I’m on Etsy!

I’ve always enjoyed making things.  And I’ve certainly always enjoyed buying things…from etsy.com, the largest online source for unique handmade items I know.

Now I am putting the two together and actually selling things I make on etsy.com.

I know.  It’s kinda crazy.  All I know is I’ve gotten into a groove sewing lately and I wanted to keep going.  It made sense to keep on doing what I am enjoying and put the products up for sale.  The thing I am really into right now is petal pillows.  And the good thing is there aren’t a plethora (or anything just like it) of these on etsy already.  So maybe I found a niche.

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And if nothing sells, I’ll give them all away at Christmas.  Win/Win.

I’d love for you to check out my shop on etsy and if you have an account maybe you could favorite an item or two just to help me get the ball rolling.  And feel free to pass along my shop address to friends.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheSimpleLovely

Rwanda: 20 Years Since the Genocide

I’ve read things this week about Rwanda and the 20th anniversary of the mass genocide that left nearly a million innocent people dead.  I wasn’t going to add my own thoughts, but suddenly felt a strong urge to share this morning.  I can’t imagine what this week means to the Rwandan people, knowing that 20 years have passed since that unspeakable horror.  I won’t even attempt to speak for them, but will share my own feelings about Rwanda, a country I have come to love.

It’s strange how things come about sometimes.  Reading a book, talking to different people, reading a few more books, meeting some new friends.  Who knew all of that would lead to me traveling to Rwanda last Spring?  It all started when I read Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza in late 2006/early 2007.  The story she told left me horrified.  I had never even heard of the Rwanda Genocide even though I was in college when it happened in 1994.  I wanted to know more.  I read An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina.  My book club at the time even talked on the phone with his co-author Tom Zoellner.  I went on to read Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Hatzfeld. (I was reading that one in the hospital with my newborn Lucas…which felt a little awkward.)

In 2011, my family joined a new church and I ran into a friend from elementary school.  We reconnected and are close friends now.  She and her husband are on the board of a non-profit that friends of theirs from college started.  Eventually the goal of this non-profit called His Chase became helping orphans in Rwanda.  She told me about it, and I thought it was cool, but it wasn’t until a couple of years later that she said she was going to Rwanda with His Chase, and asked “Why don’t you come too?”

That’s how I ended up getting a ton of vaccinations, boarding 2 of the longest flights of my life, unsure of what to expect, headed for the country I had read so much about: a country that had a place in my heart.

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Visiting Rwanda absolutely sealed its place in my heart.  The land and people are beautiful.  I had so many amazing experiences there.  But one of the things I did, which is highly applicable today, is visit the Genocide Memorial in Kigali.  It was somber and overwhelming.  The memorial really captures the magnitude of the tragedy, the sheer number of lives lost, and the sadness of so many families and children being murdered.  Frankly, after seeing it it’s hard to believe the status of Rwanda today.  There is a huge push for reconciliation and unity, for forgiveness and healing.  It’s hard for me to imagine that so much peace could be accomplished only 20 years after such utter destruction and animosity.

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Every year a flame is lit in this dish to commemorate the Genocide, and it burns for 100 days: the length of the Genocide.

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That sign says the remains of 250,000 are buried here in mass graves.

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The Memorial Center is in the process of adding the nearly 1 million names of the dead to a wall of names.

Stepping on the soil where all I had read about occurred…meeting the Rwandan people…learning a bit of their language and culture…holding their children…seeing their spirits of determination and hope…I am unable to describe the impact it had on me.  I can only say I left a different person than before my trip.

The best book I have read on Rwanda, and the one I recommend to anyone wanting to experience a bit of the country through a book, is the one I read on the plane as I traveled there.  Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda by Rosamond Carr.

My prayers are with Rwanda.  Here they stand, 20 years after the unthinkable, and may they continue on a path of reconciliation and healing.

Old Posts= Joy!

I was looking through some old blog posts and found a few gems.  I’m shaking my head and smiling- my favorite things to come across are little stories and things about my kids that I had forgotten.  Here is a perfect example.  It’s a little quiz I gave Ava and Nate 5 years ago!  Enjoy!

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I’ve seen this going around lately and thought it looked fun! I couldn’t wait to see what answers Nate (age 4) and Ava (age 6) would give. Nate skipped a few because he either didn’t understand the question or could not think of any answer.

