Friday, May 29, 2015

Paris Grey Dresser Makeover

Sometimes you just get tired of looking at a certain piece of furniture. There's nothing wrong with it. In fact, when you originally bought the item, you absolutely adored it. It has good lines. The wood is in good shape. Yet somehow, you've grown tired of it. Until one day, you walk into your bedroom and think "that is a big brown piece of furniture."

So what to do when you "fall out of love" with your furniture? You  have two options when this unfortunate event occurs: 1) sell it and buy new, or 2) flex your DIY muscles. Can you guess which route we took? I bet you can. I mean, come on, you're reading this blog for a reason.

To revamp my boring but shapely dresser, I applied two coats of Paris Grey Annie Sloan chalkpaint purchased at the downtown Frederick store Repurposed & Refined. As I've mentioned before, the great thing about chalkpaint is the fact that it doesn't require extensive prep-work. No sanding was needed. I just thoroughly cleaned and dusted the piece before painting.

Once the paint had dried, I added some slight distress marks to allow the original wood color to come through. I had a hunch that the original color of the dresser would look beautiful paired with the Paris Grey. And I was right! I love the way it turned out. The distress marks really accentuate the shape and details of the piece. Finally, I applied a top coat of Annie Sloan Clear Wax to both protect the dresser and give it a nice sheen.

This project was my first time using Paris Grey on a personal project, and I am thrilled with the result. Since our bedroom walls are a deep charcoal color, I initially hesitated to bring in another grey hue. But I'm so glad I did! The milky grey pops against the dark walls and, despite standing out more, simultaneously makes the room seem larger.

Since this project proved successful, I plan to turn to another room this weekend: the kitchen. Curious about what we have planned? Here's a color hint: "Old Violet" or "Napoleonic Blue"? Decisions, decisions. Stay tuned for updates!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Club // The Casual Vacancy

Welcome to the third installment of our collaborative Book Club series with my sweet friend Whitney Ann. For the month of May, we read and will be reviewing J.K. Rowling's first adult novel The Casual Vacancy.

Whitney's thoughts:
The Casual Vacancy takes place in the tiny English village of Pagford and is chock full of characters. No, really. There are more than 30 main characters in this book! At first, it was very difficult to remember each person's name as the book jumped between character story lines. Rowling takes her time setting the scene and introducing the routines and personality of each character, so it can feel slow at times. By the end of the book, though, I had grown used to the characters and their stories as if I was living in the little town with them.

Most reviews about this book say it contains troubling adult themes, like suicide, rape, violence, sex, etc. but those things really don't emerge as much until later in the story. Although the book starts off with the death of an influential town council member, the huge impact of that is not really conveyed to the reader until much later in the story. I don't think the death comes off quite as shocking as Rowling probably intended. It is not until later in the story when the effect of Fairbrother's death really comes to a head in a bang of heartbreak, death, and tragedy.

Andrew Price was my favorite character in the book. He is the son of Simon Price, one of the contenders for the vacant council seat caused by Barry Fairbrother's death. Andrew resents his father's domineering and abusive behavior and it is easy to see why. Simon abuses his wife and sons almost daily, both verbally and physically. Andrew is the one who kicks off a chain of events by hacking into the town council's website and posting anonymously as The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother in order to destroy his father's chances of being elected. After reading how Simon Price treated his wife and sons, I was silently cheering for Andrew as he took this brave, although anonymous step to get back at his abusive father. The anonymous messages quickly take on a life of their own and cause panic among some of the town members.

Ultimately, I was left feeling sorry for the residents of this small town. At first glance, Pagford appears to be a idyllic English village with a market square and central meat shop where town folk meet for lunch. The deeper you get into the novel though, it's obvious that the whole town is at odds with one another. There is a lot of back stabbing and pettiness. And, the casual vacancy caused by Barry Fairbrother's death just magnifies these faults even more, resulting in a crescendo of some of the biggest tragedies the town has ever seen. There is no magic in this book like in Rowling's other books — just stark reality that a town has to learn to come to terms with.  

Abi's thoughts: 
Ladies and gentleman, my name is Abigai Hobbs, and today I'm here to admit that I am a Potterhead. I absolutely adored the Harry Potter series as a child and teenager. Recently, I reread the series to see if it retained its magic for me and, yes, it did. So. When faced with JK Rowling's new novel, I felt both trepidation and excitement. Would I be able to read this novel without endlessly comparing it to Harry Potter?

