don’t stop believin’ (garden 2011)

Having an (admittedly) nerdy plant-loving husband is very helpful in the summer when he grows a garden. Aaron puts a ton of effort into both the planning and execution stages of gardening. In doing so, he finds enjoyment, we save money, and I feel hip because we’re extreme produce locavores.

This year has been pretty successful. Even though our first attempt at snow peas was an epic fail, we’ve enjoyed several rhubarb crisps, the first few fresh tomatoes have been divine, and we’re trying a new technique with the delicious acorn squash!

all our tomatoes!

the big tomato is almost ready - such a picture of hope.

these snow peas are an embarassment to nature

squash growing up on stakes!

that bee's pollination will make the flower produce a squash!

Rhubarb stalks. And sometimes I do, too.

This year I have my own little garden, too. I am very proud of it. I purchased this little basil plant at a farmer’s market and repotted it myself. I try to water it. Don’t laugh – this is actually a big deal for me. I don’t have natural horticultural nurturing instincts, but I’m starting small and trying to make this work. I don’t want to have to buy fresh basil all the time when tomato season is in full force, because my favorite way to enjoy a juicy red tomato is tossed with olive oil, chopped basil and fresh mozzarella in a caprese salad. I fully intend to try fanning the tomatoes like this, too. Yum!

grow, baby, grow!

[first picture from livingstonandporter’s etsy shop]

happy anniversary!

It’s our third wedding anniversary today! And this is  our first real celebration since Aaron has been traveling around the world for our other anniversaries.

my favorite picture from the wedding!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew;a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. – Ecclesiastes 3, esv.

love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. -antoine de saint-exupery

heroine chic

My dear friend Bethany stopped by for a bit over the Fourth of July weekend! We first bonded during a Bible Study at college… not just through the themes and application of 1st and 2nd Peter, but the extraneous discussion of silverware and Martha Stewart’s complicated but reliable recipes. When she first got here, we devoured a delicious dinner on the patio of a local restaurant and walked it off at the trails around our “fake lake,” enjoying conversation and pretty flowers.  We both try to be brave women who are also pretty fashionable, so during this weekend we termed ourselves “heroine chic” and referred to that phrase often!

at Ada Hayden park before sunset

orange flowers around the trails

Instead of making 7 batches of fruit jam like we did last time she was in town, we baked strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

strawberry-rhubarb crisp!

I loved introducing Bethany to two sets of Iowa friends for holiday cookouts, one of which included lots of time with our two favorite sorts of people: babies and hilarious children. My little friend E, who is almost five, caught a particularly friendly lightning bug and named him “Farley McFirefly.”

Farley McFirefly

We spent the rest of the time knitting blankets for pregnant friends and family members (love the Log Cabin and Basketweave patterns from Purl Bee!) while watching several episodes of the ridiculous-yet-addicting show Pregnant in Heels. While I don’t envy Bethany’s daunting task of moving from Boston to Colorado Springs, I’m glad she could stop and stay a while with us in the middle of her journey!

a tale of two bunny-buns

Because I can now spend my days enjoying the breeze through my screened-in patio while working and getting paid to do so, I have more chances to observe the wildlife surrounding our little paradise home.

not pictured: ice-cold ginger ale

This spring we fell in love with two little bunnies living in the back yard. It wasn’t just me! Even Aaron used the word “cute.” We called them Brother Bunny and Sister Bunny. Brother lived back by the big tree; Sister preferred the raised beds by the side patio.

Brother Bunny

Sister Bunny

It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. I’m sure waiting until they snared our hearts with their adorableness must have been difficult, but after sensing the protection of our affection, the darling Brother and Sister feasted on the leaves of my recently-transplanted hostas…

too hostalicious for ya, babe

… and, more devastatingly, one of our bamboo (bamboo bamboo!- veggie tales anyone?) clusters. Those things were $35 a pop. Hopefully the gnawed down plant comes back next year.

bamboo leftovers, now protected by a homemade cage

Please do not judge us for the unlovely rock garden. We dream that someday the rocks will be gone and replaced by lush green grass with twin bamboo clusters for privacy, bordered by variegated hostas. We’ve come to grips with our own human limitations and know accomplishing these dreams take time. It will probably come together right as we put the house on the market.

the uneaten bamboo plant in all it's wire-caged glory

So unfortunately, with the demolition of our decorative greenery already underway, my husband encouraged me to say good-bye to Brother and Sister Bunny before they had a chance to discover the edible garden full of tomatoes and snow peas. Now this story is all we have left of the two bunnies with their cotton-tail buns.