What is something mom always says to you?
N-
A- I love you

What makes mom happy?
N- flowers
A- when I do something right

What makes mom sad?
N- NOT getting flowers
A- when I do bad choices

How does your mom make you laugh?
N- being silly
A- when she tells me a joke or something funny

What was your mom like as a child?
N-a baby
A- give me, give me give me!!!

How old is your mom?
N-32
A- 33

How tall is your mom?
N- 60 pounds
A- 4 quarters and a half inch

What is her favorite thing to do?
N- play with kids and babies
A- hug me

What does she do when you’re not around?
N- find me
A- makes dinner or something

If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
N-
A- movies- like a movie star

What is your mom really good at?
N- playing checkers on Webkinz World
A- telling stories

What is your mom not very good at?
N- Air Hockey
A- sometimes she messes up the words

What does your mom do for her job?
N- wash the dishes
A- takes care of kids

What is your mom’s favorite food?
N- chicken
A- anything that I don’t like

What makes you proud of your mom?
N- that she loves me
A- when she reads a whole chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

What do you and your mom do together?
N- clean up
A- read stories

How are you and your mom the same?
N- that we give presents to kids
A- we both like flowers

How are you and your mom different?
N-
A- she has black hair and I have brown

How do you know your mom loves you?
N- Because she told me
A- she gives me hugs and kisses and sometimes says “I love you”

Where is your mom’s favorite place to go?
N- China
A- library or supermarket

Almost Like Visiting China

On the spur of the moment, Cody and I decided to take the family to Jeng Chi.  I’ve eaten there many times, and even taken Lucas once, but the rest of the family had never tried it.  They are famous for having the best dumplings in the metroplex.

Trying new foods can be hit or miss with my kids.  It’s really just luck to catch them in a receptive mood.  I serve new foods all the time at dinner and am often met with grimaces and  sad children pushing food around with their forks.

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But we billed our evening out as a big adventure last night and somehow everyone got caught up in the idea of eating Chinese food.  We ordered many things to try including egg rolls, small juicy dumplings, pot stickers, tofu with veggies, orange chicken, and a Chinese style chicken noodle soup.  Everybody tried almost everything.  And amazingly everybody liked almost everything!  Nate was the clear winner.  He scarfed down every food item that touched his plate.  He and Ava both thought the dumplings were super tasty.  Lucas left a lot on his plate, but he never complained and seemed to enjoy some of the food.  Ava had seconds of the soup.  And Cody and I cleaned up whatever was left over.  It was a great meal!

After we finished eating Ava asked if we could go to a Chinese grocery store sometime to buy ingredients to make dumplings.  (I told you she loved those!)  A few doors down from the restaurant there happened to be a grocery store so again, on the spur of the moment, we went inside.  I love ethnic grocery stores!  It’s fun to see all the different types of foods and packaging.  We hit the candy aisle and let the kids choose one thing to buy and share.  They picked out a funny looking candy that had some kind of cookie stem with a chocolate top that resembled a mushroom!  I bought some wonderful-smelling lavender green tea.

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Those candies were really good!

The parking lot of this strip center where we went was full of large statues.  The kids wanted to examine some of the statues up close.  The whole area had a great “feel” to it- like entering another country for an evening.

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The kids went so far as to suggest that we have “Chinese food Thursday” and eat at Jeng Chi on a weekly basis.  When I balked at that, they suggested every other week.  I think our adventure in “China” was a big success!

Estate Sales- I’m Hooked

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These are my new demitasse spoons.  How came about owning them is quite the story.  My friend Greta called and asked if I’d go with her to an estate sale near White Rock Lake.  She had looked it up online and saw a beautiful old buffet table.  She had no idea how much the table cost, but the sale opened at 10 AM Saturday with everything 50% off the tag price.

We tossed all our kids in my living room with Cody and took off for the sale.  We arrived right as the doors were opening.  There were people swarming all over.  We made a beeline to the buffet as did a few other people.  All of us were sort of swarming around it, trying to make a decision (it was a very good price at half off by the way!) and Greta exclaimed “I’ll take it!”  Sold.

With that taken care of, we milled about the rest of the house.  There were several beautiful silver pieces in the kitchen.  Greta got a round tray, sugar bowl, and creamer.  I considered a few items but didn’t snatch any.  Then in the living room I spotted these precious little spoons on a table.  It was a set of 12 for $15 which meant only $7.50 since it was 50% off.  I grabbed them.

