Monday, September 30, 2013

He's Got the Whole World

This weekend I crossed off #27 on my listmake or find wall art for above the couch. 

Back in July I saw this post on the blog Marshalls Abroad where they showed off their new baby's nursery and the awesome framed wall map that they built for their son. I love their blog and the beautiful photographs of their life in Okinawa and you should definitely read it.

I decided to copy their idea and purchased this huge wall map.  I also had a coupon from AC Moore for 60% off custom framing and I requested that they mat it on foam board and leave off the glass front so I can put pins on all the places I've visited. I got a call from AC Moore a few weeks later and it was ready to be picked up.

Now, when I say this map was huge, you should know that it is also massive, gigantic, and really freaking big. 73 x 49 inches, not including the frame, to be specific.  Needless to say, it did not fit in the trunk of my car, and I drive a Jeep.

Anyway, long story too long, I left without the map and left it sitting at AC Moore for over a month while I tried to figure out how to get it home. Thankfully, this past Saturday my roommate and her boyfriend agreed to help me tie it to the roof rack (and stick their hands out the window to keep it from blowing off) while I drove really slowly with my hazards on.
Little did I know getting it home was the easy part but after sponging off a few scratches on the wall, and with the help of a Pinterest/ toothpaste trick we got it hung up. Finally. 

And here's the finished product! I'm so pleased and feel like my bedroom is finally complete, more than two years after moving in...just in time I'd say.

This map and the bridge from my new favorite song makes me smile and feel excited when I think of the adventures unknown ahead of me, whether it's across the world or just down the road....

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders 
Let me walk upon the waters 
Wherever You would call me 
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander 
And my faith will be made stronger 
In the presence of my Savior

{Oceans- Hillsongs}

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Signs of Fall and Worship

The sky just looks a little different these days, the light, the color.
The air is a little more brisk and the sun is less brutal.
I pulled out my favorite boots from their box under my bed today.
I wrapped up in a chunky sweater and I kicked up some leaves on my walk to the metro.
This time of year just feels so fresh, so alive to me, even as the green colors fade and the leaves fall.
I love the smells and the way the breeze makes me want to wrap my hands around a cup of something warm.
I know this season is so fleeting and before I'm ready it will simply be cold.
But for now I just inhale that cool air and feel revived.
Speaking of being revived, tonight I'm auditioning for the worship team at my church.
I'm pretty terrified. But also I'm not.
I don't know anyone on the worship team personally, I haven't really practiced, and I've never played with a full band before, it's usually just little ol' me and my guitar in front of my high school friends. It's highly likely that I will embarrass myself.

Last week I very nearly cancelled. I was all in my head and fretting about not being good enough or prepared enough. Even last night as I was practicing the two songs I've chosen to play (Jesus Paid it All and From the Inside Out) I was getting more and more nervous picturing the situation I had gotten myself into. What had motivated me to put my name and email address on that form and drop it in the offering basket that Sunday?

And then I remembered that I had been sitting in the pew, hands open, singing these words, raising them up as an offering to the heavens.

"I lean not on my own understanding 
My life is in the hands of the Maker of heaven 
I give it all to You God trusting that you'll make something beautiful out of me"
(Will Reagan- Nothing I Hold To)

The music is quite possibly my favourite part of church and my favourite way to worship my Saviour. And tonight I get to sing and play songs with other people who are passionate about praising Him with music. And I want to enjoy it. I want my spirit to feel light and free, not fearful.

"The art of losing myself in bringing You praise..."
(Hillsongs- From the Inside Out)

I'm not doing this so I can prove how good I am, but so I can praise the One who created the seasons and is deserving of all my songs. If I don't make the band, that's okay. I'll still sing and praise the Lord even if it's just in the quiet of my bedroom with no audience but Him.

Monday, September 23, 2013

I kept a secret! Sort of.

As a notoriously bad secret keeper, planning a surprise anything is a challenge for me. I just really have to avoid all people I'm trying to surprise in order to not spill the beans.

I like to think I'm getting better at this and I even managed to plan a surprise engagement party for my roommate. And last week I was able to keep a secret from my mom for almost 6 days! This is basically a world record for me considering I talk to her nearly everyday.

My mom's birthday was last Wednesday and I wanted to do something special for her.  She loves to make a big deal about everyone's birthday and her own is no exception. But a birthday in the middle of the work week is kinda lack luster, plus she had been feeling kind of under the weather. So I collaborated with my dad, booked myself some train tickets, and was quite pleased with my plans to take off work on Friday and have the entire weekend at home. Mom and I would get to have lunch together on a week day, probably do some shopping, and lots of gabbing. And it would all be a big surprise for her!

Throughout the week I dodged questions about my weekend plans and told her how sad I was that I couldn't celebrate with her in person. I felt very sneaky and very impressed with my secret keeping skills, which up until this point were basically non-existent. Growth.

Her actual birthday arrived and I ended up talking to her on the phone 3 times that day. Which was why I couldn't keep it in any longer. Oh well.. baby steps.  I spilled and I loved every minute of her shock and surprise.

