Follow Along on Twitter (@lifeblessons)

If you want to follow my Twitter account, my username is (not surprisingly) @lifeblessons.

Currently, I have my account set up to automatically tweet out new posts, so that you can get updates directly to your account if you prefer getting them that way.

I'm not sure how much I'll tweet in addition to these new post announcements (I have a hard time thinking in 140-character chunks!), but I guess you never know unless you follow along! I'll try to make it worth your while ;)

This is another way to get in touch with me if you have a question or anything else you'd like to pass my way. Simply a smorgasbord of options, aren't we?

I added an icon in the sidebar that will link directly to my Twitter page, so you can always find it from the blog home page, too.
{ photo }

Apartment Tour: The Living Room

So this is the first post in what I promised would be some photos of what our new apartment looks like. I mentioned a couple of days ago that I want to showcase our place as it is, "beauties, blemishes and all." So you can see that the photos aren't perfect, some things are still waiting to find a home, and others still waiting to get a good cleaning. But that's life, right? At least, it's my life.

Here's my attempt to provide some more details about what's going on in our humble little living room:

Thanks to my lovely, structured couch cover, you have no idea that underneath hides a pretty gnarly brown-and-orange floral pattern straight out of the Brady Bunch! It’s a vintage one I inherited from a family friend that is quite sturdy and I love the straight lines of it.

Above the couch is a large swath of blank wall that I have yet to determine what to do with. It's begging for something but I just don't know what yet. Isn’t that always the case?

LEFT: The sitting chair that I recovered a few years back (which, just so you know, covers up all our internet cable cords that come in just behind the chair). Also a good shot of a couple of blue rag rugs that I sewed together (with fishing wire, no less) and subsequently have used in every apartment since! I am thinking about getting (or making!) a new area rug for this space, but we’ll see what creativity and time deliver.

MIDDLE: An up-close look at the vintage-inspired pattern of one of our throw pillows. I loved it so much that I bought two of the throw pillows, one with a blue print and the other with a green-and-pink print.

RIGHT: Our media center, where we store all our DVDs and CDs, is tucked into the corner beside the sofa. And you can't see it here (instead, scroll up to the top photo), but just to the left of the shelving is our lonely little record player, sitting on the floor, waiting until we can find a proper place for it!

Remember this? The little vignette I showcased awhile ago, which sits atop the shelving. (For more details on the where’s and what’s of the little spread, read this post.) There's also no overhead lighting in the room, hence the corner lamp. Plus, you can also see the damask-patterned curtains a bit better here, which give the room a sunny glow. I threw them up one day just to cover the view from the street. I don't love that they stop just at the window sill (I'm a sucker for floor-length), but I like the pop of color and the print, so they've stuck.

We have a fireplace! This is how the mantel is decorated for now, though I'm contemplating incorporating more white candlesticks and ceramics. In case you forgot, I made the framed nest artwork last year. (Visit that post for more details.)

LEFT: More of the fireplace itself, which is stained with soot that I need to get around to cleaning, though I'm unsure of how much will actually come off. You can also see the log that sits in the pit that was here when we moved in, which I think makes it feel especially rustic.

RIGHT: I painted the vase to complement the blue in the poster and then spray-painted the dried foliage a stark white. I love how it pulls out the light blue! There are also a couple of candles I have on hand that I needed a place to put, and the mantel seemed as good a place as any.

Up-close of the decor on the right-side of the mantel, including our wedding cake topper that my sister hand-painted of us (and a little “Happily Ever After” banner I pinned overtop), plus a vintage lomo camera that I've only ever used once. (Sad, I know.)

The milk-glass vases were table decorations from my wedding as well. (You’ll soon notice that wedding pieces are sprinkled everywhere throughout our décor, which is a fact I love, since I also loved how our green-and-white, wildflower-themed wedding looked, too!)

Related Posts

The Process of Turning a House into a Home
Making the Framed "Nest" Artwork
Mixing and Matching Prints in Our Living Room

The Process of Turning a House into a Home

A few months ago, I found myself unsubscribing from a bunch of blogs that I was reading. It wasn't because they were completely irrelevant to my life or because they were wasting my time.

It was because they were beautiful. Too beautiful.

They featured homes that were filled to the brim with shopping trips to Anthropologie and West Elm. They redecorated at the drop of a hat, like it was nothing at all.

I found myself thinking, "Oh, I want one like that!" "Oh, I wish I could do / find / buy that!"

And slowly I realized that too much unrealistic eye-candy isn't always a good thing, when it causes your heart to start wishing and wanting and dwelling on what it doesn't have.

