Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Gatsby-Inspired Party

This past weekend, we had a little soiree for my baby sister (who is not actually a baby I must note, but in her 20's). She's getting married this coming August, so we decided to throw a Gatsy-Inspired bachelorette party for her. My sister Elsie hosted the party at her beautiful home, and all I had to do was bring some delectable treats, and figure out how to make myself look a little more old-fashioned. 

Turns out, finger curls are a huge pain in the rear, but so worth the end result! In order to get this look:


I had to spend 6 + hours looking like this: 

I did some research on the elusive finger-wave popular in the 1920's, and kind of came up with my own version. I used this blog to get an idea of how to set the curls. Basically, I parted my hair in a deep side part and completely wet that section of hair. I liberally applied mousse, and then used the clips to set it in deep waves (using the photos from the blog above as a guide). It took a really long time to dry, so I used my blowdryer with a diffuser attachment throughout the day to help it along.

Once the hair was dry, I curled the rest of my hair using a 3-barrel, and pinned it up in the back to mimic a bob. The finger-waves only needed a light combing to make them look more natural, and they were ready to go! I also put a couple of bobby pins in to help the finger curls stay put at least until I got to the party, but I'm happy to say they lasted through the night!

Josh snapped a few photos of the whole ensemble right before I left. I hemmed and hawed about what to wear for weeks, but I finally found the right outfit. The shirt is from Target, and the skirt is from Ruche. I didn't buy them for the occasion, I actually had both things already and at the last moment threw them together. The tights, shoes, handbag, and feather headband were also things I had on hand. 

Even though it was a lot of work, I really enjoyed doing my hair this way! It was fun to feel like I was living in my favorite decade for a bit. Usually I just live vicariously through shows like Downton Abbey and Poirot. Anyone else ever feel like they were born in the wrong decade?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Goal Numero Uno: The Porch Project

Now that Summer is finally here in Minnesota, a huge goal of ours was making our porch really "liveable." By liveable, I mean comfy, pretty, and practical. We are trying to make the most of every inch of space in our wee home since we have decided to stay put here for a bit longer.

The first additions to the porch were these two awesome adirondack chairs. We found them at Target for $18 each. They are SO much better than the stackable plastic chairs we had before. 

The next addition was a few pretty potted plants, along with some edible ones. I LOVE growing fresh herbs. The flavor they add to dishes is far superior than anything dried, and even the "fresh" herbs from the supermarket just can't compare. So far I have mini basil, sweet mint, and regular basil. I also have a little tomato plant that I hope will make it through the Summer!

My favorite "plant" is actually this tree. It's a Hibiscus tree with beautiful pink flowers. Unfortunately there were none blooming at the moment I took this picture. 

So, things are coming along quite well so far! I still need to make some outdoor pillows (these are borrowed from the couch) and add a few more fun "accessories" for more color. But so far our goal has been reached, we've been spending as much time out here as possible! We've enjoyed a meal or two, and several Saturday morning coffee's as well. I love reading and playing out here with Evie too. I'm really dreaming of having a big patio/porch with plush outdoor furniture someday, but this will definitely do for now!

So here's our little "list" of things To-Do for the porch:

- Pot plants (flowers and herbs) DONE!
- Buy new chairs for a comfier seating area DONE!
- Make it pretty using accessories I already have
- Sew up some new, outdoor-friendly pillows
- Possibly refinish small table I have to replace the black IKEA table

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Around the Kitchen

Some things have happened around here that I have been remiss in mentioning. Some very wonderful additions have become a part of our family, and I am so excited to introduce them to you today. First off, our blender. We affectionately call him Blendy. This rockstar whirs into action every day, making baby food, smoothies, soup purees, and the occasional batch of pesto. He even decimated a wooden spoon in an unplanned battle of strength. What a champ! 

The chalkboard jar has found a new place next to our faithful toaster. I also discovered that if you dip your chalk into water before writing, it writes a heck of a lot better, and it also makes me feel a bit less like throwing up. Does anyone else feel like they might puke when writing on a chalkboard? No? I'm the only one? Why does that not surprise me.... 

I'm trying super hard to keep our counters less cluttered, since we are still in the bottle-stage of feeding our baby girl and those things have taken over! 

I re-finished the frame on this picture I found years ago in a thrift store. It's an embroidered picture, with tons of colorful chickens. I love it more than I care to admit, and if I had to rescue anything from a fire (after my humans of course), this would be it. I wish now that I had done the dishes before taking this photo...

Lastly, I found a fun new rug for in front of the sink (from Target)! Also, this photo gives you a better idea of how tiny our kitchen truly is. If Josh tries to come in while I'm cooking, I get a claustrophobic attack and start panicking. Truly. Also, when the dishwasher is open, there is only 2 feet of space in front of the stove. Eep!