As it turns out... yes and no. This novel is so far removed from the Potter world it isn't even funny. That being said, this novel is probably one of my favorite reads all year. 

From page one, this novel establishes itself as an adult novel. It is not a young adult novel, by any means. Honestly, I began to wonder if Rowling was using the word penis so many times just to firmly establish that point. As Whitney mentioned, Rowling unabashedly handles some very tough subjects: sex, unhappy marriages, abuse, drugs, mental illness, adultery, and government corruption just to name a few. So, on the one hand, I felt like this novel was a bit heavy-handed of a declaration that "yes, I can and shall write adult novels." On the other hand, I also appreciated her bare-knuckle approach to topics people typically skirt around. As a writer, I know how much bravery it takes to write in certain voices and to face certain subjects. Personally, I find it very difficult to write from the perspective of an abusive, angry father... so her ability to take on that voice is so awe-inspiring. But then again, this is the lady who gave us Lord Voldemort.

Which brings me to my second point...JK Rowling's characterization is spot-on. This novel depicts a town and, as such, has a town's worth of characters. Despite this vast number of characters, Rowling manages to bring each one alive through imagery, action, and dialogue. She flits in and out of narrative perspectives, telling the story from Andrew's perspective, then Simon's, then Samantha, then Sukhvinder, and so on. Yet each character feels alive and vivid; you can easily imagine each of them. So, if you're worried, JK Rowling's storytelling ability has continued beyond Hogwarts. She can bring  life and magic to humdrum everyday life, just as she did to her fanciful Potter world.

In fact, I believe this rich characterization itself is the key element of this novel. While the casual vacancy on the council seat is, as the title suggests, the driving force of the plot, the inner workings of the characters is the real story. Each character is consumed by his/her own reality, by his/her own interpretation of events. And each one is completely ignorant of the other's world-- often with disastrous results. There's just simply no way to reconcile these disparate worlds. 

As evidenced by the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling is not afraid to write a slightly didactic story. While Harry Potter's message was ultimately one of prevailing goodness and innocence, The Casual Vacancy seems to offer a more pessimistic message. The towns people are each so consumed in self that they are oblivious to hardship and need, even within their own families. Ultimately, this results in terrible loss, particularly Robbie's death, an act which seems the antithesis of youth and innocence prevailing in Harry Potter. Perhaps Tessa Wall's harsh reprimand of Fat's callousness and selfishness is, in fact, the point of the whole novel: a wake-up call to other's needs.

So one final question: why the grim ending? Why is Rowling's message in this adult novel so different from her message in young adult novels? Are children incapable of facing the reality of life: that it sucks, that its difficult, that good doesn't always win? Is "good prevailing" just a fairytale? 

What are your thoughts? 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Coffee Dates // May

Welcome to the May Coffee Date! I hope you'll enjoy the fun things we have to share with you today!

Obsessing over...
Annie Sloan chalkpaint.

Ya'll. If you're into DIY projects, this stuff is where it's at! Based in the United Kingdom, the Annie Sloan company specializes in chalkpaint but also sells other home decor and craft products including furniture waxes, fabrics, and even home fragrances. If you pull up her website, some of the quotations are downright funny but also quite true. For example and my personal favorite: "Annie Sloan paint was invented by angels to make everything fun." While this quotation may be somewhat hyperbolic, the wonders of this paint deserves such lofty praise. 

Why you ask? Because it requires no prep work. Yes. You read that right. NO PREP WORK, ladies and gentlemen. This means no sanding prior to applying paint. This wonderful time-saver not only cuts down on project time but also prevents sawdust mess. This is especially great if you're an at-home crafter like myself, with very little yard space within which to do your DIYs. In case you're wondering, this is the paint we use to do our furniture renovations at the shop. I highly, highly recommend it. 

My personal favorite chalkpaint colors? French Linen, Provence, Paris Grey, and Coco. If you have any chalkpaint or DIY related questions, please feel free to contact me! 

A life update...

