Yogurt is for Girls!

I mean I really like it.
Just thought this little ditty about marketing to women was funny, and slightly thought provoking:


Wild Sweet Orange: Making Birmingham Proud

Listen up all you music gurus, check out Wild Sweet Orange.
It really makes me happy that this band calls Birmingham their home. I haven't been this excited about music, a live show (went to the cd release at Workplay on Saturday. Price of the show [$15] included the album. Thanks WSO), or lyrics in a long time. Full of delicately driven power and passion, frustration and hope, screaming redemption. You must hear them for yourself.



Last night I started the project of taking black-and-white, very simple portraits of my friends. I had fun with this with some of my friends from Clemson earlier this year, and I've been wanting to do it with my friends here in Bham for a while. Hopefully they'll let me keep working on it,
and I'll get to photograph more people soon. I usually do it outside, in late afternoon, natural light, but last night it was raining so we had to make do with the light from a window--not quite as crisp. Anyways, here are some of the better results:

View the entire set here.


a wonderful weekend:

On the very day of our 3 month anniversary, Keith and I got to sing at my dear friend Katie's wedding. It was so fun, our first debut since leading worship together in high school :) Katie is one of five very special girls who made my last semester at Clemson a delightful one by sharing a blue house with me. Her wedding was up at Big Canoe, a gorgeous place in north GA. It did my heart good to see her fully enjoy such a beautiful occasion--one that she and Matt have been looking forward to for a long time. (They dated for 5+ years)! Seeing so many friends from Clemson was just so deeply fun and good. I'm so thankful! And I'm so looking forward to the other weddings we have coming up over the next few months.

And that's not all, we got to stay with a family that is so very special to us, the Rumbaughs. Eve (who was a dear friend of Keith's mom) and Will live in a wonderful house on top of a mountain in Jasper with their 3 sweet girls, Mia, Emma, and Zoe, who are adopted from China. They are truly a beautiful and inspirational family. They specialize in deep joy, love, and authenticity. Eve and Will are the most skilled and caring question-askers I have ever known, and I try to learn from them. They love to enjoy the good things about life--walks in nature, sharing in creativity and work, coffee and a spectacular view on the porch, trying new things, and learning. Their daughters are beautiful and smart and unique and you can see that their spirits just bask and grow in the deep love that is shown to them by their Heavenly Father through their willing parents. They are truly an inspiration, and we always feel like going to visit them is therapy and a sweet retreat.

We also got to stay with Keith's brother Kelly, which was so good, and even included a 11:00 am showing of Batman. I LOVE my family-in-law. I don't think I could say that enough to really express it. And all the hours of driving were so worth it to just get to spend time with my sweet husband. It really was a great and encouraging weekend for us.

Driving up to Kelly's house on Saturday night was weird and a little sad because we didn't go to "my" house. My family is settling in well in Kansas, and I am really impressed by their joyful and willing hearts...both my sister and my mom (who has had the hardest time with this move) have made lists of one thing they like about Kansas for everyday. You can check them out on their blogs.

well, I'm rambling, which tends to happen with an update style blog, but I wanted to share about such a great weekend. I keep wishing I had my own pictures to post, but I've been having too much fun to remember to take pictures!

In other news:


Good News!!!

Our neighborhood is "very walkable" according to Walk Score, a website that ranks neighborhoods for their walkability. And the Five Points South area got an 88 out of 100. Not too shabby! Of course, New York, San Fran, Boston, really big cities where people don't even need cars ranked close to 100, but I was pleasantly surprised to see our ranking. Even better, it lists all the restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, movie theaters, etc. within walking distance. It's time to do some exploring!

(Why walking will solve everything--or not--but it sure does make living in a place a lot more enjoyable, healthy, community oriented, and environmentally friendly).

p.s. the neighborhood my family just moved from in metro-atlanta got a 8 out of 100 ranking. down with suburbia--their new one in Wichita, Kansas scored 45, that's an improvement that they enjoy a lot already. They walk to a nearby shopping/entertainment center, and have commented on the noticeably clearer and cleaner air.

