ANNOUNCEMENT: The Blog Has Moved!

 

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Dear faithful blog friends –

It has been a fun time blogging here at AllPrecious&Pleasant, and the experience I’ve had of learning to decorate and write about it has been invaluable. So much so…that my husband and I have now launched a new website and business called Peach & Pine Home.

When I first began blogging upon purchasing our first home, I had no idea that I would be uncovering such a passion. I fell in love with writing for the blog. I have always loved to write, but the blog gave me a creative outlet to use that passion. My husband, Jeremy, and I also fell in love with making our house into a home through renovating, decorating and DIY. When people started asking us to help us with THEIR homes, we decided we should start thinking about creating a business together.

After months and months of planning and discussing, Peach & Pine Home was born. While I learned so much through my original blog, allpreciousandpleasant, I also knew for a while that the title of the blog didn’t really communicate clearly what the blog was about. Also, with the decision to partner with my husband in a business that helps people turn houses into homes, I knew it was time to start fresh with the blog!

If you’ve been following for a while, you will find all the old posts from All Precious & Pleasant archived at the new website! And I will continue creating content about our lives, our home, DIY, and renovation as we begin to help clients with their homes as well!

So head on over to www.peachandpinehome.com to check out the new digs! Also, we are available for hire if you need any design help around YOUR home! We will no longer be posting here at All Precious & Pleasant.

~ Chandler & Jeremy

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Quarles in Iceland: A 5 Day Itinerary

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If you aren’t planning a trip to Iceland, this may not be a helpful blog post for you, and feel free to skip right over it…or just look at some pretty photos and move on. But when I plan trips, I google the heck out of things like “sample itinerary for five days in Iceland,” so I figured for someone, this may be helpful.

The #1 rated travel book for Iceland is from Lonely Planet, and while we really loved it for a lot of reasons, the itinerary suggestions are pretty vague and weak (especially compared to Rick Steves Itineraries which aren’t available for Iceland). So, here is a sample itinerary for a first timer’s trip to Iceland in 5 days. I did a lot of research and came up with an itinerary that we were really happy with! We were so sad to leave this beautiful country after five days, but we felt like we made the most of our time!

The key for us was 2 days of taking it easy and soaking in Iceland, and 3 days of nonstop roadtrips. The best roadtrips of our lives! We didn’t let jet lag get us down, and we didn’t feel stressed throughout the trip!

At the end, I also included a budget breakdown. It may seem like TMI, but we are major budget people (which is how we find a way to travel to new places), and I find that kind of information on other people’s trips really helpful! And I had a hard time finding a lot of pricing information for Iceland.

We flew Icelandair out of Boston. We left at 8:45pm ET and landed at 5:45am in Iceland. Day 1 started at the airport…

Day 1 – Reykjanes Peninsula, Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik 

We landed at Keflavik and picked up our rental car which we booked with Budget (via Expedia)and we drove off into the Reykjanes peninsula. We had Blue Lagoon tickets first thing at 9:00am (you must book in advance for the Blue Lagoon), but we had about two hours to kill, so we explored the Reykjanes Peninsula, saw the tectonic plate divide, drove out to some amazing cliffs by the power plant (sounds like an oxymoron, right?. When we left the airport, we both said it felt like being on Mars. At 7am, there were hardly any cars on the roads and we didn’t see a single person anywhere. We just saw miles and miles of lava fields with geothermal steam rising from the ground. The cloudy skies and harsh winds against the harsh landscape had us feeling like we had landed on another planet.
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We stopped for breakfast at Bryggian in the fishing village of Grindavik. This was the best meal to start off our trip! There was no menu, but the kind man behind the counter brought out the “fisherman’s breakfast”–aka the works. Pickled herring, smoked salmon, veggies, rye bread, skyr, fresh jam and butter, cheese, coffee.
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After breakfast, we went to the Blue Lagoon, a checkbox on many traveler’s bucket lists. It was a lovely couple of hours, but I have to admit that while I’m glad we did it, it was not the biggest highlight of the trip compared to some of the other amazing sights we saw.
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After the Blue Lagoon, we drove into Reykjavik and headed down to the harbor. We explored the quaint streets lined with colorful, petite houses that reminded me of a storybook or coloring book and stopped for the best lobster soup I’ve ever tasted in a cozy, rustic atmosphere at Saegriffin on the harbor. We walked around and explored a bit more and then checked into our hotel (www.numer29.com. Definitely recommend!) for a quick afternoon nap before heading out to dinner at Nora Magasin where we had some incredible beef and lamb burgers. Then we finished the evening in the rooftop, geothermally heated hot tub and sauna at Numer 29. We loved just strolling the streets of Reykjavik, but I have to say that one day there felt like plenty. We were ready to head into the wild and glad that the rest of our nights were not booked in town.

