Sunday, February 28, 2010

Women's Retreat

This past Friday and Saturday, 17 women from my church went to Pismo together for a little get-away. I'm not going to go into detail, but here is a highlight of the trip: Jessica and I got to go to Splash cafe where I had an amazing chowder bowl and she had (in her own words) an epic grilled cheese. Here we are after that fine moment, snapping a picture in front of the ocean.

Busy Hubby

Robby continues to show his true type A personality (he fooled me into thinking he was type B) with his projects around the yard. Friday I came home after school to find a number of new plants added to our yard, so I thought I'd share what we hope will do well over the next few months.
African daisy
(I really wanted the English daisy, but when I explained that, he simply said, "Close enough." Hmm...I guess that is type B.)
Wax begonias, which will hopefully grow much bigger this year and last us through the fall

Okay, new direction in the post. I asked Robby what the other plants are called (as I don't know), and he didn't know, nor did he seem inclined to go back to Lowe's and find out. I take back my type A label completely!! I suppose he is more of a B+.
Here are the other two mystery plants:Even without knowing the names, I still appreciate my busy husband who makes our yard look so lovely.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Fave Five

I have seen a number of blogs incorporate the Friday Five, so I thought I'd add it to my own weekly writing. Some have chosen to pick five favorite moments from the week, but I'm going to go with the other trend that is to share five favorite anythings.

Since I was an English major and am a English teacher, I thought I'd share my five favorite books. This was not easy, as there have been many books I've read and loved, but these will probably never cease to inspire me.

Friday Fave Five: Books

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) - This is the classic story of "plain Jane" and her remarkable change and journey. I've mentioned before it's one of the best redemption stories, and though some say it has too much of a storybook ending, I say I love the storybook ending!

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)- I've always loved this book, but had the pleasure of teaching the novel for three years to freshmen, and therefore fell in love with it even more. As it is told from the perspective of Scout Finch, who for most of the book is a young untamed girl, there are many funny moments, as well as poignant moments as Scout learns about herself and society. Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem's dad, is one of the greatest men in literature.

The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton) - Edith Wharton, both a novelist and short story writer, remains one of my favorite authors. This story centers around the scandal of a husband falling in love with the wife's cousin (which interestingly is similar to the plot of Ethan Frome), but there is redemption in it. The last scene is absolutely amazing, as the husband, years later, makes a decision about seeing the cousin.

King Lear - Not a novel at all, but one of Shakespeare's plays, it is the story of King Lear, a man who in many respects is blind in life, but throughout the play comes to understand and see himself for who he is and the world for what it is. Throughout the story, those who remain faithful to him are those he believed wronged him to begin with, namely Cordelia, one of his daughters. There is a beautiful scene of forgiveness at the end.

Ruth, from the Bible - I was going to simply say The Bible, but I thought I'd point out my favorite story in the Bible. Ruth, a Moabitess, finds herself widowed, along with her mother in law and sister in law. Throughout the story, she (and her in-laws) go from empty and broken to full and satisfied, recognizing that God has taken care of them. The final chapter shows Ruth, married to their Kinsmen Redeemer, holding her baby who will be a father to David and therefore to Jesus Christ. It is beautiful.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Easiest DIY Ever

So, what's up with all the DIY's lately? Well, Stephanie G. (How Sweet It Is) and I spent a good portion of our Sunday afternoon at Joanne's Craft Supply, where we stocked up on a few things to keep us going for awhile. I bought a very cute material with simple trees in blues and greens to make pillows. As I was getting ready to do so, though, I decided this plain white frame I have is desperately crying out for something to go inside it. So I thought, why not use a bit of my cute new material?

Here it is, plain and white. We actually hung it just like this in our guest bedroom. It was sort of an "imagine whatever you want to be inside of this frame" idea.
And here it is with its happy print inside!
This had to have been the easiest DIY ever - cut and staple. No other materials required.

