April 15, 2014

30 Days: Day 15 - growing and learning


This time of year, I start to get a little obsessed over plants and flowers.  It's the spring weather and warm sunshine I'm sure. Also, the whole thought process of new life at Easter.  I just love it.

I'm learning each year what works in the tiny Cottage flower bed and what doesn't.  Yes, I've killed lots of plants.   But that's part of the process.  I've learned that our shade to sun ratio has changed in recent years.  I've learned that most of our wild animals (rabbit, deer, squirrels, fox, ducks, geese) will consume just about any type of flower that I want to plant (yes, even marigolds and petunias), so don't get too attached to those colorful blooms.  I've learned that peppermint LOVES our soil and is taking over at a rapid rate.  I've learned that I can grow jalapenos in large pots, but the rabbits (deer? squirrels?) will eat them even though they are spicy/hot.  

I wish so much that I could have a garden to grow my own veggies for the year, but alas, that is a fool's errand between the 4 legged creatures that roam my yard and the 2 legged creatures (200 campers every week) that would trample or eat them.  I'll have to stick to herbs and flowers.  And for now, that quite enough to make me happy.

Weeding has become very therapeutic for me.  Very stress relieving.  So very kind of God to send me lots of weeds to take care of when my life is incredibly stressful.  And what a beautiful picture of how I need to take care of those problems, trials and sins in my own walk with Christ.  We talk a lot, God and me, when I weed.  I day dream.  I listen to podcasts.  I escape.

This year, I'm excited to be able to use my peppermint in better ways now that it is established and ready for harvesting.  I'm excited to try growing some lavender in pots.  I'm excited to fill my porch with a few geraniums and a few other small pots that the animals can't touch.  I'm excited to watch them bloom and grow and follow the sun.

Spring is here!


April 14, 2014

30 Days: Day 14 - Worship




We sang this song at church yesterday, and I couldn't stop the tears from flowing.  Easter is my favorite holiday/time of year.  I love the focus on Jesus and how He redeemed us.  Our church's previous youth pastor used to say "you are worth Jesus to God".   I am worth God's most precious valuable.  His Son.   How incredible is that?! 

April 13, 2014

30 Days: Day 13 - Thirty-seven



37 highlights from my 36th year (not in any order)

  1. Meeting Zachary Levi and seeing him perform in First Date (front row!) with S
  2. Seeing Wind from the Sea by Andrew Wyeth at the National Art Gallery with my dear friend M
  3. Read My Lips from David's Tea
  4. Mint Julep from David's Tea
  5. The Good Wife
  6. The Vampire Diaires
  7. The Originals
  8. The Walking Dead
  9. Parks and Rec
  10. Downton Abbey
  11. The beach and tree line at Kiahuna Plantation in Kauai
  12. Volcanoes National Park
  13. Sea Glass Beach on The Big Island
  14. The Banzai Pipeline off of Ehukai Beach Park in the North Shore on Oahu
  15. Na Pali Coastline on Kauai
  16. Riding in the car with the windows down while the Hawaiian countryside zooms by
  17. Bodie and all its stories
  18. Big Sur at sunset
  19. The Redwoods and Giant Sequoias 
  20. That giant cinnamon roll The Bro and I shared at a bakery at Pacific Grove, CA
  21. The magical Pacific Coast Highway
  22. This spot in Julie Pfeiffer Burns State Park
  23. Base Camp Hotel in South Lake Tahoe
  24. Seeing Mike Cahill's new movie with a Steven Yeun bonus at Sundance
  25. Seeing Zach Braff and cast at the world premiere of his new movie (even if it wasn't very good)
  26. Meeting this miracle girl
  27. Sunsets at camp
  28. Lots of good books like Steve Jobs, The Divergent trilogy and Unbroken
  29. Worship at church every Sunday
  30. Time with family
  31. Knowing that our campers see Jesus when they are at camp
  32. My first sprint-triathlon
  33. Time with my 2 of my dearest girls
  34. Laughing until my sides ache and I can't breathe with my camp friends who are my family
  35. Great movie theater experiences like Catching Fire, Thor 2, Gravity and Iron Man 3
  36. Discovering the magic of essential oils
  37. Kickstarting and getting to see the Veronica Mars movie

Ready to start year 37.  Adventure awaits!


April 12, 2014

30 Days: Day 12 - Crowd funding and my money

(screen shot from that time my roomie and I watched the counter turn to $2M in less than 12 hours)

Can we talk crowd funding for a minute?

Has anyone else jumped on the band wagon?

I have backed quite a few projects and most have met their goals.

My #1 favorite was the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter.  The moment I heard about it I threw some money into the pot and watched as the magic happened.  The goal was reached in less than 12 hours.  My roommate and I were glued to that Kickstarter counter all day watching it skyrocket and then turn the magic 2 million.
Backers were treated with fun rewards (t-shirts, stickers, shooting script) as well as exclusive content and the inside scoop while the movie was cast, filmed, edited and then distributed and shown to the world.  Lots of cast videos and photos.  We got a download of the movie on the day it was released in theaters.  It was all kinds of fun.

The moment of truth was, of course, the movie itself.  It was fantastic.  Quite sure I'm looking at it with V-Mars loving glasses, but as a fan it did not disappoint.  I've watched it more times than I would like to admit....cough...cough.  And I'm still getting updates and emails even thought the movie has already been finished and released.

I love the part of feeling like I can choose what I want to see.  I got in a discussion with someone about how they didn't think it was fair asking people for money for movies because most of the time they get studio funding.  Or it is wrong for famous actors who have a large bank fund to ask others for money to  get their passion project made . Those crowd funders didn't get a producer credit or any compensation for their investment.