**A note about jet lag. I feel like we really beat jet lag well this trip and made the most of our first full day after a red eye flight–a must do for a short trip in Iceland. Three primary keys for us were (1) sleeping on the flight as best we could. We didn’t let the movies tempt us and we went straight to trying to sleep. (2) going to the Blue Lagoon in the morning. It’s in the perfect location to hit after the airport, and we were able to enjoy a relaxing soak in the spa, feel like we were doing something, but not overexert ourselves. (3) Spending our first day in Reykjavik. If our first day had been a full day of nature sightseeing, I think we would have worn ourselves ragged. Reykjavik is a great town to leisurely enjoy and relax. (4) Taking a nap. We let ourselves sleep for an hour or two in the afternoon before getting back out and enjoying the city some more. It gave us that extra burst of energy! 
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Day 2 – The Golden Circle
Total time spent in the car: around 3 hours
Total day length with stops: around 10 hours (we really took our time and also had to stop for groceries at the end)

Perhaps the most famous day trip in Iceland is the Golden Circle which consists of three very popular natural attractions on an easy to drive route. The drive started out very foggy, and we were a little bit disappointed that we couldn’t see into the distance past the fog hovering over the mountains, but by the afternoon, the blue skies made a grand appearance, and it was the start of three days of the most glorious April weather we could have asked for in Iceland.

We started out at Þingvellir National Park, where the first ever known parliament meetings were held by early Icelanders over 1000 years ago. It also sits on the continental divide between the tectonic plates.
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We broke up the day with lunch at Fridheimar. This is a must! It is this amazing greenhouse where they grow tomatoes that are used all over Iceland. They’ve figured out a way to use the geothermal energy and water to grow the tastiest tomatoes year round in a very volatile climate. They have the cutest cafe where you can eat the best tomato soup of your life with fresh bread and basil you cut fresh off a basil plant on your table. It’s a wonderful stopping point on the Golden Circle drive.
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The last two stops of the day are Geysir and Gullfoss. Both of these places are incredible, and there is a plethora of information everywhere on the internet, so I will spare you tons of detail.

After the waterfall, we headed to find our Airbnb cabin which was just northeast of Reykjavik near Lake Medalfellsvatn, but we stopped at a grocery store first to stock up for the week at our cabin. There are NO GROCERY STORES along the road headed from Gulfoss to the Reykjavik area until you get back almost to the capital city. Also, grocery stores keep really short hours (especially on Sundays), but we found a Kronan open in the town of Mosfellsbaer.

Grocery shopping when everything is in another language is a challenge, but it was kind of fun, and we came away with food for a couple of dinners at the cabin, breakfast for the rest of the days, and plenty of coffee and snacks for the week. We still don’t know exactly what the ground meat was that we had for breakfast every day, but that’s the fun I guess.
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We ended the day at the cabin that I had booked online and prayed was as blissful as it looked. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was even better. We felt like we had stepped into a dream. It was the perfect place to relax every night, and we were glad to have a home base to come back to. With only a few days in Iceland, I recommend picking a place and doing day trips from there rather than moving locations every night. For us, it made for a much more relaxing vacation. With a longer trip around the ring road, the scenario would change, but we loved having a home base.
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Day 3 – Snaefellsness Peninsula
Total time spent in the car: around 6 hours
Total day length with stops: around 12 hours

I was looking forward to our day on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula most of all because it is a little bit off the beaten path, and because it is the site of a lot of filming for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which is fun to see. This part of the country is an easy day trip from the Reykjavik area, and it is a part of the country filled with interesting landscapes and a sort of magical feeling. Over half of Icelanders believe in the existence of huldufolk or “hidden people,” like trolls and elves and fairies. No other place will be more likely to convince you that they just might just be hidden from visitors in the lava rock.