Verwey Wedding

This past weekend, we celebrated with my cousin Johnny as he married his lovely new bride, Katie. We had a good time hanging out, eating, dancing, and enjoying the grand celebration. Here are just a few pictures from that evening:

Johnny and Katie share their first dance together as husband and wife. So sweet.
Robby and I, remembering our first dance on June 18, 2005
(Well, maybe we weren't remembering it at the moment, but it definitely crossed our mind sometime that night.) A very nice picture of my mom and dad And the Vander Kooi girls (Yes, I'll always still be a Vander Kooi girl, even if I am a Feely girl, too.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fuzzy Friends

Look what showed up in our backyard today! A fuzzy caterpillar. Of course, Calla wanted to eat it, but we saved it.
I also like the picture of Calla, who is obviously enjoying the daffodils and tulips.

DIY: Felt Flower Embellishments

I am a throw pillow fanatic. I love them. I feel like they are able to instantly update a room and add a little something extra. However, I don't love the price tags that often accompany the ones that have interesting fabrics and textures. I was thrilled, then, when I found this easy way to update some of the plain pillows I have now from Design Sponge (an absolutely fantastic home design blog).

Read on to see how I took these simple cream pillows and made them much more interesting and stylish.
I began by purchasing 1/2 yard of felt (green and yellow, to go with my nature-inspired decor). I folded the felt to an appropriate size for a flower petal, and cut out a petal shape, keeping the fold intact. I followed this a number of times so that I had six cut-outs for a total of 12 petals. I then cut smaller petals, about half the size and number, to lay in the center. As I continued, I varied the number of petals, as well as the sizes of the flowers.
Once my flowers were arranged as I liked, I took a needle and thread and sewed the middle of it to keep it intact. I also found that tacking a few places toward the top of the petals (hiding the thread, of course) helped the flower keep its shape. After that, I sewed a pin backing to the back of it. This makes for easy change and removal of the embellishment.
Then came the exciting part: pinning my flowers to my pillows for an instant update. The final product:
My living room feels a bit brighter and happier with these cheery pillows, and it all was done for about $9.00.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Calla's New Spot

For my birthday last month, my parents and my husband went in on a chaise-like futon for my livingroom. We have two windows that nearly meet at a corner, so it's a great spot. After trying a sitting chair and a bistro set there, I decided that this is my favorite. I really love it and often spend my mornings on my little couch reading and drinking a cup of coffee, my favorite thing to do. However, I am not the only one who loves this spot. We think that Calla believes that this is one giant cat-bed we bought for her. She is always on it, leaving her white hairs everywhere. She especially likes to balance herself on the pillows--which is quite a feat, as there are all detached from each other--and watch the birds outside.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Reading

Although I was an English major and am an English teacher, I am ashamed to say that my list of books I've read in the last few years is pretty short. It's not that I don't love reading -- I truly do -- but it seems with teaching, I never felt like I had time to read novels, so I just didn't. I suppose I read other things, but the novels and stories I read were always those I was teaching.

I've tried to get back into reading the last few months, and I thought I'd share what I have been reading, and what I've liked.

First, I read the Twilight series. Twice. (And I read Eclipse three times.) Now, this is somewhat embarrassing, but I owe a lot to Twilight. Getting into those books helped rekindle my love for a good romantic story. And I am not ashamed to say I thoroughly enjoy the Twilight saga, both the books and films. It reminds me of falling in love and being in love, and it also reminds me that there is more to our world than meets the eye. (No, I don't believe vampires are in our midst...)

I followed that up with a Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles. This came after watching Robert Downey, Jr.'s Holmes in the theatre. The book was very good, very unlike the film, but I enjoyed both. It is--just as it's been hailed--a true detective novel, so it was fun trying to solve the mystery, although I wasn't a very good detective.

I finally broke down and read Wuthering Heights. I say broke down because I had been avoiding this book for a long time. I had begun it a number of times but never finished it. It was absolutely horrible...and then absolutely wonderful. I think that is a sign of a great author. She made me hate her main characters so much, yet I couldn't put the book down to find out how they would turn out, and then I was shocked to find some justice and redemption in the end. That is what I love in a novel: a good redemptive story. (For a really good redemptive story, read Jane Eyre.)