Keith and I are off to Big Canoe this weekend to make our debut as co-wedding-singers, at my dear friend and former Clemson roomie, Katie's wedding. It's going to be BEAUTIFUL! And so good to see friends who I have been missing for a while. See you Monday!


Cheap wine, A Cork Farmer in Portugal, and Life Lessons

The other day I decided to get a bottle of wine (Cabernet Sauvignon) for a dinner at home. It's not something we do often, in fact, I think it was only our second bottle, but it was only $6.29 and pretty good, from California (I dont remember the name, sorry). Anyways, I noticed that instead of the traditional cork stopper, it had some sort of plastic blend, and I was reminded of a story I heard a few months ago on NPR. (really, you should listen to it right now.)

I remember thinking at the time, "This is why I like NPR." The story shed light (that golden, late afternoon sort) on a topic that I not only knew nothing about, but had never even thought about. I was taken to the Alentenjo forest in Portugal where the sound of rustling trees, singing birds, and finally the low, muted sound of an ax chopping soft wood introduced me to Antonio Dominguez, a Portuguese cork farmer. Not surprisingly, many wine produces have switched in recent years to cheaper and more sterile plastic stoppers. But this story tells of the art and history and local importance that plastic simply cannot replace. Antonio describes how it takes a master to "look at the tree and feel," in order to get the bark without damaging the tree, which can only be harvested once every nine years and takes 25 years to reach the appropriate maturity. It is a SLOW process. And it requires tenderness and understanding. I think this is a perfect example of the richness of local, non-mass-produced economy. And unlike the synthetic, thinking about the processes and origin of these things leads us to thinking about life. There is something deep within us that senses that a thing that needs a master's touch and almost half a lifetime to be produced is valuable, and thankfully, as in this case, not necesarily in monetary terms. Even if we don't know the details, we sense that it has a story, is connected to the earth and to a real, complex person. And this is good. We know trees, we dream of Portugal, we are reminded of our great grandfather laboring on a farm. We can relate. This is good like the layers of flavor in coffee, wine, and good beer are good. These flavors take time, an acquired taste, they are not easy, but this is what makes them good. Keith often talks about how learning to enjoy wine has taught him about patience. You simply cannot chug wine. You must sip it. Slowly. And that's the beauty in it. I know that I have a lot to learn about patience, and I am thankful for little things in life that are used to teach me if I will take the time to notice.


