“It was the small things that helped, taken one by one, and savoured.” ~Rumer Godden
I think about this idea a lot. Savouring things. Slowing things down. Being present in the moment. I sometimes, in my quiet moments, wonder why I have become so consumed by these thoughts lately–the thoughts of slowing down. Of resting. I read books on it. I write in my little purse notebook about it, and jot notes in the margins of a few well-loved books. One book, by Richard Swenson titled (fittingly) Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives has a quote I have underlined. Can I share? He wrote:
“We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore? Who plundered those wide-open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back? There are no fallow lands for our emotions to lie down and rest in.”
I have a few theories about my obsession with creating a slower, smaller life. I think it’s a combination of factors–I’m becoming a mother of older children that will soon start going in their own different directions. They have their own opinions and likes and I’ve begun to realize that I don’t have control over them to the extent that I might have once believed. Suddenly the moments that seemed so long when they were babies are flying past more quickly. Suddenly I’m snatching hugs and slipping in extra I love you’s as insurance against the calamities of teenagerhood. My daughter is sprouting up in height and her jokes are becoming funnier. My son can sit still for longer than five minutes now. I want to slow the world down. And guess what, I can actually do it. And so can you.
If you want the world to slow down, you must do it by design–and designing a life is a purposeful thing. Creating moments doesn’t always take a lot of planning, but it does take awareness. The older I get, the more I realize that the art of slowing down is intrinsically tied to my ability to create margins so that it can happen. Margin–or white space as artists call it– can come in a variety of forms–but it is always purposeful. It can look like more time spent at home together instead of being scheduled in activities for a season. It can be deciding that one night every week is family-only pizza night and attendance is mandatory. It could even be the less glamorous but equally as important task of cleaning the house together on Saturday mornings so that there is a comfortable space which draws your people in– a peaceful space to linger longer.
Margin is something that is so often missed and under-appreciated. Did you know that in art that they teach that white space is just as important as the image or text? But how often do we look at something good and only see what IS there, not taking the time to appreciate that it is often what IS NOT there that makes all of the difference. Think about it, have you ever looked at a beautiful bouquet and thought, “Whew, I’m so glad they didn’t add roses. That would have ruined this bouquet for sure!” No, you simply look at the bouquet and think about what the florist chose to put in. You don’t think about what they purposefully left out. But maybe we should start. It’s the art of noticing.
I offer up my shelves as food for thought. As an invitation to consider how beautiful margin and space can be.
I spent some time last week clearing off my shelves. I hadn’t gone what I’d call “overboard” on my pumpkin/fall decorating, but even still I wanted to start with a clean slate. I cleared off almost all of the items, wiped the shelves down, and began to look at my Christmas decor with a critical eye. What things did I actually really love? Which pieces had special meaning? I began to pile things back on–and I realized that I love A LOT OF THINGS. That’s ok, I told myself. It looks cozy. I sat with it for a few minutes. Nope. It look cluttered. Because I had put so many “sorta” special things o the shelves, nothing looked special. I took it all down and started again.
I’m not going to lie and say it was a completely zen experience. I started to feel annoyed with my “stuff” and feeling like it was never going to look nice. I went from loving all of my stuff to suddenly going to the extreme and hating all of my stuff. If only I had better stuff it would look how I wanted! I realize, in saying all of this out loud, that I sound like an annoying entitled person and that’s my whole point, because if we’re being honest, our internal voices all can sound like that. And what’s worse, those voices are wrong. They, my friend, are voices of fear. Not big fear, but little fear. What if I can’t make it look how I want? How do other people’s shelves/mantels/houses/lives seem to be so effortlessly put together. Is it the stuff?? (a hint, it’s probably not the stuff.)
Sometimes it’s about letting a few things shine. Sometimes it’s letting yourself see your things in a new light. Look around your house. Maybe you have a basket that you’ve always just used for holding muffins at dinner. Could it go on the shelf this season? Did your kids collect pine cones during a vacation one year and you’ve always wanted to incorporate them into your decorating? Do you have a stash of Epsom salt under your bathroom sink and never thought about the fact that it could look like snow if you put it in a bowl with a few cherished ornaments your aunt gave you but would look lonely if set up on a shelf by themselves?
Let yourself look at everything you have with curiosity. Nothing is too weird. (That’s a lie, but for this exercise, tell yourself that because unless you’re putting up something akin to the leg lamp from A Christmas Story, then you’re probably safe). Have faith in the process. Let your mind learn to be content with the truth that these things take time. Cut some branches from your yard. Light a candle. Wrap your child in a furry blanket and turn on a Christmas movie, and let it sit. Trust that in this time you have carved out for margin, the answers will come. They always do.