Before and since running the Rugged Maniac 5K obstacle race, Mark and I have been getting more and more into physical fitness. Since January, we have done a series of fitness programs designed to whip you in shape for summer. Mark regularly subscribes to the magazine Muscle and Fitness and we have really benefited from the workout programs included in its pages. We've done the eight week Rock Hard Challenge and most recently the Summer Shred program. Since beginning this fitness regime in late January, I've noticed a definite change in my overall fitness and physique. My legs and arms are becoming more toned and-- drumroll, please--I've lost 6 pounds! While I know that six pounds isn't tremendous on the grand scale, I personally am quite proud of it. This is undoubtedly the most motivated I've ever been to stay in shape, and I hope that I'll be successful in continuing it!

Check this out...

1. If you could see what your significant other would look like at age 90, would you want to? This video of this engaged couple "meeting" each other at various ages (50, 70, and 90) is so touching and funny. 

2. This article about marriage was so eye-opening and sweet. The writer shares some interesting points on communication and mutual respect. 

3. My sweet friend Steffani shared her adoption story this week. Warning: you may need tissues. But if you're in the mood for a sweet story, this is it! Plus, their daughter's nickname "Super Nova" is just too stinkin' cute. 

4. This week, I ordered a few eyeglasses frames for free "at-home tryon" from Warby Parker. They sell sunglasses and eyeglasses. I'm so excited to try them out! 

5. I hear that this company is like a Netflix for books. I haven't tried it out yet, but am very intrigued. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rugged Maniac Recap

Grit in my teeth. Scraped knees. A bruise quickly developing on my right arm. Hair wiry with mud streaks. Impossibly and completely dirty.  But never have I had so much fun.

Last weekend, the six of us (Mark and I along with Mark's two brothers David and Caleb, his cousin Ryan, and his youngest brother's girlfriend Valerie) suited up to run the Rugged Maniac, a 5k run packed with 25 daunting obstacles. The obstacles ranged from simple leap over a barricade) to difficult (balancing on a shaking beam) to downright dirty (commando crawl under barbed wire). With my deplorable running skills and fear of heights, I was beyond nervous to undertake this mudrun challenge, but my handsome and beguiling hubby talked me into it. He and his brothers have done several, with the most notable being the Tough Mudder. The Rugged Maniac, however, would be my first obstacle race.

And, oh my word, was it fun!

For me, the biggest challenge in this race was not the running or the physical exertion of the obstacles (although some of that was pretty darn hard). Instead, it was facing my fears. Those who know me well know that I don't mess around with heights. I stay away from beach-hotel balconies. I do not climb ladders. I don't even like jumping up to grab the pull up bar at the gym. In short, my feet prefer to be firmly rooted to the ground. 

Insert the obstacle Beam Me Up. A straight-up wooden ladder contraption that we were expected to scale and then scramble down the other side.  With roughly ten people on the obstacle at once, shaking and rattling it as you climb. 

No, no, and another big fat NO.  

The website claims it was about 14 feet. but let me just say I'm pretty sure it was closer to 20. It may as well have been 100, though, for how terrified it made me. Had Mark and Valerie not been by my side, cheering me on, I would still be up there, clinging for dear life until the race personnel came to dissemble the course. With my friends half-coaxing, half-cheering me on, I was able to get over the Great Big Scary and tackle the next one with (somewhat) less fear. 

Why not just go around you ask? Well, what's the fun in that! If you skip every obstacle that challenges or scares you, what would be the point in running the race at all? It just goes to show that we have the ability to accomplish things we don't think we're capable of doing, if we just grin and bear it. Having awesome friends and family there to cheer you on doesn't hurt!

As scary as Beam Me Up proved to be, my least favorite obstacle by far was the fire hurdles! We jogged lazily up to it, expecting it to be a piece of cake. After all, the flames were pretty low to the ground. Holy smokes (no pun intended), were we wrong! Those fires were as hot as You-Know-What. My shorts and legs were dry in an instant after jumping over this obstacle. Ryan's expression above perfectly captures our shock at how hot it was! Sheesh!

Needless to say, the entire experience was awesome. We all had a great time, even as tuckered out as we were afterward. I highly recommend participating in the Rugged Maniac if it comes to a town near you. Mark and I are already planning our next obstacle course. It's truly a great way to spend a day with your friends and family.

Have you ever participated in a mudrun? 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Industrial Pallet Coffee Table

 Recently, I decided to try my hand at a DIY project. I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but the idea just sprang into my head and refused to budge: a pallet turned  into an industrial-style coffee table. Would it turn out? Who knows,  but I decided to give it a try!

