04 December 2013

december goals

december goals:
1. celebrate well
2. run / walk four times per week
3. see six movies

This month, I want to celebrate well. It's so important to me to prepare my heart for Christmas. I began celebrating advent about four years ago. Now, I can't imagine not taking time each day to focus on the coming of Christ. This year, I'm following along with She Reads Truth. Each day, along with scripture, is a devotional and an advent action. I've been reading along and journaling each day. It really is a special time. I feel like these scriptures are new, even though I've read them each at least a dozen times. If you haven't ever observed advent in preparing your heart for Christmas--or if you just haven't started this year, feel free to follow along with She Reads Truth! 

In addition to Christmas, Jeremy celebrates his birthday in December. I make a very concerted effort each year not to let his birthday celebration meld into Christmas. He actually has an exam the day before and the day after his birthday, so much of the celebration will be pushed to the weekend. But we'll have a great dinner and birthday cake on his birthday!

Let's be honest, I'm not always the best with follow through. It's a flaw. I often have the best intentions, but lack motivation after a couple of weeks. BUT I'm really, really going to attempt run-slash-walking [at least] four times per week. This in an attempt to counteract all of the delicious treats during the holiday season. Although I'd like to do this outside, I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to breathing deeply in the cold, so I have two options for going inside.

At the beginning of the year, we made a goal to see twelve movies together. So far we've seen six or seven. We've gotta make six movies this month! Jeremy will be finished with school next Thursday, so we'll for sure see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug next weekend. Also on my list: Catching Fire, Philomena, Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks.

25 November 2013


The past two weeks have been crazy. Of the ten business days, I was in the office for half of them. For the other half, I was on a bus with dozens of students. Two days with freshmen; three days with juniors. We visited seven college campuses and watched several movies. Because what else do you do for hours at a time on a bus? We traveled well over 1000 miles. But now? I'm home. And we're on Thanksgiving Break! Yesterday I desperately wanted to decorate for Christmas, but I forced myself to do nothing. Well, except for a visit to the grocery store, barn sale and salon. So here's what I'm up to:

I participated in a couple of adoption fundraisers on Instagram (same family, two fundraisers). Each time, I paid $5 to send and receive a gift from someone. Most recently, I received my Christmas Exchange package. And OH MY GOSH. It was wonderful. I received on a day that was just crazy. And I hit the exchange jackpot! My super sweet exchange partner went above and beyond! Katy scoured my IG feed, noticed a few repeated themes and ran with it! I received my first coffee cozy (knitted by Katy) (or maybe crocheted?), the most adorable mini-dachshund hoop, felt donut ornaments (with supplies and instructions for me to create a couple more!) and a frame with several coffee prints to be changed as often as necessary (though that one seems quite perfect). 

I decided that I should be able to cook lots this week. I planned a few meals and grabbed groceries. First up? Chicken & dumplings.You should know that I make really good chicken & dumplings. But I found a new recipe that I wanted to try.

If you grew up with a grandmother who made chicken & dumplings, then you know there are two teams: Team Fluffy Dumpling and Team Slick Dumpling. Grandmothers make only one version. Mine made slick dumplings. She had no use for fluffy dumplings. And I didn't either. (Because I'd never had them.) But I found a recipe that piqued my interest. The picture from this blog made them look not-too-fluffy. So I decided to give them a go. 

OH MY WORD. Y'all. They fluffed up nicely, but then they started to dissolve. Dissolve! For a pot of dumplings, there were only about a dozen semi-cooked dumplings when I pulled them off of the heat. 

Never again. Never. again. I'm sure my grandmother rolled in her grave when I decided to make a fluffy dumpling. I was left with a pot of dumpling broth, 12 semi-cooked dumplings, a huge mess of a kitchen and takeout from Jason's Deli. I vow to never stray from the recipe I've always used.

The Funeral Dress | Susan Gregg Gilmore
I've enjoyed Gilmore's The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove and Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, so I was excited when her next book released. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far, I really like it.

The Lumby Lines | Gail Fraser
The Mitford Series is one of my all-time favorite series. I found the Lumby Series and hope that it is as enjoyable, though it's been a rough start. (I've actually read the first three chapters several times, as I let so much time lag between readings.)

As part of the adoption fundraiser (mentioned above), I created something Christmas-y to send to my Christmas Exchange friend. Here's the deal, I consider myself to be creative. But I don't create regularly, so it leaves me with a lack of confidence. So I mulled over what I would make. (The gift had to be handmade.) I decided to recreate felt hand-stitched ornaments that I made in college. I also did a very simple calendar and found some cute chalkboard tags. I'm sending it out tomorrow. It's a week late, so I hope she's super gracious. And that she loves her exchange.

14 November 2013

november, so far

It's mid-November. Which is a bit unreal. The leaves have changed and are falling from their branches. Caramel and cinnamon and pumpkin have made an annual appearance. Oddly, we've had two nights of frost that claimed my beautiful fall mum. But these frosty mornings make for a beautiful drive to work. The fields are shimmery with white that disappears as the sun makes an appearance.

Never one to wish time away, I'm always excited for November. Days are cooler, which makes for cozy clothes of tights and sweaters and boots. And nights come sooner, which makes for cozy nights with soup and hot chocolate and pajamas.

Over the weekend, I made the decision to decorate my mantle for fall, making the change from Halloween. I debated since I'll decorate for Christmas in just a couple of weeks, and I'll be gone for about five days. I didn't know if the effort would the worth it. But you know what? It was. I did very little, but it's nice to have the change from Halloween. And it makes my pumpkin-scented candle even sweeter.

On Sunday, J and I headed to Dallas for a concert. We thought we bought tickets to a Lord of the Rings concert. You know, they'd play some of the themes from the movie for a couple of hours, and we'd head home. Then I decided to read about it the night before. We actually watched the movie while an orchestra and choir performed the score. SO MUCH BETTER than we ever expected. We both caught things we'd never noticed before. And it was my first time to see LOTR after watching The Hobbit, so even more things made sense. So, so good.

Before the concert, we were able to meet up with our sweet friends, Steven and Christine and their daughter, Luci Belle. We hadn't seen them in months. Let me tell you two things. One: if you live in Dallas, you must check out their farmstore, Urban Acres. They're open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And it's adorable and local and organic and fresh. Two: we had the best lunch that was cooked by Steven, all with ingredients from Urban Acres. Butternut squash soup drizzled with balsamic vinegar and grilled cheese on amazing sourdough bread with a fig jam and two kinds of goat cheese, perfectly grilled with just the right amount of butter. I chose to dip my sandwich in the soup, and it wasn't a bad decision at all. I attempted to recreate this meal last night, but the cheese and fig jam weren't the same. I'll be back in Dallas for Christine's baby shower this weekend, and I intend to purchase exactly what I need at Urban Acres.

