Monday, June 8, 2015

Dorothy Edith

(Originally written January 15, 2015 for A Red Envelope)

I have sat down many times over the last week to express through writing my feelings about my grandma. But no matter the number of tries, I can’t find the rightwords, or enough words to describe my love and admiration for her. Even now, every word, every sentence feels inadequate. Dorothy Edith Sturges was not just another person on the street, easily describable with a few simple phrases.  She was so much more. Her personality was all encompassing, her heart big enough to hold everyone. When she’d grace you with her presence, you could feel it in your own heart, warming your own soul.

When I think about my grandma I think of a clear rain bonnet tied gently under her chin. I think of the floral ceramic teacup filled with straight black coffee. I think of the timeless yet elegant watch strapped to her wrist, the delicate earrings always dangling from her ears. I picture the nail file on the table next to her chair, ready to fix any slight mishap with her manicure. And I think of the green metal pipe, straight from Grandpa’s shop, used to wrap the Krum Kake every Christmas.

My grandma was the epitome of elegance and grace that I strive for every day.  She taught me the significance of etiquette—from how to set a formal table, to being properly handed off from my dad to my husband during my wedding ceremony. She demonstrated the golden rule each and every day—never judging negatively or speaking critically of others.  She took pride in her appearance—Even on days spent at home, she wouldn’t be caught without her hair curled, her lipstick meticulously applied and a freshly washed sweater set adorning her delicate body.

When I think about my grandma, I think of the colors she would rarely be without—pink, turquoise, and gold. I recall the stack of novels next to her chair, waiting to be read or already devoured. She and I were in the habit of exchanging books when we’d come across a particularly good one; a simple tradition I already miss.

My grandma had the utmost patience, contrary to our fast-paced world.  She found joy in perfectly decorating detailed Christmas cookies with tweezers, in quietly completing the most difficult thousand-piece puzzles, in peacefully recalling stories of her past to anyone that would inquire. She showed me that a quiet, simple life could be the most enjoyed life imaginable.

Grandma’s high school yearbooks recently made reappearance, and in one of them she stated she’d like to be a housewife when she grew up. I’m glad to know her dream was fulfilled, and I truly believe she was destined for the role. Whether in the kitchen cooking up a storm, or offering wisdom and a listening ear, she did the job flawlessly. No matter where our lives took us over the years, Grandma was the constant that held the family together. She was always the one everyone wanted to see, everyone wanted to please. She made you feel cared for and welcome—and you’d never leave her home with an empty stomach.

When I think of my grandma, I think of the cream puffs purchased from Thriftway down the street, and of the special pink, green and yellow mints she kept in a glass jar in the dining room. I remember joining her on walks to the post office—always with the “mail bag” in tote and my personal excitement of opening the lockbox for her. I picture the blue and white dishes she gifted to me when I went off to college—While other students were eating out of Tupperware, I was drinking from a porcelain teacup in true Dorothy-style. And mostly, I think of the hours spent organizing her yearly garage sale and being privy to the most precious gift of all: underneath the dusty household items were countless memories and stories ready to be recalled. And I was all ears.

My grandma was so much more than what I’ve put forth—She was gentle, classy and kind. She was an excellent cook—making grandpa decadent clam chowder despite her own allergy to shell fish. She was creative—a tole painter, embroiderer, seamstress, cake decorator. She kept traditions alive through her Norwegian baking—Lefse, Krum Kake and Fattigmand Buckles. She was polite and graceful. A treasure and a blessing. She was a fountain of wisdom, a quiet presence, an added warmth to any room.

I long to see her gentle, lipsticked smile and her twinkling eyes one more time. And yet, although the last page of my grandma’s life may have turned, I know her spirit will linger on forever.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Humble devotions

I just love historic churches. I can't get enough of them. Every time I see one I have to stop to get a closer look. Those little whitewashed one-room structures make my heart swell.

Imagine all of the families that have passed through those doors over the years. Kids running around, babies crying, mothers hushing their young ones, fathers feeling uneasy in their ties. 

Lots of laughterdisclosureawakening. Devotional conversations focused on growth and awareness, understanding and faith. 

Filling up that single room with so much love and joyfulness that it's bursting through the wooden doors and flowing out of the lead-glass windows.

These chapels just seem so personal.

It's been said that the Greek god Apollo had the phrases "know thyself" and "nothing in excess" engraved on his temple at Delphi. Two phrases that certainly encapsulate these tiny sacred dwellings.  

Modern churches continue to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. And while it's wonderful they are so inviting, at the same time I feel they have lost their intimacy, their closeness. Their humbleness.

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2

(Where my husband and I married)

Rooted in simplicity, historic chapels hearten my spiritual soul. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hands in the dirt

The sun has been shining recently, making me antsy to explore our quaint little garden. I'm ready to plant vegetables, spring annuals, and my dahlia bulbs dug up from last year. And yet, the chance of frost has me holding off a little longer. Hopefully my hands will be in that dirt over spring break, but in the meantime I'm keeping busy with other projects. 

My mom, an avid gardener, is always encouraging my novice green thumb-- teaching me about different flowers, explaining when to prune, and, along with my dad, finding garden art for our yard. They recently gave me these miniature garden tools-- perfect for a simple garden sign.