Materials used:
sanding blocks
caster wheels

First, I thoroughly cleaned and sanded the pallet, smoothing out any "splintery" pieces and hammering down any protruding nailheads. (After all, you don't want your coffee table to be a hazard.) Then, I stained the pallet using a dark walnut stain. Finally, Mark and I attached the caster wheels. In retrospect, I wish I had antiqued the caster wheels or purchased reproduction antique wheels, but at least I'll have a better idea next time.

We purchased a large piece of glass to lay on top of the pallet, but honestly I almost like it better without the glass. I think it looks more rustic and industrial as it is. The final touch was adding the city stamp lettering on the edges. Somehow, the blocky, faded letters remind me of a newspaper shop,

And viola! There you have it! How's that for re-purposing? An industrial and unique coffee table that would look great in the living room or den! I can just picture it in front of a sectional sofa, adding a bit of whimsy and industrial chic to an otherwise modern piece.

The great thing about this design: it could easily work as outdoor furniture as well. You would just want to paint or somehow treat the wood with a substance meant to prevent water damage. Even if I am tooting my own horn a bit, I have to say: such a cool idea, isn't it??

If you're into DIY or refurbishing/ upcycling, leave a link to your blog
or one of your projects in the comments! I'd love to see!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Living Small // Capsule Wardrobe Outfits

As you may recall, I recently threw every bit of clothing out of my wardrobe and began afresh with a spring capsule wardrobe, If you're new to the blog and missed the Great Purge, you can read more about it here.

One of the main questions people asked after hearing I had purged my closet was "But what if you run out of clothes??" In response to this worry, I decided to share three outfits generated from my capsule wardrobe. Each outfit features one item from the closet: a basic infinity scarf. Before you scroll down, please excuse the fact that I seem to know only one way to pose.

 "Hand on hip, camera held high-- work it girl," said the selfie model.

Outfit one: black maxi skirt (TJ Maxx) // grey tee (Theory) // infinity scarf (Target)

Outfit two: pencil skirt (Loft) // grey tee (Theory) // infinity scarf (Target)

Outfit three: emerald blouse (StitchFix) // shorts (TJ Maxx) // scarf (you guessed it) 

These outfits now comprise my "casual outing" wear. No more yoga pant fall backs! Due to the limited number of clothing as well as the fact that I actually like all of my choices, I have to build outfits in new ways, learning how to mix and match different pieces. For example, when paired with a nice blouse and colorful heels, the pencil skirt becomes a church outfit. Similarly, the emerald blouse, tucked into a bandage skirt, suits a night out. 

I will try to post more capsule wardrobe outfit pairings throughout the next few weeks. It's just hard to remember to photograph myself before heading out for the day. But don't worry, there will be more hand-on-hip goodness coming your way! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Crossing the Line // A Poem

When your car tires bump
-fwump fwump—over the stateline
and the drivers speeding beside you
tap their carhorns to signal a homecoming,
you find yourself staring at the dismal
stretch of highway ahead,
the same as that stretching behind you:
the only hint to your arrival in Dixie,
the Great Peach State, the Empire State
of the South, the home of the O’Haras
for God’s sake, is the orange cartoon fruit
dominating the welcome sign.
Otherwise, it’s all asphalt, big rigs, and litter
with occasional signage yelling
that Jesus loves you, yes He does
or lottery tickets sold here, play and win big.

you ask, are the cotton fields, the peach
orchards, the rednecks with their rebel
emblazoned Chevys? Where
can I find the bluegrass twang
or the pearl-collared debutantes
and their quarterback counterparts?
Where, you demand,do the magnolias grow
their lemon-scented petals blanketing
the earth, and where can I find
the twisted oaks with their sagging shawls
of Spanish moss crawling with insects?
And where, once more, are the white brick
mansions with their fluted columns
and sprawling fields? And, oh, can you tell me
where I might find a Confederate, please
one is wanted dead or alive? 

Here.Take this exit, yes. Here, now.
If you want to see and heaand taste this land 
you call the South—south of what?--then follow
an old road into a forgotten, half-empty 
town bypassed by culture and progress.
In buildings half-eaten by wisteria
growing in clumps and tangles
order vinegar slaw and smoked pork
in a basket, drink enough sweet ice tea
to rot your teeth or at least stain them yellow
for awhile.
Here we have a Hallmark, a Bi-Lo,
a dirty Wendy’s, and y’know I hear
they’re putting in a Walmart by the highway. 