On Thursday I brought my suitcase to work, I had submitted my time-off request on Monday, and nothing stood in the way of me and a long weekend at home with my family.

Except work... ugh.

Due to a lot of annoying unforeseen circumstances, I ended up having to change my train tickets and I didn't get to leave until Friday after lunch. Boo. I was livid and all worked up. I was mad that I had prematurely told my mom about my plans only to have to change them the very next day. But as my wise boyfriend told me (after listening to me rant and threaten to just take off work anyway) mamas are more understanding that managers.

Ain't that the truth! Of course he was right and in the end it all worked out.

I still got to have a wonderful 2 and half days with the parents. It involved Rita's Italian Ice (cotton candy flavored, my fave), a very New Jersey Oktoberfest, and lots of time around the fire pit. 
Just good quality time, being a kid in my parents home. And I never get enough of it and I never, ever take it for granted. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

short but sweet

I had a wonderful surprise from TJ this weekend. He made a last minute decision to drive up to see me and it was a short not even 24 hour visit but still so sweet.

I woke up to a text at 7:45 saying he was on the road and I hopped out of bed with the biggest smile. Why doesn't that happen when I wake up before 8 on work days?

I started tidying up a bit and made a trip to the grocery (he's driving 8 hours to see me- I better have something good to feed him) and then my roommate and I decided it was time for Fall. So we broke out all the glittery pumpkins,the mini porcelain pumpkins, the plastic pumpkins, the pumpkin spice candles, and the candy corn. Bam! Ten minutes later, our house was ready for Fall and for visitors!

I decided to make a brisket in the crock pot mostly so I could have everything ready and I wouldn't have to spend any time in the kitchen when he arrived and also because it's delicious.  I let that yummy smell fill up the house and then basically sat by the window and waited to see TJ's car pull up.

He made great time and arrived around 3:30. We had pumpkin beer and watched the Alabama game and sat really close to each other on the couch and he didn't mind that I talked through most of the game. We had dinner  and later ice cream and just enjoyed sharing the same space.

In the morning I made blueberry pancakes from scratch to really drag out the last few hours before he had to head back to South Carolina.  He left a little after lunch time and I was feeling pretty blue, fortunately ice cream and Harry Potter are guaranteed pick-me-ups. Plus I have a trip scheduled for October to look forward to- I need to always have something on the calendar.

Later after he was home we realized we had officially been dating for 3 short but sweet months. But to me it feels like so much longer and not in the bad way. In the I feel like I've known you for my whole life kind of way. Sigh... counting down the days till October.

Friday, September 13, 2013

five on friday

It seems like summer is truly coming to a close as things have really picked up at work. And even though we had a couple hot days this week, it's dropped to the 70's today. This is all fine with me though because I just purchased this really wonderful sweater from Spool No.72 that I cannot wait to wear in the cooler temps.
The approaching fall is also good news for me and TJ. I get to go down to South Carolina at the end of October for another weekend at the lake and another Clemson Game. And come November he will be all done with his away rotations and will have a more flexible and free schedule. Which means... more time for him to visit me!

Since I wrote this post about wanting to save more money I have been really good. I have walked to work and packed my lunch almost everyday these past two weeks. I look at it as competition- it's me against my laziness and the prize is more more plane tickets and cozy sweaters.

Along those same lines, I made these yummy black bean burgers and they have gotten me through the week. I did the prep work on Sunday night and had one for dinner on Monday. The recipe makes 6 burgers so I shared with my roommate and have had the rest to pack in my lunch. A side of sweet potato fries makes this a really easy, delicious and healthy dinner.   (fyi. I skip the yogurt sauce suggested in the recipe- the burger has a lot of flavor already.)
5:30 cannot get here soon enough. My weekend includes laundry, House of Cards (on Netflix-so good), and a possible surprise appearance by TJ.  Happy Friday everyone! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What I Read this Summer

Here is a recap of the books I read in June, July and August...

House at Tyneford - Natasha Solomons
This is a great read if you love Downton Abbey. It's set during World War II and focuses on a Jewish girl who flees Vienna and takes up a position as a maid in a English country home. I don't want to give anything away but there are some delicious upstairs downstairs relationships within the pages of this book.

Shadow Puppets- Orson Scott Card
I am basically addicted to this series and I just keep gobbling them up. Seriously- I can't recommend it enough- read Ender's Game and all the rest that follow.

World Without End- Ken Follet
This was a mountain of a book. It went up and down. The plot would thicken, the conflict would build, the antagonist would anger me, and finally the main characters would overcome the challenge before them. The end, I thought! Then I'd remember I had another 400 pages and a whole lot of drama for my poor characters to face. Ken Follet is not gentle with his protagonists. They just can not catch a break for 1000+ pages. I started reading it back in May, took June and July off to read some other things, and finally finished. I'm exhausted but it was worth it.

