one candle

a goal, not a promise

Umbrellas, lemonade and a basket of corkscrews

Early in the summer, my parents offered to take the kids for a couple of nights in July. Yes! Yes! And thank you dear Mom and Dad.

Luke and I toyed with different ideas of how to spend this time and ultimately wanted somewhere quiet and removed from the noise of the city. I love where we live. I think it is one of the greatest cities with charm, warmth and yet still the feel of a city – but I need quiet. I was surprised when my husband agreed and even more surprised when I pitched the idea of a Bed and Breakfast to which he said yes.

He and I did not turn 73 overnight, but 42 and 39 respectively. The one we chose was an hour away with our own private entrance, king size bed, a sitting area – and a bathroom, oh the bathroom. An old barn door that closed the area off from the rest of the room, an oil rubbed bronze bowl sink with a water pump faucet and an old ladder that housed our spa robes and lush towels. Enough, I know. Enough.

Breakfast was incredible. To start was zucchini coffee cake and banana bread followed by a french baked pancake with cherry sauce and slivered almonds.

Summer 2013  Bed and Breakfast, ear piercing, county fair 014 (2)

Day two started with granola and fresh fruit and was followed with a spinach, sausage and roasted vegetable (peppers and tomatoes from her garden) frittata and baked sweet potatoes.

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On the day we arrived a quaint note hung on the door telling us to ring the doorbell and if no one answers – come on in. We did and still no one came up front. We went through the entry, sitting room and dining room to find the innkeeper busy in the kitchen. We scared her and she apologized for not hearing the bell. She then asked if we wanted a tour of the house, to which I honestly wanted to decline because we had just walked through it, but politely said yes.

This is where things changed. She took us back to the entry way and pointed out the concierge table, umbrellas if we wanted to walk in the rain, and a basket of menus of local restaurants. She directed us to the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and the lemonade she had made in anticipation of our arrival. The buffet had today’s weather written on a homemade marker board and to the left – a bucket of corkscrews and wine glasses – should we find a bottle of wine at a local winery. She told us of the movies, books, board games that we could take to our room and finally the spa out back.

Excluding the spa, books and board games, I had seen most everything she had shown me on my first unassisted tour through the house. It was her tour, her showing us all of the little extras and pointing out the corkscrews that made me want to stay – to sit down with a glass of her freshly made lemonade and read my book. Her kind way of pointing out all of the little things made us both feel welcome, really welcome.

It is something I’ve thought so much about, her way of sharing her gifts in a way that made another feel welcome. Not only that, but it was needed. I can honestly say had she not given the tour, I would have started to plan the afternoons and evenings away and look past the beautiful old, covered porch full of cozy furniture and a blanket or two – just in case the breeze picked up. I would not have spent time reading on the couch or looking through menus at local eateries.

Summer 2013  Bed and Breakfast, ear piercing, county fair 019

Her hospitality made me want to stay a bit, a day or two, refreshed and ready for reality again. (ahem) I have been in other places of business, homes, gatherings, events – or blogs even, where gifts are shared and items pointed out in a way that made others feel small and unwelcome. They were shared in a way that said, please compare yourself to me and my riches/talents/abilities, and I hope you lose.

Hospitality is a lost art. Sometimes it is tilted toward self, seen as an opportunity to show off. Those I’ve met with incredibly hospitality are rooted first in a gentle, strong self-confidence. It is not insecure guarded by perfectionism, but secure in knowing themselves unafraid of their strengths or weaknesses and a desire to invite others in.

Many years ago, Katie Brown had a show on TLC. She did a show on all the ways she prepared for guests – the house, the menu and the table settings. It has been a while and my Google search yielded zero results, but at the end of that show she shared that when it is time for the party she answers the door with wet hair and a towel on her head (or a robe on – I don’t remember exactly). Partially not on purpose but due to planning and time crunching, but partially on purpose as she discovered the impact it had on guests coming in and really making themselves at home.

Hospitality is authentic and has a way of disarming guests. It has a silent way of saying check your worries at the door and I am glad you are here.

I love being invited to a hospitable home and I hope that mine feels that way to others.

Until next time,
Jennifer

Passing it On

A few days ago I added a DIY tab to the blog.  After clicking on that link you will be assured that this is not a mark of original ideas or talent, only a desire to be creative and hopefully a place that will encourage others to do the same.