And then, I jumped on a bandwagon...about ten years too late. I finished the first Harry Potter book today. I know, it's a shock I hadn't read them, but I just wasn't interested. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it funny and interesting. And I hear the next books just get better and better.

I'm working my way through Ethan Frome right now. I think I've read this before, but it's hard to tell. Teaching American Lit, I've read so many research papers on American novels that sometimes it's difficult to know what I've actually read myself. The author, Edith Wharton, is one of my favorites, and I do like this book, although it's a bit depressing.

If there is a book out there that you love and I need to read, let me know what it is!

Daffodils

Daffodils are such happy flowers. Debbie gave us a large bunch of unbloomed daffodils. I had put them in the garage until we could find a spot for them, and one day when I came home, there was one happy daffodil face looking at me in the dark, cold garage. We soon moved them outside and bought a few tulips to sit next to them. They are a lovely reminder of spring, which is coming very soon.

They also make me think of one of my favorite poems by Wordsworth. In his poem, the speaker explains how the beautiful sight of a field of daffodils stays with him, even when he has left that place.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Heart Day

A lovely pink Valentine's day sunset
And a happy couple enjoying it

Monday, February 8, 2010

Resolution Check-up

You'd think I'd post a New Year's resolution check-up only if I actually had good news to share, but you'd be wrong. I realized this week that it has been over a month since the new year began and since I made my resolutions. And you know what? I have not done very well! So here are my original resolutions with the updates written next to them.

1. Work out. (Every year I say this, and every year I fail. Perhaps this is the year!)

Update: I have "worked out" (I use that term loosely) a total of TWO times this year so far, and that includes a liesurely bike ride a couple of weeks ago.

2. Write more, and finish many of the things I've started.

Update: Written more? Yes, definitely. Finished any of the things I've started? No.

3. Cook two new things each month. (See how I changed this from last year? I'm making it more attainable.) If I can do more than two, I get extra points.

Update: I have attempted to cook new things (see the previous post on my pudding failures), and I have stocked up on necessary items to cook other new things. Have I actually done one thing and succeeded yet? Um...well...no.

4. Save money. Spend less. Enjoy what I have and who I have in my life more.

Update: Yes, we have been better with saving money! I even cut coupons this week :) I'm just going to leave out the fact that my day off today was partially spent at the outlets with my mom.

5. Set aside daily time with the Lord. (Okay, this probably should be at the top, but I don't want to rearrange my numbers.)

Update: Although I didn't begin this right at the beginning of the year, I have been keeping up with a one-year reading Bible, which has been a blessing to me.

Nothing like a little reminder to keep working toward the goal. It is only February, afterall.

Poetry

We are currently in our poetry unit at school, and this always is a time when I flip through old favorite poems and discover new favorite poems. What I miss most about teaching at private school is I was always able to pull a few religious poems: not only was the content acceptable, but the students also were able access the material. It is not so easy here. So, since I am most likely not sharing these poems with students this year (except maybe a couple who have asked me), I thought I'd share them here.

God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

A Better Resurrection by Christina Rossetti

I HAVE no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb'd too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm'd with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall--the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish'd thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

0 for 2

I have had a hankering for a smooth creamy dessert lately, so I thought...pudding! How hard could it be to make pudding, or pudding-like desserts? Thursday night, I started looking through my recipes and found that Betty Crocker has one to make custard. Three eggs (and some other things) later, I had in my little dish a very lumpy custard. You know your custard is bad when your taster (Robby) says, "It wouldn't be so bad if it had some bacon and ham in it." Hmm...not the response I wanted.

Attempt #2 came when I wanted to bring a dessert over to Ben and Stephanie's. Cooking Light has a Mocha Pudding recipe, so I went for that one. Two eggs (and some other things) later, I had...well...not quite pudding, more like a lumpy mocha drink. Good thing I had a box brownie mix on hand that took my last two eggs. No one can mess up a box, right? Nope. It still didn't turn out! This has not been my week.

So now it's Saturday morning and I'm eating cereal because I have no eggs to make anything else. I am not going to give up, though. I will create pudding. I will, I will!