Things I am Learning and Thinking about

I feel a little bit like I'm emerging from the somewhat numbing shock of finding myself in the adult world (aka sitting at a desk for 9 hours a day, dependent on that sitting for health insurance). There are many hopeful signs of this emergence. It really feels like a thawing out, most desperately needed in my heart--to become more inclined and hungry for the things of God, and less driven by my selfishness and pride--but also occurring in my mind.
It is exciting to be captivated by what is going on around me, to uncover something and then realize that it is much bigger than my fickle curiosity, and much more established than the fads that I catch a whiff of. Themes have been taking shape, in the things that Keith and I have been reading, in the conversations we've been having with friends who are much more active and knowledgeable than us, and in the experience of walking into life with a new church. The idea of community that God planted in my heart back in Clemson, is growing and being challenged and expanded by my experience here in Birmingham--a very different community than Clemson--but I'm seeing threads that have remained throughout...God is guiding and teaching with purpose, which is so encouraging. Really, that's just it, the theme is community. But I am seeing it in more and more angles, with more and more questions, and more and more possibilities. Here are some of the things rolling around in my head these days.
  • Living in a quasi-urban environment is not simple. It is way scarier and more humbling than patting myself on the back for driving 45 minutes to the city and giving peanut butter sandwiches to homeless guys once a week. I'm realizing that I have no idea about urban ministry, when "urban" lives next door. I want to be a good neighbor, but I know I'm not right now, and I don't really know where to begin.
  • "Community" is much bigger than a group of really close friends, or even a great, authentic church. It is where we live, no one can really be excluded, and we probably need to start paying attention to each other, and how we can take care of and know each other better.
  • What would it look like for there to be real harmony in our faith, politics, and economics? I'm not even going to go there on a large-scale, but on a personal scale I mean. Both how we spend, and what we buy. Not just in the sense of being good stewards of our money, but of our resources, and of what our consumption costs the community. Wendell Berry (thanks Pat and Kerry) calls it "the modern divorce between economy and religion--which is really just a version of the devastating old dualism of body and soul."
I'm hopeful because, instead of just patting myself on the back for having these thoughts, which my pride is inclined to do, I see that there are people, here an Birmingham and in communities all over, who have been thinking about these things for a lot longer than I have. And beyond the thoughts, they have the courage to take action that I can only hope for. Friends who live in areas of town where many Christians are afraid to enter, and know and love their neighbors. People who sacrifice convenience and let their convictions actually dictate their lives, as evidenced in where they shop, what they drive, where they work, what they eat, and the things they own (and don't own). Local businesses and farmers that make those same choices on a larger scale, perhaps sacrificing profit, but educating at the same time. A general whisper of a realization, on many levels and in many places, that we need community and we have greatly cheapened it over the years by mindlessly pursuing more and bigger and easier and faster.

My thoughts don't do these topics justice. It's a conversation and a slow learning process.


Spice up Your Social Life with Speed Scrabble

On any given evening you will find a crowd at 1701 16th Avenue South (home and practically-home to a large percentage of our friends). Most likely at least a portion of that crowd will be playing a game. Today for your reading pleasure, I've decided to compose a list (possibly to be continued) of our favorite and most played games . Stop on by to experience the fun for yourself or try these crowd-pleasers the next time you find yourself sitting around on the couch wrestling with the age-old question: "what should we do tonight?"