As a child, teenager and college student I was told that all of us are artists in the few, but various art classes I took .  Some were required such as the art appreciation course at the liberal arts college or the art class I needed for my education degree.  I didn’t and still do not believe that.   There are those with amazing talent in many mediums  – paint, pencil, photography and sculpture to name a few.   Artists translate emotions, moments, thoughts and ideas with tools on to their canvas of their choosing.  Their translation becomes for onlookers an affirmation of what they hold in their heart or mind, a question to ponder or, something they will (hopefully only metaphorically) spit at in anger or disagreement.

I am not an artist but I do enjoy being creative and strongly believe that our homes should be a safe place to take risks in this realm.  Putting a nail in a wall should not evoke more fear than say getting in a car to run to the store.  If I don’t like it, I’ll move it, hang something over it or fix it.  Eventually.

I have discovered that thrift shops are great places to find that piece waiting to be upcycled.  I have also stumbled across the power of spray paint. I have discovered the freedom that comes In allowing our homes to be a canvas.  I have discovered that it also inspires our children to take risks.

This is my home.  Our home is and should be a safe place to take risks.  I start small and then decide to think about something bigger.  Some projects turn out and others do not.  I get discouraged but also enjoy the successes.

As I learn to appreciate the need to be creative and not strive for perfection,  I also see how creativity works differently for so many people.  Some people are creative in finding solutions to problems – in businesses, schools or the organizational challenges of running a home.   Some are amazing in the kitchen, with a simple taste can name what ingredient will transform it unafraid to throw caution (i.e. the recipe) to the wind.

Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is contagious.  Pass it on.”  I’ve found this to be true.  The hardest part is giving myself permission to take a risk and to fail – because that is part of it.  The more I do so, the more I see my home as nest that needs my unique style of feathering.  In doing so, I also find that I am developing a greater appreciation of the strengths and talents of others. And their willingness to give step-by-step how to tutorials. Yeah!

Perfectionism is the nemesis of creativity.  I say, conquer by creating.  Start small.  Paint something.  Take your camera with you on a walk. Collage something.  Plant something.  Bake something and add that ingredient you think it has been missing.

Give yourself permission to take a risk, you will thank yourself later.

Sincerely,

Jennifer

To Hell with It

I had mostly decided not to blog after giving it a sort-of start a few months ago. It was Jennifer’s comment “It will help you overcome perfectionism” that made me rethink it. And join the 7 posts in 7 days challenge to boot! Perfectionism sucks and not only that but it sucks the life and energy out of anything we would like to do or give a go. We become our own pin cushions constantly piercing our confidence and efforts with what ifs and the awful poison of comparing ourselves to others.

So, perfectionism, to hell with you. I’m gonna start blogging again.

Flipping through the radio stations a few months ago, I heard a speaker explain that he used to work with female prison inmates. On one particular day he asked a group of women to write down their definition of beauty. To his surprise almost each one of them defined beauty as being real and authentic. Isn’t that awesome? They didn’t define it as hair color, clothing size or anything external but – real.

I absolutely love that. It is something I want to teach my daughters.

I want to live it.

So, internet, here is my Bud Light Lime-a-Rita cheers to you. Screw perfectionism. Long live real beauty.

 

Sincerely,

Jennifer

 

Five Favorites (vol. 2)

Linking up with Hallie at Moxie Wife for Five Favorites today!

1.

Vintage Necklaces for Curtain Tie Backs

I am really liking this idea. We just hung, no scratch that, I just put the anchors, screws and screw driver on the dining room table so we can hang new window treatments in the dining room.

I think I might have to try this.

 

2.

 

Roasted Sweet Onion Triscuits.

Yum. I discovered these after a last second throw in at the checkout aisle in Target. I am glad I did. A recipe suggestion on the box included Gouda cheese, teeny slice of fig (not a fan so I skipped) and apricot preserves.

It was okay, but I thought them especially delish with sharp, white cheddar cheese.

 

3.

 

Tuesday Night Date Nights.

Sounds strange doesn’t it? A few summers ago, my husband and I decided to splurge on a sitter once a week for a date night. We assumed this would be a Friday or Saturday, but said babysitter was only available on Tuesdays. “Tuesday?” We said. No really it was just me. “A date night on Tuesday!?” Who goes on a date on a Tuesday?

We did. That’s who. All summer long. And it rocked.

Do you know you never have to wait at your favorite restaurant on a Tuesday?

Do you know you can get to the movie theater at the actual starting time and you will still get the best seats?

