Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wake Up, Fall in Love, Listen

I'm here, listening to David Nail, Gary Allan, Jack Johnson, John Mayer... wrapped up in my big, wool sweater from my trip to Ireland, the one with brown buttons and a floppy collar (Scott calls it my "sheep" because it's oversized and wool and warm).

It's been a few days.  With everything going on, the week flew by.  Even though I didn't post, I was thinking about so many things, things I want to share with you all.

As I have mentioned before, I'm nannying as my business ramps up.  It's nice to have a steady form of income and to be able to help out Scott's cousin's family.  Full-time nannying + part-time grad school + building a business = a lot of work.  But you know what, I'm happier than I've been in a long time.

Don't get me wrong, there are many points of frustration.  I've found that I react differently now though.  Because I've made the choice to live this life, I feel in control.  Even when the bumps in the road (a fussy baby, too much homework, very little sleep, a snowstorm) come up, I have been better about taking a deep breath and pushing forward.

And it seems that with every frustration, there is a positive to balance it out or even cancel it out completely.  A happy grin from a 7-month-old, a lovely book like Sense and Sensibility, a goodnight kiss from my husband, or the beauty of snow while we drink wine and watch "Midnight in Paris" in our cozy living room... or a first big freelancing assignment (yes!!).

(By the way, I loved "Midnight in Paris"... as a romantic at heart and especially as a writer.  I've been wanting to see it, and after reading Alaina's recent post, I had to make it happen.  Although Scott watched at my request, he enjoyed the views of Paris, a city he visited years ago, and the historical references to the 1920's and people like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, etc.)
All of these thoughts from the week seem to echo what we heard during Mass last Sunday.  With the blogger meet-up and bridesmaid dress shopping, Scott and I ended up going to a later Sunday night Mass at St. Clement's.  (And we might have chowed down on 2-for-$5 Big Macs at McD's after...)

During the homily, the priest spoke about vocations, what we are called by God to do.  He was only a year older than I am, so it was inspiring to hear someone my age have so much passion for the Church and for supporting others in finding their calling.  (Also loved the mention of a fellow ND grad who is considering priesthood... and that there is a huge ND alumni contingent at the parish... no wonder I feel very at home at St. Clement's!)

The priest talked about how we often sleepwalk through life, but God is calling us to wake up.  He is calling us to fall in love, no matter what our vocation may be... fall in love with Him, with our spouse, with life.

Even if you don't believe in God or vocations, each of us has a purpose in life, something we strive to fulfill, something we feel called to do.

The first reading, 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19, stated: Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.  Do I listen for what God calls me to do?  Do I listen to God's voice in my daily life?  It was a reminder to be humble and listen.  To wake up to God's presence.  To re-commit myself every day to living out my vocation.  You know how I said earlier, "Because I've made the choice to live this life, I feel in control"?  Maybe I'm not in control.  Maybe I'm just doing what I feel called to do.

Yes, I'm tired and stressed and busy.  Sometimes, I think, just get through the day, just get through this one thing.  That's normal and human.  But I also don't want to waste my time and wish my days away, because this is the life God has given me.  This is my one, crazy, beautiful life.

I want to wake up, fall in love, listen.  I want to live out my vocation... to love my husband, to write and share with others, to grow in my faith.

What are you called to do? 

All images via Pinterest

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Blogger Meet-up

It's been a good weekend.  Not the most productive one, but hey, I have Monday off (from nannying).

While I was home over the holidays, I felt a need to connect with more people in the blogging community.  Sure, we read posts and write comments, but these days, it's too easy to replace face-to-face time with online communication.  I shot an email to a few girlspeople I knew from the blog world and "real life"and suggested a blogger meet-up.  Those girls invited some others, and soon enough, we had a nice little group assembled... so on Saturday afternoon, Jillian of Cornflake Dreams hosted a bunch of us Chicago blogger ladies. 

Everyone brought an appetizer or wine, so we sipped, sampled, and got to know each other better.  It was a really nice afternoon... I was happy to broaden my little blog network... and the food was sooo yummy!  We chatted about the stuff of life: engagement rings, wedding planning, apartment searches, babies, dogs, the best restaurants in the city, recipes, bikes, and big-screen TVs.  You have to check out the apps everyone brought to share!

I brought Spinach Roll-ups from the Taste of Home Summer Appetizers cookbook (my go-to for easy, delicious party apps).

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled cooked bacon (I left this out)
1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
6 flour tortillas (8 inch), warmed

1) In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, green onions, bacon, and salad dressing mix.  Stir in spinach until well blended.  Spread over tortillas; roll up tightly jelly-roll style.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 5 hours (I only did for one, but a longer time would probably help while cutting).

2) With a serrated knife, cut into 1/2 inch slices.  Refrigerate leftovers.  Yields 12-14 servings.

Thank you to all the ladies who attended.  I had a great time catching up and getting to know each of you!

