How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

There was a period of time during my junior year of college when I felt God calling me to be a nun. Nevermind the fact that I’m not Catholic, nor had I ever stepped foot inside a Catholic church; this was my destiny and I would have to accept it. I researched, I asked questions (of Catholics, who usually laughed at me), and I prepared my heart to be single for the remainder of my earthly life, dedicated in word, deed, and action to my God. I was all in.

My calling obviously disappeared and is probably floating somewhere in the dark abyss above the Oklahoma skies. But I say all that to say this: There have been few times in my life when I’ve truly had a heart of submission. It’s not exciting stuff- I’ve never done anything illegal or life threatening, but most can probably relate. I dated boys in high school despite (and partially because of) the fact that my parents didn’t want me to. I’ve lied to my friends under pressure, cheated on exams, and put myself above others way more often than not, even when it hurts them. And I’ve ignored the innermost promptings of the Lord over so many little things, I’ve lost track.

You should help that old lady take her groceries to her car.

She’s doing fine. She probably likes doing things herself, anyway. Elderly people are always so stubborn.

Talk to your neighbor. You never say anything besides hello.

They’ll probably think I’m strange and why do I need to talk to them? We probably have nothing in common.

Call your grandma.

I’ll call her tomorrow.

And if I can’t even submit to the God of the universe, how will I ever submit to my husband, an imperfect and sinful human being?

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

{Insert doubt, jealousy, selfishness, need for control, lack of patience, arrogance, and greed.}

Most days my heart renders me completely incapable of surrendering to anything except my own interests and desires.

I really wanted to be more of the Sister Maria type of nun anyway. It would have ended badly.

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‘Tis a Gift to be Simple

Let me start by saying that we don’t have kids. So to those of you who do, I’m going to be that annoying kidless lady who has ideals about raising children that won’t ever get put into action because they’re not realistic. I realize that, and I’ll own it. But in this age of technological advances and Baby Einstein videos and expensive toys to teach your kids how to play, I really feel compelled to simplify. We played with pots and pans and dirt. We didn’t wear designer baby shoes and we still learned how to walk.

A married couple we know recently found out they’re having a baby. And this is what we sent them:

She loved the gift so much that it inspired her to write this post (watch out, she’s pregnant) about creativity and simplicity and adventure. At one point she says this:

It just takes a big cardboard box to build a princess a proper castle. A pillow case can turn any ordinary boy into a life-saving, high-flying, superhero. Daddies are so brave and strong they can hunt down and ward off any monster that lurks under the bed or in the closet. Curious George, Ferdinand the Bull, The Cat in the Hat, and The Three Little Pigs all have fame and heart and lessons that will stand the test of time. Mommies give the warmest, snuggliest hugs ever invented. And, an empty wrapping paper roll can quickly become a telescope that helps turn an ordinary night sky into a stargazer’s paradise.

Simplicity isn’t just for babies. Maybe it’s time we buy ourselves some alphabet blocks.

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A Pioneer Woman, A Church Lady, and a Blackberry Cobbler

My mom taught me one very important thing growing up. Okay she taught me more than one, but here’s one of them: Church potlucks are great places to take a new dish. If it disappears, you know it’s good and you can make it again with confidence. If nobody likes it and the church ladies start whispering about who brought it, you can always pretend it wasn’t yours, join in on the whispering, and sneak your pan from the kitchen later in the week. Small parties make it more difficult to pull off, but we risked it with two brand new recipes this weekend, both from the Pioneer Woman Cookbook. Luckily, they were a hit. So we share. The recipes, not the food. It’s all gone.

Katie’s Roasted Corn Salad
This is a wonderful summer salsa and can be eaten on top of grilled chicken or with tortilla chips.

8 fresh corn ears
Olive oil
1 red onion, quartered
2 yellow squash, halved lengthwise
1 red bell pepper
2 medium tomatoes


Drizzle all veggies with olive oil and grill. Since we don’t have a grill, we used our oven at 450 for about 15 minutes.


Let the veggies cool out of the oven and then roughly chop with a sharp knife. Scrape kernels from ears of corn.


After chopping, mix all veggies together and drizzle with dressing you’ll make with the instructions below.

Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
12 basil leaves (we just used dried basil from our spice collection. We’re cheaters.)
1 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, chipped

Whisk olive oil and vinegar together. Then add everything else and whisk again. Pour over veggie mix and stir. Done!

Patsy’s Blackberry Cobbler
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
1&1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
2 cups fresh fruit (We used blackberries, but you could also use peaches, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 3 qt baking dish with butter. (I improvised with two square pyrex dishes, a 3c & 6c)
In your microwave, melt a stick of butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup of the sugar with flour & milk. Whisk in butter.


Rinse blackberries and pat dry.


Pour the batter into the baking dish. Sprinkle blackberries evenly into batter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over the blackberries. Bake for 1 hour.


With ten minutes left in baking, sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over the top. Serve with ice cream. Mm.

The results are good, but the aftermath is better:

Enjoy!

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Follow-through

Remember this post from a few weeks ago? Well I didn’t, but Kyle did.

The great thing about blogging every single day- rain, shine, or sleepiness- is that you can make a pretty legit looking blog. Forget what it says, I’m just impressed that it doesn’t look like one of the bazillion that has been abandoned somewhere in the world wide web. I currently have two. The difficult thing is remembering the things you do write about and actually putting them into action. It’s like going to church on Sunday. I can usually do a pretty good job of implementing the week’s sermon until about 7pm on Sunday night. And Monday will see my heart turn on a dime.

A friend from college recently messaged me and said the following words: “I have been reading your blog, and have decided that your husband is probably fake. Men like that don’t exist. So I’m requesting that you put some stuff on there to show the real side of him–what he smells like in the morning, etc. Thanks.” So here goes.

He doesn’t smell good in the morning.

He never shuts his closet door, and his shoes are everywhere. It’s like he wears three pairs at once and hides them strategically for me to find. And put back in the closet. And close the door.

He spills coffee on the counter every morning and doesn’t wipe it up.

He’s really attached to his couch, which sags in the middle and smells like college boys. I try to decorate it with lots of pillows but they just get thrown on the floor.

He gets out of the shower before drying off, so there’s always water on the floor, and he sets his alarm for 4:45am, but snoozes until 5:30, which means lots of awake time for me.

He’s not perfect, but neither am I. We both struggle. But we’re both realizing that life isn’t worth much when it’s lived hiding behind good intentions. Kyle wrote me a letter as a congrats for making it two whole months being married to him (and actually mentioned his own smelliness in the letter. See- not fake at all). And in leading by action, it holds me accountable to everything I’ve had intentions of doing.

How will you follow through on one thing today?

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Snug as a Bug

I feel a little guilty for letting everyone believe, from this post, that I made a rug in one day. The truth is, I made what looked like a rug in one day. Really I just chopped up fabric, made it into giant ropes, and swirled it into something that sort of resembled a rug. The hard part was yet to come.

People used to make these rugs from leftover rags, shirts, whatever they could find. I used actual fabric from JoAnn’s, and I made mine using this nice instructional video. It’s not perfect, but I love it. The difficult and dangerous part was stitching the braids together. I used an embroidery needle, and there were several times throughout the process that I wished I would have been wearing ten thimbles and sometimes full body armor. But the result was more than worth it:


I ended up using about 9 yards of fabric and 4 sets of embroidery thread. Putting it together took more time than I care to admit, but let’s just say it included at least 6 episodes of This American Life, one documentary, and 2 romantic comedies. And that’s how an accidental housewife measures time.


It looks amazing in our little bathroom, and there’s something really beautiful about being able to feel creativity under your feet. It just doesn’t get any better.

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3 Dilemmas and Two Babies

All parts of our weekend. Enjoy.

1. Drive-in movie. Biggest dilemma: to buy food and drink there or to sneak it in. We debated for a long time and decided to purchase on site. Not because the bible says to obey the law, but because we always tout phrases like, “Support your local businesses.” We don’t picket or anything, but we say it. At least to each other. Inception= good. Salt= better. I was cheering for Angelina when I thought she was a Russian spy, which made me feel less than patriotic and made me care a little less about the welfare of our local mom and pop drive-in. We still bought a Sprite.

