Thursday, March 31, 2011

Scored for Free: Empty Wine Bottles

Thanks to Craigslist, I recently scored a dozen free empty wine bottles.

I've been wanting to do something with empty wine bottles for a while now, I just can't figure out what. Here are some ideas I came across when I did a Google search:

- Make some uber-classy garden tiki torches

- Make drinking glasses or vases

 - Arrange on a tray to make a tabletop arrangement

- Turn into a soap, vinegar, olive oil, or balsamic vinegar dispenser

I'll probably use a few of the bottles to do 2 or 3 of these projects, but that will still leave me with extras. So any more ideas are totally welcome! Someday, I hope to be able to make a chandelier or light fixture out of wine bottles. But I think that's something I'll have to save for the far, far distant future.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Humorous examples of Repartee

Repartee is the art of the quick and witty reply. I have always wished I was better at this :) Here are a few of my favorite examples:

While dining at a wealthy woman's house in the States, when asked what kind of meat he would like Winston Churchill requested the chicken breast. The scandalized hostess replied, "Mr Churchill, we call it the white meat." Later he sent her a corsage as a thank you, the attached note stating that he would be pleased if she would pin it on her white meat.

A woman approached George Bernard Shaw and said, "With my beauty and your brains, we could have the most wonderful child."
He replied, "What if the child gets my beauty and your brains?"

George Bernard Shaw once sent a friend two tickets for the premier of his latest show. "One is for you, and one is for a friend - if you have one" he wrote.
His friend responded, "Cannot attend the premier. Will come to the next showing - if there is one."

If you would like to read more examples of repartee, you can find some here

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Funny Things My Students Say

I am a piano teacher, and teach a wide range of students ranging in age from 4-89. Here are a sampling of the gems I regularly hear:

"I'm allergic to stickers."
-The response I got when I asked a 4 yo student why he didn't want his weekly sticker.

"Teacher, Can I count your teeth?"
"Uh, no."
"Because I have a mint in my mouth" - also because that's kind of gross, but I didn't tell him that
"I really want a mint too, but my mommy says only girls can have mints."
- Ian, age 4

"I really like to play 'slurbs' because they look like swords or smiley faces. Also because 'slurb' is a funny word."
- Powell, an imaginative 6 year old, the day we learned to play slurs.

And finally a gem from my 89 yo student:
"It's a good thing you went into music and not art, because I have no idea what you are trying to draw."
-reaffirming my career choice after I tried to draw a pair of eyes on the score to remind him to look carefully at the notes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Photo of the Week

The rainy weather has me missing the sun. This picture was taken by Rebekah in Maui. Here's hoping that clear skies will be here again soon!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekly Round-Up #8

Adri discovered the site Social Primer and came across this article (written for men) with some great tips on offering compliments to women.

I (Ashton) am loving the jazz stylings of Taylor Eigsti. So talented. Someday I hope to be able to play jazz a little bit like this :)

Ashton is finding herself drawn to these paintings by Yolanda Sanchez. Love the choice of colors!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Visit to the National Cycling Hall of Fame

A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame in Davis, CA. Here are some of the pictures I took while there:

The first bicycles were operated by standing over them and running. Doesn't seem very efficient, does it?

An example of the first braking mechanism.

A bike designed to be as light as possible. So cool looking!

A bike made out of bamboo. Crazy!

The bicycle ridden by Major Taylor.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes the littlest things make a world of difference. Here are a few that have made me smile:

Fiesta Dinnerware and brightly colored dishes in general

Organizing my freezer items into bins - so much easier to access!

The Broadway channel on my pandora station - cleaning is fun when you feel like dancing to the music :)

Salted Caramels

I hope your day is full of little things that make you happy too!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

For Coffee Lovers Only

Before I met my husband I was strictly a froo-froo "coffee" drinker. Actual coffee never touched my lips. Mochas and fraps were my one and only. But my husband only drinks black coffee, so slowly he introduced me to the good stuff. Now I drink coffee (with a little milk and sometimes sugar if I'm using a bitter bean) almost every day. That being said, we are both rather picky about our coffee, in the way a wine connoisseur is about their beverage of choice. Starbucks and Peets black coffee is O-U-T. It's much too bitter. Here are a few coffees we love for their smooth flavor, ranked in order of preference.

1. Lion 100% Kona Blend. Discovered on our honeymoon in Maui, we have been head over heels in love with this coffee ever since. Definitely not cheap, but oh so worth it!