The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexander Dumas
I downloaded this on my Nook (classics are cheap or free, which I love) and debated for a while on what version to read. It's translated so I wanted to read the version closest to the original. I ended up getting the "Barnes & Noble Signature Edition" which I  believe is slightly abridged. This is one of TJ's favorite books and I love the movie version with Jim Caviezel but have never read the book (shame on me). TJ says there are a lot of differences and the movie is basically crap in comparison (aren't all movie versions?)  Back when this was first written authors were paid by the word. So it's wordy and I've barely scraped the surface but I love the adventure and romance and am excited to keep reading.

Don't you just love the way a good story can suck you in and hold you hostage?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Game Day and Labor Day

On Friday I flew in to Charleston, SC and had a sweet reunion with TJ. We hadn't seen each other in almost a month and that is much too long in my opinion. Fortunately we had a lot of time to properly catch up during the 4 hour car ride to Lake Keowee. I talked his ear off until we pulled into the driveway of his lake house around midnight. His parents had waited up and fed us dinner before we all called it a night- we had a long day of tailgating and football ahead of us.  TJ surprised me by getting tickets to the Clemson v. Georgia game last minute, they were selling like crazy since it was the first game of the season and a huge rivalry.

I had never been to a big football game before. I mean I had been to one NFL game before, a Jets game, but the feel and the emotion and excitement of a big college football game, especially one in the South, is a completely different story. When I was in college I used to really enjoy tailgating and getting dressed up for games (do you do this or is it just a southern thing?) and walking around "the mall". But our university's football games were the opposite of Clemson football game. For starters it was a dry campus, and there was about one twelfth as many people. Plus, our team wasn't that great and the students generally left at half time.

Needless to say, I was unprepared for the experience of a Clemson football game.

We started out the day with french toast while we watched ESPN College Game Day- hosted at Clemson. As a few more of our friends arrived we donned purple and orange, packed our coolers and headed into town.
We parked more than a mile away from all the activity knowing that it would be much easier to get out once the game was over that night. TJ and I separated from the other girls and headed to meet up with one of his best friends from high school. His family had a prime tailgate spot right by the stadium-complete with a TV hooked up to their van for pre-game coverage viewing, platters of chick-fil-a nuggets, hot dogs and strawberry cake in the shape of a tiger paw.

It was so fun for me to get to meet some of TJ's old friends and hear stories from his growing up days,TJ has been going to Clemson games since he was a little boy, (plus I just love being introduced as his girlfriend).
The crowd all day was insane! I really can't imagine what it would have been like to go to Clemson as a student- and it was actually one of the schools I applied to and visited.  To have the campus be that crazy (and trashed) every weekend,'s hard to know how anyone does anything productive.

Finally it was time to make our way into Death Valley. We actually had really great seats, and although we were a little too close to the Georgia marching band for our liking, there were very view Bulldog fans near us.  Did you know that when the Clemson team runs down The Hill, past Howard's Rock and charges into the stadium at the start of the game, it's known as the 25 most exciting seconds in college football? That was how TJ set it up for me and I was not disappointed. Fireworks, orange balloons, the anticipation, the band, and 87,000 fans screaming C-L-E-M-S-O-N. I can't imagine how hyped out those players must have felt.
I've never really been someone who enjoyed watching football before (let alone reading a long blog post about it). I never really understood the rules or got into the action of the plays. But clearly that was because I've never seen a football game like the one I saw on Saturday. I did not know what I was missing out on. I was jumping up and down, high-fiving strangers, biting my nails when it got too close, screaming whenever they dropped the ball or recovered a fumble. It was a blast and thankfully Clemson won! I would not have liked to see that crowd angry. At the end of the game the student section rushed the field. 

The rest of the Labor Day weekend was much more low key. Sunday we slept in and then spent the day relaxing on the lake, floating on rafts, sitting in rocking chairs and watching a thunderstorm roll in. It was just my kind of day.

Unfortunately TJ had to work on Monday so he dropped me off at my sister's apartment and headed back to Charleston.  I hated seeing him go but I did love getting to spend some extra time with my sis.  The two of us went out and grabbed a yummy dinner followed by some Yogurt Mountain which we enjoyed while watching Sister Wives (it's a train wreck we both enjoy). On Monday we gabbed over bagels at Panera and then wandered around the absolute cutest shop in the South, Swoozies. I could have literally bought everything in there but I especially wanted all these cute lake items and a lake house of my own to put them in.
Sister just started her first teaching job (I posted about this here) and she was eager to show me all her lesson plans and her roster. After she filled me in on all the 3rd grade drama we drove out to see our Aunt, Uncle and cousin, who live not too far away, for some bbq chicken and macaroni and cheese (which my cousin made using a recipe from the Beanie Baby Hand Book, it's a real thing) . When I was in college it was so nice having them close by whenever I needed a home cooked meal or an escape from campus and I was glad I got to visit with them, catch up on life, and play a few rounds of Scattegories before I had to catch my flight home.

Sorry this was such a long recap but I didn't want to forget a minute of this fun weekend. It was just chock full of the most important and simple things in life: family, friends, good food and evidently football.