I disagree.  I wanted a Veronica Mars movie for years.  I was presented with a chance to make it happen costing me only a few dollars out of my pocket.  I would have spent money to see it in theaters and buy it, so why not put that money up front and make sure it gets made.  I don't care about getting credit for it.  I cared more about making sure it actually got made.  So, sure, I'll send over $35 to back a project I want to see.  It's my money.  My money talks louder when I back something before it gets made than the $12 I give the theater to sit and watch the finished project.  You better believe that all of Hollywood took notice of the V-Mars project.  I'm sure they were intimidated too.

Remember, your money has a voice that can almost be louder than your actual words.  Where you choose to spend it says quite a bit about you.  This is something I have learned (and am still learning) the only way I can, by giving.  I still have a long way to go.  But I never want to be one of those people who says, "I'll give more when I have more."  Nope.  If I'm not giving now towards the things I am passionate about then I certainly won't later.  Even more than movies or books or passion projects, this rings true for all the orphans I sponsor and the organizations that do good things across the world and my own church.  My money speaks loudly.  Even if it does seem like a measly amount compared to what other give.



April 11, 2014

30 Days: Day 11 - Packing


I have to share one of my new favorite traveling companions.
These little guys are a traveler's dream.
I discovered them on Pinterest via this blog post.

Packing cubes are the the absolute best thing that has happened to traveling since the rolling suitcase.  So simple.  Just roll your clothes; line them up in the cube; zip and stash the cube in your suitcase.  I flew 5 times, stayed in 5 different hotels and did it all with only carry-ons on my two week trip to Hawaii. Normally, that much packing and repacking would make me a stressed mess.  With the packing cube, you just pull out what you need and everything else stays in it's proper place in the suitcase.

Genius.

I think I will buy at least one more set so when I have to go somewhere with a colder climate, I'll have a bit more room.  But with one set, I was easily able to pack for 2 weeks (doing laundry once, half way through) and still had room to spare.

I snapped a quick photo while I was in the middle of unpacking because that's what bloggers do.  We take photos of everything.


The packing cubes fit right inside and everything else filled in the corners and crevices left over.  Easy peasy.  I carried the smallest cube in my back pack for easy removal of liquid items at airport security.  Everything else, was in the suitcase (carry-on size) with room to spare.

Packing cubes.
If you are a traveler, they will be your best friend.




April 10, 2014

30 Days: Day 10 - Tunes



I don't really know anything about music.
I have no idea what's popular now-a-days and most of the time I don't like it when I hear it.

So with that in mind, here's what I'm currently listening to on repeat.
Feel free to judge my choices.
I know how ridiculous my music tastes are.

1.  The Brilliance.  Just discovered them this year.  I love their mix of classical style music with beautiful words about Jesus. Your Love Remains is my favorite favorite.

2. Black Sails Soundtrack by Bear McCreary. This is the last album I bought.  I've never seen the show, but it's my favorite composer doing some of his best work since Battlestar except for the outstanding The Walking Dead soundtrack, but that has never been released.

3. Saving Mr. Banks Soundtrack by Thomas Newman.  I loved the movie and I know that is partially because of this beautifully moving soundtrack.  This composer did another favorite soundtrack of mine.  Saving Mr. Banks' tone is very similar.  Happy, cheery with a hint of emotion.  It's practically perfect in every way.

4.  Hunger Games: Catching Fire Soundtrack by James Newton Howard. This composer has created some incredibly beautiful pieces of music over the years.  The Village has one of my top favorite pieces of all time.  But this new soundtrack...oh, my.  It captures the tone of the story perfectly.  Haunting.  Troubling.  Intimate.  Hopeful.  I Need You is a perfect example.  Those violins get me every time.

5.  Second Chances by Gregory Alan Isakov.  This track was introduced to me through my Veronica Mars Kickstarter backer inside info.  It was used in the movie during one of the best scenes in the movie.  I heard it for the first time months ago and loved it, but now, it always reminds me of a sweet LoVe moment.  Suitcase Full of Sparks is another great one on The Weatherman album too.

6.  Birdy.  Her voice.  Good gracious.  Found her via a TV show.  I find lots of good music from the shows I watch.  I especially like Wings and Without a Word. Her covers of Terrible Love and Skinny Love are fantastic too.


Review:
I'm a soundtrack nerd.
I love composers who use lots of strings (violin especially).

My Spotify playlist for fellow soundtrack nerds.
And one for all those songs I hear on TV that are just so good.


April 09, 2014

30 Days: Day 9 - green


We (mother, father, brother, me) arrived at our tiny cabin in the woods after dark.  We were just across the street from a live active volcano.  After we had checked into the cabin, we thew our stuff inside and went over to the volcano to stare at its red, rumbling mouth because it's much more impressive at night.  That red glow.

We settled into the cabin which didn't have outlets or a restroom but did have the most delightful cushy down comforters.  It was drizzly and rainy outside which was terribly disappointing because we only had 2 nights here and both were overcast.  The last time I was in this area, I went to look at the stars and saw the most spectacular display of shooting stars and the Milky Way.  Star gazing here was one this I was really, really looking forward to (nerd).  Alas, it didn't happen.

But when I woke up in the morning, this was the scene before me as I walked to the bathhouse.  That green.  That green was the most perfect of perfect greens ever.  And those trees (eucalyptus, I believe)...we don't have trees like that on the East Coast of the mainland.  

This photo makes me happy sigh.  I can remember the peace and quiet there.  The smell of eucalyptus.  The birds chirping.  How I dropped one of my blue glass bottles in the bathroom and it shattered all over the concrete bathroom and the whole bathroom smelled like my apple cider vinegar face tonic.
Wait...what?!