Do you know how many restaurants have incredible specials on Tuesdays because no one goes out to eat on Tuesdays?

Our favorite restaurant had half-off on all bottles of wine.

Score.

 

4.

 

Fresh flowers on the kitchen table.

 

I have always thought having fresh flowers in the house such a treat.

Sometime ago we decided we would keep fresh flowers on our table for the 50 days of Easter.

It is such a treat and a beautiful reminder of the Easter season.

5.


We Bought a Zoo soundtrack

We have had this for a while, but we just pulled it out again. So it is sort of a re-discovered favorite.

Majority of the titles are by Jonsi, the guitarist and vocalist from Sigur Ros.

Thank you, Hallie, for hosting!

An awesome week to ya,

Jennifer

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On ribbon and laundry

Have you ever washed a roll of gift wrapping ribbon with a load of laundry?
I have.

 

On a whim

On a whim

/(h)wim/

Noun. 1. A sudden desire or change of mind.

I am working on being truly and genuinely thankful for being able to home school my children. I know I should slap myself for writing that first sentence. What I am discovering is this. I am. I am eternally grateful to live in a country where homeschooling is legal, I am grateful that my husband and I decided this is the best educational route for our children. I am grateful for the plethora of resources available within 10 minute car ride, a quick phone call or even at my finger tips. Really it is amazing.

Home schooling is the job you’ve dreamt of your whole life. It is the job with flexibility. It is the job that touches somewhere deep inside your soul that speaks to your purpose here on earth. The job, in which your boss trusts you with immense responsibility, requests your input on important decisions and asks you to help navigate the course for the future of the company.

It is all that and getting to do it in your pajamas some days or your favorite maxi skirt and gold scarf the next. It is sometimes making maple and oat pancakes for breakfast on a Wednesday. It is some days seeing it come together; your curriculum choice, the spiral approach, the classical foundation and the hands on exploratory science. In a moment you see it all come together. It is a moment that needs to give birth to its own enormity, but instead your heart holds it and knows never will you be able to capture the awesomeness that has landed in your life, in the same way you cannot capture the hidden, crystal clear lake, hidden on a three hour hike to the top of Bear Mountain.

A picture can capture this lake, but it cannot hold how much, in that moment, your heart needed to rest here. It cannot capture the peace that washed over your soul in that moment you happened upon it. Whether it is in the discussion that follows a history lesson with your son or the concept in math that finally clicked for your daughter, it is just awesome.

These moments are the same moments you await when you drive 12 hours to a national park, hoping to spot a grizzly bear or mountain goats feeding on the slopes.

This moment is when they see the light bulb. They smile and understand something, and maybe are even surprised at their own excitement.

Some days it is none of this. It is still the job you dreamed of with flexibility, relationship and trust, but some days you don’t see any of it. It is a quick breakfast because you need to get to work. It is a Latin lesson gone wrong….again. It is history, the same old book, unit and subject that does not ever end. But it can’t be! This is the history you vowed to make come alive and Latin; it is the perfect unit study that incorporates so many other curriculum disciplines. It is wondering how the same words you practice are still misspelled. It is a reading lesson that really should be going smoother than it is.

It is on one of these days, because really they don’t come so often. No, they do, it is just some days you handle them and understand that this is life, the continuing, the persevering and the setting a good example, because when the going gets tough…….

On the days when I can’t deal, I say let’s go get Blueberry Pancakes.

 

Or it snowed, again? Let’s research igloos. Or, it is just too nice outside. Let’s go.

I am learning to listen to these whims. I am learning they are essential to our home school. Sometimes, I need to tell them to wait because whims can be impatient. Other times, they must be taken seriously. I greet them like a good host should, ask them if I may take their coat and if they can stay a bit. I’ll put on some tea, Mr. Whim. You sit here and I’ll tend to the details.

Bags must be packed. Hair must be brushed. Matching socks must be found.

Whims can bust a whole days schedule or they can just mess with an hour. They are all very different and each must be treated as such.

So, Mr. Whim, it’s Monday, are you listening? I am.

 

Five Favorites: Link- Up

Thank you, Hallie for hosting. I love the idea of a five favorites link-up. While I am late to the party, I made it.

