monday gifts


Thankful for…

this right here:


safe travels, crazy travel companions.
my family. I love them.
homemade ice cream.
mega humidity.


pool days.


very large fish!


sweet tea in plentiful abundance.


mornings that do not start well. :)


salads that are beautiful and dinners with friends.
this life, right now. The hard parts and the wonderful parts. I am blessed.

monday gifts


Thankful for…

the smell of tomato plants.
lightening bugs.
rest & antibiotics to get better.
puppies and toddlers to bring cuteness into our lives.


voxer karaoke from my brothers.
the book of Romans.
those days where everything is just “off.”
fireworks + friends + sonic afterwards = the simplest, best things.


what I learned in June

You can grow cacti from seeds! And it is so fun! Val started hers last summer and now she has a little crop of them, about half an inch high with big spikes. (Yes. They are ridiculously cute and we are actually obsessed with them.) She gave me some seeds and I planted them. After 4 weeks of nothing I had pretty much given up when suddenly:


They grown and change every day and you can distinguish different varieties!

Coral is freaky. There are some really crazy time-lapse videos of coral done by the BBC which show different corals attacking one other. By flinging their guts on each other to see who will be the digestor and who will be the digestee. Whoa.

Reading Pioneer Girl didn’t ruin my childhood. (It’s is a previously unpublished manuscript by Laura Ingalls Wilder.) I was so worried. But ultimately it was just interesting and made me respect her more as an author, instead of shattering my childhood impressions with “what really happened.”


Related: vocabulary gets picked up along the way among family (or friends!) and takes on its own meaning, and this is nothing new. I will forever say ridiculous things like “melcome wats” or “I meant what you knew” or “paintbrush!” and certain people will know precisely what I mean. For the Ingalls family it was this phrase: “Potatoes do hold the heat!” which actually meant “someone is being greedy” in a joking way.

“As our potatoes became scarce, he [a guest] would help himself first to them and hurry to eat them so quickly that he always burned himself on them. Then clapping his hand to his mouth he would exclaim ‘Potatoes do hold the heat!’ This happened so often the rest of us made a byword of it.”
-Laura Ingalls Wilder in Pioneer Girl

There is an Arthur wiki page. As in, the PBS children’s show. Has an exhaustive website of information. The reason I know this is a texting conversation between me and Kathryne, beginning something like this: “Cool it, buster” “For some reason buster always makes me think of a rabbit” “wasn’t that the bunny on the cartoon Arthur?” and ending with one of us confessing we once had a small crush on The Brain. We were both a little too old for this cartoon, then and now. This is embarrassing.

Linking up at Chatting at the Sky!

monday gifts


Thankful for…

flowers. muffins. guacamole. front steps. strong yummy coffee.


the best street in Omaha. :)
basil growers and basil chats and the pesto that is to come!
perfectly worn-in t-shirts.
friends who remember things about me I had already forgotten.


funny little souls to babysit.
fruit snacks and dinosaurs and legos and footie pajamas.


I am so loved. I am so secure. Your faithfulness is always.


time around the table, face to face. it seems I’ll never get my fill of long conversations.


stores and gas stations and fast food and email and phones and hot water and the library and ice cream and electricity. (Can you tell, I just lived a book about civilization after an apocalypse type situation??)  


this prayer. (Thanks, Deidra.)


Sometimes I re-think keeping on with this, counting gifts and sharing some of them. Maybe I’m glossing over my struggles or living with blinders on to the heartbreaking things going on in the world around me? Maybe I take too many pictures of flowers and am too grateful for coffee, isn’t that kindof silly?

I do know that this habit changes me into a person more likely to bring good to my corners of the world. It smooths worry from my anxious, often overly empathetic heart. My eyes open wider and I am humbled by grace. It’s a start.

Maybe we could be a people known not by our disgust and judgmentalism, but by our gratitude and our joy because gratitude starts movements. You can’t be moved by grace — and not become a revolutionary. –Ann Voskamp 

what I learned in May

(and April. Because life is moving too fast.) 2014-05-12_12-00-40_146

There are worse things to dream about than spackling. After a late night helping Val paint, I had a long dream that I was patching up a wall. Perfection was attained effortlessly and the wall was beautiful. I woke up feeling accomplished and serene.

The little plastic thing at the end of your shoelace is called an aglet. There’s absolutely no way I would have ever known this if I didn’t also know Valerie, the collector of information tidbits and owner of a book about what random things are called. (Now, I can imagine life with no aglets but I can’t imagine life with no Val!)


Life is better when you set a funny lock screen. Just do it people! Make it something silly or nerdy and change it often. It will add 65% more amusement to your day.

Mr. Collins is the worst. This one’s from April when I had the flu, round two (this was a fun winter/spring, thanks for asking) and did marathon viewings of Jane Austen movies. It just struck me how great a casting job they always do for Mr. Collins and how abominable of a character he really is.

Also: really bad idea to watch the 1.5 hour Pride and Prejudice right after viewing the 6-hour BBC version. I was sick, ok, I wasn’t thinking straight. I don’t dislike the shorter version but it feels like it’s moving at action movie pace and people are doing things for no apparent reason at all.

Linking up at Chatting at the Sky. 

JTreat: Big Sign

Make a big statement sign with canvases -

When dreaming up decoration ideas for the Jumping Tandem Retreat, I knew that I wanted to make some sort of huge sign. I had seen this done in various ways, like with marquee letters for a party or a neon sign on stage for a concert tour. But I wanted something easier, different, and cheaper. So I’m sharing my idea in case anyone wants to do something similar!