1. I'd say 5 out of 7 nights of the week you will find us playing at least one round of Speed Scrabble. This is a high-speed version of the fairly slow and boring original (hence the name), with all the same elements that make the original a classic even though it's slow and boring. Rounds last about 7-15 minutes, and up to 6 people can play comfortably (more than 6 and the game will just go really fast, combine two sets, and you can play with lots more.)
  • What you need: The tiles from a scrabble set. Pen and paper for keeping score.
  • How to play: spread out all the tiles, letter side down, on a playing surface (tables work nicely) and mix 'em up good. Each player takes 7 tiles and flips them over at the sound of "ready, set, GO." Each player attempts to use all seven of their tiles. Normal scrabble rules apply--spell left-to-right and up-to-down; proper nouns, contractions, obscure slang, and words that aren't English won't fly. The first player to arrange all 7 of their tiles shouts "Go!" and EVERYONE takes 1 tile from the pile. As tiles are drawn it is both acceptable and encouraged to rearrange your tiles to use all the letters. When there are no more tiles left to draw from, the first player to use all their letters shouts "done!" and all play stops immediately.
  • To score: Bonus points are alloted as follows: 10 to the first player finished, 10 to the player with the longest word, and 10 to the player with the most words. (the latter two awards can be split if there is a two-way tie, but are canceled out by a tie of 3 or more.) Now players add up the numbers on all of their active tiles. Each tile is only counted once. The tiles that they have failed to use are subtracted to come up with the final score. We usually play to 150 for one round.
2. A great and hilarious game for large groups is what we call "The Paper Game," but I've also heard it more aptly called Traveling Pictionary. Recalling lunch-time memories of Telephone combined with Pictionary, this game is great for party-sized crowds of 8-15, and takes about 20-30 minutes to play.
  • What you need: Lots of scraps of paper. (Use scrap paper! Let's not be wasteful!). How much paper you ask? Well, for x number of players, you need x times x small pieces of paper. for example, for a 12-player round, each player needs 12 post-it-note sized scraps of paper (144 scraps. I said lots). Everyone needs a writing utensil too.
  • How to play. Each player holds onto a stack of paper, and writes their initials on the top, right-hand corner of the top piece on the stack. Now everyone writes a phrase on that piece. It could be a ridiculous, made up phrase; a catch phrase; a movie title; something that happened to them; etc. When everyone has written their phrase, each person passes their entire stack to the person sitting on their right. Now each person looks at their neighbor's phrase, places it on the bottom of the stack, writes their initials on the new piece, and draws a picture-interpretation of their neighbor's phrase. After 30-45 seconds have passed, time is up and the stacks are passed to the right again. Now you will see a drawing, and be required to write a phrase interpreting the drawing (include your initials every time). This will go on, alternating between drawings to illustrate a phrase, and phrases to interpret drawings until the stacks have gone all the way around the circle.
  • There is no winner or score for this game (my favorite kind), but each person reads aloud their stack, starting from the original phrase and walking through the digression (which is usually outrageous), for everyone to enjoy.
3. Much more complicated, and time consuming, Settlers of Catan is a delightfully nerdy economics-based game that is sure to bring out the worst in all of us :) This game is for up to 4 players with the regular set, and up to 6 with the "expansion pack," and it usually lasts about an hour to an hour and a half.
  • What you need: The board game (or a friend, like Patrick Sewell, who has the game, the expansion pack, and all the extra's like "Knights of Catan," and "Seafarers of Catan" (two even more complicated, time-consuming, and nerdy versions).
  • How to play: The game is based on the trading of resources and the building of roads, settlements, and cities. The resources are brick, wheat, wood, sheep, and ore. Building requires certain combinations of resources, for example, a road costs a brick and a wood; a city costs three ore and 2 wheat. You get resources by placing settlements on the corners of hexagons which represent the resources and rolling dice and trading with the other players. Kind of hard to explain with no visuals, but it's fun.
  • Who wins? The first person to reach 10 points. Settlements are worth one point, cities 2, longest road 2, and there are also cards you can buy to give extra points including largest army.
  • Best part? A the end, all players are required to chant to the winner, "All hail __(insert name of winner)___, Lord of Catan!"
(photo courtesy flickr user nellee100)


Quite possibly my favorite thing about Saturdays:

Item 1: Fresh cut Zanias.
Item 2: Chilton County peach.

I've mentioned before that I ventured down to the Pepper Place market. Well, now it has become a favorite Saturday morning excursion. Keith is usually working on Saturday mornings (poor guy), so I call up a friend (thanks Erin, Cory, and Pat!) and walk down to the market. This week as Cory, Pat, and I were walking the 4 or 5 blocks, we were passed by a couple on a golf cart. The thoughtful pair pulled over and told us to hop on, so we did! The golf carters live on 29th and say they ride there golf cart everywhere. I was just slightly puzzled, because the thing doesn't get any better gas mileage than my Jeep, but they said they can enjoy the view better in the cart. Good for you.
I can't leave the market without fresh flowers and a bag full of peaches, and let me tell you, the peaches are AMAzing, about the size of soft balls, and the flowers brighten up my kitchen. And all the while I feel warm and fuzzy inside for supporting local economy, agriculture, and sharing a delightful morning with friends.

In other news:

There are some ideas brewing on the horizon. First, Stephanie Kling and I have been talking about the idea of holding a monthly crafty evening for girls (women, whatever we are) there are just so many talented and creative women around this 'ham, whether cooking, painting, crafting, photographing, and we want to learn and share the love! It could look like one girl sort of leading each month and teaching the others her favorite form of creative productivity. And it could be loads of fun.

Second, Erin Eades and I have talked about our need and desire for a book club. And I know for sure that other girls are excited about it too. So, I would love to see that crank up too. In the meantime, be my friend on GoodReads.