2. We posted pics of the flea market trip, but what we didn’t share was the delicious glory we encountered on the south end. Fruit. Lots of it, and really cheap. You know those cartons of strawberries you buy from the store that cost about $2.50 right now? Well we found those for $1 each. And blueberries. And blackberries. Except that they weren’t local, and we’re not sure how they got them so cheap, but pretty sure they might have knocked over a fruit truck on their way to set up shop. We didn’t ask many questions, and we probably have blood fruit on our hands. But they’re oh so tasty. Not like blood at all.

3. If you could somehow find a way to scam a game show and take home hundreds of thousands of dollars, would you? Is it cheating? Check out this story about Michael Larson and imagine the debate we had after listening. Click here, stream episode, and start about 38 minutes in.

Also, Molly Piper had her twins yesterday. We don’t know her and never will, but we love her blog and her babies.

Happy Monday.

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To Be a Housewife

NOTE: This post does not apply to stay-at-home moms. We salute you.

So I don’t have a job.

My husband moved to Dallas 2 months before we got married, and I was told I could either come with him after the wedding or give the ring back. So I quit my job, packed all my things, and opened them again in this tiny home. And home has a much different meaning when you never leave.

For any of you who have ever been accidental (or on purpose) housewives, I think you’ll relate to this. (Unless you live in Orange County and live your life on a reality tv show with people to do your laundry and run your errands.) There’s a minor glitch in the time-space continuum that settles over the homes of unsuspecting housewives, stealing their ability to be productive in any fashion. More time equals less productivity. Your husband sets out into the workplace, leaving his home and a few instructions confidently in your hands. And yet you find yourself coming up with 8 other things to do during the day, watching the clock for 5:45, at which time you’ll hurriedly toss your lunch dishes in the sink, turn off Gilmore Girls, throw on some jeans, and apply just enough makeup to make it look like you’ve actually needed it for some outing that day. My only hope for burying the sense of shame is to make it sound like EVERYTHING was a big deal. See below.

Kyle: What did you do today?

Me: Well, I went to the post office to mail those letters and there was a HUGE line, so that took forever…. And then I cleaned out the fridge (threw away a rotten tomato) and so that took up some time. Oh, and I found this really cute pillow from Target that I want to get with our gift card, but I found it online and I don’t think they have it in the store, but it took me so long to figure that out… Technology. Sheesh.

Kyle: Hm. (This is where I know that he’s caught on, even though he doesn’t say anything.)

Me: And tomorrow I’m going to plan our menu for the week. (If I say it confidently enough, he’ll think it’s going to take me all day.)

And in the midst of it, I know he can read right through me. I know what I’m saying sounds completely ridiculous, and yet it’s my only hope to avoid what I now refer to as “Wife Guilt.”

I had 3 things to do today. 1. Apply for two jobs. 2. Write a blog post. 3. Keep the house clean.

And I sit here watching the clock turn 5:37, knowing that my time has come to an end. The sink is full of dishes, the kitchen table is covered with sewing notions, and I haven’t completed an application. Things I have done: Made a shirt, made a rug, and written a blog post. But this post took a really long time to write…

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The Only Time I Love Fleas

I really planned to wait until the end of the week to blog about this, but I can’t stop thinking about it. So here’s what you get: First Mondays Canton, Texas. A once-a-month giant flea market that we’ll be visiting this Saturday. I’d tell you that I’m dragging Kyle along for the sake of his pride, but it honestly didn’t take much coercing.

About 40 miles east of where we now live, there’s a quasi-magical land of old things. 28 miles of walkways wind through buildings and tents filled with possibility. There are new things of course, but I pass them by and brush the dirt off the old things, dreaming of ways to give them a new identity. And my apartment, one piece at a time, will become a home. I took a girls trip to Canton right before we got married, and my gorgeous friend Shari (also our wedding photographer) captured these great shots. As they say, one man’s trash is something Jen will take home with her. Something like that.

Freebie Labels

I’ve really become obsessed with labels. Especially since I’ve been thinking about organizing our tiny food cabinet and creating a make-shift spice rack. While I love labels, I don’t love the thought of paying for them. I’ve done some research and bring you these fabulous free graphics (also attached to some fabulous blogs) in time to start a new weekend project. Your husband can thank me later. Start printing and start labeling. Jars, books, children. So many options.

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6. And for fun, some printable notecards for all of your pen pals:

Enjoy!