Sunday, February 26, 2012

On Compassion

When we moved out to Western Albemarle about two years ago, I was most excited about having my own four walls.  We were buying a house with its very own garage, driveway, and fenced backyard.  It was so freeing and exciting to come home to something that was ours.

What I didn't fully realize was that we were moving into a real neighborhood, a community.  Even though nobody shares walls or addresses, people are invested in others.  They reach out and say hello.  They offer to help.  They share in life's celebrations and misfortunes.  They invite others to participate in community events.  When we lived in our townhouse, I don't think we even knew the names of the people that we shared walls, staircases, and parking spaces with.

Today, a fire nearly destroyed a family's home in our neighborhood.  Thankfully, nobody was injured but their two cats didn't survive.  From the minute the fire trucks arrived, neighbors were on e-mail asking for donations and arranging help for the family in need.  Jeff and I donated some of our emergency cash to the family, people we don't know and haven't met, because we knew that our community would do the same for us.  When I dropped off the donation there were 3 other families there doing the same thing; giving cash and toiletries and offering their own homes as a place of refuge.  It truly warms my heart that there are such selfless and caring people living around us.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Looking Back, Moving Forward

I was fortunate enough to go to college knowing what I wanted to do with my life before I walked on to campus.  I enjoyed my classes and received scholarships and recognition.  I got a masters degree in the field and got a job straight out of college.  It's what I've wanted to do since Career Day in 8th grade.  It's part of how I define myself.  It's a profession I've dreamed about for years.  

Said profession is nothing like I hoped and dreamed it would be.  It is a constant battle with others and no one wins.  I've changed my attitude, approach, physical location, and co-workers.  I'm exhausted.  Drained.  My self respect is a shadow of it's former self.  My emotional well-being was at a breaking point two weeks ago and I took a hiatus from work to pick up my torn, mangled self from the bad, bad place I was headed.  

I didn't use my 11 days as a time to craft, be a lady who lunches, or clean every closet and drawer in the house.  For a few days I simply existed and tried to remember that my life consists of more than how my job makes me feel.  I didn't really "enjoy" my time off the way I would have liked to, but I really needed time and space to reevaluate what I'm doing here on this Earth, in this place.  I mourned the profession I thought I loved.  I vowed to not let it continue to treat me the way it has been.  There are things that are far more important than what I do from 9-5 everyday.

I spent a lot of time with these fuzzy faces whose lives I envy a little.  They love without limits.  They find joy in the littlest things.  They forgive easily and forget quickly.  

When I return to work tomorrow I hope I can remember that my job is not the overflowing bucket of dreams I once thought it was.  It's a job and I can make it until June.  

I'm not sure if my husband told me this, but I think it rings true...

"Your job is not your life.  You have a job so you can make a life."

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Labor of Love

For Jeff's birthday, I decided I was going to make him a quilt.  And just a side note, I got my first sewing machine for Christmas a month ago.  Ambitious, eh?  More like crazy.  I hoped that I would have some quilting in my blood since my grandmother made some beautiful quilts for me when I was younger.  With some patience, tears, a seam ripper, and necessary breaks so I didn't end up throwing it out (um, like the dishtowel with the semi-attached pompoms that I gave up on), I did it.  I used this Amy Butler free pattern because it seemed easy enough for a novice. 

All of my mess-ups with cutting crooked, funky measuring, and sewing wavy lines ended up being fine at the end.  I did almost lose it when I basted the quilt and put the backing on the wrong way.  Tip:  Re-read that part in the pattern a few times before doing it.

 Jeff was very appreciative and proud of me for actually finishing my project.  I'm glad he likes it!

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Promise (to myself)

Fall.  My favorite season.  I love the change from sweltering heat to cool, crisp air from the Blue Ridge.  On Saturday I felt inspired...So inspired that I went to my first Bikram Yoga class in over 5 years.  It helped that I had a Groupon that was going to expire, but I'm really trying to dive back into exercise.  Back in college I practiced Bikram during the summers and when I was training for a half marathon.  I loved the routine, 26 poses in the same order each time, and the feeling of total awesomeness when I finished a class successfully.  Yes, the 105+ degree heat can be overwhelming, but when your entire body is covered in sweat and you're able to bend in ways you never thought possible (like me, touching my toes!!), you don't mind as much.

So, my class on Saturday...I thought I was going to die.  I was hot.  Really, really hot.  I was dizzy and exhausted and not hydrated enough to spend 90 minutes doing yoga.  I called Jeff after class and said, "Please remind me that I'm not in my early twenties and I'm not a college athlete anymore."  

Determined to have a better class than Saturday, I went to class on Sunday.  Amazingly enough, that was the class that brought back all of the memories of how wonderful yoga can be.  I was proud of myself for sticking with it and pushing my body.  Regardless of age or current athletic status, I am extremely blessed with the benefits of having been an athlete for years.  I need to not forgot to be thankful for what I'm still able to accomplish because of all of the hard work I put into myself physically. 

I went to class again on Monday and today, and my body just feels good.  I have more energy.  The backs of my legs don't hurt when I prop my feet up on the ottoman.  I can lay in bed and feel my spine lengthening and actually touching more of the mattress.  And this is from 4 days of Bikram!  