We started off with a drive through the town of Borgarnes where we stopped to fuel up our car and get a cinnamon roll at Geirabakari, which was the site of the Papa John’s in Walter Mitty. The entire town of Borgarnes has a beautiful view of the ocean. I can’t imagine living somewhere with five star views to pump your gas.
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We then headed off for our lunch spot at Stykkisholmur, the biggest town on the peninsula and we stopped for a photo op at the Gerduberg basalt columns along the way. The columns are really amazing, but looking back, I may not have taken the time to stop and see them. You will see lots of other basalt formations on your trip and these were our least favorite.

Stykkisholmur is a great stopping point to grab a bite before circling the peninsula. We had an amazing lunch of seafood soup and asparagus soup and fresh bread at Narfeyrarstofa. We also climbed to the top of the basalt island, Sugandisey, at the top of town and just enjoyed the quiet streets (where there is free wi-fi everywhere) for a few minutes.
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We then headed west around the peninsula. We stopped at Kirkjufellsfoss for a photo op of the waterfall and the mountain Kirkjufell in the background. Then we continued around and drove through Snaefellsjokull National Park. We made a stop at Dritvik beach which was eerie on a foggy afternoon with the remains of a shipwreck from hundreds of years ago still scattered on the black sand. We saw the rock formation known as the Elf Church. 
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We drove through lava fields and climbed to the top of the Saxholl Crater to look down at the jagged rock landscape. We finished the trek around at the cliffs of Hellnar and Arnarstapi–my favorite part of the day. We were running out of time and getting hungry, so we rushed our time there a bit, but I wished I could spend hours sitting along the dramatic cliffs and watching the sea birds as they socialized at the end of the day.
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We didn’t get back to our cabin until around 10pm, but the long day was well worth it.

Day 4 – The South Coast
Total time spent in the car: around 6 hours
Total day length with stops: around 12 hours

Another very accessible day trip is along The South Coast. From our point Northeast of Reykjavik, we weren’t directly accessible to the South Coast sights, but it was pretty easy to head down south as far as the town of Vik and see some beautiful places along the way.

After a couple hours of driving and just enjoying the countryside, we stopped at the first natural wonder: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. We put on our waterproof pants and went behind the waterfall and around it. Beautiful! We knew Vik was going to be our stop and turn around point so we hit a couple stops on the way and a couple on the way back.
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We walked to the base of the Solheimajokull Glacier which was a highlight of the day. Even though we couldn’t hike it without a guide, it was great to see it up close.

The one thing we would take off the list in future was our trip to see the downed plane Solheimasandur. In March of 2016 (one month before we were there), they closed off the driving path to get to it, and what we thought was a 10 or 15 minute walk to the plane was actually a 2.2 mile walk. Our trip to see the plane took us over 2 hours! It was cool, but not cool enough for that.
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We stopped in Vik for an Icelandic hotdog and then spent some time on the black sand beach at Reynisfjara. This was one of my favorite spots in all of Iceland! I wanted to spend a lot more time there and so wished we hadn’t spent two hours seeing the plane so that I could go to the cafe, grab some coffee, and just sit on the black sand and listen to the waves and stare at the basalt formations.
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On the drive back, we stopped at Skogafoss waterfall–my favorite waterfall of the trip. Then we went for a swim at the Seljavaullaug hidden pool. This was a wonderful place to stop for a dip in a warm pool and a view of the surrounding mountains.
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We finished off the day with dinner in Selfoss. There were a number of good restaurants, and it was a good stop on the way back!

Day 5 – Slow down and take it in. 