If today or tomorrow or the next day you find yourself in that same zone of frustration–where nothing is looking how you want, or your days are too packed and hectic, or time is going by too quickly and you feel so very rushed–today’s invitation is to consider some margin. Consider what should be taken out. Consider what is worth letting go so that what is truly important can shine.
A little note: This month I am hoping to write down some of my heartfelt thoughts I have been having about the importance of being present and intentional in the home. I’m treating this series of posts as a sort of advent of the heart and hope you will read along and share your thoughts too.
And to start–I wanted to talk about why I think the look of a home–a pursuit that can become a prideful and wordly thing at times–can also impact and reflect things that really matter.
To me, a woman’s inner life and the way her home looks are connected.
Let me explain. The truth is, I just don’t think we as women can outrun ourselves or our feelings when it comes to our homes. Maybe you’re like me, and some days, when you look around you feel frazzled. The beds are made, but the dishes are undone. The floor is picked up but the toilets haven’t been cleaned in a month. Some days you just have to leave in order to feel like you can even breathe and then somehow you realize you’re in Target buying a candle that you subconsciously think is going to make it all feel better. And then you get home with all of your bags of stuff and realize it didn’t actually fix anything.
In fact, you feel worse.
I know that I’ve been there. It almost makes you want to cry when you walk in the door, doesn’t it?But then, there are also the other kind of days. The days where your house feels so great, so right that you might literally feel warm inside (and then with any luck, you also manage to take a nap to complete the epicness of the day). On those days our homes are a haven and for me, I can feel my outlook on everything improve. It’s amazing how affected we can be by our environments, isn’t it? When I don’t take the time to be intentional about what is going on in my home, I feel out to sea, un-moored, scatterbrained and unsure. And I think, whether we realize it or not, that every single day is like that–we are all of us affected by the state–physical, emotional, and otherwise, of our homes.
So, in light of that thought, I present to you a humble proposition: something that has been working for me lately. When I start to feel myself running around in that sort of stressed, half-aware, half-anxious mode where I am just picking up random things or saying head swears at my kids for all of the socks that never make it past where they kick them off, I try to stop. Physically stop. I make myself take some deep breaths (it’s probably a cliche because it’s true, right?) And then I force myself to be present in that moment. I look around myself and take in the sunlight from the windows, or the sound of the washing machine whirring–something physical that will bring me back to the moment. And then I will try to grab something to write with. In the past month I decided to place a small pad of paper on the table behind my couch and a bucket of pens so that I can easily grab both. But it’s not just to make a to-do list. Not exactly. Instead, I take a second to really think of the task that I am most likely avoiding. I’ve come to realize that when I’m acting scattered and stressed, it’s because I’m probably procrastinating something I don’t want to do. Think about it. Do you do this too? It’s ridiculous and dumb, isn’t it? When you find yourself in that space, instead consider asking yourself two questions: 1. How long will that avoided task really take? Is it less than five minutes? If it is… stop what you’re doing and do it. Right now. Do not pass go, do not collect a Target candle. (though it pains me to type that)….
But seriously, once you’ve done it, let’s be real. It probably took less time than you thought AND…I bet you spent more time worrying about it than it took to accomplish it. Am I right?? (Please tell me I’m right and not the only one neurotic enough to actually do such ridiculous and illogical things).
If, however, your avoided task would take longer than 5 minutes, or you don’t have five minutes to spare right now, then you must ask yourself the second question: 2. Would it be ok if you just let it go for a while? Be honest with yourself. Will it bug you? If so…see step 1! If not–Give yourself permission not to care. Try it out. What does that feel like for you? Can you actually give up the guilt and move on with your day? Can you see it as a gift for yourself and then be happy with your gift? It’s a good gift, you should.
In reality, I don’t think it matters whether you’re a busy career woman or a busy mom woman, or a busy career mom woman–there will always be more tasks than there is time. And what do we women do? We tie, with thick, knotted strings, a huge weight of guilt to every task set before us. And why? Oh man, why do we do that? And what we must do to fix it is so simple. Because God also, in His wisdom, gave each of us the the gift of a little golden pair of scissors in life called choice. And you can take those scissors and snip one string of guilt and another string, and another, until as many of those weights are gone as is necessary–until you feel light again. Until all that is left are the things that are essential.