Then there was a crazy time of pulling the car up, carrying out the buffet with Greta, and loading it into her van with an inch to spare.  We were quite a team.

After that, Greta started getting curious about my spoons.  She started searching the web and found out that my little demitasse spoons were a 1909 pattern and could be found for sale on various websites for $10-$20 PER SPOON.  This is the most helpful website she found- my spoons are marked EVERTS on the back as are the ones this blogger writes about.  They are silver plate and in a rare design called Ancient Egyptian.  There is a scarab beetle in the design.

Then she started looking up the silver pieces she had bought, and they also were worth way more than she paid.  It was like finding treasure.  She and I were on a high after that and prepared to spend all future Saturdays shopping estate sales.

We’ve both calmed down a little over the past few days, but it really was an exciting adventure.  The atmosphere of an estate sale, the hope of finding something of value… I can’t wait to do it again!

 

My 3 Step Program

Many events in life can only be viewed with any accuracy once time and distance have given a sense of perspective.  That is the case as I find myself writing and reflecting on the ways my life has changed and blossomed over the past three years.

The fact that we as humans often mess our lives up and get ourselves into places of despair and pain shouldn’t surprise anyone.  We are all fairly good at doing that in one way or another.  All it takes are a few false beliefs, a few bad choices, an addiction or two.  How quickly our hearts get caught up in anger, greed, jealousy, defensiveness, self-pity, and fear.  Accompanying those feelings is usually one of two equally unbalanced mental states: a sense of worthlessness or a sense of entitlement.  (Or some combination of the two!)

I’ve learned that most people sweep the broken places of their life under the rug.  It’s a coping mechanism.  We learn how to mask the issues and medicate the pain.  It’s far easier than exerting the energy to examine it all carefully.  And besides, the fear is that nothing can make it better anyway.

I have been in a place where things were so broken I had no clue where to even start in facing the problems and moving forward.  But because of the perspective I have today, I can see that I did 3 things.  It’s not a long list.  I’m going to share it today knowing that all of us find ourselves in a valley at some point.  Sometimes things happen to us that we have absolutely no control over, like the death of a loved one.  Many times, we dig ourselves into a pit of self-destruction through bad choices, selfishness, and/or a misunderstanding of what’s really true or false.

Regardless, I credit these 3 things with bringing me out of a place of pain and despair.

1.  Be honest with yourself and others. Don’t try to cover things up or ignore them.  Spend time in self-reflection.  Figure out what you are feeling and what you believe.  Admit it to yourself and to a few people who love you.  If you can’t understand your own beliefs and motives, then you’ll never know how to go in a new direction.  When I did this I realized that I felt totally rejected and unloveable.  I realized that everything I was doing in life was an effort to make myself feel valuable or important or just “okay” instead of worthless.

2. Ask God to fill you with truth and love.  I tried really hard to be less angry, less depressed, less afraid.  That was frustrating because I couldn’t produce results in myself.  The more I tried to fix it, the less it worked.  I finally realized that God is the one who creates a new heart in me and that peace, joy, self-control, patience, love and other things I wanted were to be found only by aligning myself with his Spirit.  Instead of working to fix it, I surrendered control to God.  I constantly asked him to fill me with his Spirit and truth.  The truth in my case was that I am valuable and beloved by God so I don’t need to strive to make myself feel loved and important.  The more I believed this truth, the easier it was to let go of defensiveness, greed, fear, and all the other emotions that had ruled my life for so long.  Slowly peace, love, and the other fruits of the Spirit began to be stronger in my heart.

3.  Surround yourself with people who love God and love you.  This final step is important.  When you live honestly in community with people who love God and care about you, you all point each other toward truth.  I have about 5 or 6 people in my life with whom I can be completely raw and honest about my sin, failures, false thinking, and fears.  They remind me to not try and deal with it on my own but to take it to God and ask for his truth and love.

It seems like I did a lot of things to get out of the desperate place I was in years ago, but really all the many things boiled down to these three simple steps.  And each of these steps continues today.  The minute I stop being honest with myself and the people around me, the minute I stop asking God to help me operate out of place of truth, the minute I stop allowing my true friends to be honest with me and to know the real me…that’s when I’ll find myself in another pit.  I don’t want to cause myself and the people I love pain.  I don’t want to live a make-believe life just holding things together while my insides are eaten away with fear and anger like before.  So, I choose over and over again to follow these steps.