Our flight left the airport around 6pm on Day 5, and I didn’t make any big plans for the day before that. I’m so glad I didn’t because after three days of non-stop roadtrips, all I wanted to do was just relax and soak in the atmosphere before having to leave this amazing country.
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We took our time with breakfast and I went for a hike around the cabin (another reason I’m so glad we chose a scenic place to stay). I hung out with the sweet horses that surrounded us and cried as I said goodbye to them. We truly just had a leisurely morning and it felt like the perfect way to end a trip. Then we went back to Reykjavik for lunch at Icelandic Fish & Chips, coffee at Cafe Haiti, and another stroll through the colorblock streets before heading to the airport late afternoon.
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We could have tried to jam pack another day, but I don’t regret taking it easy one bit. It was the best ending to the best trip in an absolutely unforgettable country.

Until next time, Iceland.

Trip Budget

**We are strict budget people; we log every purchase and put every dollar in its place (thank you, Dave Ramsey). One of the things that affords us is the opportunity to intentionally make travel a priority and save our pennies toward trips like this. That being said, it’s sometimes hard to plan a budget to an unknown place without any knowledge of how much that will cost. Hopefully this helps! 

(This budget is not including airfare which will vary by time of year and airline. But I will say that we used Icelandair out of Boston after using airline points to get from Nashville to Boston, and roundtrip flights Boston to Reykjavik were just over $500 each in April!)

Lodging: $474 (4 nights Airbnb)
Food at Restaurants: $258.24 (7 full meals and plenty of coffee stops, snacks, etc)
Groceries: $74.55 (3 breakfasts, 2 dinners, coffee and snacks)
Gas: $152.30 (5 days of driving in a little economy car)
Sightseeing: $123.69 (Blue Lagoon and a few little costs here and there)
Rental Car: $153.00
Total Cost: $1,235.78

I hope this was helpful in some way! Happy to answer any questions!Signature

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Quarles In Iceland Part 1

In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Psalm 95:4-5 

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Jeremy and I just got back from a week in the land of fire and ice. Inspired by beautiful photos and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Jeremy suggested a new vacation locale, and we booked this trip on a whim less than two months ago.

Those two months were very busy. We were both working overtime and trying to balance too many things, so I counted down the days to a getaway. I told myself I needed to clear my mind, to have the space to think about the future and to have deep conversations and quality time with my husband after weeks of passing like ships. I needed to not think about politics or the state of our country or career choices or emails or social media or to-do lists.

Turns out, I did need all those things (and I got them), but the thing I truly needed, and found, was much better.

Author Hannah Kent wrote, “I do think people can have a spiritual connection to landscape, and I certainly did in Iceland.”

I echo that sentiment.

I didn’t make any big life decisions or have a profound epiphany in our five short days in Iceland. But I experienced a spiritual wonder that settled my soul. 

I rode in the passenger seat as we drove for hours on winding roads flanked by epic mountains and rugged lava fields. I stood at the base of a glacier and wondered at the free-form patterns made in the packed ice by the water runoff. I closed my eyes and listened to the roar of mighty waterfalls and opened them to see rainbows reflecting across the water.
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Icelandic horses wandered through the fields outside our cabin window as I drank my morning coffee. They seem noble with sure-footed gaits, but also like unruly teenagers with their thick, shaggy manes and playful banter.
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I marveled at the intensity of the blue ocean. The cold, north Atlantic waters were a deeper, richer blue than I have ever seen, and as we stood on top of peaks and alongside fjords, the water seemed to stretch forever.

The grandeur seemed to minimize my daily struggles. I was so awestruck by the wonder of a God who could create such a place. If he can make a planet so diverse, powerful, and beautiful, how much greater will the next world be?

It was the best possible vacation. One that not only provided more “me” time, but also more worship time. More time to simply stand in awe of God. No agenda. No schedule. No questions to answer or problems to solve. More of HIM in the world around me; less of me and my daily concerns, comparisons, complaints. Although, I can’t deny that I also received one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life and some memories that I want to keep forever.