Drive further still and you’ll collide
with the first tendril trails
of industrial sprawl, strip malls
and condominiums cropping up,
reaching for the quiet pastures and mountains
like grasping fingers.
If you want to stretch your legs
and don’t mind clay stains
on your white tennis shoes,
you can lean on this here fence post,
mind the barbed wire coming loose.
Walk soft through tall fescue,
wary that your footfalls don’t discover
a coiled rattler. Don’t lift that sun-warmed 
rock unless you want the sting
of the scorpion hidden beneath.

Catch the flutter of sunlight
in the quick fly-flick of a chestnut’s tail,
her hide dappled brown with sweat
from the heat that settles
and cloaks your skin and mouth. 
Mosquitos, no-see-ums, horseflies,
copperheads, cottonmouths,and water-moccasins 
gliding and circling nearby, always.
And so much green sun-tinged
yellow: the tangled undergrowth,
the knee-high weeds, and the thistles
with their ungraceful purple blooms. 

And there, finally,
the sought-after peach orchard,
squat trees in brisk rows,
the laden branches drooping
to the fallen fruit, rotten
and oozing on the orchard floor.
Pluck one, 
dangling in the sunlight,
its flesh yielding in your hand. Round,
delicately soft and flushed pink.
Something sweet and nourishing,
spurting sugar, something sweet
you can sink your teeth into.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Dill House Diary // Patio Makeover

Since the day we purchased our house, I have dreamed of turning our patio into our own little urban oasis. Yet time, money, and seemingly unending home renovation projects shuffled the patio makeover to the bottom of our to- do list. After we adopted our pup, the patio became Solo's own little space, subject to his penchant for digging, chewing, and destroying. This week, however, I decided that it was time the patio received a little attention.

Before we dive into the "after" photos, allow me to share the pitiful state of our patio upon purchasing the house. Bear in mind that this image was taken after we had spent several hours weed-whacking.

Yes. Cue the generic, screechy horror music. That lonely, blah-bland space was our patio. Not exactly an inviting hang-out spot. Unless of course you're into tumbled piles of brick and half-rotten railroad ties.

But as we always do, Mark and I jumped into this project with our sleeves rolled up. (At this point, I feel like we're becoming pros at the whole home-renovation and DIY gambit. I feel like we deserve some kind of medal or at least a pat on the back... I mean something!)With a vague idea of what we wanted the space to become, we got to work ripping out the rotten, revitalizing the salvageable, and replacing the new. Thankfully, we were able to score most of the materials for a very economical price or even for free, which certainly helped keep the cost low.

Now... drumroll please...

Taaaa da! Behold the transformation of all transformations! No more weeds, no more scruffy, sad, dead plants. No more crooked shepherd's hook, held up by one rotten string. No more lonely, desolate eyesore of a patio. The whole process took a few weeks, but we finally turned our sad little back yard into an inviting patio perfect for dining alfresco on pretty, sunny days! Now, I'll be proud to invite guests to step outside and sit a spell. 

My absolute favorite part of our new and much improved patio? The blue antique windows.** I found a huge stack of these beauties sitting behind the warehouse at work. Noticing me eyeballing them, my sweet bosses suggested I take as many as I wanted. A good scrubbing and sanding smoothed out their weather-roughened edges and removed  the majority of the old paint. I applied two quick coats of Annie Sloan chalkpaint in Provence blue. My handy husband quickly added a few screws and viola we had our outdoor decor! I just love the bright and quirky element they bring to the little space. I think they really make the patio complete, don't you?

Last year's failed attempt at a garden taught me that a raised plant stand is the way to go with pups. I bought this little Threshold plant stand from Target (less than $30). Gold spray paint and a few potted herbs (out of Solo's reach... hopefully) completed my mini-garden. It stands against the back wall of the house, in one of the few patio spots that receives a decent share of sunlight everyday. When selecting plants for the stand, I decided to grow just the plants and herbs I use the most, rather than going all out. I opted for basil, mint, cilantro, and a few pepper plants. With some precious little succulents thrown in for good measure. Because really who gets tired of succulents? They're so stinking cute.