A bit of paint, sand paper, and hot glue; nothing fancy, but perfect nonetheless. 

"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul." -- Alfred Austin

Saturday, March 14, 2015


I knew it was going to be a good morning the moment I woke up to rain pattering on the roof. It's always been a favorite moment of mine-- lying in bed, with the covers drawn up right to my chin, listening to the rythmic falling of raindrops dancing-- delightedly. The way they flutter across the rooftop, skipping this way and that; speeding up and slowing down; sometimes flying so far they miss the rooftop altogether. I imagine it's quite like the Chim Chimney scene of Mary Poppins. Each raindrop striving to keep up with the others, never letting the melody commence.  

I was flipping through channels after breakfast and a hot shower, and happened upon Julie and Julia. Despite starting an hour previously, and having never seen it before, it's one of those stories that just sucks you in. I suppose it helps that I own the book. But anyway. What began with a moment of Julia in the kitchen at Le Cordon Bleu whipping up some meringue by hand, quickly turned into an hour passing before I knew it. I sat there with my laptop in hand, meaning to start this blog post-- but I couldn't quite draw my ears away from the splendid language, the fluttering movements of a woman so in love with her craft. I was mesmerized from the very beginning. 

A lazy Saturday morning filled with the smallest enchantments is so lovely. Hoping your day brings you the same sort of joy. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

DIY rustic ruler tray

Last summer I purchased a basic wood tray from a garage sale. Someone had already painted the outside a perfectly beautiful turquoise, but the inside remained plain wood. I had long been collecting old yardstick rulers specifically for a project like this. 

First I painted the inside black-- I used Rust-oleum because it's what we had--, then sanded both that and the turquoise down a bit, to give it a more shabby feel. Next I lined up all my rulers the way I wanted them, making sure the seams weren't all perfectly aligned, and that some were upside down. I wanted a mismatched feel rather than neatly arranged rulers. 

After sawing all the pieces down to the size I needed, I laid them out once more, making sure I liked the overall appearance. Finally, I glued them in place with wood glue. I held on to the scrap pieces of ruler, which I later used for a holiday project. Vintage yardsticks are so versatile when it comes to decorating. The different wood tones, the scratches, the fading print-- all of these qualities add to their rustic charm.

I love the unexpected touch of vintage this tray brings to my home. I've used it on the dining table with flowers, as a tray to carry drinks outside, in the living room with flowers on it, and even on our kitchen island with a plate of fruit. The options are endless. 

A little bit of french country chic, and so simple to put together.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

At a glance / me

On my nightstand Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist, The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty, Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson, and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. 

Current magazine subscriptions Eating Well, Natural Living, and Glamour. (Three subscriptions for $12; I couldn't resist!) 

On my DVR Fixer Upper (Love Chip and Joanna Gaines!), Property Brothers and Chasing Life. 

Loving the grass stains on my puppy's white paws. Oh, spring. 

Drinking tea, a perfectly simple drink for spring. Absolutely adore the Tea Forte gift box my in-laws gave me for my birthday. Ginger lemongrass and citrus mint are my favorites. 

Looking forward to spring break! A get-together with my sweet college roommates, celebrating a friend's graduate school funding, spending time with family, and hopefully putting a little more focus toward my writing and crafting. 

Trying to figure out these essential oils I just received in the mail. My co-worker Katie (along with other friends and family) inspired me to finally jump on the essential oil bandwagon, which I did so happily. Currently loving lavender on my feet before bed-- so relaxing! 

Planning out my vegetable gardens for the upcoming season. Broccoli, kale, and snap peas are the first on the list. Now hopefully my blueberry plants make a comeback this summer... 

On my kitchen island Meals Made Simple by Danielle Walker. So many delicious recipes. Her enchilada stuffed peppers were a big hit with my husband and me. 

Fighting off the slightest head cold. Not even kidding, the first graders I work with went through an entire box of tissues yesterday! A sickness is quickly going around, so I've been starting my days with hot lemon water and honey- directions from a sweet Korean woman I used to work with. Any time I'd have a cold, she'd say, "Lemon and honey! You need lemon and honey!" Not sure if it's working, but I definitely feel energized in the morning.

That's my life in a nutshell right now. What does a glance into your life look like? 
(If you're curious, that's Jason moisturizing vitamin E lotion and J.R. Watkins cuticle salve in the pic)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chalk art

What is it about chalk art these days? 

I wonder how something so classic and old-fashioned as writing on a chalkboard can become a trend, yet I find myself very much enthralled with the activity. I think it's the simplistic elegance that I find so appealing. In a world thriving on bold flashing signs and technology always at your fingertips, I long for a traditional and tranquil way to express my creativity. 

I remember playing school as a child, with a metal pail full of broken chalk pieces and a small green chalkboard to practice multiplication. I can feel the chalky substance under my fingernails, the colors mixing together on the palms of my hands. The way you could take a chalk-covered index finger and smear it across the board to create swirly designs. The way the eraser never really cleaned the board but rather brushed the chalk to the edges, collecting in little piles of dust. 

Now days I've traded in the chalk and eraser for a marker and damp cloth. But while my hands stay cleaner, my fulfillment is greater. Through triumphs and mistakes, chalk art is easy to jump into, knowing in the end you can begin again with a simple swipe of a wet cloth.