fondness for this slightly dingy old music building. My loyal readers will know by now that me loving an old thing isn't exactly unusual, but believe me when I say that Crowley wasn't the charming variety of "old." It was the broken variety, the outdated and desperate-for-some-TLC kind of old.

Yet when I graduated I couldn't even bear to give back my practice room keys. We grow to love imperfect things despite and sometimes even because of their flaws and shortcomings and problems. I probably used those keys more than 1000 times to unlock a cramped room containing a piano that inevitably had at least one broken key, but in spite of the lack of space and the dud keys, music happened in those rooms. Beauty lived there. We made sure of it.

It's funny how things come around. Starting next fall, Notre Dame will begin construction on a brand new music building that will be attached to the south side of the stadium. It will be a state-of-the-art facility--practice rooms, sound-proofing, new instruments, a recital and rehearsal hall, a music library. And I'm thrilled about it. So, so thrilled and proud of the university for making this decision and my old professors who more than deserve this space and excited for the new students who get to unlock those brand new practice rooms and christen the halls with Bach and Mozart and Brahms.

Do I wish this building had been constructed during my time at school? Of course. It's going to be wonderful.

But I also feel so proud of all of us music majors who had only little old Crowley Hall. I like to think we helped pave the way by showing the university what we could do and what our professors could teach us. We put our passions on display and worked hard despite the limitations we faced and it took awhile, but our persistence paid off.

Monday, November 17, 2014

As Your Days, So Shall Your Strength Be

I'm so happy to have this morning free for blogging! Last week was especially packed and usually if I don't get to blogging by about noon, then it just isn't going to happen for that day. But this morning is wide open and it's pouring rain outside the window next to me and I'm happy as a clam to be sitting here quietly writing.

This past week and weekend made quite the perfect pair. It was a full and creatively stimulating week so by the time I got to Saturday morning I was ready for some calm downtime. I like that combination of busy, fulfilling week and relaxed, not overly planned weekend.

I recently came across this verse from Deuteronomy, really loved it, and wanted to share.

Your sandals shall be iron and bronze; As your days, so shall your strength be.

It reminds me that whatever sort of day I'm having--a challenging one, a wonderful one, a sad one, an exciting one, a fulfilling one--that God is with me ready to match it and ready to give me whatever I need. This is especially good to remember on harder days. The more we need Him the more He'll give. That's so, so comforting.

But it's also helpful to remember this verse on those breathless, floating days when everything fits into place. Those days are a different kind of gift of strength. The day itself reinforces us and reminds us of God's goodness and love and makes us feel whole and secure.

We must lean on God and believe in His ability to carry us through life's tough spots. But we must also remember to praise Him when standing upright feels effortless. Because that's His doing, too.

(Photo taken on Skyline Drive last weekend.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Homemade Virginia Applesauce

I grew up in apple country which means that the kids in my family were basically raised on apples. When we lived in Ithaca a trip to the Cornell Orchards was an almost daily thing (or at least it felt that way, we were there so often). I remember so clearly the huge barrels filled with just-made cider, pulling the lever and watching it travel down the clear tubes, foamy and fresh, filling a tiny paper cup with freezing cold, tangy juice.

Many of my most vivid childhood memories involve apples actually. I can close my eyes and picture exactly the way my Mom would slice apples for us. Quick and precise, she'd hold the apple in her hand and expertly cut it in half, slice and core the chunks, and that was what we ate all. the. time. There's this hilarious note I wrote as a kid that my parents saved and in it I asked my Mom for a treat if we behaved well, and I wrote, "But not an apple please?"

My brothers and I loved apples, but evidently we sometimes got sick of them.

As a result of all of this I have extremely high apple standards. I'm picky about crispness, I like them tart but not sour, just barely sweet. The ones we've been able to find in orchards this fall have been pretty good, for the most part, but we've also had a batch or two that were a little on the mealy side. We bought a basket of apples on Sunday when we were driving home from a wedding and to make room for them in the fridge, I decided to turn the rejects from the last bushel into a big batch of applesauce.

