Wednesday, April 29

wedding inspiration: fresh escort cards and seating charts for spring

As longtime readers have no doubt gathered, one of the wedding details I continue to totally geek out about three years after my own wedding are paper goods - save-the-dates, invitations, programs, guestbooks, thank you notes, and other little details that go a long way to set the tone of the day - whether they're actually made of paper or not! Here are some fresh ideas from around the world that are so much better than yet another folded paper card.

These modern DIY details have a very West Elm feel to them -- and how adorable are those mini clothespins?

This is such a cute idea for a destination or travel-themed wedding, and the possibilities are endless - match any kind of scrapbook paper with any shape! In this case, birds were the perfect touch for a wedding at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove in Pennsylvania.

Whimsical gold touches make these classic escort cards stand out.

This seating chart made with metal ceiling tiles is DIY heaven!

The perfect summer escort card display, complete with a nautical map, flags, and lanterns!

Seriously digging both of these romantic ideas.

Tuesday, April 28

style: top 10 remix challenge

Jen from Librarian for Life and Style recently posted about the Top 10 Remix Challenge, hosted by Sarah's Real Life. I've been a little obsessed with closet downsizing this year and intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe, but I don't like the idea of leaving perfectly good clothes in a closet or drawer because they aren't part of my "capsule." That's what makes the Top 10 Remix perfect - instead of limiting the total number of items in a wardrobe, Sarah's challenging remixers to choose ten items that are the epitome of their style, then work at least one of those ten items into each outfit worn in a month. I took  a weekend to think about my items - if I'd be wearing them so regularly, they needed to be versatile and classic. I think of my personal style as preppy meets bohemian, and I've been shopping within a navy, coral, and teal accent color palette since my vacation to Williamsburg. Here are the ten items I chose to remix this month:

1. Old Navy floral scarf  2. Old Navy coral cardigan (similar)  3. Lia Sophia pearl bracelets (similar)  4. TOMS for Target tee  5. LOFT striped boatneck tank  6. Sam and Libby for Target flats  7. Target lace-front sweater  8. Teal Old Navy sweater (similar)  9. Old Navy swiss dot blouse  10. LOFT jeans

Here are the first four outfits I put together for the challenge... it was fun to have something like this to do over Spring Break.

Saturday, April 4 - day trip to Raleigh with Mr. Q and B - #1 Old Navy scarf, pink Target tee, #10 LOFT jeans, Old Navy bucket purse (similar) and Bare Traps sandals

Sunday, April 5 - Easter morning service at Elevation church - Lia Sophia pearl earrings (similar), Old Navy gray sweatshirt dress (similar), # 1 Old Navy scarf, Old Navy cardigan, #3 Lia Sophia pearl bracelets and Target boots

Monday, April 6 - shopping with mom - #2 coral Old Navy cardigan, #4 TOMS for Target arrow tee, #10 LOFT jeans, Bare Traps sandals

Tuesday, April 7 - #7 Target lace sweater, Target navy tank, Lia Sophia flower necklace, #10 LOFT jeans, #6 Sam and Libby for Target flats

Linking Up:
Manic Monday at More Pieces of Me and The Daily Express

clicks of note: i knew you belonged here...

get your week off to a colorful start...

  • NPR's article about Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos' bipolar disorder, and this song dedicated to his wife, made me appreciate the music so much more. I also love the "1985 was a good year" chorus, since I'm turning 30 next month and planning an 80's dance party to celebrate! Speaking of 30th  my b-day - I'm collecting ideas. I'll be linking up with Musical Mondays at My So-Called Chaos.





Sunday, April 26

Monday, April 20

clicks of note: we're home...

get your week off to a colorful start.


  • One of the great mysteries of the music world to me is that Matt Nathanson isn't a household name yet. "All We Are" came up on my Pandora and I realized I'd forgotten what a lovely song it is. I'm linking up with Musical Mondays at My So-Called Chaos.




Sunday, April 19

sunday simplicity

“Take into account that great love
and great achievements involve great risk.
And that a loving atmosphere in your home
is the foundation for your life."

- from "Instructions for Life in the New Millenium" by the Dalai Lama

Thursday, April 16

Book Review: Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans became my favorite Christian author when I read her second book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, after several months of reading and loving her blog. As part of the launch team for her new book, Searching for Sunday, I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy and share the experience with a community of like-minded readers (and Rachel herself!). As I share my review today, you'll notice that it's mostly quotes - that's because Rachel writes about her faith journey so powerfully and succinctly that I don't think my own words can really do this book justice.