2. Gloria Jean's flavored coffees. Affordable, and a nice change of pace.

3. Our go-to place for when we want to go out to a coffee shop on a date or to just chill is It's a Grind. Great atmosphere, good coffee, friendly baristas makes for a relaxing morning or afternoon date :)

What is your favorite type of coffee or drink of choice?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Quote to Ponder

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety

-attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekly Round-Up #7

A few things of interest from around the interwebs:

If you enjoy looking at catalogs like West Elm or Pottery Barn, you will love the humorous take on the sometimes ridiculous room designs found at Catalog Living.

Last weekend Ashton tried a few of Starbuck's new petite treats. The mini carrot cupcake and salted caramel square are delish! A list of all their new sweets is here (Starbucks doesn't know who we are, and didn't pay us for this plug).

Centsational Girl shared a quick & easy way to make pillow covers on a budget.

Ashton is loving this simple yet chic hairstyle.

Last week, Young House Love shared a way to DIY some cheap-o art.

Editor John McIntyre wrote about effective management.

Northern California has been pounded by rain this week, reminding Adri of this song from one of her favorite childhood video series.

Last, this comic is all too true of Adri's life right now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Sit and Look Out by Walt Whitman

I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
   oppression and shame,
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with
   themselves, remorseful after deeds done,
I see in low life the mother misused by her children, dying,
   neglected, gaunt, desperate,
I see the wife misused by her husband, I see the treacherous seducer
   of young women,
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to be
   hid, I see these sights on the earth,
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny, I see martyrs and
I observe a famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting lots who
   shall be kill'd to preserve the lives of the rest,
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon
   laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these--all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Story of How a 3 Year Old Came to Have a Large Scar on Her Wrist

Last week I posted about how much I enjoyed riding in the bike buddy. However, there were two times when riding in the bike buddy caused my short life to flash before my eyes. For the first 3 years of my life, my parents had a gorgeous Newfoundland named Jason. He was a gentle giant, and he absolutely loved nothing more than to run alongside my parents when they rode their bikes. Once they began riding with me and my baby sister though, Jason had to stay home. But one day my mom decided Jason could come. She tied him to the bike seat post, and off we went. All was well until Jason spied a cat, and surged forward with all 100+ pounds of his concentrated energy. As the bike buddy surged forward, a wheel caught on the curb causing it to flip on its side. My sister and I were dragged for half a block before my parents could regain control of the dog and right the upended carriage. Fortunately we were unharmed.

Jason was stuck at home after that. One would have thought forever.

But a few months later my parents decided he had learned his lesson. This time they tied him directly to the bike buddy, I assume that they thought that since the bike buddy was heavier he would have to behave. Once again, Jason spied a cat. He began to run away with such force that he flipped the bike buddy completely. I was upside down, looking at leaves and debris rushing inches below my head as my Dad obliviously continued pedaling, unaware of the carnage behind him. I heard my mom screaming at both Dad and Jason to stop. Finally they did. My mom rushed to my side. Fortunately my head was fine, but my arm had flopped out and I had a nasty cut on my wrist. I still have the scar to this day. I actually think it looks kind of cool :)

That was the last time Jason ever joined us on a bike ride.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Know Thyself

Over the past six months or so, I've been doing a lot of thinking about identity. Specifically, I've been thinking about my own identity - what my values and goals are - and how I communicate those things to other people. The conclusion I've reached is that I don't communicate those things very well at all and I think the reason is that I don't know myself as well as I should.

I think that unless I am well-acquainted with my own inner workings, I will consistently behave in a manner that is inconsistent with my most deeply held beliefs. I know that sounds strange and at first, the thought startled me. But the more I've pondered it, the more I've found it to be true, at least in my own life. For while my subconscious values may influence the overall trajectory of my life, without consciously knowing what my values and goals are, I frequently find myself regretting hastily spoken words or executed actions, finding that, looking back, they do not accurately reflect my identity.

Another danger of not having a clear idea of who I am, I've discovered, is that in a moment of weakness I may allow others to impose themselves on me in ways I never intended. If I haven't determined what my values, goals, and morals are, then I am like a ship without a rudder and I will likely allow things to happen that I never wanted to happen. Even worse, I might do things I never intended to do, things that are completely at odds with my deeply - but perhaps subconsciously - held beliefs.