Good-bye to our two little Bunny-buns! It was the best of times to watch you play in our yard, but the worst of times when you ate all our plants.

do what you love what you do

There have been some big changes for us in the works for the last several weeks and I’m really excited to share the news about moving forward into some new life adventures. So here it is: After almost three years of working full-time at a bank, I’m starting a new part-time job so I can focus more time and energy on teaching piano lessons from home. Hooray!

It’s difficult to know what to say about leaving the bank job. I have learned a lot, but it’s hard and sad to think about spending so much time and energy on something I’m not cut out for. I really struggled with many aspects of my duties there. I’m not a “type A, everything in it’s place, just follow the rules, order-without-beauty” person. For most of my time there, there hasn’t been opportunity to exercise my personal strengths and I’ve felt very stifled. Furthermore, the regular full-time job thing means that my employer controls most of my life. Someone else chooses when I have to work, what I can wear, when I can eat lunch,  if I can snack between meals, in some cases even when I can use the bathroom, whether or not I can have time off around the holidays to see family, how I can use e-mail and the internet, and so on. This is just part of life for most people, but it has weighed heavy on me this whole time.

I’ve been teaching piano in the evenings for about a year, and since that started I’ve turned down several families seeking afternoon lessons because I had to be at my regular job during that time. What? I can’t get paid fairly to do what I love because I’m too busy getting paid a lot less to stay at a job I don’t love? Who’s brilliant idea was that? We realized the absurdity of this situation. I would definitely prefer to be working from home doing things that I’m actually good at, so we began thinking about other boring, very grown-up topics that would impact this dream of responsible self-employment: health insurance, taxes, retirement savings, coupons, groceries, mortgage payments. It was clear that I would really need to work about 20 hours a week in some sort of flexible job, because music income would likely be a little shaky with school breaks and the variation of my students’ disposable income.  So a few weeks ago, amid prayers and tears and a big part of me wondering if those lame-o money details would ever come together…

…a really flexible part-time job landed in my lap.

This is truly a gift. It’s so hard to feel like you’re slaving away, that your work-life (and consequently, the rest of your life) is just one giant blob of frustration and deadness, reading countless application rejection letters and wondering if anything will ever get better. Maybe because I have been through a long season like that, I can say pretty confidently that landing this new job was not of my own doing. Even in my gratefulness, it’s easy to wonder “Why now? Why not two years ago?” I don’t know why this came together now. Or why it happened at all, really. But grace opened a door and we’re running through it.

Naturally, I am thrilled – I’ll be working partially from home with quite a bit of control over my schedule, and the flexible part-time hours will give me more chances to market my music business and connect with future students. This means… from here on out, it’s all on me. This is a big change and a new sense responsibility on me. I’m excited, and a little nervous about jumping back into the role of the confident self-starter I was before my current job. Hopefully it will not take long to excel in this re-entry into a life of true self-government. Of course I know I can do this, but I’m not going to pretend there is no anxiety or sense of uncertainty somewhere deep inside me as I prepare for this.

Enough blabbing about these details, though. Plenty of people get through their whole lives not even knowing what they’re good at or what they would do if they could choose anything. The point is, I’m 25, I already know I’m good at some of the things I love, and I get to make a living doing something I’m really passionate about. And be my own boss at least half of the time. That’s pretty awesome.

[photo from kara paslay designs]

just for today

It feels like there is so much going on right now! Or maybe it is more accurate to say that my to-do and to-finish list is so long that my blood pressure rises when I think about it all. I actually feel much like I would in the midst of a stressful semester at college, with papers, tests, social commitments, and personal goals pressing heavily on me all at the same time. Of course I know these things will somehow all come together – or that if they don’t, my life won’t fall apart – but they create this sense of burden and obligation over me anyway.

Here is an annotated list of what I’m feeling like I need to get taken care of this summer. I’m not kidding, I have edited some things off this list for the sake of brevity and privacy.