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I don’t have to travel to Iceland to experience this kind of wonderment. I want to find time in my daily life to simply allow myself to be awed by the God that loves me. Not to try to do something or accomplish something or solve a problem or fix my flaws. There is a place for all of those things, but it is amazing the kind of soul-soothing, mind healing peace that comes in just pausing and looking around and worshiping God because He deserves it.

But on a very practical note, I’m convinced that you, too, should go ahead and buy a ticket to Iceland because I guarantee you will have a blast.🙂

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On cynicism and the freedom to be creative…

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At the age of 25, I have become a class A cynic. It’s a self-diagnosed disorder in which I choose to search for and highlight the flaws and failings in the creative expression of myself and others with the belief that it makes me some sort of expert or enhances my cool-factor.

I am reading a book by Elizabeth Gilbert called “Big Magic” about the magic to be found in creative living. And I realized it’s been a while since I truly believed in magic. Not pixie dust and Santa Claus magic, but the spark of joy from my creator that can be found in the love of creativity…especially as it pertains to music.

I moved to Nashville almost 8 years ago with very little cynicism and a lot of joyous expectation. I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed college freshman on the campus of one of the most well-respected contemporary music schools in the country. I had stars in my eyes–not because I expected to become the next big superstar, but because being in a place where my primary focus was creative expression among other talented creatives was just so thrilling.

I voluntarily spent my evenings in the practice rooms writing very average songs with above average conviction and learning to play the piano because I believed I could. I had dreams of singing in an artist showcase–the big kahuna of student performance events. I recorded a very amateur demo in the smelly closet of a freshman audio major. I had a professor tell me that I should have been a pageant girl and that I should probably quit the voice program, and after a tearful afternoon, I picked myself up and chose to disbelieve his rash judgment of my talent.

As the years progressed, I became acquainted with a new friend. Her name was cynicism. I can’t remember who introduced us. Maybe it was an older student I respected or a jaded professor or a weary industry veteran. In Nashville (or any creative place for that matter), cynicism has a lot of social connections. She came with me to the practice rooms and assisted me by reminding me that nothing I did was ever really good enough and everyone else was more talented and qualified than me. She sat with me at church and at concerts and helped me nitpick the performers and worship leaders. She introduced me to self-doubt and fear; we made a really powerful team. Under their influence, I began listening to music less for fun and seeing practice as a chore rather than a joy. I mastered the art of crippling self-editing and procrastination.

Many times I ignored cynicism and her posse, and throughout college I still maintained a overriding sense of joy and optimism in my craft. I achieved many of the goals I set out to accomplish. I released my first short album, I spent two years in the jazz vocal ensemble that I so aspired to be a part of, and I made the cut for that showcase. The Lord continued to remind me that my creativity is a gift from him to be used and enjoyed.

Now, four years later, I have spent the last four years working on the business end of the music industry. And boy does cynicism have a fan base in this world. Her friends are not ill-intentioned (for the most part), but they are everywhere.

I now find myself joining the masses who fold our arms at concerts instead of raising our hands and have a judgment and criticism for every aspiring or existing artist. I read articles about how the music industry is dying and Christian music sucks and streaming is taking the place of digital music sales which took the place of cds and nobody can make a living and touring is hard and marriages are failing and only the lucky few can ever really find happiness and fulfillment in the art of music making. The rest of us just try to do our best to get by and maybe our art can make one person happy. Sometimes I can’t remember what it was like to love music just for the sake of it.

I see those same college freshman, or highschoolers, or young aspiring creatives, and I shake my head and say, “just you wait. It’s a rough world out there, kid”, with a feigned sense of superiority. Ew. I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually think that way sometimes.

Moral of the story: I have taught myself to believe a whole lot of bull.

The truth of the matter is: it is a rough world out there. Making a living in art is not and has never been an easy road. It’s a world of harsh criticism and apathy. The decision makers are subjective. There’s not a clear cut path to success.

But I think I’ve missed the point completely.

The most joyful moments of creative expression in my life thus far didn’t make me a single penny. I didn’t do them for the acclaim or for the pat on the back.

