reading round-up (5.01.15)

After spending the first part of this year feeling like everything was askew with the entire upstairs ripped apart for our new floor project, which resulted in an unfortunate injury for Aaron and therefore took three times longer than we expected, it finally feels like we are at least a little bit on top of things at home. Last night I wiped off the counters and ran the dishwasher before bed, and we marveled at how nice it feels to have the illusion of a house that is under control. After four months of having every closet turned inside out and shuffling all the stuff upstairs from one room to the next, with plenty of construction materials, tools, and sawdust in the mix… Man-oh-man. The clear space makes it easier to breathe. A-lle-lu-ia.

And in case you were ooh-ing and ahhh-ing over the pictures I just shared of our house, wondering what there was to be dissatisfied about, I offer you this picture of the lights right above our bed:

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[Christianity] I was so impressed by a recent message from Jason Meyer discussing oppressive “hyper-headship” as one of the primary pitfalls of false leadership from his text in 2nd Corinthians. I recommend at least skimming the transcript to look at the descriptions and categories of abusive behaviors, but if you don’t want to read the transcript or listen to the whole thing (45 minutes), this summary will give you a picture of what he said with some key quotes. Any discussion that is quicker to define a Christian understand of gender by distancing itself from “feminism” (as if that was a bad word?!) instead of clearly separating from any form of domestic or spiritual abuse seems only misguided at first, but is actually creating a safe environment for abuse:

Doing nothing is doing something: it is looking the other way so the abusers can do their thing without worrying who is watching. Saying nothing is saying something—it’s saying, “Go ahead, we don’t care enough to do anything.”

Aaron and I really enjoyed “Why God’s Will Isn’t Always Clear” from Jon Bloom  because, well, it hasn’t always been clear for us, and a little encouragement in the midst of things is always good to have.

[Clothes] Part of the Early 2015 Life Overhaul included moving Annie’s bed in to our walk-in-closet and moving all our clothes to our spacious laundry room, and I went through every article of my clothing with the inspiration of this article about useful wardrobes. (I’ve been thinking about this for a while!) I now have a lot less clothes than I used to, and getting dressed is a lot easier.

[Science] If you are a fan of eating at Chipotle (those burrito bowls… mmm mmm), you might like this article from Iowa Corn sTalk with 6 Facts refuting Chipotle’s irrational series “Farmed and Dangerous.” Their food is great! But the current business practice of deceiving their customers and attacking family farmers is …not.

[Books] I have three books on my stack of stuff to read… it takes a little more to get there these days! And I think I need to get some fiction other than “The Pout-Pout Fish” going on in my days here, too.
The Gospel-Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel by Wendy Alsup
Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord life when death visits the womb by Jessalyn Hutto 
Starved for Science: How Biotechnology is being kept out of Africa by Robert Paarlberg 

Andrew Peterson’s God of My Fathers is so touching for me. I love the lyrics at the end, especially:

Now we’re counting stars and counting sand
Little feet and little hands
We’re counting joys…
…Like their father, they are looking for a home
Looking for a home beyond the sea
So be their God and guide them
Till they lie beneath these hills
And let the great God of my father
Be the great God of their children still.
-God of My Fathers, by Ben Shive. From “Counting Stars.”

We also have been enjoying Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending almost every morning — what a beautiful start to the day.

We’re spending the beautiful weekend with some family members and planning to enjoy some “time off” from work and the house while the weather is so lovely. Happy Weekend!

ready, set, go!

Since moving to Iowa five years ago, a full day’s drive away from both sides of our immediate family, Aaron and I became the family outliers. We’re the furthest away from everyone else, and we’ve made that long journey back several times a year, sometimes in very inclement weather. (I still have bad dreams about the “New Years ’09 Road-Trip from Hell.” It involved fog, blizzard, icy roads, my first ticket, traffic delays, construction, an electric thunderstorm, more fog, mixing up the direction of the time change, all between the hours of 10:30p.m. and 9:30a.m. Never. Again.)