This picture is stolen straight from Urban Acres' Instagram. Look for the chicken on the red building. You won't miss it. See the guys on the left side of the building? They're installing a deck. You can grab a sandwich for lunch and eat on the deck, and then follow it with a scoop of Jeni's Ice Cream.

So, that's our November, so far. I feel certain there will be more to share as the month continues.

03 September 2013

Tuesday Things

1. This weekend Jeremy and I went to Dallas for a date. We got dressed up-ish and we went to see The Book of Mormon. Oh, y'all. It is so good, but SO bad. It's written by the creators of South Park, if that gives you an idea of what it might be like. The entire theater was in fits of laughter throughout the 3 hours. And there was lots of silent laughter. Because it was just that funny.

2. After the show, we went to dinner at Abacus. It was a treat, and might just be one of my favorite restaurants now. A high school friend is one of the sous chefs. And he can cook! Now, we didn't get one picture of us. But I did take pictures of our food. So typical. I had the best salmon I've ever had. And J loved, loved, loved the duck.

I've decided that I want some copper cups as Moscow Mules are my new favorite cocktail. Isn't that cup just dreamy?

And then, THEN, our sweet chef-friend sent us a treat. It's an ode to Elvis: honey wheat toast, bacon marmalade, caramelized banana, foie gras (!), marion berry jam and peanut butter butter. Oh em gosh. (That's an ode to The Book of Mormon.) It was so very delicious. Even J, who isn't a lover of liver, loved it. Honestly, I hoped he wouldn't like it so I could eat it all, but it was so good he converted. (Which didn't happen after watching BOM. Thank goodness.)

(I really didn't try to do the whole converted thing [see above]. It just happened. And I'm so proud!)

3. I think I finally have a vision for our bedroom. After 2.5 years of living in the land of neutral--which I abhor--I have some inspiration.

I cannot find the original source of this picture. I wish I could. I'm dying to know where the bedspread is from! 
I love the pink with the orange border. Such a fun pop of color!

I love the light colored walls, and since we don't have a whole lot of natural light, I think it will brighten up our room. I might do a blue-tinted white. I have a DIY idea for the bed skirt. And we have a linen bedspread, which I really like, but it's a khaki color. I told J that I'm going to bleach it. Ahh! I hope it works! If not, it's not like I'd use it anyway. I typically don't use curtains since we have plantation shutters, but I might just to add some texture. I plan on taking out the ceiling fan since we have a mini air conditioner in the bedroom. (It's just as great as it sounds; thank you, former owners!) And one day--hopefully soon--we'll have some pretty wood floors in our bedroom. I'm hoping I love it as much as I think I will!

4. Finally, I found the perfect recipe for a quick chocolate cake fix. You should know my favorite dessert in the world is chocolate cake. To be more specific: my mom and mother-in-law both make amazing chocolate cake. Both very different, but both TO DIE FOR. I've actually had chocolate cake from all over the world and none compare. Since I don't bake, but love chocolate cake, from time to time I make mug cakes for dessert, hoping that it will be a fix when I want chocolate cake. Mostly, they're just OK; often they're dry and a bit tasteless, but for some reason, I just keep trying. And I found one that is so incredible! Even J was impressed. You really should try this Nutella Lava Mug Cake.

Nutella Lava Mug Cake | Honest Cooking

02 September 2013

the end of summer

Just so you know, I've started two posts lamenting the end of summer. But I never posted them. And now? I'm done. Just like everyone else who lives in a climate that feels like the outer gates of Mordor.

(My husband will be so proud of that reference.)

(Also, remind me to tell you about the time I watched Star Trek Wars.)

I think it's like this every year. Summer starts drawing to a close, and I don't want it to end. I love hot weather and summer foods, time away from home and late nights. I'm not sure if it still plays, but years ago, Country Time Lemonade had commercial about the end of summer. As I remember, the narrator--in his country accent, of course--told us that summer was drawing to a close as the camera overlooked a pond or lake with the sun low in the sky. I never liked that commercial much. That commercial makes my soul ache for summer to never end.

And if I'd posted one of the two original drafts? Well, you'd know that I was aching for this season to stay. This summer was a good time in our marriage because we just aren't busy. But now a new normal is setting in. One where we wake early and gather back at home for dinner, except for the nights when J has class.

(But this is IT. The last semester of those darn CPA classes!)

We're one week into this new normal. Which means one week closer to Christmas break. (And J being finished!) Our calendars are filling up with fall birthday parties, weddings, baby showers and holiday parties (!). So now I'm ready for summer to end. I want these hot, hot days to draw to a close. I want to celebrate with others and spend time with friends while sipping apple cider and making fall crafts. I look forward to this new season that I adore, and all that it brings.

03 August 2013

reads for your weekend

This time last week, we were finishing brunch (and dessert) at Max Brenner in New York City. And while Max Brenner (not a person, by the way, but combined names from the two owners) is known for chocolate, we were more than impressed by our meals.

Today, though, we've settled back into routine from a week in a very hectic city. Our time there was spent soaking in almost every possible experience, and it was good, but we love home. So we greeted the weekend in our pajamas, moving from bedroom to living room with big mugs of coffee and bowls of fruit crisp topped with spoonfuls of maple yogurt. And we watched an episode of The Daytripper. This is our Saturday routine.

Today will be a day of errands. Thanks to leftovers from Jeremy's mom and my throwing together a pot of soup from frozen foods and pantry items, we've only had to grab some fresh fruit from the store. No major trips. Yet. I'm working on our meal plan for next week. After a week of some major splurges, we're craving simple, real food.

So here are some things floating around the internet that I thought you might like. (Remember I've been MIA for about a week, so these things may not be super new.) Enjoy!

engagement party | the macs
I love the parties that Jess at The Macs organizes. They're simple, but full of charm. Her tables are always so very cute with signs and mason jars and striped straws. And she always uses bunting. Always. It adds so much to a party, don't you think?

diy leather pillow tutorial | vintage revivals
I have a sewing machine, but I am not a seamstress. Somehow, though, I have a deep desire to recreate this leather pillow. The blogger actually stripped the leather from a couch destined for the dump. And it's so cute! It totally wouldn't matter if the leather is in bad shape. The pillow would look even better! So, if you're local and have a leather couch you want to discard, call me. Or text me. Or facebook me.

maple butter recipe | clinton st. baking co. via martha stewart
I'm planning to do a couple of posts on our trip to NYC. No doubt, at least one will be devoted to restaurants. We had this maple butter at Clinton Street Baking Co., poured over pancakes and again with cornbread. I would have been happy sipping it instead of coffee. If you're planning pancakes or waffles this weekend, you should make it. It's super easy and only two ingredients. Basically: melt butter; stir in maple syrup. And use real maple syrup. It's worth it. (And though I hate WalMart with all my heart, I sometimes hit up Sam's Club for a good deal on maple syrup.)