GOALS FOR SUMMER 2011.
have Aaron help replace light fixtures in hall and kitchen
have Aaron help with redoing the whole freaking Kitchen
find art and hang the rest of the wall collage in the hallway, which includes scraping and painting the rest of the frames.
organize yarn collection that quickly spiraled out of control. Probably give some away.
have Aaron get rid of the big computer
have Aaron get rid of his books
get rid of a bunch of my books
OMG how do I have EVEN MORE CLOTHES I NEED TO GIVE AWAY!?? Do the less-cool clothes just asexually reproduce in my closet while I am at work?
Sort piano music
finish mirror collage on fireplace
paint brick fireplace
one more coat of stain on the outside brick
one more coat of paint on the garage door
finish the retaining wall
re-lay the stone walkway in the backyard
toss half the stuff in the linen closet
the laundry room. the garage. Oh my gosh. I know at least half of it is Aaron’s (stuff) too but I don’t know how this stuff spirals out of control so quickly.
sew covers for living room throw pillows
(gift project 1, started)
(gift project 2, planned but not started)
refinish a few places on the trim where it got scratched/dented/scraped
refinish the big dresser in the back room
try to get rid of junk from kitchen… I defs don’t use all my gadgets.
find out how to get important signature on retirement account paperwork
find out how to get my windshield replaced b/c of the crack
paint canvases
have a wine-and-cheese party
repaint some of the deck furniture
find a cheap lounger so I can lay out and work on things while getting a tan in my own back yard.

This is just the things I could write down while sitting here and not looking at anything. Does this make you feel stressed?

Anyway, in the midst of this all  I’ve been thinking so intently about things like “taking it one day at a time” and working on trusting God each day for daily bread, that is, in some way surrendering my innate craving for a preplanned weekly, monthly, yearly “menus” of what God will provide.  Not that I have already achieved these things by any means, but that I recognize the importance of striving for growth here.

Lacking time to record any further insights on this topic, which is hopefully more interesting than my outrageous homeowners to-do-list, here are a few articles and blogs from some great bloggers that have shaped my thoughts about accepting each day from it’s maker:

Wendy writes on Godliness with Contentment.
Ann writes about Hopes and Dreams.
Jen has some guest authors sharing about The Lord’s Prayer, word-by-word “This” and “Day

we all struggle with forward motion

We have done basically nothing on the kitchen in the past two weeks. I like to say that real life got in the way. What really happened is that we snuck out of Iowa for a long weekend in Indianapolis and I have been wasting my whole life on the website Pinterest. As far as real life goes,  I work full time and come home and teach piano lessons in the evenings, so it does get hard to fit everything else in. Anyway, dispel your hopes of exciting pictures of a romantic and adventurous getaway. What I have to share is not all that exciting, especially when I admit that I took five pictures the whole time we were there, and four were of baby ducks we saw swimming in the canals.
The little Indianapolis weekend was excellent and fast. Maybe the most exciting part is that we stayed in a hotel. And we ate in restaurants. We walked around for the sole purpose of seeing what there was to see. We’re usually so very goal-oriented that it was great to have a (slightly) relaxed trip to just experience, explore and enjoy ourselves!
Here is Aaron, in front of a museum we didn’t visit. I took the picture because there were deer in it.

Deer statue

And we walked along the canals where we saw a duck family. We (okay, I) have an affection for mamas and ducklings since we saw a group of them on Lake Michigan during our honeymoon.

there were 11 babies in all

And a great bonus to the weekend was a trip to see my sister’s college graduation! Bethany is a little more than two years younger than me, and we have been told we look like twins and Britney Spears before she became creepy and chubby and drug-using and bald. In addition to being smart, funny, beautiful and classy, she is now a college graduate who is prepared and certified to share her awesomeness with a very blessed elementary classroom at an undetermined location this fall.

my lovely sister, photo by iva

The ceremony itself was long and we were roasting inside the gym. The fire alarms went off and Naomi said “Okay, well now we know why it is so hot — there is  a fire in here!” There wasn’t actually anything wrong so we got to avoid a scene of mass hysteria, and after cute little Beth marched her way across the stage, we made our way to a restaurant for dinner.  Dad and Aaron had an eating competition with their ribs. I think they both won.

I’m so glad I got to see my sisters, too.