So basically what I did was stalk all the Goodwills for used canvases. Several of them I found had tears or other damage- so I got them for a dollar. I wanted a better variety of sizes but settled for what I found.

Each canvas = one letter.


I painted the canvas whatever color I wanted the letter to be. Then, freehanded the outline of each letter on kraft paper (comes in a roll) and cut it out. I used a few pieces of tape to keep it flat on the canvas, then painted over the whole thing with white.


There might be a few places where the paint leaks through, but if you sort of paint outward from the paper letter, that helps. If you want you can go back with the original color and fix those spots.


A picture of my pineapple pj pants, for no reason at all. 


In progress. At this point I realized the colors were too dark to go with my springy color scheme and I didn’t like the lettering exactly. So I redid some of them. I used up a lot of white paint on this project!


On some of the letters, I went back over them with a dry foam brush and white paint to make them look distressed and splotchy. I was going to do that for all the letters I think, but apparently I didn’t. Whatever! I was giving up on this big sign idea cause I had no idea what the room looked like and how we would use it. I liked having the canvases layered together more (I thought of using heavy wire to hold the frames together) but in the end the room had a big thumbtack strip so we hung them on those. It worked, I was happy, and it didn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful!

Make a big sign with canvases -

May so far



He thinks I’m a superhero and better than coffee. :) I in turn shared my ice cream with him which says a lot.


It was such fun to have a visit from Cherry and her lively crew! We got to celebrate her birthday and our 21st friendship anniversary.


Very early in the morning to be this cheerful, mister.



It’s a beautiful thing when every dish is dirty.


Crashing a pre-fiesta with these two.


Making a Jurassic themed birthday box for Jacob. Hahahah. Apparently it caused him to become “a bit humid in the vision spheres” (his words), so, that’s a sister win.

JTreat Prettiness & Ambiance


This spring I had the opportunity to be the creative mastermind (ha, I just now gave myself that title) in charge of decorating for the Jumping Tandem Retreat. JTreat decor. Decor-treat. Trick or treat. What? Am I tired??


When my friend Deidra asked me to be in charge of “prettyness and ambiance,” I was so excited! Then the months went by and I realized, well, no one was telling me what to do. Which is great, but also, scary. So having no real idea what I was doing, I forged ahead. Until the very day the retreat began, I had never seen that particular retreat center. That’s a first for me, usually I am decorating my own living room or a friend’s house or something, where I know what to expect. This time I was going in blind!


So yes, I alternated between, “Oh I’ve so got this” and “this will be pitiful.” I had a small budget and lots of time. Not a bad combination. I love to spend the dark winter nights hot gluing things while watching movies. So that’s what I did!

I was majorly inspired by this post by the Flower Patch Farmgirl. She used a heart shaped paper punch to turn her kids’ watercolor artwork into a lovely Valentine’s garland. I made circles instead.

Springtime in Nebraska is unpredictable. It might be beautiful (it was) or it might be dark, rainy, and windy. I decided I wanted to use lots of springy colors, to brighten it up in case the weather was gross. And thus the watercolor festivities began.


I made garlands, painted signs, and scavenged things like used canvases and random trays from Goodwill.


This photo will bother Valerie very much, indeed. No it is not centered. (Flashing back to a certain Christmas bows/OCD incident during our dorm days.) Ultimately, I didn’t care as much as perhaps I should have. I made that little garland the day of. As in, since people helped me so much setting up, I had extra time, so I made a few more things on the spot.


I painted those pennant things one day, didn’t love them, and never did anything futher. But they ended up working so I was glad! In fact, the whole experience was that way. It really blessed me, which sounds weird to say about decorating a room. I got a little glimpse that when I take little steps of faith, and show up with what I have, God works it all together and makes up for what I lack.


It looked like I measured and planned the exact amount of garland it would take to go all the way around the room. I didn’t. I brought a bunch of tiny command hooks to hang it with, only to discover, the room already had dozens of hooks in the ceiling, as if designed for garlands. So that was easy.


All along I envisioned a gigantic sign, having no ideas beyond that. I loved our theme, “Grace,” and wanted a big reminder of that! I got some inspiration from Dayspring’s Letterpress blocks, to have a variety of sizes and letters. For the purposes of “cheap” and “very big” I used canvases (mostly from Goodwill- find used ones, paint over them with white, and it’s pretty much just as good as a new canvas) and painted them with colors similar to the watercolors I was using for everything else. Had no idea how to connect or hang them. In fact I had basically given up on it.

Again, the room just “happened” to have a thin strip with thumb tacks all the way around the walls, so we simply hung the canvases in a line, and done! Some of them had small rips and tears and a bumpy texture, which I liked, cause– we aren’t perfect. We don’t have to be perfect to receive grace.

I plan to share more details about a few of the projects I did, in case anyone is in need of ideas!


Note the kleenex box. They were everywhere, all around the room. This wasn’t my doing but it was my suggestion. Hmmm, it’s like I knew I would be crying a bunch or something!


One weekend in May, a stark businesslike conference room was transformed into a happy, pretty space. My favorite part was seeing it filled with women, worshiping and speaking and talking and dancing. I got to sit back and be a part of that and be refreshed and learn about grace!

I must end with a BIG round of thank-you’s: To Deidra for your wonderful vision and letting me be a part. To Alexandra for being simply awesome and encouraging. To Alice for being my friend and helping me set up- I don’t know what I would have done without you! To Libby for bringing a stepladder and helping me clean up & tear down and always just being there for me. To a group of ladies I saw only as a blur at the time, thank you for jumping in and arranging the flowers, it made all the difference, you rock! To everyone who attended, I was overwhelmed by your encouragement, which makes me dream and be brave. Thank you.