15 July 2013

a 101 update

Last November, I created a 101 in 1001 list. (It's 101 things to accomplish in 1001 days.) You can find it here. It's been a lot of fun to cross things off of the list and work on others that take time. There's such a sense of accomplishment--which is fantastic for this list-maker extraordinaire!

After I hit publish, people in my every day life talked about it. Although mostly forgotten at this point, it was a topic brought up pretty regularly. Most were super supportive of the list. I was shocked, though, by people who were negative about the list, doubting that this list could ever be completed. And maybe it can't, but I've learned a lesson to always be supportive of goals that others have, even if I perceive them as unrealistic.

So here are the things that are completed:

17. Complete a puzzle with the hubs
We did this around the first part of January. We're nerds in many, many ways, including liking puzzles. We just rarely do them. But this year we instituted a no-screen Monday, meaning that we don't watch TV or use computers on Monday nights. Instead we read or play games.

23. Participate in a Turkey Trot
I really wasn't expecting to complete this run so early after forming the list. It's probably best to train for a 5K, or at least have run in the past few months. Or years. But there was no preparation when I received an email from my friend, Stefani, asking if I'd be interested in being the fourth person in a team with two other friends. I agreed, knowing that walking was an option. My only goal was not to be the last person to cross the finish line. And to run across the finish line. Stefani, Lora, Alaina and I were a team for the Turkey Trot. Thankfully, Lora had recently had a baby, so I was able to run slash walk with her. We'd set a point and run, and then walk for a while, and then repeat.

27. Try a new hair color
This one is complete enough for me, even though I'm sure it wasn't super noticeable to others! I mean, really, I don't even have a picture that would show any major difference. In the fall, I decided I go darker. My super stylist put some darker blonde and red in my hair. I liked in the salon and when I got home. But then I saw a picture of myself, and it wasn't me. I was born blonde, and I'll forever be a blonde. (Even though I need a bit of help to be as light as I like.)

34. Wash my face every night for 30 days
Ugh. I did this once. It was painstaking. Here's my confession: I wash my face 4-5 nights a week. The other nights I use a wipe on it, leaving my eye makeup in place. I was hoping to see a huge difference in 30 days, and even continued to about 45 days, but there wasn't one. I'm not convinced it totally necessary. But if you have evidence to the contrary, please feel free to share.

35. Successfully give up something for Lent
Diet Coke. Boom.

38. Order personalized note cards
I designed and ordered these from VistaPrint. They're super cute.

39. Have a blog makeover
I did, and I love it!

42. Develop a budget
We live within our means, but never had a firm budget. Now we do. We don't do an envelope system or determine that only x amount can be spent on groceries/gas/utilities, but we have a maximum amount to spend each month.

43. Stick to budget for 3 months
Done! Yea!

45. Set-up monthly draft for tithe
We support several missionaries, but weren't giving any money to our local church. Supporting both missionaries and the church is important to us. It was something we'd meant to do, but we never remembered at a good time. Now it's done.

46. Insure engagement/wedding ring
Over four years after having a ring put on it, said ring is insured. Finally. I live in a state of anxiety anytime something valuable isn't insured, so this really helps. We certainly can't afford to replace it should something happen. (A diamond did fall out of my wedding band, but my jeweler replaced it at no cost. Hallelu!)

47. Choose an investment
I have a retirement plan that's aggressive. (I really don't know what that means or if I used the correct terminology, but my money is in lots of places: stocks, bonds, other stuff.) Jeremy also has money in various stocks. One wasn't making anything, so we pulled the money and invested it in something of my choosing. I like that we're making a little more money this way!

That's about half of what I've completed. I'll share more next week! Some will take longer to complete, but there's still a steady stream of accomplishment.

14 July 2013

reads for your weekend

 travel keepsake kits | martha

[I have such a hard time tossing out little keepsakes from our vacations, and let's be honest, I haven't scrapbooked in at least 10 years. And I only have a total of about five unfinished pages because I'm so indecisive. So, I love this idea! Throw all of the ticket stubs and brochures in a box? Done! If only the boxes weren't $17 each.]

● get ready for all those babies | marv knox

[If you don't read anything else, read this. It's that good. Don't let the fact that it's from The Baptist Standard throw you like it almost did me. I was all but screaming "yes!" the entire time!]

“If Texans’ conservative moral values prompt our state to implement one of the nation’s most stringent abortion codes, then we should accept the responsibility for all those babies we will bring into the world. We need to do right by them.
That means both enacting better laws and public programs that protect women and children, make certain no child goes hungry and ensure our young people receive quality education. And don’t dare claim that’s the job of the church, and the state should butt out. The church has demonstrated its unwillingness to rise to the occasion, and the enormity of the task is about to multiply. 

[This is extremely thought-provoking. Companies are fighting HHS whole-heartedly because the owners are staunchly opposed to covering contraception. Conviction is a good thing, but where will fighting to avoid paying for these convictions end? Read this. Think about it.]

“As others have pointed out, it’s pretty problematic to allow conscience exceptions for ANY organization or individual that has ‘religious or moral’ objections to paying for ‘mandated drugs and services.’ Can religious groups who object to blood transfusions refuse to pay on religious grounds? Those who object to vaccinations? In a society with many religions, (and many ‘nones,’) all kinds of exceptions could soon overwhelm any piece of legislation…

Where I pause is when ‘religious liberty’ gets defined as ‘I shouldn’t have to pay for something I disagree with.’ The contraceptive mandate may feel or seem more ‘direct’ than the taxes that pay for the boxes of Depo-Provera in Malawi and elsewhere, but it amounts to much the same thing: a government-mandated outlaying of money in accordance with certain laws. A tax.

‘Render unto Caesar’ applies here. Whose image is on that dollar bill? Uncle Sam’s. So give unto Uncle Sam what belongs to Uncle Sam. And, yes, whether at home or abroad, Uncle Sam will probably use your dollar bills to pay for things that contradict something your religion teaches. My understanding of my religion includes the importance of caring for the earth and not taking human life, but my taxes subsidize oil companies, fund unjust wars, and pay for the injections used in the execution of people on death row.