If we know anything now, it’s how to road-trip well on a budget. So when it was time for the first of at least three summer drives back to Michigan, I was prepared. For best results, fill up on gas the day before leaving, then pack a cooler. Squeeze a little water out of  water bottles and freeze them for 4 hours prior to leaving; use flexible icepacks; bring a combination of good food like carrots and trash like Salt & Vinegar chips; and plan at least one real “treat,” like the Greek Gods brand honey yogurt, which tastes better than ice cream.  All of this is about the same price as stopping for lunch without risking that awful feeling of sodium overload.   roadtrip

Outdated technology necessitated a “hipster” GPS:

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The first part of the weekend included celebrations for Aaron’s brother, Jack and Caroline. While, of course, there was plenty of Bachelor partying, rehearsing, setting up, marrying, eating, and dancing, our main responsibilities are pictured here. I bossed the wedding party around before they made it down the aisle; Aaron’s responsibilities as a groomsman paled compared to his cherished role as Chief Niece Spoiler/Teaser. (The root beer is closed. She is probably contemplating at this very moment how silly it is that adults think it is a treat to suck on cold aluminum cylinders.)

wedding weekend

I also made a fabric banner to compliment the Hobbit-inspired tent reception, and I think it turned out well.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the sweetest, happiest couple on their big day. It was an action-packed weekend full of setting up and driving around, and I only managed to get a few pictures … they are all of the toddler. Despite the lack of photographic evidence, this weekend was an answer to prayer. We had been hoping for this wedding since we first met Caroline, before they were dating!

We drove from the reception straight to my parents house and arrived well past midnight so I could host a bridal shower for my sister, Beth, the next day. I picked a “Lovebirds” theme, and it turned out very cute!beth's shower

And of course, we made it to Lake Michigan for a little while before driving back. I think you can tell which people pictured don’t have regular beach access. Ahem.

family beach

We are so thankful for a safe and happy trip. It was exciting to start celebrating this summer of love and family!

Summer 2012 – That’s a wrap!

Chilly air is invading my cozy blanket pile on the couch and I’m getting up hours earlier than usual in the mornings. I’d say these are two signs that summer is definitely over! Now between lessons and tutoring, I’m doing lots of thinking, studying, laughing, piano-playing, singing, crock-potting, and generally ignoring piles of unfolded laundry. (I suppose that last part was true even in days of relative underemployment.) I like being busy and I’m looking forward to keeping this pace for the rest of fall! But I knew this active season would come, so I tried to make the most of my final days of relaxation earlier.

So, knowing I would be juggling “real” work now, I spent a little time working on some projects while Aaron was busy in Japan this summer. Oh yeah… He just got to visit another side of the world. While I did crafts in Iowa. No biggie! He can make it up to me later.

The biggest project I tackled was taking care of beautifying the dining room rug. I mentioned before that I basically hate how it looked, but after this makeover I’m very happy with what we have. it’s amazing what cool things come from a small budget and lots of creativity!
I started with this:

I was going for this  inspiration look:

A tutorial convinced me I could do it. And watching Jack Bauer‘s American super-hero stunts powered me through four hours of work. By the end, I was exhausted and telling myself things like, “I can’t stop and go to bed. I have to secure the perimeter! We can’t wait for back-up – GO, GO, NOW! Someone get me the President on a secure line!!” to keep my spirits up. And finally, after six episodes of 24, I had a beautiful rug!

I will confess: I made lots of rookie mistakes. I mean it! Lots of them! If you come over and move my table… well,  just don’t do that. You’ve seen enough here. Most of the crookedness happened because I didn’t realize the sides of my stencil weren’t square. Even though I started out carefully, my uneven edges and inadvertent rotations ended up really messing up the pattern even though I was following my guidelines. And I should have spaced out my repeats more for the look I was going for, but overall it’s totally fine. I should stop thinking about the mistakes. It is still pretty cool, and I think the diamond pattern actually makes it feel really connected with the kitchen tile backsplash, too.

I really enjoyed this project and I would absolutely do it over again. Now I’m looking for an excuse to do this somewhere else in the house!

And I’ll mention this here because I put it on my 30-before-30 list: Now that we’ve been married over four years, I am 90% done with my wedding scrapbook. This book goes from the proposal to our honeymoon… just missing a few random bridal shower pictures in the middle.

And yes, that is the same stencil from the rug on the coffee table. It isn’t that I’m so decoratingly coordinated or anything; I just worked with the supplies I had available when rug inspiration struck.

The final bonus of our summer? Several sets of company (but not enough pictures to document their visits), and now I can’t help thinking we have the absolute best cousins and niece ever.