1. Seasonal Fireplaces


(Image via)

I love our fireplace. We have debated on a few occasions converting it to a gas fireplace, so that we don’t have to deal with the mess and storing the wood. We both have agreed to stay with our wood burning fireplace as we love the sound and the pops of the wood, even the smell. I’ve seen so many cute ideas to fill your fireplace in the off season. Right now, old books is my absolute favorite. I’ve seen others, like a still life of birch wood, vases and candles that are really fun, too.

2.  Bicycles in the Bathroom.


                                                        (Image Via)

We will soon be embarking on re-doing our basement bathroom in penny-pinching fashion. If we had the room, this would be my first choice. I love. Love. Love it. However, it would entail reworking the plumbing and moving the shower, thus no longer a penny-pinching project. It would be perfect in our basement bathroom because we rarely use it for showering and such. So, we really wouldn’t need the under–the-sink storage. When we had guests, we could fill those baskets with towels, cute soaps and lotions. Okay, now I’m sad again and maybe this shouldn’t be on my Five Favorites.

No, it is so one of my favorites.

3.  Mumford and Sons.


This is my recent cleaning up the kitchen, making dinner, unloading the dishwasher music. Love it.

4. This quote by Fulton J. Sheen

Simple Things

“Humans live by their desires, but it is possible for us to choose whether we will desire things of the spirit or of the world. The person who can look back on his day and count five times when he has refused to yield to some minute whim is on the way to inner growth: He has held himself back and rejected the slavery of things.”

5. The Joy of Hate

 By: Greg Gutfeld


This book is funny and witty. It’s also a quick read. The author takes to task the issue of media bias in a hilarious style. Super funny.

Happy Monday (really never a favorite),

Jennifer


Ceramic Casserole Dishes and the Body of Christ

I love to do me some thriftin’. When you thrift you find things like small, ceramic owls, disco balls, and funky glassware.

The other day when I was out doing some non-thrifting errands, I discovered a consignment store that only accepts and sells used dishes and entertainment-ware.

I visited with the owner for a bit after I browsed her cute selection of ceramic casserole dishes, cake stands and three tiered serving stands. It was a great store that I am going to keep in mind next time I host a large gathering and need that certain dish or tray and don’t want to spend too much.

She said her idea came from friends who were retired and wanting to downsize. They no longer had room for these things in their cupboards. These were things they had tried to give to their children or grandchildren, but they had no interest. Thus they were here awaiting their next owner. She went on to say that it has been so much fun to watch newlywed and other young couples leave her store clutching their newly found treasures. She said she often wondered if some of these people were the same people that had said no to a previous offer.

When I left there I couldn’t help but think of what I wanted to pass on to my children. Not so much dishes (at this point anyhow) but the truths of the faith, the rich history and traditions of the Church. It made me think of how important our community is. Someday when my children might not accept a gift I really want them to have, maybe they will accept it from someone else. A friend, a Godparent, aunt or priest.

It made me realize the importance of praying for people in my life that would also want my children to have these gifts and not mock or make fun of them. Also, to say thank you for those amazing people already present in my life.

All for now,

Jennifer


Theme Thursday: Happiness/Joy Link-up

I am only loosely linking up with this week.  Very, very loosely.

Happiness is…..when there is no one in the zoo’s Imax theater for a Monday afternoon showing of Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure 3D.

….when your kids play along.

…when I get to use my Hollywood director’s voice. And accent?

And we’re shocked……

And we’re frightened…….

And we’re laughing…….

And we’re sleeping……

You’ll be surprised to learn that my children have no background in acting. I sense that your face looks similar to photo number one. But ’tis true, my friend. ‘Tis true.

Thank you, Cari for hosting.

Architecture: Theme Thursday link-up

Last week I wrote about needing to categorize my overflow of ideas. I decided Theme Thursday was something I needed to do. I honestly have no idea what I am doing in the world of photography, but love experimenting.

Thanks, Cari, for being the inspiration I needed to just give it a try.

This theme was a lot of fun. We live about 20 minutes from the Cathedral, so it immediately came to mind when I read the theme for the week.

I got there a bit later than I had hoped so wasn’t sure what the lighting would be like. Due to it being an older (and gorgeous) neighborhood, getting shots without power lines was a bit tricky.

Between the photos of the front and the side, it looks like an hour or two passed – but it was just a few minutes.

I love the birds.

Does your neck hurt from all of that looking up?

There was so much beautiful detail near the windows I tried to capture, but the sun had set and I was not having any luck. Makes me want to go back and try again.

Head back over to Cari’s and feast your eyes.

Happy Thursday,

Jennifer

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