At least in this stage of my life, when I have a great day job, I don’t have to rely on my creativity to make a living, so why am I not the most joyful creative on the planet? There’s so little pressure in reality, so why do I not create with freedom and abandon? And, more than that, why do I judge and envy those who do?

When I was writing my first songs at the age of 7 (remind me to sing you the masterpieces called God Is The Light and I’m Going On a Mission With God), I honestly didn’t care if someone successful said they were the best thing they’d ever heard. (Although, I’m sure my naive seven-year-old self probably thought they were amazing.) I just created because it came out of me and because it was so fun.

God didn’t make peonies and tulips and sunsets and butterflies because he wanted us to say “Good job, God. Here is a prize for creative excellence and a paycheck to prove Your worth.” Honestly, I’m not completely sure why He created those things. But, I imagine it had something to do with the fact that He is God, and He is good, and beauty is a natural outpouring of that.

I am a child of God, a representative of Him here on this earth. Shouldn’t I find joy in creativity just because it’s good and wonderful? I’ve never been in a life-or-death creative crisis. Nothing truly serious rides on my success or failure. So why am I so afraid to try?

As Gilbert would say in Big Magic, fear is boring. Everyone fears. Why not be bold and actually enjoy the art of creativity? Why not think to myself, “Wow! What a complete honor to be able to write songs about God’s goodness!”?

It’s human nature to want approval and to seek success. And it is also important that we pursue excellence in our craft. A little bit of cynicism is healthy. There’s nothing wrong with making a living of art. But, art is really all about joy anyway. We don’t create art to save the world or to solve world hunger or to cure cancer. We create art because it enriches life. And, if it’s not bringing me joy in the creation, why do I force myself to participate?

I recently released an EP. Five songs that I carefully crafted and recorded. There was a lot of fear tied up in the creation of that project. People keep asking me how it’s doing, and I feel like I need to give them some impressive stat about its success. The other day someone asked me, and I felt compelled to simply say, “I released it. It’s on iTunes for people to hear. I’m really proud of it, and I count it a personal and spiritual victory that I released it at all. It was a lot of fun.”

And that’s really ok if that’s all there is to it.

I have had people say some nice things about it. Some people have bought it. I think it’s pretty decent music. But why do I always temper my joy with qualifications like “I mean sure it was fun, but, you know, it’s not like it’s going to be that successful or anything”?Sure, it probably won’t, but why give that disclaimer? Why, when people ask if I’m an artist, do I respond with “No. I just try to do music on the side. It’s tough, you know?”?

Why do I harp on the struggles and bemoan the difficult creative existence? Why do I make excuses?

There is certainly a place for criticism and for objectively looking at art and thinking “that isn’t any good at all.” Everyone is entitled to their opinion about artistic expressions. It is also unrealistic for everyone who finds joy in creativity to believe they are destined for a career in the arts. But so what? What if the only thing that happens is that they created something that glorified God and brought them joy? Is that really so bad? And what if someone writes a scathing review or tells them it stinks? If that’s the worst that could happen, is it truly a reason never to have created it in the first place?

I’m not going to stop critically assessing music, and I’m certainly never going to achieve complete separation from my good friend cynicism. She is like a live-in relative, and it’s best when she has her own kitchen so she doesn’t have to share my space all the time. I could use her help in distinguishing between my own works of excellence and stuff that’s better suited for the waste basket. But, above all, I’m going to try finding joy in art again. Because that’s why we love art in the first place. I’m going to try not to emulate my peers who look at the music industry with disdain while simultaneously devoting their lives to it. I just don’t see the point in that. I want to find joy in creating art and cheer on others who do the same. I want to be an encourager.

God gifted us with art, and we have the privilege to partner with him in creating it and reveling in it. What joy. Whether it’s blogging, poetry, drawing, painting, or simply enjoying those things.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:2

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Final living room reveal!

I gave you an update a few weeks ago on the state of our living room. We have been making subtle changes bit by bit, and I think we are finally calling it done!

When we looked at the house, it looked like this.
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Then for about 2 years, we lived with the living room looking like this.
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About 6 months ago, when we painted all the kitchen cabinets white, we began to make changes to the living room. Slowly, but surely, we have gotten to a point that feels like we are finished.