If you're interested in either gathering, let me know! I am so encouraged by the community of Godly women here in Birmingham, and I am looking forward to sharing more of life with you!

and in some other news:
  • The G8 summit is going on right now. As far as meetings of the most important people in the world go, it's on the side of the good guys. But I read on the GOOD magazine blog yesterday that the conference costs more than the billions of dollars they gave to fight global issues such as poverty, hunger, and disease last year, and they are meeting in an "eco friendly" building, built just for the conference...that will be torn down aas soon as it is over. I'm a little baffled. Does it really have to work that way? Someone smart, tell me.
  • My family is on the move! Literally. Driving to their new home in Kansas today. So remember them in your prayers for safe travels, and hearts that rejoice in and trust God's heart for them in this transition.


Video and Dostoevsky:

My first time posting a video, lets see if it works...
As a supplement to my post a couple days ago about missing Spain, here is a great video recap of the year so y'all can see with your own eyes what I was up to over there. (especially since so many of you that read this didn't even know me at the time!)

and, I came upon this passage in my reading today and found it incredibly poignant and timely:

"What do you mean by isolation?" I asked him.

"Why, the isolation that prevails everywhere, above all in our age - it has not fully developed, it has not reached its limit yet. For every one strives to keep his individuality as apart as possible, wishes to secure the greatest possible fullness of life for himself; but meantime all his efforts result not in attaining fullness of life but self-destruction, for instead of self-realisation he ends by arriving at complete solitude. All mankind in our age have split up into units, they all keep apart, each in his own groove; each one holds aloof, hides himself and hides what he has, from the rest, and he ends by being repelled by others and repelling them. He heaps up riches by himself and thinks, 'how strong I am now and how secure,' and in his madness he does not understand that the more he heaps up, the more he sinks into self-destructive impotence. For he is accustomed to rely upon himself alone and to cut himself off from the whole; he has trained himself not to believe in the help of others, in men and in humanity, and only trembles for fear he should lose his money and the privileges that he has won for himself. Everywhere in these days men have, in their mockery, ceased to understand that the true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort. But this terrible individualism must inevitably have an end, and all will suddenly understand how unnaturally they are separated from one another. It will be the spirit of the time, and people will marvel that they have sat so long in darkness without seeing the light. And then the sign of the Son of Man will be seen in the heavens.... But, until then, we must keep the banner flying. Sometimes even if he has to do it alone, and his conduct seems to be crazy, a man must set an example, and so draw men's souls out of their solitude, and spur them to some act of brotherly love, that the great idea may not die."


An Experiment:

So, I want one of these.A Holga. Which is an inexpensive, meduim format camera with a plastic lens. They fall into the "toy camera" category because they are so cheap and made almost entirely of plastic. But they produce really amazing images.I will never be a perfectionist, no matter how hard I try. I can't draw a straight line, wrap gifts, or fold clothes. I love messy painting, and for a while my favorite artistic medium was glue. Because of this, I think that a Holga--which is know for its unpredictability, light streams, crazy colors, and general quirk--and I may be perfect for one another. I'm feeling like this little camera might give my creative juices the little boost they are desperately in need of.BUT I have learned a lot from my wonderful husband, who is very different from me in awesome ways, about patience, perseverance, thoughtfulness, and loyalty. Therefore, I am going to conduct an experiment, to see if I and my juices, are ready for a new toy. I'm going to earn it. And not be impulsive. For the next few weeks i'm going to use up all the 35mm film that I have, and if I succeed, process all the film, and still have a hankering for a Holga...the little guy will be mine. (for the low low price of around $30). Hopefully you all will be the benefactors of the images my little experiment produces soon.
P.S. Some of the coolest shots from the wedding were taken on a Holga.in other news:
  • I made homemade pesto this weekend. Yum.
  • I'm in Book Six of The Brothers Karamazov, and it's getting really good.
  • I am shamelessly proud of both of those facts.