We had a fun few hours together and then Aaron and I headed back to the hotel for pool and hot tub time! What a fun, fast weekend.

i pity the fool (kitchen, pt 5)

If this is where we are for the fifth installment of the kitchen project, I am a little scared about how many posts this will take up. However, things are now looking hot and lovely along one side of my kitchen. For this I am glad.

looking over the island

Wow! What a difference. I don’t wish to misrepresent myself here: I couldn’t fall asleep the first night the sink was in because of how awesome the faucet looked. Joy bursts over in my heart every time I glance at it. The towel is behind the sink because we haven’t caulked between the counter and the backsplash tile yet and I’m trying to keep water from getting in there. Hopefully that helps.

it looks so much brighter in here!

This picture is a more accurate representation of the color now. With a shiny stainless sink in place of the grimy pink one, and a white-based countertop instead of the yellow one, it really looks like we added more lights already!
We were a little surprised at the way the tile looks after being grouted and sealed. Maybe you remember from the video that they looked a little powdery and grayish? They are definitely more yellow and brown than we originally thought, but I love the textured look and we’re still really happy with the tile we chose.

looking good!

The tile was remarkably easy to install. I am mildly allergic to the adhesive we used, so Jenny did that part of the job to avoid aggravating my rash further. Both the big mosaics and the border had a mesh backing, so we just lined the tiles up and squished them onto the tile glue. After Jenny left, I spent nine hours laboriously grouting 3/4 of the backsplash. It was awful. Then I realized I had the wrong tool, which was making my life miserable and wasting lots of grout. I purchased a $3 grout floater at Lowes and finished the last section in 15 minutes.

still need to cut out the tape and caulk the edge!

How do I feel after making these huge accomplishments? What do I want to say to anyone who might come against me in these conquests? I feel like a warrior, like a mighty champion, like a powerful and conquering victor. More specifically, I feel a little like Mr. T.
And I pity the fool who would undo what we have done here.

gift of self (kitchen, pt 4)

We made quite a bit of kitchen progress this weekend. The internet may not have enough room for me to write everything that happened at the Hummel house during those few short days, but we have the highlights here. If you are bored and only care about my kitchen progress, just scan down and watch the video at the end.

Of first importance, our lovely friend Jenny came. Taking extra time off of her job at Hillsdale, she drove hours and hours alone to help me with hard manual labor for the whole weekend. When we first met in a freshman dorm, Jenny and I knew we were kindred spirits because we both grew up helping our dads build things. Our friendship deepened on a ride to Wal-Mart where we discovered other mutual passions like hot tea, well-raised children and traditional hymns. From there we led a small group Bible study together and served on a Christian students leadership team before living in the same dormpartment for senior year. So yes, we dissected various aspects of the royal wedding (the folds in her skirt extending to the train of the dress! trees in the church! such a tasteful bouquet!) and chatted about life and love while sharing deep thoughts and feelings during our visit, but we both have know-how when it comes to things like hammers, circular saws and power sanders so we made the most of our unusual similarities with my kitchen project. I don’t know many women who would take time off from work and spend a full day driving to help a friend demo and rebuild part of her kitchen! Jenny is truly one in a million.

Our first adventure included a trip to Lowes on Friday night… Finally! After  six years of friendship we could do a project together! All the male employees asking if we needed assistance as we filled the cart with materials needed for our weekend plans. I suppose it’s not every day they see two giggling girls loading a cart with porcelain tile and comparing circular saws, so we can’t blame them for offering to help.

having the time of our lives

We bought everything we needed for installing my tile backsplash. There were a few things that needed to happen before the tile could go up, but these challenges seemed more exciting than insurmountable.
The old countertop? Oh, we’ll rip that bad boy out, easy.
The sink? It gets a little tricky, but Aaron can help us.
What else could stand in our way?
Please, try to stifle your laughter.  We were doing the best we could and our first evening of ignorance was blissful.

It was pretty easy to remove the laminate from the countertop, which made the kitchen look like this:

so easy! I could demo kitchens for a living!