In an effort to avoid these dangers in the future, therefore, I have decided to start systematically examining my beliefs and innermost thoughts. Several months ago, I came across the following quotation and it struck a chord with me because it expresses something that is very true for me right now:
As we advance in the spiritual life and in the practice of systematic self-examination we are often surprised by the discovery of vast unknown tracts of the inner life of the soul. They seem like great plains stretching out in mystery and wrapt in mists that sometimes for a moment lift, or sweep off and leave one looking for one brief instant upon great reaches of one’s own life, unknown, unmeasured, unexplored. Men stand at such moments breathless in wonder and in awe gazing upon these great tracts upon which they have never looked before, with kindling eyes and beating hearts; and while they look the mists steal back till all is lost to sight once more and they are left wondering if what they saw was reality, or the creation of their fancy. Or sometimes they see, not far-stretching plains which fill the soul with an awestruck sense of its expansiveness and of how much has been left absolutely uncultivated, not these plains but mountain peaks climbing and reaching upwards till lost in the heavens, echoing it may be with the voice of many streams whose waters fertilize and enrich those small tracts of the soul’s life which have been reclaimed and cultivated and which many a man has thought to be his whole inner self, though he never asked himself whence those rich streams had their source. Now he sees how their source lay in unmeasured heights of his own inner being whose existence he never dreamed of before. In one brief instant they have unveiled themselves. He looks again, and they are shut out from his eyes, there is no token visible that he possesses such reaches, such heights of life. The commonplaces of his existence gather in and crowd upon him, the ordinary routine of life settles down upon him, limiting and confining him on all sides, the same unbroken line measures his horizon, such as he has always known it, the same round of interests and occupations crowd in upon his hours and fill them, the pressure of the hard facts of life upon him are as unmistakable and as leveling as ever, bidding him forget his dreams and meet and obey the requirements of the world in which he lives. And yet the man who has caught but a momentary glimpse of that vast unknown inner life can never be the same as he was before; he must be better or worse, trying to explore and possess and cultivate that unknown world within him, or trying—oh, would that he could succeed!—to forget it. He has seen that alongside of, or far out beyond the reach of, the commonplace life of routine, another life stretches away whither he knows not, he feels that he has greater capacities for good or evil than he ever imagined. He has, in a word, awakened with tremulous awe to the discovery that his life which he has hitherto believed limited and confined to what he knew, reaches infinitely beyond his knowledge and is far greater than he ever dreamed. –From Self-knowledge and Self-Discipline by Basil William Maturin
I desire to know myself in a deep way so that I can live a life that is consistent with my innermost beliefs - so that I can live a life of integrity. I think this is why I've become so tenacious in guarding the time I've set aside for my Sabbath. I do not want the "commonplaces of my existence" to prevent me from grasping my identity and living it out to its fullest. I want to "explore and possess and cultivate" the identity God has given me and I do not want to try to forget it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Photo of the Week

Spring has sprung in NorCal! And the animals aren't the only ones loving it :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekly Round-Up #6

More links for your reading or listening pleasure:

I came across this article from Psychology Today and thought it was well worth reading.

While looking for music for a party I'm helping to plan, I heard this catchy song from The High Kings about Irish pubs.

John McIntyre of You Don't Say shared the joys of editing.

The Art of Manliness published a post with suggestions for creating an emergency backpack.

And last, a song from the movie Country Strong (nice soundtrack, not so nice movie) that I've enjoyed listening to this week.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quote to Ponder

A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation. Lend and borrow to the maximum. - Henry Miller

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Day I Was Upstaged By a One-Legged Man

Since before my birth my parents were avid bicyclists. I went on my first bike ride when I was only a few months old. Until the age of 6, bicycling with my parents was a blast. I would sit contentedly in my “bike buddy” watching my Dad's legs rhythmic pumping. As I reclined in relative comfort sporting a be-stickered helmet, I could sip from my water bottle as the world rolled past.

All this changed once I learned to ride without training wheels. At first the rides were pleasant. A Saturday morning leisurely ride to the local bake shop for chocolate croissants. The Sunday afternoon ride to my favorite park. But one Sunday morning my parents decided I was ready for The Ride. My parents rode their bikes to church almost every Sunday. They would wheel them into a back room (my Dad was in leadership at church, so he had keys) and we would change into more appropriate attire before the service started. These rides were great when I was relaxing in the bike buddy. It was a much more daunting affair when I was maneuvering a bike of my own. I just googled the distance, and it was over 5 miles. One way. This might not seem that far, but keep in mind that 1. I was a little child. 2. It was hot. 3. I had a one speed bike. 4. I was only a child!!!

The ride to church was fine, exhilarating even. But as we wheeled out of the church parking lot around lunch time several hours later, it was a much different story. The ride home seemed to go on and on and on. We rode up a steep hill onto the levee. Rode down a steep hill, then up another. Finally I began to sob, begging my mom to stop making me ride. My mom turned a deaf ear to my pleas. Instead, she rode behind me prodding me forward whenever I tried to stop. I whined and cried. She urged me on. This pattern continued for some time. Suddenly, another bicyclist zoomed past us. I glanced up through my tears in time to notice that he only had one leg. I was silent for a moment, as I watched him speed off into the distance. Then I opened my mouth to resume my whining but was interrupted by my mother: “If he can ride with only one leg, you can make it the last mile home without whining. Now Pedal!!”