Ah, memories.

April 08, 2014

30 Days: Day 8 - Chocolate



I don't love shave ice all that much.
However this one came with sweetened condensed milk on the top.
Whaaaat?!
It was delicious.
Bonus: it was eaten whilst on the North Shore.

I'm a chocolate person.
I don't understand desserts that don't have chocolate.
Why do they exist?
They are like a cruel joke.

xoxo,

Chocoholic





April 07, 2014

30 Days: Day 7 - Seeing


It was so surreal to stand on the beach (Waimea Bay Beach) where one of my favorite photographers frequently shoots. We arrived just after the sun had disappeared over the horizon because we had been watching it set at another beach just up the road.
...just up the road.  Hawaii is a magical land of beaches galore.  And as crazy and traffic ridden as Oahu is, I just love the North Shore.  I could go to Oahu and never go to Waikiki or Honolulu (except to fly in, of course) and just spend every day watching the surfers on the big waves.  Those deep sandy beaches of perfection.




As soon as I saw that clock tower, I kinda geeked out and looked around at this place that I had only seen on tiny squares on my phone for years.  I just stood there.  I stopped shooting photos mostly because it had gotten too dark for my iPhone camera.  But also, I just stood there because I wanted to see it.

When I go to a beautiful place, or I stand in front of something that thrills me like a piece of art or a perfect bloom on a tree, I am guilty of trying to freeze it/stop time around it.  I don't simply stand before it and enjoy it.  Partially because I want to have a record of it to enjoy for years to come, which isn't wrong.  Also because I'm afraid I'll forget it.  I have a terrible memory.

But, I've noticed my obsession to record and save and not enjoy in the moment.  It's something I'm working on changing.  Putting down my camera.  Stopping.  Breathing in deeply.  Staring and drinking it in.  Living in the moment.  Smelling the salt in the air.  Watching the colors change in the sky with my own eyes and not through a view finder.  Feeling the sand on my feet.  Hearing the giant waves roll.

Now, when I look at this photo, I can see, feel and smell that spot.  I remember living it and not just recording it.  And that's what taking a photo is really all about anyway, isn't it?  A small moment frozen in time to guide our memory back to everything that it entailed.

Anyway, this beach was beautiful, even in the (almost) dark.  And if you want a daily ocean fix, follow CL on Instagram.  His photos are stunning.

April 06, 2014

30 Days: Day 6 - Gentlemen and Ladies

(My favorite display at the National Botanic Gardens.  Every year, I hunt it down (it changes locations) and drink it in (the inside collection constantly changes on every visit .)

Getting on my soapbox for a moment....


What has happened to all the gentleman?
The men who hold doors for ladies and offer to help if they are carrying something heavy?
The men who are polite and kind to a lady and offer their seat?


I was again reminded of this realization when I was in Utah in January.  I'm not sure if it was so noticeable because I am normally surrounded by men who do these gentlemanly things so well?  Maybe.  But it was noticeable.  A guy visibly watching me struggle with my suitcase and not saying anything or offering help in the slightest way.  I was almost taken aback.


The guys I'm surrounded by (married or un-married) will hold the door open for me without even thinking about it.  They will grab my suitcase or bag or whatever heavy thing I'm holding out of my hand without even second thinking it (or at least ask if they can carry it).  They will be kind and generous, not in a creepy way (that some guys use as a ploy to talk to you as soon as they see you don't have a wedding ring.  really?!) but in a way that just pays tribute to you as a person.  They aren't saying I'm not able to do it on my own.  They're just being nice.

Seriously, guys, be gentleman.

There may be those one or two women who get all women's lib and get offended that you even suggested that she is weaker than you are.  But those aren't the norm.  We women would like to be treated with kindness and compassion.  We value your acknowledgement of us in that way.  We appreciate the fact that you are willing to carry our groceries just for the mere fact that you would like to help.

I will admit that sometimes I am guilty of being prideful for no other reason than "I can do it myself, thank you very much".  But that is my own fault.  And, as a guy friend of mine said to me as I was thanking him for being one of those kind gentleman, it is just as much my fault when I say no as when it isn't offered.  "We're just trying to be kind" he reminded me.  "Let us do this for you and don't take offense."  Aren't you glad for friends who talk to you honestly and let you see (in a kind way) when you are being a jerk?  I sure am.

So ladies, let's allow men to be gentleman, shall we?  And men, please, be gentleman and not for any other reason than just being a gentleman.  We notice.  We do.  And thank you on behalf of all those women that you kindly treat with respect.

April 05, 2014

30 Days: Day 5 - iphone o'graphy



I rarely ever take photos with an actual camera any more.
It's sad.
I have a nice (although old) DSLR sitting in my closet that only gets pulled out for special occasions like vacations or family functions.  And by family functions I mean my sister saying "bring your camera  when you come visit and take some pictures of my kids".  I had to have my brother remind me how to use it when we went to CA last fall.  I couldn't remember how to do simple things like change aperture in manual mode.  Gracious!



My go-to camera has become my iPhone.  Truth be told, 95% of the reason I wanted an iPhone and coveted it for years was for the camera.  It did not disappoint. The minute I turned that baby on, it became a constant photo snapping machine.  Right at this moment, I have 3,393 photos in my camera roll.  It's a bit ridiculous.



The main things I love about my iPhone camera is that I can take the photo, edit it with my favorite photo editing app, upload and share it all within a few minutes.  Done and done.  And the results are so amazing to me.  Such a beautiful photo from a tiny camera on the back of my phone.



