Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sweetest of Gifts: Housewarming and Heart Warming

I got a special package this week. My dear friend and former room mate had asked for our new address a little while ago. And here, in her lovely, familiar handwriting was a gift.

"Caro," she writes... a nickname that we found so amusing in grad school. A nickname that means "Dear" in Italian. One night we sat in our crazy old house with snacks and the hope that the film "Caro Diario" would be one of those great foreign flicks that we could fall in love with and share with our friends. Instead it was a long, odd film that we found quite dull, until we began incorrectly pronouncing the title "Caro Diarrhea" and burst out laughing together.

Caro, though, is a shortened version of my middle name, Caroline. And somehow that funny Italian film and my middle name became a silly nickname that I cherish. 

And this gift is as dear as my friend, Kathy. For a housewarming, she sent her first attempt at needlepoint. A small bird in a cage, below a heart, with stitches full of heart and love. In it I see the extension of our friendship, started what could not possibly be a full sixteen years ago, and continues. Despite miles and time zones and other things in our lives. I'm excited to have it in our kitchen, reminding me of old friends, of new projects, of the love that fills all things.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Round Up for July 27, 2012: A Review of Favorite Blog Posts

I came across several really interesting posts this week that I think should be shared. Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

For the Working Spirit:
Re-imagining the Purpose of our Spiritual Work at the High Calling - my favorite quote from this post by J.B. Wood was in response to why we compartmentalize our spiritual life and our work life, separately. "20th-century White Evangelical Suburban culture that says God only wants us to be missionaries and ministers, and anything else is second-hand throw-away junk." Are we all struggling with this idea? Or is there a way to marry the Christian ideals with work? I love the question of this struggle.

For the Mourning Spirit:
A Christian Response to The Colorado Shootings from Getting Down With Jesus - I read about the Colorado Shooting in Aurora on Saturday morning, when I checked Facebook. I'm in awe of HOW we find out about major news anymore, but even more moved about HOW Jennifer Dukes Lee writes about the tragedy of last weekend. Her prose in this post is moving, her observation that it was both "The darkest of nights. The darkest of knights." brought me to tears. And the resolution to the knowledge that "We carry a light, to guide us into God’s sublime secrets." in response to this kind of darkness is reassuring, triumphant. We are the light of the world, indeed.

For the Home Decorating Spirit:
Entry-way Redo, Yes! on Hello! from the Natos! - I have added this gorgeous treatment to my to do list for the Casita. It is astounding, and full of organization. It will go right after finishing the baseboards, making the kitchen curtains, painting the hutch, putting beadboard up in the kitchen and painting the whole kitchen. And getting a new roof. Oh, sigh:

And for The Cooking Spirit:
Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken on a beach cottage: We've been looking for new recipes, and specifically simple and easy ways to make dinner. This recipe is on the docket for the weekend. I can't wait to break out the crock pot and get going on it. It sounds de-lish!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thoughts on 'The 'Busy' Trap: Why We Feel we Need to Appear Busy

A couple of weeks ago a friend on Facebook posted this link... The 'Busy' Trap by Tim Kreider. It's an article about today's society and how "busy" we all are.

I can't help but think we get trained to think we need to be busy, how to be busy. In college, a good student can juggle a full course load, a job, studying, and social time. That's "busy," and somehow it seems like the way things need to be.

I remember getting out of grad school and, upon getting a job, being delighted at having free time. I didn't have to study. I didn't have to worry about a deadline the next day that would take all of my time. I didn't have to plan a party or get ready for coffee hour the next morning.

Then I found my way into the world of advertising for work. And entered a corporate atmosphere that thrived on "busy." People announced with pride when they were in "back to back" meetings all day. It was nearly a badge of honor when someone was booked out for a whole week. To add to that insanity, "fly paper" meetings (when someone stops you in the hall and you're stuck like a fly) became a norm. Not only were we all busy, but then we were late to the next meeting because we had an inbetween meeting. And more often than not, when in a meeting a majority of people had their iPhone or laptop with them and were paying attention to something else, answering an email, then asking if the leader could repeat themselves.