Then we had to start pulling the wood countertop off the cabinets. This was more difficult than the ease with which we pried off the laminate cover. There was a little swearing (all me) and for a time I tried to convince myself I could leave the counter as-is, add some oil and call it butcher block. But the lovely faux-granite counter was already sitting in the basement and we were at the point of no return, so somehow we managed to press ahead with the demolition. The wood was secured with glue and finish nails, so Jenny dug around with one of my little tools and got the practically-headless nails removed… What a woman.

nails in the counter

After the nails were out, it was time to remove the pink sink (oh happy day!) and get the counter up and out. We were planning to use my car jack to get extra leverage since the counter was so heavy and long. Aaron customized the length of an old, splintered axe handle for this undertaking.

look at him go

He wanted to hold it while watching hockey. Perhaps it felt like a stick in his hands, making the game all the more real to him.

Aaron watching hockey

So with Aaron’s help we disconnected the plumbing, ripped out the sink, and then we were able to pry up the old counter. I’m not going to lie, it was a difficult and crazy job. Jenny was a demolition beast. She has such a way with crowbars.

What a classy lady

You will see behind her the jack from my car. We used this to pry the counter up and it was amazing. We used the custom-length axe handle and got it right up under the edge of the counter. Twist, twist, twist, pop! The counter creaked off and we were able to take the whole thing out to the backyard in one piece. I imagined this process taking fifteen minutes. It actually took a whole day.

this was an excellent trick!

It was a very busy weekend, but we were so blessed to have Jenny with us. We are so grateful for the self-gift that she was to us during the quick trip. There are very few things as precious as time spent with a dear friend!
Overall the weekend included:
lots of splinters
3 trips to Lowes
2 trips to Ace Hardware
2 trips to grocery stores
2 hockey games

I will have more pictures of the finished counter and tile backsplash soon! I pity the fool who tries to take off the counter we so laboriously installed!

Here is the basic gist of this post in video format. I love how Aaron turns on the circular saw as if on cue when I’m talking about the support and shims he was cutting. There is also a preview of the tile we chose, and I mention that Aaron found our sink on the side of the road. That’s right folks, somewhere in the UP of Michigan, he got this baby for fa-REE.  We are unashamedly frugal. Unashamed!

717 days of waiting… (kitchen, pt. 3)

It has been 717 days since we closed on this little house in the woods. Okay. It’s more like a little house that has some trees, right next to a bunch of other little houses but is near some  woods. Basically, we’ve had it a while and I have been waiting the whole time to do something like THIS:


Yes, that’s right. Starting to deal with some of the kitchen issues that add to the current “fug” factor. We have already done some of the painful parts of this kitchen project (like purchasing a range and counters), but a certain someone else is very busy and I have had to take these matters into my own hands if progress is to be made in the near future.  I came home from work today determined to get started. I did not waste time. Okay, I will admit, I did waste a little time because I was working in Des Moines and stopped by Trader Joe’s. (Oh fresh goat chevre, oh almond butter, oh apricot stilton, oh sugar snap peas: I love you.) But when I got home, I got down to business. Please note my oh-so-appropriate construction attire.
After I started pulling this stuff off with the back end of a hammer, we realized that a crowbar might be a necessity when I need to pull off the window trim. (Some to save, some to toss and replace later!) Aaron said something like: “We’re going to need some more tools. You could go to Lowes before they close if you want…” I love it when he talks to me like that.
(Side note: I got an orbital sander for my birthday last year and we still have to pick out my circular saw for this year. It was that, a jigsaw or a compound miter saw. Something about spring really makes me itch for power tools to use during the warmer months.)
Braving the rain, I drove to the hardware store and picked up two petite crowbars and attacked the rest of the laminate backsplash. Now it looks like this: In case you are wondering, this notebook paper on the side of the cabinet has the Nicene Creed written on it, for a daily dose of Church history and affirmation of our core beliefs as Christians. I wrote a research paper on the first council at Nicaea during my first History of Christian Thought class in college and I truly loved the whole process of accomplishing that project. Anyway, here it is:

And when that was all said and done, I scrubbed the sink. It has never looked better. Or maybe it has never looked worse, because at least when there is a little grime over the porcelain we can’t tell what a fugly color the peach actually is.
Now I have a big bag of trash to take out. Aaron says he wanted to try selling the laminate on ebay because it is, quote, “vintage.”
I am too lazy to follow his suggestion, so I will make a friends-and-family only deal here: If anyone wants scraps of “vintage” laminate for any reason, please let me know because I will be taking them out to the trash whenever it stops raining. Don’t all ask at once. 😉