Here are my 3 super simple essentials/favorites for iPhone photography:

1.  VSCOcam.  I think it is, hands down, the best photo editing app out there. The filters are understated (in the best way) and light.  It turns a good photo into a magical one.  Easy to use.  Fun.  It can be customized to your specifications and needs. Pushes my photography to new places.  I can't say enough how much I love this app.  I have tried a lot of others and many of them are good, but this one is the one that I always go back to.  No fuss. No silly things I never use like light leaks or film grains.  Just simple filters that make my photos look like they do in my head when I hit the shutter.

Cost: Free (with in app purchases available) I purchased the Launch bundle when it was on debut sale a year ago.  If you aren't interested in spending $6, I personally love the F: Mellow/Fade collection, the K: Analog Classic collection and the Legacy Collection (which has been offered through VSCOcam since the very beginning).  These are my go-to filters for those of you that follow my photos on Instagram.   Ninety-seven percent of my Hawaii photos were done with K and F.

2.  Square Ready. It's my favorite way to send my rectangle photos to Instagram with that white border on the top and bottom.  I like how easy it is and how it uploads directly to Instagram.  Cost: Free

3.  Instagram.  It's my favorite, most addictive social networking site.  I really don't like Facebook.  Twitter is fun for following others.  But Instagram is my addiction.  I'm a photo girl and always have been.  This is how I share tidbits of my life, through pictures.
Not to mention that once you upload to Instagram, you can now access dozens of great apps and sites that will print out those photos and turn them into fun things like magnets or prints or books or postcards (all of which I have done through the companies in the links).

Honorable mention:  Flickr.  I've had a Flickr pro-account for years, but have only recently begun to use it for my back-up photo storage.  The latest app update has auto-upload which means that all my newest photos will automatically upload to my Flickr account if I just open the app.  It's like a mental sigh of relief.  If I lose my phone, I won't lose all my photos.  Cost: $24/year for a pro-account.  However, free accounts now have 1T of storage!  Definitely worth it if you need another place to back up all those memories.

April 04, 2014

30 days: Day 4 - rambling daydreamer


I'm a daydreamer.
A story teller.
A people watcher.

Stories are constantly floating around in my head.
They swirl about when I travel, especially.
Airports...airports are the best for daydreamers.
There are an abundance of blank canvases walking around before me just begging for me to come up with their stories.

When I was in Hawaii, I was constantly thinking about a story I have been in the process of writing (for myself) over the last few years.  The setting is Hawaii.  I was always looking around for all of those places that I had created in my head.  It was the weirdest thing to feel like something you imagined might actually be around the next corner.  Or at least something that could represent what your imagination had created.  A house.  A shop.  A road.  It felt so real there.

Some places seem to lend themselves to daydreams.  Paris was like that for me.  So was the California coast.  And Seattle.  And Annapolis.  And Hawaii, of course.  If only I could spend my days hopping from place to place, writing, writing, writing.  Taking the time to let the stories out that flit through my brain.

A traveling writer.
That sounds pretty perfect, don't you think?

Music note:  Have you heard the song Daydream by Jillian Edwards?  It's been on repeat for me lately.

April 03, 2014

30 Days: Day 3 - Home remedies for colds



Within the span of about 40 days this winter, I got 3 colds.  Three.  The first was kindly given to me by the lady sitting across the isle from me on my plane ride back from Salt Lake City.  She sounded like she had the black lung and I just knew I was going to catch whatever she had.  Low and behold, one day home and I woke up with a sore throat.

Like anyone that gets sick, I didn't have time to actually BE sick.  I was working like crazy and had to be in the camp kitchen making and serving food.  Not the place for germs or runny noses.

I decided that I was going to put into practice some of the research I had done on essential oils (which I had on hand and had been starting to use) and apple cider vinegar.  Things that were in my panty turned out to cure my sickness quicker and more effectively than any cold medicine I have ever used.

That first cold was the worst because I didn't stop it when the symptoms first started.  Doing something at the first sign (sore throat, sniffly nose, achy) is the key.  You can knock out the yucky stuff before it has a chance to latch on to you and lay you out flat.

Here's what I did...

1.  Mix 2 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar (Raw-unfiltered with "the mother" is the key), 1 teaspoon of honey (raw is recommended, but I used what I had on hand) and the lemon juice of one slice of lemon (about 1 Tablespoon or use the bottled stuff if that's all you have in the fridge and you can't get to the grocery store because the snow had trapped you at home.  Lemon slices work the best though.).  I put it all in a shot glass, mixed it together and knocked it back.  I like the taste of ACV and take a spoonful of it all by itself quite often, so the taste doesn't bother me.  You can adjust the amount honey and lemon if ACV makes you gag.
This mixture is magic.  I'm telling you, it works like Advil Cold and Sinus for me.  Got rid of sore throats.  Gave me energy when I was feeling achy.  I could feel it start to wear off and knew when it was time for more.  I took a shot in the morning when I woke up, at lunch and before bed.  It swear it knocked out colds before they became anything more than an itchy throat and slightly stuffy nose.  After 3 days of mild symptoms,  I was feeling back to normal.

2.  Immune Support (or Thieves or whatever brand you chose) mixed with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut.  I would put it on the bottoms of my feet three times a day.  It smelled so good and also seemed to help with nipping the symptoms in the bud before they got any worse.

3. Eucalyptus EO mixed with jojoba oil on my chest.  It calmed the cough that seemed to linger with the first cold.  Plus, it helped me breathe when my nose got super stuffy.  I would add a bit of peppermint EO or lavender to help me sleep at night when breathing was hard because of congestion.