So there's a few kitchen updates that have happened lately. It is definitely feeling more pulled-together than before!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Singing Opera: My Goal

Perhaps one of the lesser-known facts about me is that I love to sing opera. People usually respond in a couple of different ways when I tell them that, the first is to say "I hate opera. Let's talk about something else." To which I just laugh, smile, and change the subject. The second is usually a look of confusion, and a statement along the lines of "But you are too skinny to be an opera singer," or, "Why aren't you singing at the Met then?" or my personal favorite, "What are your goals with that?"

Today, I would like to talk about opera a bit, and my "goals." If you are an opera-hater, that's fine, but maybe you could take a few moments to understand a wee bit more about it? Or perhaps, you have something that is in place of opera in your life that you could relate to my story.

I started off singing at a very young age, but it wasn't until college that I really learned my true passion for classical singing and opera. I struggled with vocal health for years, my voice would get very fatigued and the muscles surrounding my throat would ache after singing in choir or on worship team at church. My first teacher, Mark Calkins, started me on the journey to healthy singing. In opera and classical singing, the path of least resistance is used. In other words, you learn how to use your voice in the most efficient way, and the least harmful way. Other types of singing can actually be very damaging to your voice if you aren't careful. Opera can also be damaging if you aren't singing with healthy techniques. Here's a fun fact, and the thing that initially fascinated me about opera, opera singers are able to project their voices over an orchestra, without any type of amplification. Wow! When high notes are sung correctly, you have a feeling of weightlessness. But, after singing an aria you may also feel like you are ready to drop. It requires a HUGE amount of energy and focus to sing an operatic aria. It's the musical equivalent of a marathon!

Opera is truly one of the most intriguing and demanding art forms. It is so much more than just walking onto the stage and singing. It is an art form that requires constant practice, physical fitness, outside critique and coaching, and so much more. Most successful professional opera singers have dedicated their lives completely to the art form, learning to be the best singer and actor they can possibly be. I love singing opera, and I have pursued a career to a small extent. However, as much as I love it, I'm not sure that I want to devote my entire life to it. I want to continue to love it, rather than develop feelings of frustration or even hatred because it is so all-consuming. One story that sticks in my mind is from my former teacher, Doreen Hutchings, who met a world-famous opera singer and later learned that this singer, although she had achieved fame and fortune through singing, was absolutely miserable. Her family had fallen apart, and even her extreme fame is no consolation for the loneliness that results from that.

Right now I am studying with a wonderful teacher named Lila Olson, as well as working with Audrey Stottler, a singer turned teacher who has a very successful international career under her belt. I'm learning so much from these ladies, and I am so thankful for the opportunities to work with them! One of the questions that Audrey loves to ask her older students is "Why do you still sing?" She has taught people of all age ranges, and many of the people she has worked with are singing well past their retirement years. Why would someone work on an art form that gives them no monetary compensation, and is in fact mostly enjoyed in the comfort of their own home? The answer is: Because they love it and just couldn't imagine living without it.

I sing because I love it. My goal is to sing better and love it even more. Another goal is to help others learn to sing better and to love it. Would I like to sing at the Met? Sure, but I'm not driven towards that as a goal. Working on pieces from the classical repertoire and opera has instilled in me a very good work ethic. Even when I don't feel like it, singing through my warmups helps my day feel brighter. Working on a difficult passage and learning to sing it with ease gives me a sense of personal accomplishment. Putting aside my fears and singing an aria in front of an audience reminds me to lean on God for strength. Working with people who are passionate about music helps me to strive for excellence, even when I am not going to be compensated with worldly goods.

Here's how I feel about singing: It's a gift that God gently placed into my hands and entrusted to me. It is not something to be used to puff up my own feathers and prance around proudly, in fact in many ways it has done the opposite (something that anyone else who has done any type of audition can tell you!). It has taught me to stand firm in what I believe, and to keep going even when criticism, competition, and discouragement threaten to derail me. God is there with me when I stand up, against all worldly odds, and sing with the freedom that only comes from being grounded in faith. At times, this gift has truly felt like a curse, but I have seen Him turn it into a blessing as only He can. When I meet my Savior face to face, I hope to be able to hear Him say "Well done."

Summer House Goals

 *First off, I just have to throw out a big thank-you to you all for the sweet comments on my post yesterday! I appreciate the support and encouragement so very much. As many of you know I'm sure, parenting can be a thankless job, so it's awfully nice to know that I'm not alone! Now, on to the next topic of interest...

Now that it finally feels like life has settled into a "new" normal for us, I am feeling the itch to start some home improvement projects again. It's so different having a little one around, but I still need to make time for the things I love.

Just for fun, I thought I would make a little list of house-oriented goals for the Summer. Who knows if they will be finished or not, but at least it might help me sort my thoughts out! I'm dividing it up room-by-room for a more organized effect!