I think you may be as surprised as I have been by this practice. You may be surprised that guilt and distraction are problems that we often give to ourselves. And equally as surprising–we can let them go. My hope for you, and for me, this season is that we choose to let those weights go. That we will snip those weights off, and be free as we move forward in the work of our lives and homes. It doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect. But in my life, it has freed me up to be open to joy, flexible with circumstances, and have greater patience for the inevitable pains and griefs that come with life. I think you will see yourself, and your home, in a new light. And by then, it won’t be a bad thing if it’s coming from your new Target candle.
I don’t know what it is about Easter, but it brings out the decorator lady in me. The last time I updated my website (as you probably have realized) was during LAST Easter. Well, what can I say, I’m up to my old tricks again. I want to cover everything in daffodils and berries and baby ducklings. I want pops of yellow and pastel blues and little girls dressed in smocked dresses and lace gloves and little boys wearing bow ties and straw fedoras. I want picnics. I want to read Jamberry. And I want to decorate ALL of the dining tables. I want to do them in every single color! I think that’s at the root of what I love so much–the excuse to use lots of spring colors!
So…with Easter/Spring fever upon me, there was nothing to do but give in. And, in all honesty, I really have missed the creative outlet that blogging about my home decorating projects and ideas gave me in the past. So…I’m hoping this will be the fresh start I need to motivate myself. So. I’m back. I’m happy. And I’m super glad you’re here. I hope you’ll continue to check back in for all of the good stuff to come!
ANYWAY. All of that to say, I decided to jump on the Easter decorating table bandwagon. It’s the first time I’ve decorated a table before a holiday, but you know what, it was really fun. No stress the day of the actual holiday to cook, decorate, and try to get good pictures! It also allowed me to take a few days to try lots of different ideas. It was a little like playing house, except I’m a grown up. 🙂 This year I decided to go for a color combination that was both a little traditional and a little modern–the classic blue and white with pops of corally pink and gold! I’m really into this color combo in my own home right now, so this was easy to pull together from things that I already own.
I will happily admit that not everything is from my personal stash. I purchased four things in total, but I still feel like I kept to my original purpose of making it budget friendly. The first purchase? The blue and white gingham “runner.” It is actually a curtain panel from Pottery Barn Kids that I found at Goodwill for a few dollars. It was the perfect length–I merely folded it in half, and voila, the perfect pop of color and classic Easter pattern! The 2. thing I bought? The cake stand which is holding that delectable pavlova (that my daughter made!). It was another Goodwill find–only $2. I know. !!!! I thank the Goodwill gods, who smiled upon me that day. #praisehandsforthecakestands
The table name card was a basic white set of tags that I found in the Target One Spot sometime over the past year and hoarded until the right moment. I painted the edges to add a little definition and make it pop. Mission accomplished. Hoarding vindicated.
The other two items I purchased? The flowers and a few pieces of silverware. The flatware was actually also from Goodwill and silver. I mostly wanted to test my concept of gold flatware before spending money on any such thing, so I just bought these and, you guessed it, spray painted them. I ended up loving how they looked! So I may have to invest if I can find a great set. I’ve also used plastic flatware in gold that looked remarkably good as well (in fact, I only bought a few pieces of real silverware at Goodwill–the rest of the items were plastic cutlery I spray painted).
The flowers are another sort of secret decorating life hack as well. I mixed real flowers in with faux. Could you tell?? You might have wondered a bit if they were all faux or all real (or maybe I tricked you and you didn’t wonder at all??), but the truth is it’s a mix. I mixed them to help fill out my bouquets without breaking the bank, as this many flowers would be quite pricey. I think one of the keys to making the bouquets look real is to make sure you have really good greenery–it really does help to fool the eye.
In our home we don’t actually have a separate dining space, and it can drive me a bit crazy at times, as I am one of the odd people who loves a separate space. But that being said, I do love our little eat-in nook for all of the sunlight! Plus, I can watch the kids playing in our backyard, which is a really amazing space (and the main reason we bought the house!)
Now, let’s be honest, I know there are some of you out there that are thinking, “Yeah, this is really nice. Buuuuut…I just don’t have an eye for this stuff.” People! I’ll tell you right now the secret to creating a beautiful table like this. It’s so simple that people often discount it. Lean in close, I’m about to divulge state secrets here. The key to creating an Easter table that you love is to really allow yourself to play! Now, I’m not going to lie and say that there’s no such thing as people having a natural flair for this sort of thing, but I think it’s only fair to say that I often consider myself among those that don’t feel like it comes naturally! I have to play around with things, move things around, and just give myself permission to fail spectacularly!