I've always been very sensitive to cold medicines and their wacky side effects.  When I finally got this whole new system down by the third cold (seriously though, three colds in 40 days?!) I was so thankful for a natural, healthy way to cure my sickness without feeling like a zombie.  Not to mention, the colds didn't really turn into "colds" and they were over so much faster.

Have you ever tried any home remedies for colds?

(Remember, I work at a camp and am not a doctor.  Just telling you what worked for me.)



April 02, 2014

Day 2: Read




I love a good story.  
Don't you?
Here are some of the good ones that I've enjoyed so far this year.  

1.  Unfamiliar Fishes (forgive the long story to follow)

I was thrift store hunting about two weeks before I left on my Hawaiian adventure.  And low and behold I happened upon a Sarah Vowell book (highly unusual).  I greatly enjoy her on This American Life and have had Assassination Vacation on my "to-read" list for a while now.   I snatched it up before I even read what it was about.

This little book turned out to be the most perfect of perfect books to read before one travels to the Hawaiian islands.  It is about the history of the islands focusing on their Americanization.  It is beyond fantastic.  Who would have thought that a history book could be so fascinating?  The writing is superb. I couldn't put it down and read it in just a few days.

I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good book, but especially to anyone traveling to Hawaii on vacation.  It definitely gave me a deeper knowledge of where I was going. The facts were portrayed in a such a way that they just stuck in my brain.  Captain Cook's death was now more than just a beach one that one can visit and see a statue.  I couldn't stop picturing the missionaries who came to bring God to the heathens.  I was constantly thinking about whalers that forever changed the face of the islands when they stopped over in the 1800's.

I almost wished I could have visited the Hawaii of old.  Imagine how it must have looked before all of us tourists basically ate it.  No hotels crowding the picturesque beaches and mountains.  No fast food restaurants or multitude of rental cars.  But then again, I wouldn't have gotten to go.  And everyone should be able to see how magical those islands really are.

Such a conundrum.


2. I'm greatly enjoying Where'd You Go Bernadette at the moment.  Original and fun and has my favorite book cover art in years.  It is witty and clever.  And I almost want a movie made of it so I can see the Twenty Mile house that Bernadette builds.  In my imagination, it is a modern piece of magic.

I've also enjoyed:

3. Eleventh Plague  I liked the whole idea.  It was different and yet similar to every other dystopian story at the same time.  It had a quick pace.  My only quip was that I wanted more character development.

4. Allegiant This one got trashed by so many people but I actually really liked it.  It wrapped up the series nicely and pulled the heart strings.  It wasn't perfect, but it also was no where near the mess that Mockingjay was.  (side note:  hated the Divergent movie.  So bad!)


Your turn.
What has had you up late at night turning pages?

April 01, 2014

30 days: Day 1 Just Because



Sometimes all it takes is a trip to Hawaii to knock everything back into place.  Am I right?!

A trip to Hawaii and...wait for it...internet at the cottage.
It seriously feels like Christmas morning every day when I get on my computer and connect (cue angels singing) to the www.
It's glorious.
And a little sad that it makes me so happy.

Rambling aside, I am making it a personal goal to post more.
It's a new month.
(My favorite month of the year, no less.)
Why not throw a challenge out there like posting every day for 30 days.
Why not?

I have a trip to document.
I have CA road trip posts to finish up.
I have serious TV to talk about (um...The Good Wife?!!!).
And I really want to write more.
I need the practice.

So here we go Cottage Girl blog.
Spur of the moment, I just decided to spend 30 days filling you up with lots of new fun things.
Do some stretches.
We're doing this.


February 17, 2014

Messy



The past month and a half has been overwhelmingly challenging for me.  It has been one bad thing after another.  I hinted it at it a bit in a previous post.  (February has not been any better, unfortunately) And while I won't go into details here (some things just need to stay private), I've realized once again that it is the hard times, the extremely stressful and overwhelming times that I see Christ most clearly and feel His almost tangible presence.

I feel so blessed to have had a truly intimate time with the Lord over these last few weeks.  It's something that I had been praying about all of last year.  Last year was spiritually quiet for me overall.  Have you ever had times like that?  You are doing everything that you should be like reading the Word and going to church and attending Bible studies and praying and all those lists of things that are "the things" to do.  But God still seems far and there is this wall that seemingly in between the two of you.  It's frustrating.  You begin to doubt God and ask questions.  There is no big life altering "thing", just a constant feeling of disconnect.

I've gone through periods of life like this before.  It can be so disheartening.  Most of the time I can look back and see that God was trying to get my attention.  He was pointing out some sin that I had not acknowledged.  I am always thankful that He is so patient and merciful towards me.

I have been doing a Bible study with the ladies at my church that I just know the Lord planned at exactly the right time.  There are multiple checklists of things to evaluate yourself and see where you are in your relationship with Christ.  So many things that reveal my prideful heart and sinful nature.  So many things that I must confess and ask forgiveness for.  It's continual and feels so very exactly what I need at this time.

Aren't you thankful for a God who loves you enough not to leave you where you are, but constantly whispers to your heart that He has more for you, if you will only take His hand and follow?  He reminds me to be courageous and fear not over and over (also doing a study in Joshua with my camp girls).  How amazing to be loved like that?!


I am constantly reminded that just because I work in ministry full time, in no way (NO WAY) means that I have all the answers, nor do I have a perfect relationship with God.  I struggle.  I fall flat on my face.  And I get back up and again and again and reach out to take His out-stretched hand once again, squeezing it tight and looking up into His face with tear filled eyes.  This walk with Christ is messy and hard and so exactly where I want to be because He loves His messy kids.  He LOVES them.