Searching for Sunday is a much deeper, more reflective book than A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  It addresses the fact that America's religious life is at a turning point: Rachel states in the book's prologue that more than half of young people ages eighteen to twenty-nine who grew up Christian no longer attend church. As a well-known young Christian blogger, church leaders often ask her to speak about why millennials are leaving the evangelical church. Her answer really resonated with me:
"we're tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known for what we're for, I said, not just what we're against. We don't want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it's uncomfortable."
Rachel structures Searching for Sunday around seven sacraments: baptism, confession, holy orders, communion, confirmation, the anointing of the sick, and marriage - the practices by which God reveals himself to us. Each section begins with a meditation on the elements used in the sacraments, followed by interwoven personal memories and theological reflections. Rachel writes about how she, like many young people, longed to be welcomed, known, loved, comforted,  anointed in the church, but became overwhelmingly frustrated with the lies, abuse, and exclusion that is also found in the pulpit and between the pews, and how the longing eventually won out.

In "Vote Yes on One," one of the strongest essays in the book, Rachel writes that for her, "the trouble started" when she enrolled in a nondenominational Christian liberal arts university, and her questions were no longer met with the satisfying answers she'd found in high school youth group.

"That recurring choice--between faith and science, Christianity and feminism, the Bible and historical criticism, doctrine and compassion--kept tripping me up like roots on a forest trail. I wanted to believe, of course, but I wanted to believe with my intellectual integrity and intuition intact, with both my head and heart fully engaged."
I was raised Christian, but not raised in the church; I was probably running around the woods barefoot while Rachel was memorizing Bible verses in Awana and playing Chubby Bunny with her youth group. I was the weird kid who always wanted to have dinner at friends' houses on Wednesday nights and sleep over on Saturdays so I could catch a glimpse of this church world and learn about Jesus instead of just being reassured that he loved me - and because it was Southwest Virginia, that church world was evangelical bordering on fire-and-brimstone fundamentalism. In college, I joined InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after a high school friend invited me to their large group meeting and started attending a big, shiny Baptist church where the pastor probably never knew my name. After falling asleep in one too many sermons, I Google searched "Charlottesville Baptist Church" with my friend Amanda, we visited the first one on the list, and I suspected I may have found my church family the next Sunday when Pastor Jeff remembered who Heather and Amanda were. Soon I was "plugged in," as Rachel puts it in the book - attending Sunday school, volunteering in the nursery, leading a small group Bible study, and eventually getting Baptized and joining the church. I loved my church and my fellowship, and have many fond memories of my college years falling in love with Jesus, but I also have some less-than-fond memories, like a church friend recommending a "good conservative church" to Amanda when she moved to South Carolina, or my friend being told to step down from a leadership position after he came out.

These are the same kinds of experiences Rachel has had herself and has heard about from her blog readers, the experiences that drove her to write Searching for Sunday. When signs popped up at her church urging Tennesseans to vote for a "Marriage Protection Amendment," she realized something: 

"just as I sat in church with my doubt, there were those sitting in church with their sexuality, their race, their gender, their depression, their addiction, their questions, their fears, their past, their infertility, their eating disorder, their diagnosis, their missed rent, their mess of a marriage, their sins, their shame--all the things that follow us to church on Sunday morning but we dare not name."
One of the strongest arguments Rachel makes in the book is that young people aren't actually looking for a "hipper" church - it's not a lack of fog machines and drum kits that's turning anyone away. 
"Christians may need to get used to the idea of measuring significance by something other than money, fame, and power. No one ever said the fruit of the Spirit is relevance or impact or even revival. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control--the sort of stuff that, let's face it, doesn't always sell." 
Since leaving Charlottesville, I've been a skeptical "church hopper," more inclined to see reasons why a new church isn't for me than reasons why it could be. This book has been very appropriate for this season in my life and gave me the motivation to turn my hopping into a true pursuit. Searching for Sunday gives me hope that somewhere out there is a church family that is welcoming, inclusive, understanding, and committed to praising Jesus together in the midst of messy real life - or one that could be, with me on board. I'm ready to share my bread.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a .pdf of this book free from the publisher, Nelson Books, Inc., an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, as a member of the Searching for Sunday Launch Team. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, April 13

clicks of note: you know what i wanna say...

get your week off to a colorful start...