I've mentioned before that my parents gave us a ton of awesome hand-me-downs when we moved, and now that you know my family's proclivity toward apples you won't be surprised to know that a food mill was one of the things they passed on. This one is probably 20 years old and has made many a batch of applesauce. 

This was my first time using it though and I was so impressed. This tool is sort of magical. All I had to do was quarter a bunch of apples, boil them in just a bit of water, and once they turned mushy the food mill did all of the work. Not only does it separate the apple flesh from the skins and seeds and core but it also turns the cooked apples into this silky, perfect sauce. All at the same time. 

My favorite way to eat fresh, homemade applesauce is warm right after it's made. It's so incredibly delicious, like apple pie filling. (I should say that I didn't add any sugar to this sauce because the apples were naturally very sweet.) For an extra festive, warming flavor, you can sprinkle cinnamon on top. I also love eating it alongside plain Greek yogurt. (Another vivid childhood memory: my Mom spooning scoops of homemade applesauce and plain yogurt into my baby brother's ravenous mouth. It was his favorite thing.)

Homemade applesauce is one of those nostalgic, feel-good foods for me. I'll get in trouble with my Dad if I don't say that my Virginia applesauce isn't as good as the New York applesauce I was raised on. But between you and me, it's pretty darn close. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Musings

This week has been unexpectedly wonderful. I can't put my finger on why, exactly, but I've felt so peaceful and calm and content for about 4 days straight now, and I'm so thankful for it! I've written before about my worry habits and so when I'm blessed with extended periods of non-worry, it's a thing to rejoice over.

I mostly believe that the peace I've been feeling has been bestowed on me as a gift but there were a few things I can pinpoint that made my week an especially good one:


I had some really great teaching moments. If I do say so myself. I started teaching a new student this week, an adult, and we had a fantastic first lesson together. By the end of the hour he was able to play a simple melody and read a bit of music on his own. After he'd gotten the melody down I accompanied him with the teacher duet part and the look on his face after we finished the simple little piece was priceless. The accompaniment part fills out the melody and creates quite a pleasant little chord progression, and I could tell he felt so pleased he'd been a part of creating that sound, making that music. He uttered a surprised "Ah!" with a smile and for me, these moments are what teaching music is all about.

My sweet husband had a birthday. We had a simple little celebration, just the two of us. I made a delicious pot roast and a mini German Chocolate Cake (the good man has been faithfully keeping to a very healthy diet these past few weeks) and opened cards. I have a feeling that when I'm old it will be these times I look back on when I think of our early marriage. Finishing up a lesson in the studio, checking the pot roast that has been stewing away in the oven for hours, waiting for my husband to come home. Setting the table with a white tablecloth and our good silverware and a few candles. Playing music and dancing in the kitchen as I roast the carrots and check the time, carefree and focused solely on making the man I married happy on his birthday. 

I bought a new shampoo and it's amazing. Not as deep as my first two pieces of evidence, but this stuff made my morning shower extra luxurious and added some awesome sleekness and shine to my hair. I never thought my hair was dry before but my hairstylist recently mentioned he thought it could use some extra moisture. I think using this stuff regularly will do the trick.

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, Virginia. Oh my goodness, the area we live in is incredible this time of year. Perfectly cool yet sunny days have been the norm, and when the wind picks up the leaves go wild, swirling and dancing and showering the earth with their colors. Like a rain storm but with leaves instead of droplets of water. This happens regularly in our neighborhood and I love watching and feeling it.

This quote from the book I'm reading: "For many years a tree might wage a slow and silent warfare against an encumbering wall, without making any visible progress. One day the wall would topple; not because the tree had suddenly laid hold upon some supernormal energy, but because its patient work of self-defense and self-release had reached fulfillment. The long-imprisoned tree had freed itself. Nature had had her way."