And that is worth all the mess and hard times, isn't it?!


February 15, 2014

Sundance 2014

(still never seen a film at this theater, but it's just too pretty not to walk by at least once)

My Sundance Film Festival 2014 trip was quite a fiasco and a bit of a long story...

I bought plane tickets to Salt Lake City way back in July of 2013.  They were super cheap and I immediately began getting excited about my third trip to the festival.  My brother works for the Sundance Institute and lives in SLC.  This is why, after years of dreaming about attending the festival, I have been able to go 3 times now.  He and I have been big movie nerds since birth basically.  

It doesn't disappoint.  Ever.  If you love movies and filmmakers, then you must try to go at least once.  Don't be discouraged by the crazy high prices of ticket packages and long lists of films.  To me, it's similar to a trip to Disney World, in that you can choose to make it as expensive and overwhelming as you want it to be.  The fact that I have been able to go 3 times now on a very limited budget should give you some encouragement.  It's possible on many different budgets.

Anyway, the fiasco came when we (my roommate and I were going together) were scammed out of our place to stay about 2 weeks before the festival began.  It was a big, old, ugly mess.  We lost hundreds of dollars and she ended up not being able to go after all.  I decided at the last minute that I was going to go anyway.  I finally decided "it's just money" (one of my mom's favorite sayings when things end up being more expensive but worth it) and I didn't want to lose the chance to go to the festival and spend a few days with my brother.  I changed my flight to come back earlier that I had planned (more money...cough...cough) and just went.  And I'm so glad I did.

(the brother got me fancy credentials this year)

I stayed at his house in Salt Lake City (for free) and he graciously let me use his car the entire time I was there (for free) and use his parking pass (for free).  Do you see a trend here?  My brother is awful sweet.  He had also bought me a bunch of tickets as Christmas presents so I only paid for one movie the entire time I was there.

It's not the way I had dreamed I would spend my time there.  There was a lot more driving.  Salt Lake is about 45 minutes from Park City where the festival is held.  But I got to go.  The movies were everywhere.  The snowy mountains were just as spectacular.

(on the highway headed back down to SLC)

There were celebrities every where.  Main Street was like a who's-who of TV and film stars on Saturday afternoon.  I must admit that I have way too much fun just walking up and down the sidewalks and inwardly freaking out as Elijah Wood and William H. Macy and Hurly from "Lost" walked right by me.

(quaint little Main St. jam packed on opening weekend.)


I got to see 2 fantastic movies.  One "okay" movie and one awful movie in the 3.5 days I was there.  That's like a perfect festival experience in a nutshell.  You have to see at least on awful one to truly appreciate the festival, in my opinion.

The awful one was highlighted only by the director during his introduction and Q&A at the end.  Oh and seeing Jesse Eisenberg, who is a shorty like me.  The director was hilarious.  I could have listened to him talk for an hour and a half instead.

The two good ones were Last Days in Vietnam and I, Origins.  Both equally fantastic for completely different reasons.  They are the kind of movies that make you love movies and stories and the art of film.

Last Days was a superbly, well done documentary that made me tear up about 15 times and Q&A that gave everyone in the theater (including Rob Reiner and Wayne Newton) goosebumps.  Highly recommend it.  One of the best doc's I've seen in years. It's about the last few days that Americans were in Vietnam after almost all of the soldiers had been pulled out.  So emotional.

I, Origins was on the must list for me and The Brother because the director had made one of our favorite festival films a few years ago, Another Earth.  I, Origins didn't disappoint.  Mike Cahill has such a lovely, distinctive voice in film with such fantastic, original sci-fi ideas.  And I've become a huge fan of Brit Marling.  She is mesmerizing to watch on screen. Oh, and Steven Yeun was in the film AND at the Q&A.  Since I'm a big Walking Dead fan, you can bet I was freaking out.  He was adorable, taking photos of the audience and just genuinely excited to be there and involved with this director that he really loved.

The "okay" movie was most likely ruined by my ridiculously high expectations.  I'm a big Zach Braff fan.  I Kickstarted this particular movie because I had such high hopes that it would turn out as fantastic as Garden State did (a personal all time favorite).  And while it was beyond exciting to see it and be in the same room/just a few feet away from Zach (and Donald!), the movie just wasn't that great.  There were great moments and the soundtrack will definitely go into my collection when it is released, but the movie was a little too long and jumbled for me.  Oh well.  The experience was worth it.  So fun to be involved from the beginning through Kickstarter and see all the behind the scenes videos and then be there for the big premiere.  That was super fun.

There are lots of other fun things like the beautiful town of Park City being all snow-covered, yet perfect temperatures for walking around outside.  The always entertaining (and free!) public transit bus system that is so much fun to use.  The time I saw Jerry from Parks and Rec across the street happily taking photos with people and being sweet and charming.  The new waitlist system that could be so frustrating because it was all done by the Sundance app this year.  The times I held my brothers laptop while standing in lines for movies, so he could work even though he was supposed to be "off".  The half-pipe events going on in Park City at the same time as the Festival creating a traffic nightmare on Saturday night.

It was a fun time, albeit quick.  I'm so glad that I decided just to go for it.  And thanks to my brother for hooking me up with all the freebies.

Here's a few more pics....