I finally had a chance to take some photos…ta da!
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Here is what we have changed:
– New couch (purchase link here)
– Re-painted all the walls. It’s hard to tell, but they went from grey-beige to more of a pure light gray.
– Swapped the gray curtains for white ones from a different room.
– Swapped the chevron chairs for a single club chair from a different room (and recovered the chairs. More on that later)
– Moved a bench from one of the guest rooms into the space next to the door.
– Got rid of the art above the couch in favor for those beautiful diamond window panels (found at a local flea market).
– Swapped the jute rug for a Dash & Albert Rug that was in our guest room.
– New coffee table (purchase link here)

The only new things we purchased were the couch, coffee table, and window panes above the couch. Everything else was simply borrowed from other rooms in the house. I absolutely love how much lighter, brighter, and more balanced everything is! It feels perfect for springtime.
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We love this new, pretty couch. It was such an upgrade for us. The velvet material is so soft and comfortable, and it’s very cat friendly (they aren’t as tempted to scratch velvet as they are linen).
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Also, having this club chair instead of the smaller chairs is more functional for our everyday life.
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We also recently switched out our kitchen chairs for some metal tub chairs.
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I feel like we have finally settled into a room that I am truly proud of! At least…for now🙂

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Final sources:
Paint color: Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore (at 50% strength)
Couch: Chloe Velvet Tufted Sofa from Macy’s in Granite
Pillows: Home Goods & West Elm
Coffee Table: Wayfair
Sideboard/TV Stand: Free on Craigslist/DIY painted and stained (info on the paint job here.)
Bench: Free/DIY Recovered (here)
Rug: Dash & Albert
Club chair: Bargain hunt
Throw blanket: Home Goods
Lamps: Walmart
Diamond windowpanes: Nashville flea market
Boxwood wreath: Target

Posted in Before and Afters, Living Room | Leave a comment

On flight delays, busy schedules, anger management, and time with Jesus…

 I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. I’m a little less stressed now, but writing out my feelings helped. I hope you find encouragement from the lament of an over-extended woman. :-) 

It’s been one of those weeks. One of those months.

Last week, I reached up to find the back of my earring hanging on while the front had vanished somewhere in Baltimore. The next morning, I responsibly donned my blue and white lacy apron to cook breakfast. When I removed said apron, my shirt was covered in grease…under my perfectly pristine protective housewife garment—a feat that defies the laws of basic physics. Thursday, my computer turned all of the perfectly readable English into gibberish symbols, and I was suddenly trying to decipher paragraphs that looked like ∏◊©¢⇑ßß∏∇∩. Half an hour with the IT guy later, I was once again able to read my desktop icons and file menus.  I took naps in my car in random parking lots in between one meeting and the next to try to catch up on the sleep that has eluded me lately. Monday, I returned from the supermarket to find that the main ingredient I needed for dinner was somehow left at the checkout counter and another major ingredient was spoiled before I even opened it.

In the midst of a hectic schedule, all of these little annoyances could not have been more poorly timed.

Thursday evening, I sat at the airport waiting to board my sixth work flight in 2 weeks that was two hours delayed and was set to put me at my destination at 1 a.m. Little did I know that I would encounter numerous other travel and car rental mishaps before the day’s end that would result in me yelling at a guy outside the airport to leave me alone and my mommy driving 45 minutes to pick me up on a business trip at 2:30 a.m. My exhausted delirium from a week that started and ended with 3 a.m. frustration had me reflecting on the chaos.

I have been working days, nights and weekends and also trying to fit in housework, promotion for a recently released EP, Bible studies, healthy eating, and a home decorating/renovation side business that Jeremy and I will be officially launching soon. Life isn’t always as crazy as it is right now, but I do tend to overextend myself.