  • I recently heard Nashville-based country singer Devin Dawson on Soundcloud and I can't stop listening. I'll be linking up today with Musical Mondays at My So-Called Chaos.



The Weekly Round-Up

Saturday, April 11

lately in entertainment.


Fleetwood Mac at John Paul Jones Arena - I was ridiculously happy when I found out that Fleetwood Mac would be coming to Charlotteville, and even more happy that three of my cousins were able to come with me. Family bonding and amazing music, what could go wrong? Charlottesville traffic is what could go wrong. There was basically no police presence between Barracks Road and the John Paul Jones Arena, so traffic was at a standstill, and "reserved parking" was a joke. Being late to the concert even though our hotel was in walking distance was a little bit heartbreaking. We still got to hear most of our favorite songs, and it was kind of surreal seeing the band I've listened to my whole life as real people on a stage. Stevie Nicks interacted with the crowd the most and told the story behind the line "now I'm back to the Velvet Underground, back to the floor that I love" in Gypsy and talked about loving Charlottesville before "Landslide." Mick Fleetwood's drum solo after "World Turning" was awesome, and the crowd participation during "Don't Stop" was probably the best I've ever seen at a concert.


Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (YA fantasy) - The Raven Cycle continues as Blue Sargent and her boys search for the resting place of a Welsh king and for Blue's missing mother in the mountains of Central Virginia. The characters' relationships grow more complicated in this addition to the series, as Gansey and Blue each rail against their attraction to one another and Adam realizes that Ronan's feelings for him go beyond friendship. Goodreads may classify the series as "urban fantasy," but I would argue that Stiefvater has made Rural Fantasy a Thing. Passages like this are why I love this series so much:

Blue had discovered that there were two distinct stereotypes for the rural population of her part of Virginia: the neighbors who loaned one another cups of sugar and knew everything about everyone, and the rednecks who stood on their porches with shotguns and shouted racist things when they got drunk. Because she grew up so thoroughly entrenched in the first group, she hadn't believed in the second group until well into her teens. School had taught her that the two kinds were almost never born into the same litter.

Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich (mystery) -When I am super stressed out with school work or have been reading a lot of serious books, Stephanie Plum books are the perfect anecdote. In Hard Eight, our favorite bail bonds agent enters unfamiliar territory, child custody bonds, when she is asked to track down a missing seven-year-old and her mother. Stephanie's past comes back to haunt her, as the missing girl's father is connected to scary Eddie Abruzzi, who "owned" the boxer Stephanie killed in One for the Money. Stephanie's still caught in a love triangle with Trenton cop Joe Morelli and beefy bounty hunter Ranger, both of whom come to her aid when Abruzzi's antics go from creepy to horrifying.


The Book Thief I'm so glad I finally got around to seeing this film based on one of the most moving books I've ever read. The movie didn't disappoint me - the characters were so well-developed (Papa! Mama! Rudy!), the attention to detail was perfect (The alphabet wall! The library!), and since I'd read the book, I had that experience where your heart breaks right before things happen on screen.

Furious 7 - While I'm relatively sure I have missed most of the movies in the Fast and the Furious franchise, it didn't really affect my ability to enjoy the new movie (although I think seeing #6 probably would have helped).   The main villain, Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham, has sworn to get revenge against Dom and Brian's team. He attacks Hobbs' and Elena's office and bombs Dom's house, nearly killing Dom, Brian, Mia, and little Jack right before they learn that Han has been killed in Tokyo. At Han's funeral, Brian promises that the team will only go to one more funeral - Shaw's. The team gets assistance from a private special-ops force led by Kurt Russell's "Mr. Nobody," who promises to help Dom catch Shaw in exchange for the team rescuing a computer hacker who has been kidnapped by terrorists. What follows is pretty much the craziest action movie ever, complete with cars crashing through high-rise buildings, cars parachuting out of planes, and a fight scene between Letty and my favorite MMA fighter Ronda Rousey as a bodyguard in Abu Dhabi. The end of the movie includes a tribute to Paul Walker (some of his scenes are actually CGI because they were filmed after his death) and a fitting farewell to Brian.