España, te echo de menos.

I have been experiencing a phenomenon lately: missing Spain. While I was there, I kept a calendar that I drew out by hand of the last few months on my wall and I would triumphantly scribble out each day with a thick black crayon before going to bed. I longed for home, and the deep, terrible ache that is longing was ever-present—often overshadowing otherwise exciting and precious experiences. I valued my friends, I savored café con leche and nepolitanas, I was so thankful and excited to learn to live and speak and even sometimes think in Spanish—but through it all my heart was heavy with homesickness and as I walked through the blocks surrounding my piso apartment, lined with century old buildings, a grand Cathedral, and picturesque parks, I felt that there was something in me that couldn’t connect to these things. I carried my camera around uninspired, hungry for the rusted barns of South Carolina.
Now, a little over a year later, and unexpected tinge has popped up in my heart. Little things ignite memories of Spain, and I realize that the feeling I have towards the place and the experience now is nothing but sweet. I might mistake the feeling for a sentiment of “what could have been” or “ an opportunity wasted,” but I know that my time there was what it was, and nothing can or should change it. I don’t feel guilty for longing away so many days. I was longing for the man I love and for a deeper connection to a community, and those are not bad things to long for. But I am glad that now, in retrospect I can treasure and be thankful for my experience. I would love to return, this time with Keith there to experience it with me, but until then,

Here are some of my memories about Spain:

Its hard to choose one, but I’ll say today that the café I remember most fondly was the one right down the street from my piso, with the menu written on a poster of Marge Simpson. It was a little hole in the wall, therefore mostly void of guiris (foreigners), where the man at the bar always knew what I wanted before I ordered it: café con leche—for .75 euros. They also had the smallest cups, strongest café, and the biggest sugar packets, making for the most delicious ratio. Oh yeah, and animal planet was always on the tv.

Trivial. Every Tuesday night, for just about the entirety of my nine months in Spain, I went to a crowded Irish Pub called the Holy Cross (“El ‘oly”) and joined some of my very dearest friends, Juanjo, Angel, and Antonio, and usually many others, for trivia. The game was in English and in Spanish, designed for cross cultural collaboration, and pronounced by a girl from the Czech Republic. Which already made it hilarious. It was a tournament that lasted all year, vying for two plane tickets to Prague, London, or Paris. Our team name was “Super Duper-de-doo Gorgeous” and I must admit, we were good.

Living in a truly international context. I had class with really enjoyable students from Brazil, Greece, Iceland, Germany, Korea, Japan, Belgium, Norway, Sweeden, Italy, and Africa. Some of my closest friends were from Italy, Mexico, Argentina, the Ukraine, and England. People came to En Vivo (our campus ministry) from all over the world. And the craziest thing was that the language that united us was not English, but Spanish. We were all on a level playing field, and I was a foreigner too.

Walking, walking EVERYWHERE on cold, stone streets—arms linked with whoever I was walking with. Wearing scarves, and trying all kinds of new fashion, primarily from H&M. Those rare nights when I actually had fun going out to dance clubs till the wee hours of the morning. Riding in Angel’s car to explore his small village just outside of Salamanca. Staying up in the En Vivo house “trying to think of something to do” for hours. Long conversations with Guiomar. Learning a new Spanish pop-song every week to sing at En Vivo. Making videos. Pinchos (Salamancan for tapas). Getting away and taking a walk or a run by the river. The Puente Romano at Dusk. The little old women and men who would walk around town, dressed to the nines, every evening around 6:30. Bejar, Antonio’s wonderfully welcoming and beautiful village and his mom. Moose Moose and Signs. Learning how to cook pichos and tortilla. The plaza mayor. Squeezing arounds tables at Shwarma Queen, a favorite Kebab place. Fresh bread every day. Going to tomar un café with whoever was around. So much more. But that’s all for now.