(the view from The Brother's Sundance condo)


(Sunrise at the bus stop.  8:30AM movies meant early wake-up calls to leave SLC in time to get to the movie line by 8AM)


(Zach Braff and cast at the Q&A.  You can see the back of Goldie Hawn's blond hair in the middle section near the isle.  She was there supporting Kate who was Zach's wife in the movie)



(arriving in Park City just as the sun came up and the moon said goodbye)



(a blurry Steven Yeun [because I was so excited] and the crazy/cool Mike Cahill talking to his cast)


(the best Sundance weather I've experienced.  cold and snowy and beautiful)

February 02, 2014

January happy moments

(Wind from the Sea by Andrew Wyeth - hanging in the National Gallery of Art)


January is over.
I must say that I am very, very glad to see it go.
Restart that monthly clock, please.

January was full to the brim of moments that were just...well...not good.
Big not-so-good things and little annoyances that added up rather ridiculously.
A friend was saying that he found himself muttering "I could have done without that" way too many times in the last 30 days.

I tend to lean strongly to the pessimist side.
VERY strongly.
It is something I am really trying to work on.
No one wants to be around a Debbie Downer; am I right?!

So in claiming joy and positivity over grumpiness,
here are a few things that are happy from this month...

This video that was posted by someone I follow on Twitter. I think I watched it about 25 times in a row.

I definitely do NOT agree that Harry should have married Hermonie.  I think Ron is good for her.  She needs someone happy and carefree to balance her out.  And I love that Harry and Hermione were just friends.  I think Harry probably changed a lot after the whole Voldemort battle was over.  Ginny was a good match for him.  Kind, easy going, brave and strong.  Plus, they all ended up family and that's much better.  Sorry, J.K.

It was Big Block of Cheese Day on Wednesday.  And I had just watched those West Wing episodes last week.  It was like my TV world was coming to life.  And that was awesome.

Not too sure how I'm feeling about the trailer for The Fault in Our Stars.  I loved the book and am nervous the movie won't have the same somber yet joyful tone.  But I really love Shailene Woodley, so at least there's that.

My whirlwind trip to Sundance.  I suppose I should at least post a tiny bit about that.  It was so very nice to spend a weekend with my brother even if it was rushed and not exactly what I had planned.

I am loving every single minute of journalling every day.  I actually look forward to it.  It doesn't feel like a chore.

New episodes of Downton Abbey AND Sherlock.  Yes.

I'm in the middle of two Bible studies right and loving having lots of "Bible homework".  God is really using it to wake me up and refresh my soul after a long dry time.  So very thankful that He is patient with me.


Oh, and I posted more about my CA road trip.  You can read about it here.

December 30, 2013

the first step


Posting here has seemed so daunting lately.  Not sure why.  It's a happy space for me.  But when it gets neglected so dreadfully, as it has this entire year, I get overwhelmed with all the the stories that are left untold.

But the best way to start is with the first step, right? (And internet too, which is a big MUST when blogging)  So, I'll get to those stories when I can.  Maybe I'll even back-date them so they are in the correct order because goodness knows that would drive this OCD girl crazy to post 2013 activities in 2014.  But don't worry.  I'll be sure to let you know so you can find them. If you are even still stopping by this little spot on the internet.

Christmas wrap-up:  The best laid plans were dashed this year.  A nasty stomach virus and a broken heater in the Cottage won instead.  But I did get to spend time with family.  I did get to sit by the tree and watch these 3 crazy monsters dance their hearts out (no music needed).  I did get to go to my church's beautiful Christmas eve service (one of my favorites of the entire year) and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  Jesus!

This time of year is always a good time to reflect on the blessings and the lessons of the past year.  So many to ponder and be grateful for.  Thankful for a good year and ready to start brand new all over again!







November 17, 2013

2014 Goal/Challenge


I am big on lists.
Maybe it's oldest child syndrome or my OCD/organization craziness.
Whatever the reason, I love them.
They help me stay sane.

I like to have a master list filled with variety.  Life changing things that will take time and smaller things that are more goal oriented.  I love Elsie's posts on goals, not that I follow them exactly, but they are a good jumping off point. I've realized that I work best when I have final goal in mind.  Whether it's a reward at the end, or something that I want to see changed in my life.  A bad habit broken or a good one encouraged.


Last year I decided that I wanted to get in shape and be able to run the Color Run.
I started running.  I needed the kick in the pants of having something to train for.  It was amazing and doing the Color Run was a big, big highlight for me.  I loved every second of it.  And, goodness knows, I need a goal or I won't work out (see: present day laziness).

2012 also included a daily challenge of taking 1 photo each day with my iPhone and posting it to Instagram.  It was a big goal and one that I was incredibly intimidated by.  It challenged me in my photography and in my discipline to complete a task every single day.  The day I posted my 366th (leap year challenge) photo was a fun, fulfilling day.  I did it.  Now I can look back on an entire year in photos.  I learned a lot about discipline and even more about goals.

My challenge for 2013 was to read the Bible through in a year.  It's something that I hadn't done since college.  It was one of those goals that seemed entirely overwhelming, but in a good way.  I know that time in the Word never returns void.  When I chose this challenge for the year, I had the goal of being more consistent in my time in the Word.  It was something that I had been being lazy about.  And it was a habit that I needed to get back into.
Honestly, with less than 50 days left in my reading, I will admit that reading the Bible in a year is not my favorite way to read the Word.  For me, it is much too rushed.  It feels like the old college days when I crammed for finals.  I much prefer to take one book at a time and become immersed in it, reading it slowly and taking the time to let it soak into my heart.
That being said, I love that it has created good habits.  I am back to reading the Word every night before bed.  Most mornings, I read a Psalm before I even get out of bed.  There have been days (weeks too) that it has felt like a chore and so very hard.  But more often than not, there have been weeks and weeks of sweet conversation with the Lord.
I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed certain passages like building the Temple and some passages of I & II Kings.  Things that can seem very detail oriented and dry were suddenly alive and breathing to me.  God's Word is alive.  And it felt alive.
I used the ESV Study Bible Plan in the YouVersion app.  It was incredibly convenient and easy to use.  I did really miss my physical Bible though.  Instead of saving bookmarks in the app for favorite verses, I started taking screen shots after I had highlighted verses that spoke to me.  Now I have a photo album full of scripture that encourages my heart whenever I flip thought it.  Love that.