God hasn’t changed my situation in life, or the people around me.  He has changed me from the inside out.  And he continues to change me.  In another 3-5 years I’ll look back through time and distance with yet a new perspective.

24 Hours in Paris

Here’s a little tutorial in case you ever find yourself with 24 hours to spend in Paris…at least it’s what Ellen and I found to be a good itinerary:

11:30 AM- Arrive.  Note the lack of lanes on the major road into the heart of town.  Swerve to avoid bicyclists.  Enter the tiniest driveway and wait for the steel door to rise in order to park under the hotel.

12:00 PM- Try to purchase 2-day metro tickets at the super convenient stop near the hotel.  After the machine fails to accept your card for the fifteenth time politely ask for help from the attendant.  After she rolls her eyes, says “Non!”, and walks away shaking her head, pull out cash- cash always works.

12:30 PM- Stare in awe at Notre Dame inside and out.

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1:15 PM- Walk to Musee d’Orsay.  It will be the longest walk of your life.  You’ll curse the decision to skip the metro, and feel like you might die.  The map says it’s only 1.2 miles from Notre Dame but that is a lie, it must be a lie!

2:30-6:00 PM- Soak in the delights of Musee d’Orsay.  Take an illegal photo or two (cameras are not allowed) and check out the iconic clocks.

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6:30 PM- Check in at hotel, freshen up, realize you skipped lunch and are now famished.  Head to nearby cafes to compare menus.

7:00 PM- Relax at a fabulous cafe.  Share the fromage plate (it’s Heaven on earth.)  Split an entire bottle of wine.  Get slightly tipsy.  Wonder aloud if it might be getting too late to visit the Eiffel Tower, then go there anyway.

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8:30 PM- Get in the longest line imaginable at the Eiffel Tower, not even being sure the ticket window will stay open long enough for you to purchase a ride to the top.  People watch.  Haggle with the guys selling light up Eiffel Towers, then buy a couple.  Freeze to death, all under the spell of a full moon.  Ah, Paris!

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10:30 PM- Buy a ticket just as the windows are closing!  Travel to the top of the tower.  Mentally note this as one of the coolest things you’ve ever done.

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12:00 AM- Barely get back to the hotel before the metro stops running.  Stay awake basking in the awe of the Eiffel Tower.

6:00 AM- Get up.  You feel like a ton of lead, but it’s Paris!  You’ve got to get going!

7:00 AM- Visit the best Boulangerie in Paris, which happens to be only a block or two from the hotel.  Enjoy coffee and pastries in the warm cozy interior.

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7:30 AM- Ride metro to the Arc De Triomphe.

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8:30 AM- Ride metro to Sacre Coeur.  Slowly climb the thousand steps to the entrance, stopping once because the area has been roped off as they shoot a “made for tv French film,”  and once to yell at the men hassling tourists to buy bracelets.  Tour the inside noting the watchful face of Jesus and the unusual stained glass patterns.

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10:00 AM- Walk through Montmarte admiring the artwork.  Shop for souvenirs.  Enjoy the beautiful crisp day.

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11:00 AM- Stop at a cafe for mulled wine, a sandwich, and a crepe.  It’s the perfect spot to rest while staring at the glory of Sacre Coeur.

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12:00 PM- Return to hotel area.  Walk around visiting the many adorable shops.  Buy cheese for the drive home.  Buy wine.  Buy jewelry.  Stop buying!!

2:00 PM- leave for the 4 hour drive back to Germany.  Carry Paris with you in your heart.

Visiting Ellen in Germany

My friend Ellen and I go waaaaaay back.  We met on the lovely, oppressive campus of Harding University.  And during our freshman year we sneaked off together on a trip to Memphis to see The Breeders play at a club.  There- I said it.  Hopefully Harding won’t revoke my diploma.  I know most regular people don’t understand the words “sneaking off” in conjunction with “college campus” but it was a special kind of place with special kinds of rules and we chose to go there, so it’s our own fault.

That Breeders concert is memorialized in my college scrapbook by a photo of us in our concert t-shirts along with the warning ticket I got when we were pulled over for speeding.  If you’re already breaking the rules, you might as well go big, I say.