I despise that.”

09 July 2013

tuesday things

:: A couple of week ago at Target, I saw the cutest mason jar insulated mug. I made a mental note to purchase it at a later date. When I went to Target while in Milwaukee last week, there was an end cap full of these super cute mason jars. I felt this was a sign from the Lord, so I bought one. Y'all. I have had so much water to drink ever! I attribute it to the cuteness, straw and handle. I decided that I needed one to keep at work, so upon my next trip to the Target in Tyler, I found that there were only FOUR left. These are popular in the South, folks. I suggest grabbing one or more.
:: When I was in Wisconsin last week, we celebrated a baby dedication for Ellery. (Don't you love that name?!) I pretty much declared that I was in charge of the food and hijacked the kitchen. We had pulled pork sliders using the pulled pork recipe from Momofuku. If you've never made pulled pork, it is so easy. You'll need a couple of days to make this recipe as it needs to sit overnight with a dry rub, but it's so worth it. We made two big crocks of mac and cheese to serve alongside the sliders. It was a great meal. And a fun party.

:: I just bought Gywneth Paltrow's new cookbook, It's All Good. And I kind of love it. I'm about to meal plan the next few weeks with recipes from the book.

:: We're completely caught up on Community and ready for season 5. If you haven't watched it, summer is a good time to hop on board. For sure some of the best writing on television.

:: Because we finished Community (Seasons 1-4) and Once Upon a Time (Season 1), along with our regular shows AND we're both addicted to Candy Crush, we decided we are, perhaps, devoting too much of our lives to technology. So we're claiming just a couple of technology nights each week. Then we'll need to read or play board games or go on walks.  Something that doesn't involve a screen.

:: One of our favorite things each summer is the Texas Shakespeare Festival. We'll make two trips, one Thursday and one Sunday to watch four different plays--two Shakespeare, a comedy and a musical. We love that this is only 45 minutes away!

08 July 2013

my people

I spent last week in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin enjoying some wonderful community. Twelve (12!!) years ago, I went on a summer-long mission trip to Romania with a dozen people I barely knew. Scratch that. I knew one person from the previous summer in Romania. So it was eleven people I barely knew, plus one friend, in a faraway land for eight weeks. We spent our days loving on babies in a couple of orphanages and sharing our stories with each other. Our evenings and weekends were spent over meals and ice cream at McDonald's and years-old movies in theaters and walks and adventures to nearby cities and a "water park" that likely exposed us all to some deadly amoeba with it's still, murky water.

In the years that have passed, a majority have remained in contact, adding spouses along the way. We've rejoiced at weddings and births and adoptions and jobs and experiences. We've laughed together until some of us have--perhaps--had to change pants. I'm not sure on that. Someone else was telling me about it. And then we've cried together and mourned with each other loss of life and consequences of sin. We've prayed over each other and for each other. We've made it through some good and some bad. And still we remain a community.

I consider these people some of the closet in my life. Only we're spread across the state and country and even between continents. Because of the hundreds--and thousands--of miles separating us, we often dream of developing a compound. It's such a grand thought to be surrounded with such dear friends. To really do life together.

(Sure, it'd be hard. And there's absolutely no way I could "live off the grid" as Patti and I once planned as part of a compound. If you know me, you know that I don't like dirt. I don't really even like the beach. Because sand equals dirt. I can't handle it. So, for me, that pretty much rules out the gardening component of living off the grid.)

For these people, I am thankful. Thankful to laugh and cry, rejoice and mourn. Thankful to share without judgement and to be forgiven. Thankful for wisdom and encouragement offered by the many. Thankful that even if weeks or months go by, we pick up right where we left off. Thankful that our friendships are made from the stuff that counts.

Although only three of us were able to gather this time, 
here are a few links to blogs of these special people 
(or a spouse that we would have gladly had on our trip):

25 June 2013

tuesday things

1. I've had more blackberries in the past three days than the past year. J's aunt picked about 4 pints for us. They're delicious. Some are sweet; some are tart. Other than eating them plain, they're wonderful in a bowl with a bit of milk or cream splashed over them and a drizzle of maple syrup. Tonight, I'm making a blackberry buckle. It's possibly the easiest dessert recipe in the world and makes me break my no-baking policy.

2. I have been such a slacker this summer. I started off strong with grand plans of organizing and purging and working out and cooking and reading, but those have gone by the wayside. J is working on classes to become a CPA (only the credentials, not the job), and this is his first semester/summer in two years to be free. This fall will be a challenge as he'll have two really intense classes, so we've spent every evening together doing nothing except watching Community, Once Upon a Time, and Veronica Mars and playing Candy Crush on our phones. It's fabulous.

3. After I practically yanked Candy Crush from J last night, we booked tickets to New York City. I kind wanted to scream slash throw-up when we did it. Let the planning begin! I have a list of restaurants a mile long, so I should probably stop eating now to balance what we'll eat in the city.

4. I have some thoughts about the Paula Deen thing. I plan to write about it this week. Two of my favorite posts cover controversial topics. Nativity removal or presidential election, anyone? I'm still mulling it over. Check back tomorrow.

5. Have you seen the video series Conversations With My 2 Year Old? If not, you need to watch it. They're actual conversations replayed by a dad and a grown man, impersonating the 2 year old daughter. They are so funny!

04 June 2013

tuesday things

1. I am lucky enough to have a job that I really enjoy. But in the summer, I love it even more. Although our office is open during the summer, our school follows summer hours. So, it's really like a part-time job for 10 weeks (three of which I have off). Not a bad gig for a non-teacher.

2. I've been much more motivated to cook since I only work 6 hours a day (minus a bit for lunch). Right now, I'm cooking my first brisket. If this things tastes as good as it smells, it will be a success. You should know that my brother makes mighty fine brisket. In fact, this spring he was invited with the rest of The Cherry Laurel to cook barbecue for Rick Perry, the Texas governor. So I decided that I'd try his method. Just 2.5 more hours.

3. Along with brisket, I'm going to make this recipe for esquites. My sister-in-law made it for Mother's Day, and I could have eaten just this. I think it will go well with brisket. (And if the brisket doesn't turn out, this will be good on it's own!)

4. We had the eaves of our house cleaned this weekend. We had a slight mildew issue thanks to humidity and the pine trees behind our house. The eaves look great. Unfortunately, whatever cleaning solution he used burned our newly planted vegetables and my pretty hydrangeas. I think I can trim back the burned hydrangea blossoms, but I think we have to replant all of our veggies. It makes me sick!