It's been a little dilemma for me, regarding this. It's not that I anticipate that my decorating could compete with those sorts of blogs. But sometimes I wonder, when we post what our homes or closets look like (and only the pretty places, of course, never the laundry piles or unfinished corners!), are we actually hoping that people will wish they had this or that?

Instead, I love the blogs where they show what real people can do with real budgets and real results. I love when they plant realistic ideas in my head and help me find answers to some aesthetic problems that have been clunking up my style.

Because life is not all about decorating or design. But when things work and when the mere sight of something—even as small as a homemade chalkboard—brings a smile to your face, that's what the goal of design ought to be about.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to start sharing some of the photos of our new place. Not because it's beautiful or everything is styled and "just right." No, I'm going to share it because it's real. And I'm going to fight the urge to camouflage all the ugly spots or crop out the places that I don't yet like.

Because I want to share the natural process of turning a house into a home—beauties, blemishes and all.

Related Posts
Experiments in Decorating
The Search for a Home
{ photo }

What I Did With 6 lbs. of Sweet Potatoes

I should have taken a "Before" photo, but I always manage to forget that part when it comes to blogging.

Instead, here's a glimpse at the aftermath of what happened to the six pounds of sweet potatoes that I picked up at the grocery story the other day:

They were on sale for a great price (evidently in time for Easter), so I decided to stock up and then chop up a bunch, resulting in a big bag full of sweet potato fries to store in the freezer.

Nothing makes a meal better than sweet potato fries, and they freeze really well without having to do any extra prep work aside from slicing and dicing: Cut 'em, put them in a bag and freeze them. That easy.

Then when you're ready to cook them, just throw them on a baking stone, spritz some olive oil over top (I like to use my Misto), sprinkle some sea salt and let them bake in the oven (350 degrees will do) for about an hour. Then enjoy!

Related Posts
A Short Cut for Chopping Sweet Potatoes
Recipe for Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

A Little Makeover for the Blog

Notice anything different?

Over the weekend, I decided it was time to give the blog another little makeover, though I feel like it’s more of a “refining” than a complete “revamping.”

I was pretty happy with the overall design scheme, but there were a few quirks that bothered me about the old design. Namely, the fact that there was a lot of wasted space on the sides of the page. If you have a small screen, that works great. But if you have a wide-screen computer like I do, then everything feels crammed.

I also wanted to add a menu bar below my header and clean things up a little.

I finally got around to all that this weekend, and must say that I am quite content with the aftermath.

I also made the blog mobile-friendly, which means that any of you who visit via smartphone, iPad or iPod will now see a much more streamlined layout that I think will make reading on-the-go much easier! (In case you're interested in adding this to your own blog, it's pretty easy to do if you set up a Mobify account. It took me about 5 minutes to do!)

And, because I know that many of you will be curious about the specifics that went into it, here are some details…

  • First of all, I switched from the old Simple layout I had been using to another of the standard Blogger templates, “Minima Lefty Stretch.” It is not available in the new “Template Designer,” but you can access it by clicking on the “Design” tab in your Blogger account and selecting “Edit HTML.” Scroll to the bottom of that page and you can “Select Layout Templates,” listed under Old Templates.

  • Once you select this template, you can still go into the “Template Designer” and some of the tweaking options will be available (such as changing the font size and color) that makes personalizing the layout much easier.

  • I like this new template because it fills the entire page and will flex depending on what size screen you have. (Play around with the size of the window and you'll see what I mean!)

  • Since the new layout is "stretchy," I decided to make the static images (those that aren't inside individual blog posts, like the polaroid photo in the sidebar and the menu images below the header) stretchy as well. It's a surprisingly easy little hack to make, by simply including a bit of extra code into the image tag. Just go into the image tag < img > and add width=100% (html code shown in italics). Making the width a percentage means that no matter how big the sidebar is, the image will always fit. That's just an example, though; the percentage can be whatever you want.

  • I added a menu bar under the header by creating a new HTML widget and then uploading various images and linking them to different pages on my blog. (I explained some of this in more detail in a previous post about blog design tips.)

  • To create the buttons for the menu choices (“home,” “about me,” etc.), I downloaded the font Traveling Typewriter.

  • Finally, I decided—at least for now—to do away with some of the more image-heavy content that I had previously, specifically with the sidebar and the special title fonts. I loved being able to have everything show up in pretty fonts, but it took a lot of time to create and then if I wanted to update anything, it ended up being something of a chore. So I’m letting the template do its work, by using the built-in fonts and more straight-forward links (like you can see in the “Browse by Category” widget in the sidebar of the new design).
Related Posts
The Fonts I Use On My Blog
Advice for Starting a Blog


    A Prayer for Love

    "Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways," David wrote in Psalm 17.