Agent Carter - Marvel had a tall order with Agent Carter - a sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, a prequel to the one-shot about Peggy Carter, and Marvel's first property with a female main character - basically, the geek community had super high expectations for this one. Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter was my favorite thing about The First Avenger, and I got pulled into her postwar adventures, trying to balance working for  the Strategic Scientific Reserve while protecting Howard Stark, now suspected of treason. I was really delighted by little Marvel details like Edwin Jarvis as Peggy's sidekick and a nemesis, "Dottie," trained in the Black Widow program. I really appreciated that Marvel committed to producing a series about sexism in the workplace - Peggy goes from a position of power during the war to basically being treated like a secretary afterward and manages to use her coworker's underestimation of her skills to her own advantage. I really hope ABC renews this series!

The Night Shift - I feel like this medical drama series is still finding it's way, but the characters are very compelling and the crazy medical mysteries the writers come up with are interesting as they unfold. This season, the most interesting character is probably Paul, who comes from a family of famous surgeons and has a hard time adjusting to work in the emergency room - his storyline right now reminds me of Noah Wyle's Dr. Carter from E.R. You know a show has some serious drama when there's an infographic to help fans keep track of the past and present relationships.

The Middle - I've written before that what I love most about The Middle is that the Hecks feel like a real working-class American family. This season, where the ongoing storylines have been middle child Sue applying to college and youngest Brick learning to be more social, has been so much fun, especially the most recent episode where oldest child Axl's girlfriend, Devin Levin, tricks him into pretending to love Sue when she visits campus.

Thursday, April 9

if i could...

If I could*...

... Read only one literary genre, it would be YA fantasy.

... Live anywhere, it would be in a small city where I could walk to work, the library, and shops but still have room for a garden.

... Be anything, I would be a published YA author.

... Play any instrument, it would be the fiddle. 

... Drink only one thing besides water, it would be sweet tea.

... Meet any celebrity, it would be Dave Grohl.

... Relive one day, it would be the day my parents and I spent on Tybee Island in Georgia.

... Watch only one show forever, it would be That 70's Show, my all time favorite.

... Eat only one kind of food for the rest of my life, it would be pasta... but like a magical pasta that wouldn't make me gain weight!

... Only wear one outfit, it would be yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Sorry, work.

... Hug anyone right now, it would be my bestie in Seattle, the Lucy to my Ethel.

*Post idea shamelessly ripped off from Micah, Holly, Erin, and Katie.

Wednesday, April 8

inspiration: restaurant wedding receptions

There are a lot of great reasons to choose a favorite restaurant as a wedding reception venue: being in a beloved place can offset wedding-day anxiety, small venues keep guest lists (and prices) down, and you know the food will be fantastic! Decorating is relatively easy because tables, linens, and candles are usually already a given. Restaurants, bistros, pubs, and tap rooms are also a great place to meet up with family and friends following a town hall wedding or elopement. Today I've rounded up some beautiful restaurant reception photos and ideas from around the web.

Wouldn't it be romantic to hold your wedding reception in the same place where you had your first date, or where your proposal took place? Some couples may choose to hold their reception in a restaurant that has been a family favorite for years - a sweet nod to tradition and community.

Why try to recreate a design style you love using expensive rentals when you can have an intimate reception in an authentic space? I love the idea of using a restaurant's existing spaces - bars, counters, tables, and patios - to offer guests an evening to remember.

Tuesday, April 7

style picks: spring refresh

Following an academic calendar is definitely one of the biggest perks of being a teacher - I love my summer vacation, winter break, and the occasional long weekend. If you've been following my little adventures this weekend on Instagram you may have noticed that I've hardly taken off my floral Old Navy scarf - and when shopping with my mom yesterday I noticed that I keep gravitating toward the same shades of classic blue, aquamarine, blush, strawberry, and toasted almond. Here's what's inspiring my color palette for the new season!

Spring Refresh

1. Old Navy floral scarf  2. Maurice's open stitch cardigan  3. Old Navy reversible tote (similar)  4. J. Crew cotton cord bracelet  5. Essie nail polish in "Borrowed and Blue" from Target  6. EOS summer fruit lip balm  7. Bensimon sneakers from Shopbop (similar)  8. Jeffrey Campbell sandals from Shopbop  9. Gartner notebooks from Wal-Mart

What colors or prints are you obsessed with this spring?

Linking Up:

Monday, April 6

clicks of note: i know that it circles around...

get your week off to a colorful start...