Also, there were laughing fits and kind neighbors and a new printer I proudly set up myself. There was Brahms and yoga and jasmine tea and hugs. And tomorrow I get to have brunch with my mom! How lucky am I. I say none of this to brag but purely to share the joy that comes from being gifted, undeservingly, with a wonderful string of moments and an overflow of peace.

Weeks like this remind me that Someone is listening.

Happy Friday, dear readers. :) 

(Photo above is of the doorknob in our bathroom. It fell off twice this past week, both times when guests were opening the bathroom door, but it's easy to forgive something this beautiful, right?)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Good Trends/Bad Trends

Trends are interesting. I have a pretty solid sense of what I like and don't like and don't pay too much attention to whether something is "trendy" or not. I think most of us are probably like that. If something is trendy but we like it, who cares that we're jumping on a bandwagon! It's trendiness for the sake of trendiness that is the real danger. (And don't get me started on the expression that something is "trending." Ugh!)

As I've become immersed in the blog world it's sometimes hard to tell if certain things are universally popular or if they're only so among us blogging gals. Is the rest of the world obsessed with snake plants and their earthy chic factor? I'm not sure.

Anyway, I thought it would be sort of silly and fun to make a quick little list. Trends I love (not because they're trends but because they click with me) and trends I don't love (for whatever reason). I hope you'll share yours in the comments, too!

Trends I Love:

Game of Thrones
Delicate gold jewelry
Subtle pastel-tipped hair (I'd never do it but it can look gorgeous when done right)
Reusable grocery bags
Oversized black-rimmed glasses (on other people, since my eyes are stubbornly good at seeing)
Gallery walls (but only when done really well!)
Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Trends I Don't Love:

Pinterest recipes
Dry shampoo (I use it but it's not a miracle product like the masses would have you believe)
Lena Dunham
...and Twitter
Inspirational quotes turned into wall art (it can be beautiful but it's not quite for me)
Super skinny jeans on men

What am I missing? This is the kind of thing that's fun to gab about with girlfriends. So tell me: which trends do you love and which ones bug you?

Monday, November 3, 2014

DIY Hanging Rope Planter

I've been slowly relocating the plants we had on our screened porch to different spots inside our home. They were actually doing fine outside but I'm clueless about plants and assumed that early morning frost is probably uncomfortable, right? It just felt cruel to leave them out on the porch.

This hanging plant has been thriving ever since we got it back in June and I love its drippy green and white leaves. It's such a well-behaved plant. Giving it a new home in this corner of the bathroom might seem like a strange choice but I'm really loving the greenery-in-the-bathroom look these days. It sort of completes the earthy, calm, spa-like atmosphere I think every bathroom should aspire to. 

When it was on the porch we'd kept the plant in the plastic hanging planter it had come in but once I brought it inside I wanted it to look a little nicer. I had just enough leftover rope from this project so I made another hanging rope planter like the one in my kitchen and kept the plant in its plastic pot ( you can't even tell!). 

It's exactly what this corner needed. I'm not sure this plant will ever make its way out to the porch again. Doesn't it look happy here?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hand-Me-Downs From Mom

We're big on hand-me-downs in my family. I would say that more than half of what my husband and I own came from somebody else who used it first--parents, grandparents, friends, strangers (you know me and my thrift shops). I've never, as long as I can remember, resented hand-me-downs in the stereotypical way. I would even say I prefer them.

I'm sandwiched in between two brothers so as a kid I never had an older sister to bequeath me with all of her too-small clothes, but my mom always found a way to get me hand-me-downs despite this. I remember bags of clothes being dropped off by friends of the family who had slightly older girls, and this was always the most exciting thing. It helped that a lot of the clothes were totally stylish (my favorite were Gap hand-me-downs) and I loved sorting through everything and finding things I liked. It felt so special, like a big bag of presents had magically landed on my bedroom floor and it wasn't even Christmas or my birthday.

That feeling stuck with me and I remember a few years ago giving some tops and sweaters I no longer wore to a girl I babysat in New York. She didn't have any sisters either and her smile as she looked at the clothes and tried things on lit up the room. 