Start with something that you own that you really love. For me, it was my cute bunny figure that I’ve had for years and my collection of white tureens. For you, maybe it’s a special egg plate that your grandma always used, or a huge vase of daffodils from your yard. Try not to let the voice in your head that says, “this is probably going to be a dumb idea” into your mind. Give it a try! There’s no grade for this exercise. 🙂 This time.
The only other advice I would give is to get yourself some fresh flowers and pick some colors. I ended up picking that coral pink because I had some striped curtain panels (clearly, I have an obsession) that I’ve kept. I actually took my normal dining bench covers off and layered these curtain panels over the seat! It’s not a permanent thing, and if I had let my inner “that is such a weird idea to put curtains on an eating bench” voice stop me, I wouldn’t have had such a fun backdrop that added so much to the color scheme! Or I wouldn’t have put a smaller cake stand inside of my white tureen and put my bunny statue on top…because that initially looked pretty weird too. Don’t be afraid to take a few risks is all that I’m saying! I bet you anything that those little “weird” ideas will probably end up being your favorite part if you give them a chance! They may not all work out (trust me, there were a few ideas that didn’t make it on this table), that’s ok. Have fun!
And let’s all be real here for a minute–that jelly jar really needed me to put some jam in there. Or honey! It should have been honey. With thistles in it. Missed marketing opportunity. Dang it.
Doh well. I guess I’ll fix that in next year’s Easter post. 😉 Happy Early Easter!
We just wanted to thank those of you who made it to our first Creative Class again. It was such a fun night, and we loved having you! We hope you will come again for the classes we hope to host in the future. Until then, we thought we’d put all of the recipes and a few wheat grass tips in one place for you to reference! Happy Easter Entertaining!
Speckled Robin’s Egg Cake
1 White Cake Mix (prepared according to directions on box)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Liquid blue food color
1 tablespoon unsweetened baking cocoa
4 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Vermicelli (Rice Noodle) Nest
1 bar semi-sweet bakers chocolate
1 package rice noodles
1 Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 3 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; set aside.
2 In large bowl, add cake ingredients; beat with electric mixer on low speed until well combined. Divide batter evenly among pans.
3 Bake 22 to 28 minutes or until cakes spring back when touched lightly in center. Cool cakes in pans on cooling racks 5 minutes. Turn cakes out onto cooling racks; cool completely, about 30 minutes. Level cakes using large serrated knife or cake leveler, if needed.
4 To make Frosting, in large bowl, beat softened butter and powdered sugar with electric mixer on low speed until incorporated; beat on high speed 3 minutes. Add vanilla and salt; beat 1 minute longer. Add blue food color 1 drop at a time, beating until a light blue color is achieved.
5 Fill and frost cooled cake. Refrigerate frosted cake 1 hour or until frosting is dry to the touch.
6 In small condiment bowl, mix baking cocoa and vanilla. Load unused (new) stiff-bristle paint brush with cocoa mixture. Using fingers, flick loaded brush bristles toward cake creating a splatter pattern. Re-load brush; cover entire cake with chocolate speckles. Refrigerate cake 30 minutes.
To make Vermicelli Nest
Melt one bar of semi-sweet baker’s chocolate. Melt baker’s chocolate in microwave on high, stirring every 30 seconds until melted. Tear portions of vermicelli (also known as rice noddles) into a bowl and pour a few tablespoons of chocolate over the noodles. Form a loose nest shape, taking care to make sure there is enough noodles to create a bottom to the nest as well as the sides. Place a cup in the middle of the nest and place in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Attach cooled nest to cake with dot of frosting. Place 3 speckled egg candies inside nest.
Before serving, bring cake to room temperature. Store cake loosely covered with plastic wrap.
Tips for growing your Wheat grass centerpiece
Soak wheat germ berries overnight. A great place to buy fresh organic wheat grass is Amazon, link here.
Liberally pour thin layer of wheat grass seeds over potting soil in a container that will not leak. Cover the wheat grass with a layer of newspaper and spritz with water from a water bottle several times per day–whenever you see that the paper has dried out. After a few days, the seeds will sprout. Keep newspaper in place until the sprouts look like spiky grass, then remove newspaper and continue watering multiple times per day with the spray bottle.
Brunch Inspired Appetizer Recipes
Chicken Salad Puff Pastry (via Stone Gable) (note, Katie made this appetizer herself without a recipe, but this is a close approximation). 🙂