5. I'm in a major purging mode. I'm hopeful that my free afternoons will enable me to get our extra room unpacked this summer. If you're keeping track: we moved in over two years. Two-thirds of the room is boxes of stuff. At this point, I'm tempted to just donate the unopened boxes. I mean, if we don't know what's in them, will we miss it? Within an hour, our garage will be less one couch and two over-sized chairs. Yea!

01 June 2013

may in review + june goals

Summer is here. And I couldn't be happier. For the most part, I love Texas in the summer. I love getting into my hot car and blasting the air conditioner. I love warm, breezy nights. Mostly, I love the slower pace of summer.

It's such a nice treat that after the busyness of May, I'm rewarded with the calm of June. My goal to blog daily (only accomplished here, here, and here) were thwarted by needing sleep or downtime or working in the yard on the weekends. Likewise, the goals I'd set for May were only partially completed. They were: 

1. Take Crickett for a walk three times a week. 
We spent more time outside, but poor Crickett was only walked a handful of times. 
By my husband. Bless him.

2. Organize one hallway closet.
OK, it wasn't a hallway closet, but it got organized. 

3. Make one new recipe.
I met this goal again and again. I read Bread and Wine in April. (You can see my Book List here.) I really enjoyed it and decided to actually cook the recipes in it. Novel idea, huh? I made: Breakfast Cookies, Brannon's Caesar Salad, Annette's Enchiladas, Basic Risotto, Blueberry Crisp (twice) and Nigella's Flourless Chocolate Brownies. 

4. Workout four times per week.
So, I joined a gym. And the next day, I had buyer's remorse because the gym has approximately two classes per week. Plus one that costs an extra $80 per month. I like classes. Thankfully, I read my contract and figured out that I could cancel it within 72 hours via certified letter. Done. Still on the hunt for a gym. 

5. Develop a prayer calendar to use with J.
And make praying with him a priority.
We have a printed calendar and have talked about a plan of attack. This remains on the list. 

6. No fast food.
I ate at Subway twice. I'm choosing not to count it as fast food since I could have made the sandwich at home. But there was not Whataburger, Taco Bell or Chicken Express. Success.

7. Buy new athletic shoes.

8. Finish reading Freefall to Fly.

For June, I want to continue what I'd started in May, but didn't complete. I also plan to add some items from my 101 in 1001 list. Here's what I'd like to do in June:

1. Walk Crickett three times per week.

2. Workout three times per week.

3. Develop a prayer calendar to use with J.
And make praying with him a priority.

4. Make homemade mozzarella cheese. 

5. Change light fixtures in hallways.

18 May 2013

a saturday post

This is the day I set as my goal upon my return from Easter break. I knew that the weeks in between would be packed full of lists and decisions, accomplishment and success, and a few bumps along the way. But mostly I knew that at 6:30pm on Saturday, May 18, life would become a bit more normal.

Last night I hosted a group of friends from my life group for a craft night. It was fun. It's literally been years since I've been that crafty for that long. As per usual, I only finished one project (out of four). It happened to be the project I brought everyone to make: gardener's sugar hand scrub. It was for sure the most simple project that involved stirring two ingredients. But the result is a perfect blush pink. And it smells great.

From there, as the other girls continued with projects, it was downhill for me. I started two others, but as usual became completely overwhelmed in the decision-making process. When I finally decided just to start one, I wound up painting the canvas with a thick layer of paint that halted all other progress since it took approximately forever to dry. Then I decided to start a notepad project that involved Mod Podge-ing scrapbook paper to the cover of a notepad. Simple enough, huh? Except that it took me at least 20 minutes to decided which papers to use. I made the first cut. It was off. My OCD couldn't handle it. I made a second cut. It worked. I glued it in place and let it dry a bit before continuing. Then I decided I wasn't happy with that paper. Back to the drawing board. Only at that point I was tired and a bit defeated since it was obvious I wouldn't be finishing any other projects. Thankfully, my friend left an outline of Texas for me to continue my canvas painting.

Even after a cup of coffee at 9pm, I was exhausted. As we tucked into bed, we remembered to shut the doors between our bedroom and bathroom. It's not a habit, but in order to sleep in on Saturdays, it's necessary. The light from the east floods our bathroom and spills into our bedroom, making it impossible to sleep past 7am on Saturday.

This morning was slow and quiet. J made coffee; I made blueberry muffins. Our Saturday morning routine is breakfast in the living room while watching television. If you'll remember, we don't have cable. I recently discovered that the PBS channel is free. (Umm, that opens up a whole new world of options.) We love, love The Daytripper. And are able to watch it through the PBS channel. So we watched a couple of episodes, and then caught up with New Girl. (Which, ohmygosh! Hilarious and super-satisfying season finale!)

While J got ready for an afternoon of Star Trek, I pulled a few weeds from the flower beds. Once I had enough of that and watered my hydrangeas, I headed back inside. After some quick meal-planning, I handed the grocery list to J as he left for the afternoon. Now to decide what to wear to graduation, if I should fix my hair curly or straight, and if I want the discomfort, but height, of heels with the faculty graduation gown.

(If you'll remember, the decision-making is where I stalled last night.)

And then at 6:30, I should be headed home. J is in charge of dinner. He has plans of grilled chicken and veggies. It sounds perfect.

Tomorrow I intend to hit those flower beds again. Make burgers for lunch. Read. And find out what in the world is making such a stink in my refrigerator. Because life will have returned to normal.

11 May 2013

stopping the busy

I am busy. Too busy. Some can't be avoided as it is work-related, and there will always be an ebb and flow. But some can be avoided. It's just that I'm often too cowardly to say no. I do not like when people are unhappy with me. It's easier to say yes and avoid the disappointment of others. But then I find myself in a frenzy. I find myself frantic.

This busyness is overwhelming. Jumping from one thing to the next. Checklist after checklist made. Hoping not to let the balls drop from each project. Hoping that if I've missed something, I can cover and come up with a solution. And, more, hoping that those I must rely on will pull through on the important things. The things that won't be overlooked.

This busyness is frustrating. With too many balls in the air, if one is thrown just a little off, it can make me crumble. This week at work, the copier jammed. Tears spilled over. And then laughter because OH MY GOSH it's just a copier jam. I explained to my coworkers that it was a tough day. One demanded I get out of the office, and she would clear the jam and make my two copies. This is the busyness that is unavoidable. But it will pass. And until then, I have friends at work who take things from me when needed.