This coming year of 2014, I have a new challenge/goal for myself.  I have noticed that I don't write as much.  It's obvious if you have read my blog in the past, that I don't blog as often (actually hardly ever) as I used to.  I also don't journal very much any more either, which I don't like one bit.  My writing has all but disappeared and I am not okay with that.  It's something I want to change.
About a year ago, this journal popped up in several different places.  I kept noticing it in stores and on blogs and it was suggested to me on Amazon.  I thought about buying it, but never did.  It definitely stuck in my brain though and I knew I wanted to do something similar for my yearly challenge.  I don't think one line is the best thing for me, as I can tend to ramble on when I get going, but that's my starting point.  One sentence written down each day.  It can be more, but it can't be less.
I'm on the hunt to find a journal with no lines (my favorite way to journal).  Mostly likely, I'll use a few of my favorite journals.  I want to make it easy, but challenge myself to write more than just what I ate that day or what the weather was like.  I did a similar challenge for myself when I did my sabbatical for 3 months and really loved it.

A new list.  A new challenge.  New goals and habits to create.  I'm excited to begin!

What about you?  Any goals/challenges for the new year to come?



November 01, 2013

California Road Trip: Big Trees


This trip was my introduction into the wonder of the Redwoods and Sequoias.  I have to first tell you that I have a deep love of trees.  I morn when they die/are destroyed.  I love their unique shapes and glorious shade.  I just love them.

Anyway, when I first saw the giant, GIANT things, I was in awe.  There is literally nothing like standing next to something that is tall as a skyscraper, yet is a living organism.  Its trunk is as wide as my car.  It appears to touch the clouds.  It is just inspiring.  I could have spent hours and hours wandering through the forest enjoying them.

We were lucky enough to find 2 separate Parks (Trail of 100 Giants [randomly unlocked National Forest Park area] and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park)  that were open (all the national ones were locked up: government shut down).  They weren't the big, famous parks, but still full of beautiful trees.









(Yes, that's me.  I had to climb a few stumps to even get up high enough to see out.)


California Road Trip Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

October 30, 2013

California Road Trip: Part 3

(Can you make out the A-frame house on the top of the mountain?)

On our way out to Bodie and leaving from Bodie, we meandered through some stunning parts of Nevada and California.  For some reason, I always imagined Nevada as a flat desert with no trees.  Well, that may be true in part of it, but in the South Lake Tahoe region, it is stunningly beautiful.

We decided to take the long way around to Bodie because, well, we had no set schedule and the road was calling our name.  This ended up being some of the most stunning, awe-inspiring land that I have ever seen in the lower 48 (Alaska still wins for best rugged wilderness).

We spent the night in Bishop, which is this town that just seems to appear out of nowhere in the valley of high peaks.  It was rather glorious to see street lights and civilization when you are hungry.  We found a delicious local burger place with a super yummy coconut/chocolate milkshake that was the perfect way to end the day.  And our motel used giant rosemary bushes as their landscaping decor.

When we left Bishop the next morning, I got excited because we were headed to the ocean.  And as much as I truly enjoyed every second of the mountains and was in awe of their beauty, I have salt water in my veins.  The ocean is my favorite.

We decided to make a pit stop at Mt. Whitney which is the highest peak in the lower 48 and a big spot for climbers and backpackers.  It was like driving straight up the side of the mountain to get to the highest parking lot (in the CLOSED National Park area).  We saw several people up there, ignoring the closed signs and hiking anyway.  It was so beautiful, that far away peak.
Then one last stop at the Trail of 100 Giants, which was my first introduction to the larger than life Sequoias.  Talk about feeling small...but more on that at another time.  The rest of the drive was spent on curvy roads through mountain ranches and finally through the flat farmlands where miles and miles of fruits and vegetables grow.  That was pretty amazing to see too.  Oh and passing about 30 (not exaggerating) closed National Park campsites, hiking trails, picnic areas and fishing spots.  It was like a slap in the face, each and every time.

Photos never do places like this justice, but here are a few just because I couldn't help snapping 100 every place we stopped.....

(I loved that we could stop anywhere and as often as we wanted to.  There were thousands of pull-offs along the way.  I love that we took quite a few photos together.  Even if I look 45 years old in this particular one.  Harsh light!)

(Miles and miles and more miles of beautiful nothing.)

(I had to stop and get a picture of the yellow Aspens against the evergreens.  And the cattle gates too.  We passed 100's of them) 

(Giant rosemary bushes all along the edges of the motel.  They smelled glorious)

(The Aspens were stunningly yellow.  I think we stopped in the middle of the road to get this shot.  Middle of nowhere)


(On the road straight up to Mt. Whitney.  That beautiful valley below.)


(There was an older couple who pulled their enormous motor home into this pull off to have lunch.  The view was ridiculous.  We just ate our PBandJ's sitting in the back seat of our rental.)

(The temperature literally dropped about 25 degrees on the drive up to Mt Whitney.  There was snow up there and lots of people jumping the closed gates to hike in spite of the government shut-down.)

(The Bro drooling over Mt Whitney.  I think it was physically painful for him to drive away from it and not be able to climb it.  Thank you, government shut-down.)

(The tiny road we drove straight up.  What a view...)


California Road Trip:  Part I, Part II