A large tree overshadows most of our backyard so the space spends a goodly portion of the day in the shade. Unfortunately, most shade-loving plants are rather blah--at least to my poor gardening knowledge. Wandering around the garden aisles at Home Depot led me to this beautiful fuchsia plant. It's eye-catching hot pink color really livens up that section of the patio. Plus, these plants supposedly attract humming birds. So if there are any buzzing about downtown, hopefully they'll swing by our little garden spot.

There are still a few things I want to do to fully complete the space. I hope to add a few more outdoor decor elements and hang some string lights to add to the party vibe. The final ambitious outdoor DIY I plan to undertake would be a painted outdoor rug somewhat like this beauty from A Beautiful Mess. When you own a pitbull, you have to think of design elements that will survive their rambunctious need to destroy, destroy, destroy--and a painted rug maybe just maybe will be safe from Solo's antics.  Plus, I think the rug would complete the funky, salvaged vibe we seem to have going. 

Thank you for stopping by our little outdoor space! I'm so proud of it and absolutely cannot wait to enjoy many cookout dinners back there. I hope you enjoyed visiting our space as much as we enjoy hanging out in it! 

** In the interest of your general wellbeing, always handle antique windows carefully. They can break easily, and no one wants glass shards embedded in their arms, hands, feet, or any other appendage. Also, when dealing with old paint, you can always purchase a lead paint test kit. If it isn't lead, I still recommend wearing a mask for sanding purposes and cleaning up the paint chips that fall

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Vote for Us // Small Cool Contest

Hello, everyone!

Today, we're so excited to announce that our home has been selected as an entry in Apartment Therapy's annual Small Cool 2015 contest! What is the Small Cool 2015 contest, you ask? Each year Apartment Therapy accepts reader entries of their homes. The catch: the homes must be under 1000 square feet. The contest is divided into five categories: Small, Little, Tiny, Teeny-Tiny, and International. A finalist from each category is selected by reader vote and then a final voting round determines the overall winner.

Our entry "Abigail's Well-Loved Rowhouse" is under the Small division of the contest. I was so shocked to receive the notice on Friday that our entry had been published. So now my shameless begging for votes begins.

Please visit Apartment Therapy to vote for our little rowhouse! We've worked so hard to renovate this little space. Seeing how far it's come in so short a time is just so heartening. In less than two years, we went from drab and boring to a feature on a respected home decor blog! So now I'm shamelessly asking for your votes! We'd love the chance to be a finalist in our division. We may not make it, but I think we're capable of it!


Friday, May 8, 2015

Artist at Work // Skull Series

"Um...are you on drugs?"

This question, posed half-jokingly, half-seriously, cropped up a few times when I first unveiled my new series of skull paintings. "No," I would reply, "obviously not." I may be an artist but I'm not that kind of artist. Putting aside the supposition that you have to be on drugs in order to create quirky artwork... I decided to really sit down and delve into the why of my recent skull series.

Currently, the series comprises three 8x6 paintings. I am currently working on one more in this size and plan to complete two more large ones. But, again you ask, why skulls?

To be perfectly honest, I'm not completely sure why. One day, inexplicably and unexpectedly, the image of a pink and turquoise skull popped into my brain. I couldn't shake it's quirky, garishly- colored leer. So, I decided to paint it. Since that day, I've hypothesized the origin of that first goofy death's-head.

Perhaps he was born from my long love and study of Latino culture-- from the memories of sugar skulls in elementary school, their frosty faces making my fingers sticky. Perhaps he was born from my love of the Southern Gothic tradition-- the bizarre and grotesque dragged into the light of everyday. Or perhaps he was born from some strange combo of Lily Pulitzer dresses and Avenged Sevenfold's music--two of my favorite things in this funky world.

Whatever their origin, I have to admit that I love these goofy guys whom I've named Garrish, Ghoulish, and Ghastly. Somehow, the bright colors keep them from seeming creepy. (Although the one on the far right does bother me slightly, I won't lie.)

Ultimately, though, I hope this series will achieve something more than simply making viewers cock their eyebrows in amusement or worry. We don't like death. Obviously. We don't want to talk about it. We avoid it's inevitability. We do everything we can to pretend that it will never happen. Yet it is what we all have in common. We've all lost a loved one, a friend, a family member. You could say that death is really the whole point of life: our final destination, our end fulfilled.