    I stopped when I read that the other day. Because while I know God loves me and I've been overwhelmed by it at various times, when things are ordinary and simple and simply fine, it can be difficult to really understand, much less accept and appreciate, the immensity of God's love for me.

    I find myself praying, over and over again, "God teach me how to love you more, how to love you better."

    And that's part of it, but there's more to the equation than just me learning how to love him. There's another part: Simply letting him love me.

    I don't know how to do that other than to ask him to do it, by repeating this verse from the Psalms and asking God to make his love for me not just some head knowledge but something real.

    This is part of the premise of Joanna Weaver's latest book Lazarus Awakening, which she illustrates through the story of Lazarus' death and how Jesus raised him from the dead.

    The part of the book that really provided the most practical application regarding learning to live in God's love was from an example Weaver provided of two friends: "When she'd asked Joan how she finally became convinced of God's love, Ann had expected a dramatic story—something about how God had spared her friend from tragedy or brought her through a dark time. Instead, Joan described a simple decision to 'set aside one month in which to act as though God loved her.' All that month 'whenever she was tempted to doubt his love, she simply shifted her thoughts and then put the full force of her mind behind believing that God loved her. And that settled it for her—for good.'" (page 94)

    It reminds me of the father who so eloquently and desperately said it best: "I believe, help my disbelief!" We believe, and yet we still have to continue asking God to help us remove those bits of doubt that keep us from fully living in the truth.

    So for now, I keep whispering, "Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways..."

    Related Posts
    A Sucker for Romance: Why I Love the Old Testament Prophets

    Getting a Pep Talk from God
    { photo }

    ... I took about 1/2 my closet and handed it over to the good people of Goodwill and am learning to love my favoritest of clothes that I kept instead. It is funny how much more I wear the clothes I like the best when all the others are no longer an option.

    ... I have started experimenting with the different places I can walk to from our new apartment (although, unfortunately, no grocery stores are quite close enough anymore).

    ... I got two emails in a single day offering me some odd-job work, including a freelance writing assignment and some babysitting. Isn't it funny how that happens?

    ... I got my library card and enjoyed exploring my new library, which has an extensive religion section, including a full set of commentaries that my husband is especially excited about, and I picked one up to complement my recent reading of the book of Ruth in my daily Bible reading plan.

    ... I'm trying to find a tasty-but-simple pasta sauce recipe. My favorite store-bought kinds are the 3-cheese or vodka-sauce varieties, but I haven't found anything that compares quite yet.

    ... I got a hold of about a dozen empty buckets that I plan to put to use for my impending container garden, which I hope to kickstart within the next week, hopefully finally bringing my garden daydreams to fruition!

    ... Decorating-wise, I still don't have much on my walls here but am brainstorming new visual ideas to test out on these naked walls of ours. It seems that art is always what eludes me most when it comes to decorating!

    ... My husband surprised me with a little getaway! He told me to make sure I packed some good walking shoes and something nice for dinner. We hit the road once he got home from work, and ended up an hour north at Barnsley Gardens!

    It's a lovely historic and outdoorsy resort that made me feel like we'd wandered into the Secret Garden. Here's some of what it was like:


    A Blog Post About Riches

    Though I've not been doing as much blog writing as I'd like, I have been doing a great deal of blog reading. One post that especially spoke to my heart was one from Brooke's blog about finding ourselves overwhelmed with worries of what we can and can't afford:
    " these times when i give into fear, or talk too loudly about limited income, or mention all those things we “can’t afford,” i paint this picture that makes it seem like to follow Jesus is almost akin to being an economic martyr.

    it isn’t.

    i need to give testimony to this: we are paid well; we are living in abundance. our boss is our Dad, and our Dad is very rich."
    She goes on to witness to the riches that festoon her life: fresh fruit and organic eggs for breakfast, coffee shop trips, a tax return that paid for a new water hearter, donated items for a baby-on-the-way. And though there are at times struggles to make ends meet or wants that go without, she sees the beauty in them, too:
    "His provision always comes, and always in perfect time. sometimes it comes through the offer of a job for pay, or picking up an extra shift at work. sometimes He prompts someone to share/give to us items that we need, or to just give us cash. sometimes we get checks from unexpected sources for odd reasons (like a refund check for having overpaid on car insurance). sometimes things are on sale. sometimes we’re able to barter services. and through it all, He is teaching us to revel in the beauty and freedom of simplicity and thrifting. and He shows our hearts what is really necessary and what is not, giving us grace to let go of the frills.

    i am wealthy. my goodness, i am so rich."
    I need this reminder. We have chosen to live a life that is simple and not marked by extravagant incomes. But that can often get forgotten when we focus on what we do not have instead of what we do have (quality free time, hobbies, homemade bread!). This kind of thinking completely distorts the picture because we have found ourselves never wanting, never missing bills, never having to choose milk over bread. We are not poor by any means! And yet it can be so easy to find ourselves bemoaning what we lack, even when they are by all accounts luxuries.