- Pot plants (flowers and herbs) DONE! Pictures to come. =)
- Buy new chairs for a comfier seating area DONE! See above
- Make it pretty using accessories I already have
- Sew up some new, outdoor-friendly pillows

- Replace sliding door window screen DONE! Josh my handyman hubby rocked this project, it looks great. 
- Finish re-doing an awesome dresser I found on the side of the road (it's going to be a new TV stand)
- Finish painting the trim (this is a project that Josh has taken on, so all I have to do is nag him to finish ;), or maybe just bribe him with cookies)
- Bake cookies to bribe my husband to finish trim
- Possibly switch out the lamps in the living room with the ones in the bedroom
- Sew up some new pillows for the couch and chairs
- Work some decorating magic in there

- Replace old table and chairs DONE! Pictures to come.
- Possibly switch light fixture out for a new one

- Pretty much done, just needs to be cleaned.

- Find a piece of artwork that is large enough to cover our ugly fuse box.
- Fix the section of drywall that I ruined by improper removal of a Command Adhesive hook (um, oops).

BATHROOM (complete remodel this Summer!)
- Replace vanity (we found one at IKEA that we absolutely love)
- Replace flooring
- Retouch walls and repaint
- Get rid of etagere (it has served us well, but it's time for it to go)
- Replace mirror
- New shower curtain + accessories

LAUNDRY ROOM (part of the bathroom remodel)
- Add a couple more shelves for extra storage DONE!(Josh did this a while back)
- Remove unnecessary 2x4 some idiot screwed into the wall DONE! (oops, pardon the language, can you tell I was annoyed by that?)
- Patch wall after removing unnecessary 2x4
- Prime and paint all shelving
- Paint walls
- Put a light fixture in so we can actually see the laundry
- Replace flooring

- Switch out curtains DONE! I replaced them with some white ones I had. I wasn't feeling the old flowery curtains, and I'm still not sure about these ones.
- Make a gallery wall over the crib (I have most of the things, just need to pull it together!)

- Find a piece of artwork for over the bed
- Replace bed frame, possible make a tufted headboard
- Finish hanging art on the walls
- Refinish dressers (this will most likely not be happening this Summer!)

- Prime and paint all shelving
- Paint walls
- Make a drum shade pendant for the light fixture (right now it's just a bare lightbulb)
- Organize and give it a thorough cleaning!

PHEW! Wow, I guess I didn't even realize what a huge list this was. I was thinking it would be really easy to finish it this Summer, but I guess we will have to see.

How about you? What are some of your house-y goals for the Summer?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Whirlwird Trip to Virginia

This past week, we returned from our first-ever vacation as a family; a road trip to Virginia! It was so incredibly wonderful and such a fun memory now. I'm so glad we went! Since pictures are obviously the best illustration, I will tell the tale through photos taken from my ever-faithful phone...

Evie- was an amazing traveller! 2800 miles, with very few meltdowns. Actually, I think I had more meltdowns than she did, sweet thing. 

We drove first to Winchester, VA, for two family weddings. They both took place at my aunt and uncle's beautiful farm, and they were both absolutely gorgeous. With fields like this as a backdrop, you don't need much in terms of decoration! 

We ended up staying at the same hotel as my aunt and uncle and their kids, as well as my parents. It was so fun to congregate every morning at the nearby Starbucks, and to share the weddings with my wonderful family. 

It just so happened that my birthday fell on one of the wedding days, so I decided the best way to celebrate was lunch at Waffle House. Southerners may think I'm crazy, but I think Waffle House is the best thing ever invented.

A chocolate chip birthday waffle? Yes please, and thank you. 

Here's a close-up for ya! Mmmmmm.

My sweet little sister Elsie and her hubby Kyle were there too, I think they thoroughly enjoyed their first Waffle House visit.

Starbucks with my cousins later that day! Love these two beautiful ladies. They drove all the way from Alaska!!! Is that not amazing or what?

Before the trip, I decided to highlight my hair for the first time ever. I love it, even though it was insanely expensive for someone who normally uses boxed dyes. 

Josh and I before one of the weddings, he was really rockin the straw hat for the whole trip! 

After the weddings, we drove out to VA Beach to stay with my mom's youngest sister and her lovely family. This is my Auntie, Beth (or Liz as she prefers to be called). I flippin' love this lady! She has been like a second mom to me my whole life. I've visited her and her family almost every place they have lived, and they move around a lot since my uncle is in the Air Force!

My cousin Faith is the cutest little bugaboo ever. She had a blast hanging out with Evie! 

My parents were there also. We did a bit of sightseeing,Yorktown and Williamsburg, and also quite a bit of shopping. Yay!

Historic Williamsburg was so beautiful. I am a huge history buff, so it was pretty incredible to walk down the paths that some of our greatest forefathers walked. 

My cousin Jon mostly enjoyed climbing the trees in Williamsburg.

The weather was pretty cool most of the week, but on our last day we finally got to the place I most wanted to see: the beach. My toes have not been that happy in a looooong time. 

It was a bit windy so we didn't stay long, but I'm so glad we were able to be there for at least a little while.

And if this picture is any proof, but the time we hit the Wisconsin border we were definitely ready to be home. What a great trip! 


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