Recently several people have mentioned how much they admire Jeremy’s and my ambition. I hear exclamations of “How do you do it all?” and “Wow. You keep so busy. I’m so impressed!” I usually take those compliments and store them in my chest…the perfect packing material with which to puff it up and strut around with pride. Meanwhile, several weeks of jam packed schedules left me feeling depleted. The easiest thing to let slide was my morning time with Jesus. My work schedule kept me from my Monday night Bible study anyway, so my accountability was sparse. And when I woke up in the mornings in a frenzy, I chose breakfast over Bible and shower over scripture.

As each day passed with little more than a “Jesus, give me strength” or a quick psalm reading in passing, anxiety and stress began filling the spaces where joy and peace used to live. I found myself quick to anger and quick to tears. A tearful meltdown in front of my boss was a surefire sign that I needed some rest and rejuvenation.

This morning I woke up and felt a yearning to spend time in God’s word. I prayed for guidance and felt drawn to Philippians where I found the familiar words:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7)

I have read that passage innumerable times, but in my weariness, it hit me in a fresh way. I know that prayer and supplication will give me peace, but I was struck by the truth that the reverse is also true. When I don’t pray or give my requests to God, I am willingly denying myself the PEACE OF GOD which is beyond all understanding. It’s no surprise that weeks spent away from the refreshing water of God’s word have me also feeling a LACK of peace and a feeling that my heart and mind is unguarded. His peace and guarding are free for the taking, but the further I walk in the other direction, the less I experience them.

Last week as I paced the airport in angst over a delayed flight, I kept thinking that my emotions were too raw and my spirit too quick to anger. When I don’t give everything to God, that promise of having a guarded heart and mind is no longer being fulfilled in me. When I give my stress to Him, He guards my heart from anxiety and my mind from frustration.

When the Lord is front and center in my life, I am often amazed at the things I can accomplish in His strength. But when I push Him to the side in favor of those same accomplishments, my own weakness flashes neon bright.

Shortly following the passage mentioned above is one of the most quoted scriptures of all time:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

He gives me power I don’t possess. In reverse, I fall apart when I try to do all things in my own strength.

So today I am breathing deeply, accepting that I cannot do it all on my own, and praying for the peace of God to restore my soul.

When I don’t pray or give my requests to God, .

Posted in Our Life | Leave a comment

On improving your style and the living room.

At a recent staff meeting at the company where I work, we watched an Andy Stanley video about creating momentum in your church or business. He says three things influence momentum: new, improved, and improving. You always need to be creating something new and improving something existing.

I say that the same is true about our personal lives and our homes. Especially for those of us who care deeply about the way that our homes look and feel. You don’t have to change EVERYTHING at once. You don’t have to have an HGTV-style before and after. You just have to introduce one new thing. Or improve one old thing.

The first room we decorated upon moving into our red brick ranch was the living room, which is incidentally also the first thing you see upon entering our house. We painted it, used existing furniture, and recycled a few thrifted finds. We did it on the CHEAP, but it was the first room that I had put together which seemed complete. But, fast forward a couple of years, and a lot of the choices I made already seemed like they needed a refresh. My style has become much more defined, our budget has expanded ever so slightly, and my taste has improved in three years.

Here was what the room looked like with the previous owners.

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So this was round 1 (I was so proud of this at the time, and now I squirm a little looking at this terrible photo and the too-warm walls and the low hanging gallery wall and all of the wood on wood on wood! My photo skills have also improved)
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The rug helped just a little bit.
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And after a new couch, new paint, new coffee table, new kitchen cabinet color, shiplap peninsula, new barstools, and a rug, this is what it looks like right now.
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And there are still several things coming soon! I am going to be changing out the art above the couch for a mirror I am working on right now and giving those chevron chairs a revamp. I am happy with the look right now, but there are still a lot of changes I would love to make in an ideal world.

Here is what I have learned. This room has been in a constant state of improvement since we moved in. I have only done what I could do in that moment. A new paint color and then another one. A new pillow here. A painted coffee table there. Every change has brought me joy and I have loved every stage along the way. If all you can do today is rearrange the books on the shelves or get a new throw blanket, do that ONE thing. One change. One improvement.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your house doesn’t have to be perfected either.

Posted in Before and Afters | 1 Comment