This busyness is consuming. I constantly think about all I need to get done. Ready for each day to be over so that it's one less day of busyness. Hoping to finally cross off an entire to do list. All the while keeping my house somewhat picked up and figuring out how to make the simplest meals, hoping we have leftovers in the refrigerator. I hate living life like that.

This busyness is annoying. I will not glorify this busyness. I try not to talk about it too much. My life is more than six weeks of busyness. But I recognize that once I get frantic, my relationships are strained. I'm not present like I should be.

Earlier in the week, a favorite author, Shauna Niequist, wrote for Storyline blog. And I wanted to give it a slow, standing ovation. She wrote about living a less-frantic life,
I’m adopting a ruthless anti-frantic policy. I’m done with frantic. The new baseline for me: will saying yes to this require me to live in a frantic way? I’m saying no more often than I’m saying yes. I’m asking hard questions about why I’ve kept myself so busy all these years. 
As summer approaches, I want to practice living a less frantic life. I want to be present in my relationships. I will have to be intentional in saying yes--or no. I want love well those around me. I want to have conversations that don't include a portion of my checklist. I want to have meals and jars of tea and dessert with those close to me. I want to be less frantic.

03 May 2013

things that make me uncomfortable

Three posts in three days. It's so unlike me.
It's tempting to find canned prompts every month. 
It's also likely that canned prompts beyond one month would be super tedious.

Day 3: Things That Make You Uncomfortable
Here goes:

I'm really not good at this. It's the introvert in me.
When I first started dating J, a friend would help me come up with a list of topics
to discuss if conversation waned on our dates. 

When the day comes that churches no longer do the "welcome," I will be so very excited.
It is an introverts nightmare to have to talk to random people during church for three to four minutes.
It seems to be a lasting tradition that is so super ineffective.


These topics go hand-in-hand in east Texas.
And it's more likely that the conversation leans to the far right.
I like to hang out in the middle. So I tend to shut down when these discussion begin.
Mostly because they become heated debates.
I've never known a person to alter beliefs after a debate as such. If anything, beliefs are cemented.
Let's just back off and have a conversation over a good meal.
And let the other person talk. If they don't agree with you or you with them, be OK with that.
But if after going back-and-forth a couple of times, things start downhill, just stop.
And move to dessert or refill your wine glass.
Then talk about something you both like.

Oh, geez. I sort of curl up on a ball on the inside when someone continually has an answer.
No one should have an answer--or an opinion--for everything.
In my experience, a know-it-all doesn't want the correct knowledge.
They just want to believe that whatever they've said is absolute.
I've come to the place where I'm OK saying that I don't know the answer.
I want to be willing to learn from others. But it's unlikely I will want to learn from a know-it-all.

02 May 2013

what i'm good at: chocolate butter cream pie

In my job as a college advisor, I work with students on their resume. They have a difficult time bragging about any accomplishments or significant contributions. I have to encourage them over and over to set aside all the times we've told them to be humble and to make that college admission rep want to offer an acceptance. This prompt 'educate us on something you're good at' is no different for me.

After thinking for hours, wondering if there's anything I'm good at, I decided that there are a few things:

...I'm a great storyteller. I'm super expressive and know just how much hyperbole to use to make the story even better.

...I paint rooms well. I don't tape off. I have a steady hand. I can cut-in like a boss. And I don't let J paint anything in our house. (He hates that.)

...I can make bookshelves look really great. I have a gift.

...I make excellent filet mignon.

...I decorate cakes. My gift is piping. I love it and my cakes are super cute. My mom is co-owner of a bakery. I self-taught when I was in high school after watching our decorators for about two years. But I only decorate about two per year, so I'm super slow.

But I'm not sure I can educate you on how to do these things. If we made a trip to the bakery, I could give you some cake decorating pointers.

(Actually, I once attempted this, but I turned around and my friend was eating icing out of the icing bucket. Her lack of attentiveness was evident upon her completion of the cake she decorated for her boyfriend. Then she married him. And took a cake decorating class where the icing wasn't as tasty. We're still friends. She still loves icing.)

I can help you paint your house or stage your bookshelves.

I can have you over for steak where I'll, no doubt, tell you a story.

But I can't tell you how to do these things.

One thing I can tell you, though, is that I make a really good chocolate butter cream pie. Actually, it's my mother-in-law's recipe, but I'm claiming it. I love it so much that when J didn't request she make it for his birthday dinner this year, I requested one for the celebration we had at home. Then I asked for a copy of the recipe to make for Pi(e) Day. Y'all. It is so easy. And even more delicious.

I have to tell you that you can't be wigged out by eating raw eggs. Just buy fresh eggs, preferably from a local farm. (They treat their chickens so much better so there's less likely to be nasty germs like at a factory farm.) If you ate this at my house, I wouldn't even tell you there are raw eggs.(Unless you are preggers. Then you need to be informed so that you can make a decision.)

Although my mom is the queen of making pie crust and has taught me well, I don't like making pie crust. It's so finicky and messy. I feel fine using a frozen crust.

You'll need a few hours to chill the pie. It can even chill overnight.

Allow the chocolate to cool completely. Otherwise, you'll end up with scrambled eggs in your pie.

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1-9" pie shell, baked
Whipped cream

Melt chocolate in a double boiler, stirring regularly. (Or if you don't have a double boiler, set a big bowl on top of a small pot of boiling water.) In a mixer, cream butter. Add sugar, cooled chocolate, vanilla and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and mix. Once all eggs are added, beat for 3-4 minutes until mixture is smooth and thick. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill at least 4 hours. To serve, top with sweetened whipped cream.

may goals

I'm goal-oriented.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that I found an idea for a list of monthly goals 
and decided I'd try my own list during May.

This is a busy month, but I think I can still accomplish things during the month.

1. Take Crickett for a walk three times a week. 

2. Organize one hallway closet.

3. Make one new recipe.

4. Workout four times per week.

5. Develop a prayer calendar to use with Jeremy.
And make praying with him a priority.

6. No fast food.

7. Buy new athletic shoes.

8. Finish reading Freefall to Fly.

01 May 2013

the story of my life in 250 words

As I've confessed, I use imitation as a form of flattery all too well. I found a great idea to use these prompts to blog every day in May. In an attempt to start blogging regularly again, I think this might be a good writing exercise. I don't know that I'll blog daily, but I'll try. And I'm not willing to give up the series' that I've started (tuesday things & reads for your weekend), so I might post twice in a day. But there are some great  prompts that I'm excited to write. Here's my life story in 250 words...