What keeps resurfacing in my head from Tim Kreider's article is this quote, this well phrased observation:

"Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day."

Is that why we long to be busy? Is that why people walking alone on a busy city street will pull out their iPhone, appearing to read or write or listen to something, anything to show they are connected, and part of something larger than their present "alone" moment? Are they trying to send the message of "I'm not alone, I have other people who need me and important things to do?"

I can't help but wonder why in this busy world, we can't be OK with just being. Being still, being quiet, being happy that we might have a moment to ourselves. Why sometimes it's hard to even walk down the street without feeling like we need to be doing something else, or appearing to be doing something else.


Over the past couple of weeks, I've been looking for ways to be unbusy. I want to just sit in my yard, watch little Zoom play, I want to cut flowers, to take in moments for what they are. I have been working hard to stop my mind from thinking "what next?" and just think "here I am."

Yesterday at work, my brain froze up. There was too much busyness going on, too many opinions, too many new ideas, too many people wanting a project to go one way when we'd already agreed it would go another. My brain needed to get out of the building, to just "be." I found myself thinking about what Kreider puts so very well -

"The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done."

What do you think about busy-ness in today's world? Are you busier than you'd like to be?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I'm Being Outfitted This Week at One Girl. One Day.

I'm super excited about sharing this update! My friend Vanessa started up a new projected called One Girl. One Day where she suggests outfits for people. And this is my week.

Check out these great basic pieces that she's chosen for me to start me off:

In my efforts to Simplify things this month (the month's unofficial theme), this is giving me the opportunity to re-evaluate my wardrobe. After losing about 18 pounds, I've got a weird assortment of clothing hanging in my closet. Some of it's from over two years ago, before Zoom was born. Some of it's clothing that I bought not knowing if I'd lose weight and it's two sizes too big. I really needed some help figuring out some good solid basics to build an updated wardrobe around. Vanessa has been great with providing suggestions around fun and functional options, and pointing me to the sales at Nordstrom and Piperlime. She even pulled together some adorable accessories, and a purse I'm just mad about.

Want to see the rest of the items she picked out? :) Check out this board at Pinterest.

Interested in getting outfitted by Vanessa at One Girl. One Day? Get in touch with V at her Facebook page!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kitchen Curtains: Billows of White, Teal, Gray and Yellow

Welcoming Spirit is not usually a "home decorating" blog. But now that I have a house to decorate, well, it seems like a natural addition to the mix. I have to hand it to the bloggers that manage to move and keep up with regular posts.

Our kitchen is begging to be repainted. And I mean, all of it. Check this place out (this was taken before we moved in). I really want pretty white cabinets. And I'm crazy enough to think we will be painting them.

kitchen and cabinets.

And on the other side, we've got this hutch, which is from IKEA about twelve years ago. I think it needs to be aqua or turquoise. (Note that this picture is from our old townhouse. Oh, I also wish I had a big eat-in kitchen.)

Dining Room with Rug

And then, there's a big light filled window and sliding door. And that's really what this post is about; what do we do with the slider as far as a window cover? Well, make curtains.

Considering the white cabinets, aqua/turquoise hutch, and gray walls that I want to go with, here are the fabrics that I liked most:

Sweet William - I love this William Morris inspired print and it's wallpaper like quality:
Sweet William fabric from Tonic Living

Varenna Stone - a gorgeous and subtle Suzani pattern :

The bolder Varenna Sky - I'm drawn to the print but found it got very busy when made into curtains, which I found on Etsy but can't seem to relocate:

Pom Pom Play, Spa:

Impressions by Ty Pennington - totally love this pattern and I can see bringing it in elsewhere in the house!

And Gazebo Cloud by Braemore:

I found this view of curtains that were made in Gazebo Cloud by Tonic Living, and I have to admit, I was totally sold. And at $15.98 a yard (on Mary Jo's Fabrics), it was a good price compared to the others listed above.