Jillian of Cornflake Dreams 
Cathy of Fiscally Chic 
Lesley of Six Twelve Place 
Zoe of Style Foodie 

A little tip for you party-planners out there... I used Paperless Post to send out an electronic invitation for the blogger meet-up, my first time using the website, and it was awesome.  The designs are adorable, the process is easy, and the tracking is super organized.
I started with this template and changed up the fonts to make it a bit more casual.
When you sign up for an account with Paperless Post, you start with 25 "stamps" and 25 "coins" (each stamp sends one email to one recipient; coins are used for premium content and features).  From there, you can purchase more stamps or coins for a matter of cents or earn more by referring friends or liking Paperless Post on facebook.  The invite designs look like ones you would send via snail mail (cute fonts, layouts, etc), and the tracking of RSVPs is really clean and streamlined.  Love it.  Recommend it.

And the rest of the weekend... Scott and I enjoyed low-key evenings on both Friday and Saturday.  On Friday, we watched the movie Moneyball (good stuff), and on Saturday, we made a frozen pizza, had a couple of drinks, and I read Sense and Sensibility for one of my classes while Scott watched football.  Juuuuust right after a long, busy week.

Sunday was a lot of fun... I went bridesmaid dress shopping for a college friend's wedding.  A whole group of us made stops at Bella Bridesmaid and Macy's with a little lunch at Feast in between.  Great news: we found our dresses!  And I love mine!  (A few hints: dark blue, chiffon, a ruffle.)  I can't wait to support the lovely bride & her groom and then dance the night away on K's big day in October.

Now, back to that whole productivity thing... it had better kick in tomorrow morning!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How Will I Look Back On Today?

I was walking home from class last night, thinking about how it was probably one of the last days I could wear my flats this winter (yes, the snow is here! the Hunter boots made their appearance today!). 

But I was also thinking about my life right now and how I might look back on this chapter.

Will I think: Remember when we lived in our first place, that condo in Lakeview, and I was starting my business, finishing grad school, and nannying?  I was writing, reading, writing, not sleeping (much) and writing some more?  What a crazy, busy time!  But it all paid off because look at how great everything turned out.

Or will I think: Remember when we were young and just married a year and a half, and I made that big leap to quit my job and start a business, and you supported me?  Remember how I thought things would take off and I kept working at it, but it just didn't happen?  But that's okay because look at where we are now.

I'm hoping for a good outcome.  Ideally, I hope for a strong marriage, loving family, and successful career doing what I love... though from my two example scenarios above, I suppose they both end up just fine, just how they're supposed to.  I'm hoping I look back, and even if this period becomes "that crazy busy time" of my life, I can understand why it mattered and how it contributed to where I end up.

The thing is, we never completely know if life right now is a "high" or "low" of life (or a twisty-turny, complicated change of direction).  Sure, there are the very high points (graduations, weddings, babies, etc) and the very low points (illness, death, end of relationships). 

But what about the in-between points?  You know, it's all relative.  It depends on how each phase of your life compares with the next one.  Do things get better or worse from here?
Though this image is titled "Success," I think it could apply to life in general...
complicated, messy, unpredictable... and pretty amazing.
image via Makeunder My Life

Since the future is somewhat unknown and I'm not sure how today fits into my whole lifetime, I am doing my best to treasure each day, to see the good in the small things, and to remember that someday I'll look back on this time and smile... for better or worse.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Accessorize! - Part 2

For Part 2 of my "Accessorize!" post, here are a few pieces to brighten up your home life.  A combination of form and function, comfort and cuteness... (Bonus: I received these as gifts or bought them with gift cards!)

New euro shams and gold/white pillow (Scott is LOVING all the pillows haha)
Yes, they are from J. Lo's collection at Kohl's!
Pottery Barn monogram soaps (we have one on display in our bathroom)
Bliss products... the lemon + sage scent makes me feel like I'm at a spa!
A sweet 2-tier silver stand, perfect for entertaining

Mini cans of wine (each with their own tiny straw!)
Adorable computer mouse and calendar
Colorful desk supplies from Target
A Misto Olive Oil Sprayer (basically, create-my-own nonstick spray)...
it's refillable, non-aerosol, and uses less oil... meaning less calories and less waste.

More pillows!  My mom found this beauty... works well on the chaise 
in the living room or on the bed in the second bedroom.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Fresh Look

You may notice that the blog design got a little makeover... the background is now polka-dotted!  It's a fun, fresh look for the new year.

Another makeover also took place this weekend: we installed new blinds (with the help of Scott's dad)!

Our old blinds were ugly (thin, flimsy, dirty)... and before we had a chance to replace them, they started to break completely.  The broken, crooked blinds in the living room looked horrible, so we took them down and draped a sheet across the whole window for a little privacy since we face a busy street.

But now, we will no longer have to stare at the brown-striped sheet or peek around it to look outside.