Sinew and bone--it's what we all are underneath. All variance and points of contention (I caught myself and refrained from saying bones of contention) are removed, and our ultimate equality, our mortality, is proven. So while I may not be able to pinpoint the impetus for this bright and ghastly series, I can pinpoint it's intended purpose: to perhaps lend a dose of whimsy, beauty, and approachability to a very serious and disarming subject.

At the very least, if you purchase one, you'll certainly have a conversation starter in your home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mr. & Mrs. // Learning to Laugh

Awwww... look at engaged us up there. So stinking cute. And so oblivious to all that is lying ahead: all the ups and downs and laughs and cries and general crazy wonderfulness that is marriage. I know, I know. We haven't even been married three whole years yet. There's an old-timer out there somewhere scoffing and saying "honey, you ain't seen nothing yet." I'm not totally naive. I'm aware that there's plenty more challenges and adventures ahead that we can't even begin to imagine. What do we know?

Well, I feel like we do know a little bit. Today, I want to share one of the biggest lessons I've learned since getting married on that mild October day in 2012. It's a lesson I often forget to live by, but it's also a lesson that I have been actively trying to remember.

That lesson is simple: be willing to laugh.

Before our wedding, a family friend imparted this nugget of wisdom: learn to laugh at yourself, at your circumstances, and at each other. Of course, you have to time that last one right. I don't mean crack up at your partner when they're genuinely upset. That would just compound your issues. Let me explain,

Life is full of setbacks, failures, difficulties, and just downright bad days. Recently, there was a time when I let these various obstacles and difficulties truly weigh my spirits. I walked around grumpy, irritable, and taking everything way too seriously. Every joke felt like an intended slight. Every little disagreement had the potential to turn into an explosive argument. Everyday, I was genuinely upset and out-of-sorts, allowing too many things to burden and rob me of the simple joy of everyday life.

But then, one day, I just started laughing. My husband and I were in the middle of a mild disagreement, but one that had the potential to turn into a real, genuine argument. To be honest, I can't even recall the topic of the fuss. I do remember that I was being intentionally difficult and obstinate, despite knowing that my position was the wrong one. But then, something Mark said or did in frustration just struck me as funny. I started to laugh and just like that, my anger was gone. I realized how stupid I was being, how unfair. At first, my husband's expression was surprised--what was wrong with this crazy woman?-- and then he too began to laugh. And just like that--the fuss was over. Instead, we were sitting in the living room laughing our heads off. Once our cackling subsided, we were able to talk civilly, solve the issue, and move on.

While the incident may sound silly, it taught me that laughter is so vitally important not only in a marriage, but just in everyday life. Since then, I've learned (and am still learning) how being willing to laugh can make seemingly insurmountable problems seem trivial and doable. When I have a bad day and then get cut off by an angry driver on my way home, I could either rant and rave about it...or laugh to myself. When I destroy supper (which doesn't happen often, but has occurred at least once in my cooking life), I could either bang pots around in frustration or throw my hands up and laugh oh well.

Life is much too short to stomp through, unhappy and irritable. When you go that route, you not only upset yourself but everyone around you. Instead, just give in and laugh about it. You may be surprised--like me--to realize how much better it makes you feel.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Club // Spring Read

Thanks to everyone who joined in our last two book club discussions of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and Where'd You Go Bernadette. We loved hearing your thoughts on these two novels! With my starting a new job, April turned out to be a bit hectic for Mark and me. So Whitney of Whitney Ann (the other organizer of this collaborative book club series) kindly agreed to turn our April read into a "spring read" encompassing both April and May.

Our spring read will be The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. As a member of the Harry Potter generation, I was both cautious and excited to begin reading this book. On the one hand, I couldn't wait to delve into another Rowling novel, but on the other hand, it just felt well...weird for it not to be a Harry Potter book.  I am so glad I got over my weirdness because there is truly nothing like Rowling's distinctive storytelling ability.

If you want to read along and participate in our next book discussion, run out and pick up a copy of this novel at your local library or book store. The next discussion will be May 27th!

Happy reading!

Follow Us On BlogLovin

Hello, everyone!

You may have noticed some changes around here this week: namely, the name and layout of our blog. We'll dive into the why's and how's of the change later this week, but for now I wanted to remind everyone to follow along on BlogLovin'. It's a great way to keep track of all the blogs you follow. I use it and love it! Click on the link below to follow! 

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