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Ellen and I have remained friends over the years.  She played violin at my wedding.  Our families have spent time together.  She is dear to me.  Her family recently moved to Germany for a 3 year stint, and when she asked me to visit I jumped at the chance.

Here we are enjoying real German beer at Kloster Machern restaurant in Bernkastel.

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Earlier that day we hiked up to a deserted castle for a picnic lunch.  The little towns in her area of Germany are beautiful and charming.

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The best part about being around Ellen and her family is how they all make me feel so comfortable and welcome.  Even though I was in a completely new environment, I felt right at home.  I enjoyed seeing how they live life in Germany.  I got to visit the kids’ schools, the grocery store, and ballet school.  Ellen kept us well supplied with wine and good food.  We cooked together, laughed together, shopped together.  It was relaxing and memorable all at once.

Then, after I got settled in, Ellen and I whisked ourselves away to Paris for 2 days.  It was like the Breeders concert all over again except we had permission, and we could legally drive as fast as we wanted (thanks, Autobahn!), and Paris is 1000 times cooler than a club in Memphis.

Homemade Tomato Soup

I got a craving for tomato soup recently and found an easy recipe by Michael Chiarello online.

It uses a can of diced tomatoes, so I splurged and bought the high quality organic kind.  The soup turned out so rich and creamy that a small bowl was almost more than I could handle.  I plan to make it again today as we are all stuck at home because school is cancelled again.

You can follow the link to the recipe if you want to make it, but let me whet your appetite here.  First of all it involves roasting the tomatoes with salt, pepper, and olive oil until they caramelize.

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I probably could have left mine in the oven a little longer.  It’s a nice touch that adds tons of flavor.  While the tomatoes are roasting, you cook a diced carrot, celery stalk, onion, and garlic on the stovetop.

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At some point you combine the tomatoes and veggies with chicken broth.  Here’s my secret regarding chicken broth.  I never buy it in cans or those rectangle cardboard boxes.  I keep a jar of chicken stock granules in my pantry and make chicken broth by adding those to hot water whenever I need it.  That way I can make only as much as I need and I always have it on hand.

Heavy cream also gets added to the soup at the end.  Thank you, Michael Chiarello, thank you.  You know what we need.

Then the entire batch of soup gets pureed with a handheld immersion blender.  This is one of the best, most useful kitchen inventions ever made.  I use mine often because I love creamy soups.  If you’re ever stuck on what to get a friend or relative for Christmas- this is a good bet.

And voila!

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There’s an unwritten rule of the universe that tomato soup must be served with a grilled cheese sandwich.  It’s best not to question it, or even think about messing with the delicate balance of the world’s existence.

Happy cooking! (and eating)

What I Know About Wine

The day I turned 21 my mom came with me to Dallas, helped unload my meager inventory of apartment furnishings, gave me a birthday cake, and hugged me goodbye as she headed back to Midland.  I was officially on my own.  Yes, it really did happen on my 21st birthday.

That evening I drove to a liquor store on Northwest Highway and bought the foulest wine I’ve ever tasted in my life.  I didn’t know it then because that was my first experience with wine.  I was 21, on my own, and it just seemed like an adult thing to do.  I didn’t realize $3 bottles of wine were basically crap.  Somehow I forced a glass of it down.  It wasn’t until a year later, when Cody and I were married and living in California, that I started drinking wine again.  This time I started drinking good wine.  Thus began my journey as a wine connoisseur.  It didn’t happen overnight, for sure.  But slowly, over the past 15 years, I have built some knowledge about wine and I am going to share it with you tonight.  Prepare yourself.

Wine is grown in vineyards.  The type of grape determines the type of wine.  Vineyards are often beautiful, especially when viewed through a glass of wine.

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It’s best to buy in bulk.  No really, there’s often a discount.

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If you aren’t sure what food to serve with a wine, look it up online.  If all else fails…eat cheese.

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Wine looks really cute dressed up.

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If you want to look like you know what you’re doing, wrap a towel around wine as you pour it.  Trust me.

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Wine is best when chilled.  It has to be done with white, and I like reds served pretty cool also.  Ice it down, baby.

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Wine can be enjoyed alone…

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But it’s even better when shared with many good friends…

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If the bottle is empty, open another.

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And now you know what I know about wine.  Yeah, maybe there are a few other important details some high class sommelier would regard as indispensable, but I think I covered the most important parts.  Cheers!