I’m almost tired just remembering all we stuffed into the summer. It’s definitely over now! And between hunting and teaching, I’m thinking the big projects and vacations may have to slow down for a bit now, too.

The Great Hall Collage (Home Tour)

A small house is a great blessing, and we have been surprised by much joy coming from the limited size of our home. I’m not the only one to think a diminutive space is good, too! The popular blog Apartment Therapy regularly features “Small, Cool Places” that make our little cabin a mansion, comparatively, and even Leonardo Da Vinci said “Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind.” I’ve thought of his quote frequently since living here, and that mental discipline has stretched and improved me many times over during these three years.

In this smallish dwelling, we have just one hallway that twists around from the kitchen, up a few stairs, and leads to the bedroom, linen closet, bathroom and office. This cozy passageway is one of the dearest spots in my home because of the photo project built up on the walls. Inspiration came from a few different sources, but I didn’t really know how to start so I just got some pictures and started nailing them up on the wall.

Collage wall from Pottery Barn, via my pinterest board. I love the different textures on the wall, but I think the clash of black and brown frames is distracting.

source unknown, via my pinterest boards. I love the black frames against white walls with lots of natural wood in the house, just like ours.

When I don’t know how to start something, I either panic and procrastinate forever or jump right in and hope it works out. This hall collage came about because I responded in the second way. Now after three years we have one giant collage that is about 90% done. There are a few empty frames and some empty spots that need frames and artwork. When I look at this, I think I meant to have photos on just one wall, but I had a general idea instead of a specific vision for the project so it ballooned from there. I’m certainly not disappointed with how it turned out.

I left the light buttons on this picture because they are so cool. We turn the lights on and off by pressing round buttons, not flipping switches! This little house has serious quirks, and I love it.

A beautiful thank-you note; The cover of a cult book on prayer; Pictures from Aaron’s homecoming; Take-out cookie fortune: “Your path is arduous but will be amply rewarding”; 1st verse of For the Beauty of the Earth.

artsy cabbage; lots of Van Gogh; pictures from the beach; friends; family; virtus tentamine gaudet; embroidery from my friend J; Mattise goldfish poster; anniversary card; baby ducks; letterpress christmas cards;  honeymoon photography; psalm 51:8; Psalm 91; flowers from the Hillsdale campus.

Wedding pictures; grapes on a card from my friend A; quaking aspens; easter hymn; CS Lewis quote from “The Four Loves” on vulnerability; heartbeat; fake leaf above the door to our bedroom; antique postcards my friend E sent from Paris; college diplomas.

I have learned much about pictures and decorating and arranging in the last few years, so I am really inspired about where this could go in the future. We have a nice mix of art, pictures, quotes and other memorabilia here, and I’m daydreaming about doing this timeline style in another house someday, so the quotes and other art would somehow correspond with what was going on in our life at the same point of the pictures we’re in. I think it would be a really neat testament to God’s faithfulness in our lives, and a tangible illustration that our lives really are God’s artwork always in process.

PS: I will also admit that this post bugs me because it doesn’t feel “real.” I’ve done a fair amount of tweaking since taking these pictures, so I’ll update sometime when it’s “100% done.” Just in time to list the house for sale and remove them all for Realtor staging, you know.

PPS: Did you notice how many photos and cards we have from friends and family here? Those are some of my favorite pieces in our hall, so if you send us something neat it might become a special part of our collage. I’m not begging or anything, just throwing the idea out there for your consideration.


I have become slightly obsessed with knitted cowls. Of course I am not turning my back on the traditional scarf; I prefer to think of this as a scarf cousin with whom I am only just now becoming acquainted. I have fallen deliriously in love and can’t get enough. I have finished knitting one and have two more on the needles. One of those is a gift though. It’s so fun to use up random balls of old yarn on fashionable projects!

Here are a few that I think are HOTT.

1. From

2. From

3. From
I have yarn just this color, too…



Fall is the best season.

I love the leaves, the crisp air, apples fresh from the orchard, pumpkins on the front step, hot wassail and a fire in the fireplace.

My mom was out in September and we enjoyed a little craft time to put together this wreath for the front door. I’m not usually a huge fan of flowers “with a center” like daisies or sunflowers, but this really hit the spot for me.

I just bought some pumpkins to carve and keep by the door, too. I’m thinking about trying something like this for mine!