I decided to write my feelings on my blog as a public testimony so I can work on holding myself accountable to continuing my yoga practice and being physically fit.  We're more likely to keep our promises and intentions if we tell someone about them, right?!  Help me stick with it!  :)

I'm doing my next Bikram class at 6:15am tomorrow...And I can't wait!

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Vintage Doily Table Runner

Let me start off by saying that Pinterest is amazing.  You can get ideas for just about anything, organize your ideas into categories and inspiration boards, and you can learn a lot about your Pinterest friends by looking at their pins.  That's how I decided to make this table runner.

Our niece got married at the end of July and she was using Pinterest to get ideas for her wedding decor.  She pinned some really lovely things and a theme I noticed was doilies.  So, being the creative gift-giver I am, I decided to make her something inspired from Pinterest.

First, I had to find crocheted doilies.  I went to about 5 different antique shops looking for doilies...My criteria was that they needed to be a mix of white and tea-stained, stain and damage free, varied in size, and not too expensive.  I ended up with about 20 doilies for between $1.50 - $12 each.

Next, I cleared my dining room table as my staging area to figure out how I wanted to doilies to lay.  I knew I didn't want a straight line, so I attempted to artistically place the doilies to look like a table runner.  Then, with my sewing kit that I got as a gift for college almost 10 years ago, I took some beige or white string and started stitching the doilies together at the edges.

I didn't use any specific stitch or method, I just tried to make the stitches as invisible as possible.  If you noticed by my "sewing kit", sewing isn't something I know a lot about or do very often...I just wanted the doilies to stick together.  Occasionally I used pins to keep the doilies from moving while I was stitching others together.

I was very proud of my novice sewing skills when I was finished.  It actually came out pretty well!

Our niece was thrilled with her gift and I hope she enjoys using it in her new home with her husband.  I'll have to make one of these for myself someday!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Take Five: Painting Tips

When we moved into our house a little over a year ago, I knew we had some painting to do to make it our own.  Little did I know that I would actually enjoy painting our house and I'd start painting other things like cabinets and furniture later on.  Even though I'm no expert, I've learned a lot after painting 11+ rooms in our house.  Here are some tips--

1.  Get this brush.  Really.

I learned about this little guy from this post at Young House Love.  It is the BEST brush for cutting in and painting small spaces (i.e. between a cabinet and wall, inside a cabinet).  It fits comfortably in your hand and it's really easy to control.  I'm the one who does the cutting-in in our house, and with this brush I can freehand it with no tape.  I'm not sure if I have the exact same one as in the YHL post, but I've seen similar brushes at Home Depot and at our local hardware store.  They're pretty easy to find.

2.  Your best friend while painting:  A wet rag.
The paint department manager at our hardware store recommended this trick to us.  I am eternally grateful.  When you're painting, keep a wet rag handy.  Got paint on the crown molding?  Dripped on the floor?  Rolled too close to the baseboard?  All of these common slip-ups can be immediately corrected with the swipe of a wet rag.  The reason our house looks like it was painted by an adult and not a 3 year old was because I constantly wiped up any mistakes before they dried.

3.  Use good quality materials.

Paint:  I love Benjamin Moore's Regal and Aura lines.  The coverage is great and the paint is a good consistency to work with:  not too thick, but not too drippy.  I've tried Olympic, Duron/Sherwin-Williams, and Behr and I just don't think the quality is the same.  I know BM is pricier than other brands, but I think it's worth it.
Supplies:  I use the Wooster Pro-Doo-Z rollers that I buy at our local hardware store.  I also use Frog Tape instead of regular blue painter's tape.  Bottom line, pick products because of how they work instead of how cheap they are.

4.  Don't underestimate the power of sanding!
Sanding roughs up the surface to help the paint stick.  Before we painted our kitchen white, I sanded the red semi-gloss walls with a medium-grit sanding block to scuff it up a bit.  I sanded down the textured bathroom walls before painting them.  Electric sanders are also super helpful when you're refinishing or painting wood furniture.  You don't need to sand regular walls that you're just repainting, but keep sanding in mind when you're working with more-stubborn-than-normal surface.

5.  If it makes you smile, go for it!
Painting a small room or closet a fun color can brighten the space and your spirits!  I painted the laundry room/garage door entry BM's Kalamata and I absolutely love it.  It's my little space of happy off the kitchen.  My friend Mandy painted her laundry nook bright green and it's so bright and cheery when she opens the doors.  A favorite memory of my sister-in-law is when her mom allowed her to paint her closet doors hot pink because it made her so happy.  It's really amazing what a pop of color can do!

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Tip Junkie handmade projects

Monday, July 25, 2011

What I did this weekend...

Isn't it beautiful?  Don't ask me how long it took to make that.  I've found a new favorite toy...Photoshop Elements.  I now have a new place to exercise my love of fonts.  Score!

I literally spent most of the weekend playing on the computer.  It was fun making my brain do work to figure things out.  When my brain was in meltdown mode, I went to Jeff.  He's so handy.  And he knows computer stuff like it's his job...because it is his job.  Ha ha.  

I think it's time for bed.  :)

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