This tradition has carried me long into adulthood and some of my favorite things are hand-me-downs from my mom, things that she wore when she was my age. This Irish wool sweater is the warmest, most comforting sweater I own. My mom got it in the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland when she was about 20 and wore it a ton throughout her 20s. It's still in the most beautiful shape and so classic--the warm beige wool, the knitted design, the leather cognac-colored buttons. I love getting it out each fall and winter (which I didn't do at all in Alabama, so I've missed it) and I love its comforting and meaningful history.

These adorable black leather mary janes were also my mom's and also from Ireland. They were handmade by a cobbler in Cork and my parents got them on a trip to Ireland when my brother and I were babies. My mom must have worn these a ton because I have the most vivid memories of her in them. When I wear them now, even the way they sound when I walk sometimes flashes me right back to my childhood. It's pretty amazing. The soles were quite worn so recently I took them to a cobbler and they put on new half-soles. The rest of the shoe is in pristine shape and I'm pretty sure they'll last long enough for me to pass them on to my daughter someday.

(Don't you just love that soft, crinkly aged leather?! I've always said it--old leather beats new leather every time.)

I just happened to be wearing both of these special heirlooms yesterday and I had my husband snap a photo so I could share these stories. Because what we wear really does tell a story and how wonderful is it to slip on a pair of shoes your mom wore when you were just a baby, or cozy up in a sweater that kept her warm on countless days? There's so much history wrapped up in these treasures and I'm a lucky gal to have them.

Thanks, Mom. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Over-Thinking Meets Trust

Yesterday, I was practicing a scale exercise (the kind of practicing that drives the other member of my family, whose office is directly below my studio, a little mad). The point of the exercise is to train your hands to switch from one pattern to another very quickly and it's surprisingly difficult to play it well.

As I was working my brain tuned out for a moment and I noticed that as a result I was playing much more cleanly and precisely than I had been when my mind was fully engaged, thinking about what came next, anticipating the next scale pattern. I had put in enough practice time that my fingers and hands knew the exercise better than my brain. I would even go so far as to say that my over-thinking mind was getting in the way.

I had to smile to myself when I realized that because, really, what's new? 

Friday, October 24, 2014

DIY Fall Wreath

We sometimes call our home our Little Cottage In The Woods. There's a slightly overgrown stone pathway in the yard, plenty of creeping, elegant ivy, a built-in bench on the front porch, painted shutters, green foliage on all sides, a tree with red berries that we can see from the bedroom window. And it just keeps getting sweeter and sweeter the colder it gets and the more we need her four walls to keep us warm and dry. 

It is my belief that come October, every Little Cottage needs something charming for the front door. 

At my husband's suggestion I first tried gathering things around the yard that I could fashion into a homemade fall wreath. What I ended up with was crooked and not at all sturdy, but I loved how simple and earthy it looked when I was done "weaving" (more like willing things to stay in place). It was quite pretty but by morning--no surprise--it looked wilted and sad. Ah well. It was mostly just a fun challenge anyway.

The next day I went to Michaels and bought some supplies that would stand up to the weather--a grapevine wreath and an assortment of faux flowers. Not as authentic as the last wreath but the grapevine at least is the real thing. It's super sturdy and it was easy to wedge the stems of the flowers in between the dried vines. 

This DIY is as simple as it gets but it's cozy and cottage-y and it makes me happy! Maybe it will inspire you to make something charming for your front door, too.

Happy Friday, friends.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pretty Dried Things

I'm not much of a seasonal decorator. I prefer to mark the shift from summer to fall with things like thicker comforters, extra cups of hot tea, glowy candles on the coffee table while I read, chili and cheese quesadillas, wool sweaters and my favorite pair of red leather boots.

But a few days ago as I enjoyed a crisp walk around the neighborhood, I was inspired by all of the cozy little changes I noticed on front stoops and in windowsills of the houses on and around our block. Plus nature herself was in absolutely lovely form, showing off orange berries on deep green bushes and golden leaves that danced through the air.

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