We ordered these beauties from, per the recommendation of my parents.  They had recently replaced all the blinds in their house and told me that the price, quality, and ease of ordering and installing from was fantastic.  I can agree completely.

I never thought I would get so excited about something as boring and basic as blinds, but they truly make a difference.

After ordering a couple color samples and doing some comparison shopping, we decided on the 2-inch faux wood "economy" blinds in a clean white color.  We placed an order online... they have super easy instructions on measuring and there is a sizing guarantee, so you can exchange your order if you happen to measure incorrectly (made me feel much better!).

The blinds arrived quickly, despite a slight backorder of about a week, and Scott and his dad installed them while I was at yoga today.

During yoga, I was thinking about how the weather has been so pleasant for January and how the sun has actually been out, which definitely has a positive effect on my mood.  I hadn't exercised or stretched in weeks, so it felt good to move in the sunny studio... an awakening of my muscles, breathing deeply to bring oxygen into my body.

And then when I got home, I could enjoy the sunshine through our front windows.  No more sheet blocking the view and the winter sun... just some beautiful, crisp-looking blinds to let the light in...

If you're interested, email me at inspirationandroughdrafts [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll send you a referral email for $10 off your order of $150 or more.  I was not compensated for this post; just wanted to share my experience.

Update: Per my mom and sister's request, here are some "before" pictures of our old blinds.  Since the picture of the living room doesn't give the best view of the blinds, I also included a "before" shot of the master bedroom window.  Enjoy!

Living room "before"

Master bedroom window "before"

Friday, January 6, 2012

Accessorize! - Part 1

Accessories complete an outfit, a room, a display.  They finish things off with flair, an extra sparkle, a special detail.  Accessories are the cherry on top, the icing on the cake.  And they just plain make me happy.

Even better when they are gifts from friends and family or purchased with gift cards.  November birthday + Christmas = a winter sprinkled with new things and shopping fun!

Here are a few accessories I'm loving right now...

J.Crew necklaces (gotta love gift cards + a 30% sale!)

J.Crew necklaces and belt

J.Crew scarves

LOFT infinity scarf

LOFT sequin sweater (for a subtle sparkle!)

Ballard Designs tote

Kate Spade "pop-top" mittens 

Kate Spade wallet (yaaaay! love this color)

Cynthia Rowley tote (from Marshall's)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year

We're three days into the new year.  2012 is hereready or not!  I've been thinking about this post for the past few days and I am still not exactly sure what I want to say.

You know how hard it is to start writing sometimes (think back to college papers!)?  That first page, that first sentence, that first word... so with this being the first post of the year, I guess I've been psyching myself out.

via Pinterest
Now is the time of year when we all make resolutions and goals for the upcoming 12 months.  We talk about what we want to do, what we want to stop doing, and where we want to be in one year.

But with so much of my life changing right now, I have a hard time imagining where I might be in one month, let alone one year.  (Okay, I plan to still be physically living in Chicago, but you know what I mean...)

Being a perfectionist, the idea of setting goals just plain freaks me out.  What if I set a goal and don't achieve it?  Deep breath... it's not the end of the world.  Maybe it's not meant to be; maybe something better will take its place.  But for someone like me, I might just feel like a big, fat failure.
Thanks, Jess :)
They say you have to craft goals that are specific in order to effectively work towards them.  That specificity might help, but I think that's what really makes me nervous.  So to relieve some of the pressure (that I'm putting on myself), I have come up with some general goalsthoughts about what I want to do this year, what I hope to accomplish, how I want to allow the real, true "me" to shine.

Bottom line: I'm excited for the year ahead (ahh, all the possibilities)... and a little nervous too.  Maybe one of my goals should be let go of the idea of perfection. :)

Here are a handful of general resolutions (I'm sure I could add many more!)...

> Connect with people more oftenfriends, family, business contacts.
> Believe in myself.  Refuse to be afraid of rejection.  I am who I am, so second-guessing myself and my abilities won't get me anywhere.
> Continue to nurture my marriage.  It's an important part of my lifeand will be for the rest of it.
> Pray... in good times and bad.  Trust God.  Make time for quiet.
> Treasure the little moments, the little joys.  Drink in life with all five senses.
> Clear out (some of) the clutter.
> Keep pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone (definitely been doing this the past few months!).
> When life gets busy, remember to take things one day at a time.
> Take care of myself (exercise, nutrition, sleep) which hopefully will result in more energy... to do everything I want to do!
> Foster and express a genuine sense of gratitude.

Some amazing things I'm looking forward to in 2012:

> Becoming an aunt
> A possible trip to Europe (fingers crossed that we can make this happen!)
> Completing my master's degree in Writing & Publishing
> Celebrating 2 years of marriage on June 5
> Growing my business (and getting published!)
> The birth of two friends' babies
> Walking another half marathon
> Standing up as a bridesmaid in two of my closest friends' weddings
> Trips home to Kansas
> And so much more!
It's like a little inspirational pep talk... or perhaps words to live by.


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