I think my younger self may have missed the moral this story offers, as I resented the one-legged man for several years after.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's My Birthday

It's my birthday and all I wanted to do was go to the new Costco that was supposed to open the first week in March.

It's my birthday and after going to Costco, I wanted to eat lunch at In-N-Out.

It's my birthday and after lunch I wanted to get my hair cut shorter than it's been in over 12 years.

Thanks to the fact that Costco decided to delay their opening, I won't be doing any of the above.

Instead, I'll be going to Walnut Creek to shop at Title Nine with my mom. Then we will eat lunch with my sister and co-blogger, Rebekah, and then return home. So even though I had to change my plans for my birthday and I don't get to do exactly what I wanted to, I'm still going to have a GREAT birthday! And I still get to do these other things I had planned:

It's my birthday and I'll roast s'mores with friends over an awesome bonfire.

It's my birthday and I'll look at the stars and realize that turning 23 is not that bad.

It's my birthday and I'll enjoy the simple things in life.

It's my birthday and I won't go to work or school.

And I won't worry about either of those things, either. At least for today.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Photo of the Week

Via jtsoft on flickr
I love small European towns and this photo makes me long to visit one again.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekly Round-Up #5

From all across the bit of internet we cared to explore this week:

John McIntyre wrote a post aimed at journalists about writing like a human.

On Language contributor Mark Liberman discusses the proper use of "much less" and "or even".

Found this Etsy shop full of cute prints like this one.

Came across this song by Whiskeytown - the lyrics could be better but I absolutely love the music.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Photos from an Afternoon Walk

While home last weekend for my middle brother's 18th birthday, said brother, my dad, my older sister, and I took advantage of the afternoon sunshine to go for a walk. Here are a few of the pictures I took along the way:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hit the Brakes #2: Taking a "Sabbath"

Having grown up in a Christian home, the idea of taking a "Sabbath," or a day of rest, is certainly not foreign to me. However, I always thought that taking a Sabbath meant coming home from church on Sunday and taking a nap for a few hours in the afternoon. Recently, I've discovered that it could actually look quite different from that.

For the past several months, I've been serving as a student leader with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the college I attend. As a student leader I'm required to attend several different leadership retreats throughout the year and one of the things emphasized at those retreats is the importance of taking a time of rest each week. Taking a Sabbath, I've learned, means doing something that refreshes me, brings me closer to God, and renews my perspective on life. While ideally I would set aside an entire day for rest, if I'm simply too busy to do that, just a few hours a week can make a difference.

Last semester I did not make it a habit to have a Sabbath each week; this semester, however, I decided to make it a priority. Between working approximately 30 hours each week, going to school, serving on leadership, and doing various other things, I knew that I would be constantly frazzled if I didn't make a point of setting aside time just for non-sleeping rest.

One of the great things about taking a Sabbath, I've learned, is that even though the Sabbath is traditionally a Saturday (or Sunday), it can actually be taken any day of the week. It just so happens that I take my time of rest on Sunday mornings, since my church doesn't start until 12:30PM.

For the past few weeks, I've been spending every Sunday morning from around 10AM to noon at Starbucks, reading a book about Christian worldview that I've been wanting to read for years but could never find the time to read. I never thought this would happen, but those couple hours each week have come to mean so much to me and I've grown quite protective of them. It's in those moments that I find peace and refreshment and strength for the next week. I'm not worrying about school or work or anything else. It's just me, God, my book, and a cup of coffee. And it's beautiful.

If you've never tried taking a time of rest each week, I encourage you to do it for one month and then decide what you think. Figure out what you enjoy doing, what speaks to you. For some people, this could be taking a walk outside, knitting, listening to music, going for a run or bike ride, playing pool alone, or something else entirely. Make this a time that is just for you and God without the distractions of friends, school, work, or family. I think you'll find that you don't want to give it up.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Natalie Merchant: San Andreas Fault

Sitting in Starbucks last Sunday, a song playing over the stereo system suddenly caught my ear. I paid close attention to the lyrics so I could look the song up when I returned home and after listening to "San Andreas Fault" a second time, I like it even more. There is something about this style of music that just makes me feel very peaceful and at home.

A friend was recently musing to me that he didn't understand the fascination some people have with "the west" - how romanticized it is in their minds. This song, in my opinion, does a fair job of capturing his sentiment.