I was born April 8 in Huntsville, Texas. I was the first girl in 50 years on my dad's side. I've only ever lived in Texas, and I love Texas summers. I'm still a great boss to my two younger brothers. If I were doing what I intended as my first college major, I would teach music. After spending one (of three) summers doing mission work in Romania, I changed my mind. I switched schools and majors. After a stint in the foster care field, I convinced a school to hire me to eventually become a college advisor. It's the job I never knew I wanted. I love it. I met my husband at a church. He came to my church to see if there were any girls on the market. He found one. We married after almost 2 years of dating and engagement. Since I was committed to my last name for 29 years, I moved it to be my middle name. Now, I love the idea of last names for middle names. (I'm lookin' at you, future kids.) We rented a house in a historic district of Tyler before we bought a house in rural Tyler. I miss the brick streets and houses with old, wood floors. I think we'll move back at some point. We adore our cat and dog and hope to add kids to our family soon. I'm creative, frugal and good storyteller. I love books, coffee, decorating our home, cooking, laughing, travel and television.

Done. 250 words.

tuesday things (on a wednesday)

1. I learned last week that I know nothing about HTML coding. Not even the 0.2% I thought I knew. I totally messed up my blog with an attempt to make things better. Thankfully, my wonderful designer at Designer Blogs came to my rescue. Comments are up and running again, as are the social media links on the sidebar.

2. I worked from home yesterday. I learned that I don't like working from home. It's super lonely, even for this introvert. It's a good thing I had dinner with a friend from church, otherwise my poor husband would've had to endure me getting in my 10,000 words once he arrived home.

3. I also learned that I hate our keyboard. It's so noisy and the keys are hard to push. So, I just ordered the one I have at my desk at work. With two day delivery. Oh, first world problems.

4. I'm in a big purging mode at my house. But I'm so busy that I don't have time to really dig into closets and cabinets to make piles of things to purge. And then, I'm torn between donating items and having a garage sale. I think I could make some good cash, but it's just so much work. Every time I have a garage sale, I promise that I'll never do another. But then I think it's a decent idea. Only in Texas it's never a decent idea to have a garage sale in the summer months. And if we don't get rid of some furniture in our garage, I'm afraid I'll be banished to parking in the driveway so that J can finally park in the garage. Oh, first world problems.

5. A few months ago--which very could be a year ago--I mentioned that I needed to stop using "gonna" for "going to" in my daily vernacular. Umm...it seems a little east Texan. And then a friend's mom, who's a retired English teacher (from Wisconsin, so far from east Texas slang), commented that she loves seeing the English language evolve. Since then, I've been a bit fascinated slash intrigued by the idea of a language evolving. This article is one way that we're seeing a language change: Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore.

27 April 2013

that time i messed up my blog

Last week I attempted to switch to a different format for commenting. Long story short, I somehow disabled all comments and removed a couple of other things. Help is coming, though. And once it's here, feel free to comment all you'd like on my last few posts.

Have a great weekend!

24 April 2013

the second time we went to austin

You might remember that I gave Jeremy a trip to Austin for his Christmas gift. I was so proud of coming up with such a creative gift that was SO HIM: a tour of Shiner Brewery, trapeze lessons for him, a ghost tour, good restaurants. I had so much fun planning it. Though we're almost a full four months from Christmas, let me tell you about my gift from him.

Our tradition for now is to open gifts from each other on Christmas Eve. I was dying for him to open his gift. I made cute little cards with hand-sketched pictures: a beer bottle, a trapeze bar, the logo for Uchiko. As proud as I was of throwing this gift together, the cards MADE the gift. But he wanted me to open my present first. And I don't argue when someone wants me to open a gift. Imagine my surprise when I pulled an envelope from my stocking with "A Weekend in Austin," written on the front. I was so very confused. I don't have the best poker face, so I'm sure that my confusion was evident. Not to mention, it completely overshadowed any excitement.

My reaction was not what he expected, I'm sure. I fumbled through thanking him, looking at each part of my gift, knowing that when he opened his gift, he would understand. Though my gift to him was cuter, his was no less impressive. He is such a great gift-giver, and this one was no exception.

Thankfully, our trips to Austin were a month apart. And quite different. We drove down to Austin in time to make the matinee performance of The Lion King. I've wanted to see it for several years, but haven't had the chance. We were wowed by this musical! The puppetry and costuming, choreography and music is phenomenal. It totally lived up to it's hype.

After The Lion King, we headed to an early dinner. For some reason, we'd both decided on Mexican food. Though I'm sure there are hundreds of Mexican food places in Austin, we decided on a restaurant that's more familiar to me, Serrano's. (Only because I knew exactly where it is and where to park.) When I organize trips to Austin for my students, we always eat at this restaurant, but always order fajitas. This time, though, I decided to stay away from safe options like fajitas and enchiladas. Instead, I had fried oyster tacos. And, oh my gosh, they were great!

The next day, Jeremy had tickets for a food tour along South Congress in Austin. I was only mildly excited about this, hoping it wasn't a bust. And, perhaps, wondering if it was such a great tour, why didn't I come across it in my planning his trip? Boy, was I wrong. This was the highlight of our trip, and included several restaurants that I'd wanted to try. You should know that when I talk about this in person, I've been likened to Stefon on Saturday Night Live. It's actually a compliment.

We met our tour guide--and owner--from Austin Eats Food Tours at Jo's Coffee. He had an option of iced or hot coffee waiting for us, along with morning buns from La Patisserie to munch on while we made introductions among the 15 or so members of our group. Then we headed off to our first restaurant stop: Snack Bar. We were able to meet the owners who were so very passionate about their restaurant. We tried the Tamago Yoko; the description is in the menu picture below. It was so very different from anything I've ever had, and I loved it. It's highly likely that I'll eat almost anything with a fried egg on top. Snack Bar is a restaurant that we'll return to the next time we're in Austin.

Jo's Coffee | Snack Bar

Our next stop was up a slight hill at Guero's. We were seated around a grill where corn tortillas were being made. In front of us, plates with halves of tamales and queso. (If you're not from Texas, "queso" is cheese dip, not just the word for "cheese" in Spanish.) We also had mini margaritas made with fresh-squeezed lime juice. Which made me feel a little better since we were downing them at 10:45am. It's close to fresh-squeezed orange juice, right? Then they wrapped up some warm corn tortillas that we shared as we walked out the door.