  • How are you all this afternoon, friends? I'm getting a late start this morning, but I'm on my long spring weekend, so that makes it okay, right? This weekend we took a day trip to Raleigh to buy a Craigslist bike and eat at The Flying Saucer and now I kind of want to move to Boylan Heights. We attended Easter service at Elevation Roanoke - the best part was seeing my sister-in-law help lead worship! Today I'm planning on finally seeing Cinderella with my mama and hopefully making a trip to Piety.


  • Singer-songwriter Kristin Diable hails from Louisiana and I'm digging her soulful voice - fans of Grace Potter will love this track. I'm linking up with Musical Mondays at My So-Called Chaos and can't wait to hear what everyone else is listening to this week.





Friday, April 3

Book Review: An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

I've been obsessed with the medieval period since I was a kid (I went from being a three-year-old who only wanted to draw castles to a twenty-year-old who only wanted to read Chaucer), so when I read the description of Uncertain Choice, he first book in a new YA historical fiction series, I bumped it to the top of my TBR pile.

An Uncertain Choice is set in the fictional English village of Ashby in 1390, and Rosemarie, the lady of Montfort Castle following her parents' death to plague, is about to come of age. Rosemarie's most prominent quality in the story is her compassion for others, particularly the poor and sick peasants of Ashby, which she attributes to her parents' example; she gives her meals to beggar children and cannot tolerate the torturous methods of punishment favored by Ashby's sheriff and bailiff. Her mentor, Abbot Francis Michael, cautions her not to overextend the manor's financial resources in her charitable giving as he plans a new cathedral and abbey for the parish.

Against this fairly realistic background, Hedlund introduces a fairytale element: at her birth, Lady Rosemarie's parents made a sacred vow that she would enter a convent upon her birthday - or die. Since learning of their promise, she has prepared, with the abbot's help, to become a nun. Unexpectedly, her godfather, the Duke of Rivenshire, comes to visit and explains that he has found a loophole - if Rosemarie finds true love and marries by midnight on her birthday, she will be exempt from the ancient vow. He brings with him three handsome young knights who fought alongside him in the border wars. At first, Rosemarie is reluctant to veer off the course she has finally accepted as her destiny, but when the duke makes her question whether the sheriff and her people will respect her rule from behind the abbey walls, she agrees to accept his challenge. While the romance is predictable (two of the knights are charming and ebullient and shower her with extravagant gifts, the other is brooding and difficult to read but shares her sense of justice and compassion for the poor), Rosemarie's choice isn't the story's real conflict - it becomes clear that someone in Ashby doesn't want the lady's suitors to succeed in winning her hand and will resort to murder to control her destiny.

Overall, I enjoyed reading An Uncertain Choice - as a wannabe medievalist, I appreciated the detail Jody Hedlund put into Rosemarie's village - from the arched doorway of Ashby's guildhall to the smell of roasted boar turning on spits, Hedlund has a gift for description. The amount of appropriate medieval vocabulary used in the book is just right - enough to be realistic, but not confusing or distracting. The tension created by Rosemarie's choice to rule as the lady of the manor or as a member of a religious order is also interesting and apt for the time period - the church was just as powerful as the nobility and often more so, and many intellectual, upper-class women were consigned to convents in the middle ages. 

However, there were a few factors that kept me from completely loving the book. Rosemarie constantly reminds the reader how important her people are to her, but doesn't mention them by name unless they are her personal servants, making supporting characters, even those like the sheriff with whom she interacts often, seem more like extras. Most of the book is told from Rosemarie's viewpoint, but a few scenes narrated by one of her suitors, and I found the sudden shift at the beginning of the seventh chapter confusing and unnecessary. I also saw shades of Bella and Edward from Twilight in Rosemarie and her chosen knight - she's described as stunningly beautiful, intelligent, and gracious, yet has a very hard time making her own decisions, and is convinced that the moody knight hates her even though he acts like Westley from The Princess Bride every time they are alone together.  I still enjoyed their banter and eventual honesty with one another. While the outcome of Rosemarie's "love square" is fairly predictable, I think YA readers will still enjoy reading about the various ways in which the three knights attempt to woo her, and get caught up in the mystery of who is trying to sabotage Rosemarie along the way. The story's overall theme - that there are different kinds of strength and leadership - is one I think many readers can relate to.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”