    Oh, to truly embrace what we have rather rather than yearn after that which we don't...

    I'd encourage you to go read Brooke's post in its entirety!

    Related Posts
    Cultivating Gratitude for the Smallest of Things
    Cultivating Gratitude Even When It Hurts

    { photo }

    Getting a Little Taste of Home Ownership

    A couple of months ago, I mentioned that my husband and I started to consider looking at buying a house. We ended up deciding to stick with renting for a little while longer, so that when the time comes, we're able to have more time to look as well as a better idea of what we're in the market for.

    One thing I didn't expect that would come with renting for a little while longer was that we've already started to get a little taste of what home ownership might be like.

    As soon as we moved into our humble abode, we discovered that the sprayer in the kitchen sink was dripping water into the cabinets below. We called our landlord and she had someone come and replace the sprayer. Then we discovered the bathroom sink pipe was dripping; another phone call and another replacement.

    Next came the clogging of the kitchen sink. After I spent an hour or so plunging and trying a vinegar-and-baking-soda home remedy, a plumber had to come out to unclog the rust-filled pipes. Then we saw that our fridge would periodically spit out ice-cold water onto our kitchen floor and the inside of our fridge.

    The latest discovery has been that our dryer no longer tumbles.

    All within less than one month of moving in!

    Fortunately, our landlord has been pretty on-top of getting most of the things fixed, but the dryer was something we had to take care of because it was left by previous tenants and not provided by the landlord. We knew this when we first moved in, so once we discovered the problem to our damp clothes, we started doing some research and figured out that the cause was likely a broken dryer belt.

    A lot of the information we read online said that this was a fix we could do ourselves. And with the part costing about $20, versus calling a repairman out for around $200, we decided to try the DIY fix first and call in the professionals if all else failed.

    This past weekend, after an early-morning hike in the sunshine, my husband and I stopped by the appliance parts shop to pick up the dryer belt. We watched a how-to video on the Home Depot website, and then decided to roll up our sleeves and dive in.

    Within half an hour, my husband had the belt on and the dryer running better than ever! Marking our first home improvement project together, outside of piecing together IKEA furniture. A little taste of home ownership, one day at a time.

    Related Posts
    The Search for a Home


    Mary's Testimony: "I wanted to stop being a good little girl."

    I recently wrapped up the Testimony Series I've been running for the past couple of months, but received a submission that I wanted to share.  Many thanks to Mary for sharing her story about how God met her where she was and transformed her life...

    Everyone has a life story.

    For me, my story only truly began when I came to know Jesus.

    I grew up in a Christian family. My parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors loved the Lord with all their heart. I was taught that Jesus loved me in Sunday School. I sang in children’s choir. I went to Vacation Bible School every summer. My father was a deacon. My mother the church pianist. I basically grew up in church.

    When I was 10 years old I listened intently as my Pastor preached on Hell and the reality of it one Sunday night at church. At 10 years old I knew I was a sinner and needed Jesus to forgive me of my sins and be the Lord of my life.

    Fast forward to when I was 16 years old: I told Jesus I didn’t want to live His way anymore. I wanted to stop being a "good little girl." I started messing around with alcohol. How quickly that first sip spiraled into a full on disaster.

    Many bad decisions were made.

    After trying to turn my life around from the alcohol mess, I found myself in another mess, an eating disorder. During this time in my life I was very depressed and hated everything about myself.

    Let’s look behind the scenes of this story…

    Jesus was watching the whole story unfold. Not only was He watching, but He was holding my hand. He was gently calling me back to Himself. He was protecting me. He was being patient with me. He was loving me when I chose to stop loving Him.He was sending people into my life to provide wisdom and guidance for my young and confused heart.

    Fast forward now to college: After many experiences I finally understood what MY faith was all about. It became my own. My faith was not taught to me in Sunday School. My faith was not handed down to me from my parents. My faith was now my faith.