After Guero's, we headed to Hopdoddy. I claim the hamburger as my favorite food, so I was super excited to try this restaurant! It did not disappoint. Before the food came, we were able to order an adult beverage (Dutch treat). Jeremy and I shared a Black Cherry Hard Lemonade; it was refreshing for the 70 degree January day outside. The burgers that arrived at our tall tables were perfect and paired with Kennebec fries and three dipping sauces; my favorite sauce was horseradish honey mustard. For dessert--because who doesn't need dessert at this point--we had a mini caramel & sea salt shake. They were heavenly. 

hopdoddy: the classic burger

Honestly, I was a little concerned at this point that I was too full. But we continued on our journey to The Woodland where we had shrimp and grits. This was only my second time to have shrimp and grits; the first was in Savannah which clearly has the market on shrimp and grits. Again, these were delicious. I mean, really, if we'd just had one thing that wasn't good, we'd have been much better off at this point. After a peek at the menu, I decided that if we returned for a meal at The Woodland, I'd order the butternut squash ravioli. That's right up my alley.

And then? We had a bit of a break. The guide apologized for a delay, but I think that we were all happy for some down time. Actually, I'm pretty sure the break was caused by Texas liquor laws. Since our guide was about to buy local beer to drink at our next stop, he had to wait until noon to make the purchase. (We all know that purchasing alcohol before noon on Sundays is frowned upon by the Lord.) Once the beer was packed to go, we headed to our final destination: the food trucks. I was so excited.

Our first food truck was Hey!...You Gonna Eat That or What? It may have been my favorite stop of the day. We had a Shiner Bock beer battered Monte Cristo with cherry-fig jelly for dipping. To say that I wanted to lick the remaining jelly from the little cup would be an understatement. 

Our second food truck and final stop of the tour was Little Big Mikes. It's a personal pan pizza place and was new to the food truck scene. We had thick slices of Veggie Mac & Cheese pizza, covered with caramelized onions, macaroni and cheese, and sriracha aioli. It was delicious, but at this point, I was overly stuffed. So when I took two bites, and then dropped the rest of my pizza, I was only a smidge disappointed. I'm sure it was the Lord preventing me from being even more gluttonous. 

clockwise from top: local beer, Hey!...You Gonna Eat That or What?,
Monte Cristo with cherry-fig jelly, "i love you so much" outside of Jo's Coffee

Once the tour ended, we strolled along South Congress. Since it was "my" trip, Jeremy willingly went into a couple of junky antique stores before we headed back to the hotel to read and sleep off some of the food. For dinner, we decided ice cream would be enough. And it was. 

As wonderful as I thought Jeremy's trip to Austin was for him, this was for me. We had such a memorable time.

23 April 2013

tuesday things

1. I just finished reading Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. Y'all. It is good. I've adored her previous books, and I waited expectantly for this book to release early in the month. It's a memoir, written as a series of essays with recipes scattered throughout. So far, I've made three of the recipes, with great success. The Spicy Caesar Vinaigrette was delicious, and I'm normally not a fan of Caesar dressing. I actually was able to test a recipe for the book, so it was fun looking for my name in the book.

2. My breakfast for the past week has been yogurt and granola. I found a new yogurt that I like because it isn't overly sweet. Typically, I eat the same thing for breakfast for so long that I don't want to eat it again for a year or so. Brown Cow maple yogurt with granola full of nuts and dried fruit is my go-to breakfast for now.

3. Last Tuesday, Jeremy and I went to Dallas; he gave me tickets for my birthday to see Wicked. We headed out pretty early in the afternoon so that we wouldn't get stuck in traffic. The theater where it played isn't known for being in the safest part of town, so I called a friend to get a restaurant suggestion that would be close-ish to the theater  Though he gave a few, we settled on a suggestion in the Bishop Arts District. We had dinner at Eno's Pizza. We started with salads (mine was delicious with crisp Romaine lettuce, roasted pork belly, shaved jalapeno and honey tarragon dressing), and then shared a pizza with crust as crisp as a cracker. It was so good.

And although we were satisfied, we couldn't pass up the second part of the suggestion: dessert at Emporium Pies. We took an indirect route so that I could spy a couple having engagement pictures done. When we arrived, it was so difficult making a decision from the seven or so pies that they offer. Ultimately, I wound up with key lime pie, and Jeremy with the coconut cream pie. We both favored the mine; I've never had a better graham cracker crust! Though his was tasty, I make a coconut cream pie that's hard to beat.

When we arrived at the theater, I was at bit shocked by how good our seats were. I typically have the theory that as long as you can hear the music, it's close enough. But I have been so wrong! Sitting close was fun and definitely a treat!

me + my date

22 April 2013

a little sprucing up

You may have noticed over the past week-ish some changes on the blog. After months of not writing, and then deciding that a blog makeover would help me want to write, and then trying to find an affordable, cute and clean option, I did it. And I love it!
Here are the changes:
First, I decided to change the name of my blog to match my URL address. It drives me a little crazy when blog names don't match the address. And so I don't know why mine didn't match. I remember sitting in a big, comfy chair in Christine's house years ago, with a borrowed laptop, trying to brainstorm a creative blog name. Sometimes, I come up with names without knowing the origin. If somehow I come up with something and like it, it sticks.
(This happened with my dog, Crickett. I think I've determined how I came up with that, though.)
(And my cat, Persephone. I still have no idea where it came from.)
(I also have the name of a business, should I need that at some point.)
(Jeremy is able to temper the names for future children, thankfully.)
It makes perfect sense that my blog name originated this way. Although I did live in a green house when I started my blog, I think it was based more on my initials. Before marriage, my initials were KI. That's how I signed cards and emails. I love my initials. And then I married, and my initials became KIW. Jeremy thought a cute nickname would be "Kiwi." Umm...perfect! Especially since it matched my blog! 
So that's how Kiwi Cottage became the official name of my blog about 10 days ago. And I've had more people call it by name in the last week than ever before. I guess it was a good change!
There are some new items in the navigation bar. I've had a few things listed over the last year, but I added my Book List and Favorites.
After reading a book, I'll list the title and a quick bit about the book in my Book List. You'll notice I've been on a memoir and food writing kick.
Under Favorites is a list of blogs that inspire me. This is in addition to the Blogs I Like on the right side of my home page. It helps reduce the clutter. There's some good writing in there, y'all. Take a look!
If you'd like to find me on an social media sites, I've listed quick links to each site. There's a pretty decent ebb and flow with my social media. Currently, I'm on a Facebook and Instagram kick. Which, no doubt, will be replaced by Pinterest and Twitter at some point.
(And when I get on a Pinterest kick, watch out!)
(Just so you know, my Facebook and Instagram are private, but I'm happy to have new friends and followers that aren't my students at school!)
So, I'm super excited about these changes. I love the colors and layout and fonts. I do hope that it makes me more inclined to write!