I placed my order yesterday and can't wait to get the fabric and make my first set of lined curtains. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Home Buying: Philosophies and Simplifying your Budget

I've had this post rattling around in my head for weeks. As many of you know, we bought a house. We started looking in February, right around the time I was posting about Finance month. It became perfectly clear when I started looking at our budget that we would SAVE money if we moved.

I know, it makes no sense at first blush. But here are the big ticket items that made me do a double take - both our rent and child care could go down substantially if we made some new decisions. Our mortgage is now about $400 a month less than our rent was. And child care ... are you sitting down? We found a great home / family day care center and when Zoom goes full time, we will have a savings of $600 a month.

Since we're a one income family right now, this is big for us. A little effort up front to move, for sure, but a lot of pay off on the flip side.

simplify red

The other item that really struck me as we started talking with real estate agents was their take the philosophy of buying a home. One agent (who we subsequently fired) had the distinct attitude that we needed to buy a home who's price stretched us to the point that we "thought we might barf or would make us worry that the baby would have to eat McDonald's every day." She was very much about getting a home that was a little bit bigger than what we needed, so we could "grow" in to it.

From the get go, I didn't jive with this person. The reasons were many; in this economy (and with an uncertain future for the stability of home prices) I feel it's important to buy as much home as I can afford. Afford right now. Not a stretch, not something that makes me want to be ill, but something that fits us.

I think each of us needs to be realistic when we look at finances. It's clear to me that the trend of pushing ourselves beyond the brink of comfort, with the expectation / anticipation that bigger salaries and ever rising home prices will fill the gap is reckless. Yes, reckless.

I'm not getting all gloom and doom here, I just feel that the recession has given me a wake up call. Buy what you can afford, live within your means. It's the reverse of the greedy 1980s mindset that taught us that "grabbing hands grab all they can, everything counts in large amounts."

My hope is that simplicity is about to become what extravagance was in decades past. That thrifting, making do with what you have, that taking care of our possessions and driving a car for 20 years becomes a mark of the new norm. If it does, I'm ready for it :) Who else is in?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

DIY Gardening: Plants for free on craigslist

Our new place has a big yard, with a big lawn. There's a sandbox that Zoom really loves, so much that he has learned to say sandbox.

There's also very little landscaping. Just bare spots, as if perhaps the last owners didn't know what to do or didn't have the time or the money or the interest.

On the 4th we found a Craigslist posting for free plants, up in the Oakland Hills. We just had to dig them ourselves, but we could take as many agapanthus as we wanted.

So we dug up about 16 and brought them home. Sean dug holes, we mixed in fresh soil. New life in old dirt. As fireworks boomed overhead that evening, little Zoom ran in the dark of the backyard, we toiled to bring love, purpose, inspiration to a forgotten space.

This morning I took my cereal and my coffee out to the back patio, sat facing these new Lilies of the Valley. I could not get over how a little work, a little effort had already made such a difference. How this garden was becoming my garden, how this house was becoming a home for my family.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

We Have Moved Across the Bay

Over the last two weeks, we've been busy. And without any internet or cable. We've packed up all of our belongings and moved across the bay to a sweet little home that is all ours.

We ripped up carpet to discover pretty hardwood floors:

My sister and her family brought over dinner for our first meal at the new home, outside on our picnic table. We'd spent the day demoing the carpet, hence the happy and tired faces. I'm wearing a "method" cleaning shirt, which reads "people against dirty" on the back. Indeed, I've never seen such a dirty home.

We bought lots of paint, a ladder, and so much more so we could paint the entire house.

Every room got a fresh coat of paint, ceilings included (except for the kitchen). We painted before we had the floors refinished. We did it in three days!

I followed a bright green moving truck across the bridge to our new home. We'd never had movers before, and they were great. The lead guy kept grunting and moaning throughout the move which had Sean and I exchanging the "did you just hear that?" looks and nearly busting out laughing.

And we cleaned our old place, with little Zoom's help.

Now we're unpacking boxes, dreaming of relandscaping the yard, of new colorful rugs on the hardwood floors, and marveling at how the previous family lived without any towel racks.