    It was mine because I had lived it and experienced it personally. I knew that Jesus had been behind the scenes the whole time. I knew that He loved me no matter what I did. That He had forgiven me for all the mistakes I had made. That had already been accomplished when He became my Lord and Savior at age 10. I decided to stop running from Him and to join Him in what He was doing in my life.

    Fast forward to present day: I'm a 25-year-old wife and dietitian. I don’t even know who that former girl used to be. Not because years have now passed and people do grow up and change. It goes much deeper than that. I do not remember her because I am no longer her.

    I cannot imagine how different my story would be today if I had not turned my whole life back over to Jesus. I would be a totally different person.

    I chose to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, that the Bible is 100% His word and it is truth, that He says I am beautiful, worthy, and enough.

    Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
    I am currently on my journey to Heaven, one day at a time. I have never been so in love.

    This is a guest post by Mary, who blogs at Mary in Marriedland. She says, "I am a twenty something newlywed who lives in Tennessee with my awesome husband, James. I am a Registered Dietitian and currently work in a long term care facility. I am most passionate about Jesus, my Lord and Savior. He changed my life and continues to change me daily. His love is perfect. I desire for my readers to see Him for who He really is. I want to share His joy, peace, and truth through my own struggles and victories. I also have two other obsessions... photography and nutrition. You will see these alot on my blog. I am one blessed girl. I am just taking it one day at a time."

    4 Cheap Organization Projects that Have Kept Me Busy

    Each day we get closer to being settled, which is a good feeling, let me tell you! There's still a bit more on my to-do list (including finding what to do with all my random tchotchkies that don't have a place here just yet), so here's a few organization projects that have kept me busy the past couple of weeks in our new apartment:

    In our old apartment, one entire wall of our bedroom was closet space. But now, we have one small closet to share, which has spurred a lot of wardrobe pruning (more on that soon!) as well as some creative thinking about how to make it all fit. One thing that has significantly helped were the metal shoe racks that I was able to receive from CSN Stores to facilitate this review. Up until this point, our shoes have always laid in rows on the floor, but with such a small space, that lazy approach would no longer work. It was time to go vertical!

    I looked at a lot of different shoe racks before deciding on getting two of these from CSN, which cost just $14.19 each. I wanted racks that were compact, sturdy, and could hold as many shoes as possible. I also was determined to find ones that actually had shelves; most racks just have two rods that run the length, which work fine if you have shoes with heels or grippy soles but can result in an avalanche of shoes if you've got a collection full of flats like I do.

    When these arrived, I went to work putting them together single-handedly and was pleased to see that these stood up to all of my expectations—as well as fitting our entire collection of shoes (with a little creative stacking!). After having all my shoes dumped in a huge pile for the first week or so of living here, you can only imagine how happy this orderly display makes me! (If you've never shopped at CSN before, here's some more handy information I wrote the first time I reviewed one of their products.)

    Although we lost some space in our bedroom closet with our new apartment, we gained a lot more storage in our kitchen than we'd had in our old place. What once had been crowded into one pull-out drawer, all of my cooking utensils, gadgets and gizmos now have the chance to actually have a place of their own. Now that I have the space to experiment, one of the projects I've undertaken was to make little boxes for my mismatched sets of measuring cups that divide them by size, rather than by set. It might not be the most attractive of solutions, but I used one of the cardboard moving boxes we had and cut it to size, taping in dividers and then creating color-coded, laminated labels that sit in the bottom of the tray to mark off the 1/4 cups from the 1/3 cups, and so on. I don't know why I'd never thought to divide my measuring cups by size before, but it makes finding the right one so much easier now!

    I do have one of those nice spice racks that spins around, but it took up too much countertop and I still ended up having to buy extra spices and find somewhere to store them. So I decided to pack the rack away and pool all the jars individually together and store them in my cabinets (since there's now plenty of room for them!). I used a metal tin that I'd had on hand (previously it had served to corral all my make-up supplies in our old apartment). Then, I printed out some labels (using my latest favorite font, Jolly) and taped them to the tops (poor man's laminating!) for easy on-demand retrieval.

    We used to use old cups or jars to hold our pens and markers and scissors. But one day, when I was tossing some diced tomato cans into the recycling, I thought to re-use them for my writing utensils. I did a lot of tin-can repurposing when I was younger, but hadn't thought to do any recently until now. So with some spray paint, I was able to make some easy-peasy containers for our desktop that not only look uniform but also make it much easier to find what you're looking for. And boy, do I love me some good, repurposing!

    Related Posts
    A New Place to Call Home and Lessons in Moving
    Next Post Previous Post
    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...