You know those times when life gets so busy that you feel that you can do nothing well? You just slide by, hoping no one notices that you have bags under your eyes and you've worn a headband for three days straight, just so you don't have to put in the effort of actually trying to do your hair. All I can say is that I am SO thankful for mascara and cute anthropology headbands. I love you both, dearly.

Although I LOVE unpacking our belongings that we haven't seen in eight months (it's like an early Christmas!) The holidays coupled with renovations, moving (with NO internet!), and work will quickly force you to become a hermit. And a hermit I've become. (At least this hermit is on a beach and not in 30 degree weather)

I would like to blame my lack of coolness on this very thing. For example...

I saw on the local news that the gangnam video is the most popular video ever viewed on YouTube. I HAVE NEVER SEEN IT, until this morning. (and hadn't heard of it until a few weeks ago!) Have I missed something? It's just a guy pretending to ride a horse. Didn't they come up with that dance when "Save a horse ride a cowboy" became popular. I'm confused.

I also just downloaded pandora on my iphone and was totally blown away by how great it is. I had the "I feel like an 90 year old woman" experience when I told my friend how great Pandora is. 0ohhh you already know? It's been around for how long?! WHERE HAVE I BEEN?!
I need these people:

And then, Honey Boo I seriously the only one who has never watched this?!
I have since only seen random videos, not the actually television show. This poor child.

OH! and to top it off: my brother introduced us to Duck Dynasty. Just may be my new favorite show. My stomach has hurt every evening from laughing so hard. I seriously love this family.
I have many episodes to catch up on, but it may be difficult to be the vineyard episode. goodness gracious.

Happy Friday Friends! Enjoy your weekend (hopefully it involves Christmas decorating!)

When I was little, I was completely enamored with Christmas lights. We'd drive down a neighborhood, and families would have their entire house decorated with colorful lights, reindeer, plastic candy canes and of course, the large blow up Santa. Well, now I would call that tacky and expensive. (Even though it's fun to see it all!) Crazy what adulthood does to you!

Do you recognize this? It's the Griswolds home, a Christmas classic if you ask me. I heard somewhere that they redecorate it like the movie each year, so I've made it a life goal to hunt it down and get my picture next to it.

I met one of our new neighbors yesterday and he asked if their Christmas lights bothered us. It's only two trees, so obviously it's not stopping traffic. However, he did mention that one neighbor happens to go all Griswold with the lights each year. I'm secretly hoping it looks a little something like this:

Just for lack of time, we aren't planning on putting up lights outside (I've rather our time be spent putting in the rest of our base boards!). However, I did come across this idea:

Now this would only take a few minutes.
Hi Ya'll, we're your new neighbors!

Sometimes, you learn best by doing. Case in point.

How to prepare for a 7-day house renovation:

Mentally prepare to feel dirty for an entire week
Find the shortest route to Lowe's from your house,then budget at least $2,500 for miscellaneous expenses
Prepare food beforehand and freeze it
Know where the closest Starbucks is located and visit often

Stock the refrigerator with favorite beers
Remember to bring your cell phone charger everywhere
Gather plenty of take-out menus
Have an endless supply of throat drops, Advil and band-aids
Verify that you can actually get in the house with your key
Collect as many tools as possible
Do not renovate during hunting season 
(or shoot TWO deer on opening day!)
Learn how to operate a table saw
Always have a plethora of cleaning supplies readily available
Headbands = lifesaver
Triple-check every garage door opener
Plan on ruining multiple clothing items
Assume you will lose things, including your mind once or twice.
Have your favorite comfort food at your disposal

Carry your checkbook at all times
Realize your hands will be too swollen to wear rings 
Your new favorite accessory will be band-aids
Remember not to look directly at the halogen light
Restrain yourself from watching HGTV Property Brothers. They may make you feel bad about yourself, since there is no possible way I've been this put together in the past two weeks.

Learn the names of the workers at Sherwin- Williams, the Lowe's hardware department and the closest coffeeshop. You'll see them more often than not.
Sleep may be essential but not will not be likely 
Wear gloves
Do not expect to be able to take pictures of
every part of the process
You will need to force yourself to take a break
Realize that some most projects will take longer than 7 days
Fight every temptation to let your OCD take over
Expect the unexpected
There is power in numbers, and high productivity!
Patience is required... and tested often
Pray frequently, hold on tight, and grab more chocolate.

On another note, I cannot thank you enough for the messages, emails and notes about the post from last week. You've really encouraged me and reminded me that this is just a season, and the Lord has his hand upon it. SO, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Kyle and I were up early on Sunday morning, headed over to the house to continue to work. On our way, we looked at each other with an expression that reflected what we felt; bummed.
Sundays have always been our day. We used to sleep in, attend church, then have brunch with friends. We'd then go home, put on comfy clothes and chill. Feet up, snuggled into one another. Our evenings were spent eating Chinese over the living room coffee table, watching random television shows and playing with Maizy.

Since Kyle began residency, our Sundays have been stolen from us (well, it seems any time has been, really.) I'm getting over our Sunday-Funday being on rare occasion, but the kicker is when I have to attend church alone, or don't go at all due to travel and work schedules.

Lately, I've noticed a churning, deep desire to be in Charlottesville every Sunday, just to stand in our old church and feel at home again. Where we walked in and we'd see friends who felt like family, always meet someone new, enjoy incredible worship and walk out feeling challenged, loved, and encouraged. A place where we could serve and be served.
Because of the craziness of the residency schedule, it's been difficult to find a place together. I miss standing in communion with other believers, holding hands with my husband.

Maybe it was because we were exhausted, or maybe it was the lack of time we've actually gotten to spend together, maybe it was the mere fact that it was a Sunday, or the fact that my Uncle Randy's birthday was around the corner (today) and his death still feels like an open wound in our hearts; but everything seemed to rise up to boiling point. We sat at the stop sign, holding hands, nodding in agreement: We miss having a church home.

This post is more of a prayer request for us. Specifically, that Kyle would have favor in having Sunday's off where we can attend a church together (If you know anything about residency, that would be a miracle!!). Also (even though this may sound silly!), that I'd feel confident attending church alone. Third, that we'd find a place where we could really get 'plugged in,'  and serve to the best of our ability.

A big thank you in advance for praying for us! We're SO ready to have A2 feel more like home, and we know this is a huge piece of that puzzle.

It's safe to say that last week was, well, long. I'm typically a morning person, jumping out of the bed ready to start each day. Yeah, not Saturday. When Saturday morning came around, I wasn't looking forward to watching a football game (whoever thought i'd say that?!) We were completely EXHAUSTED (and the to-do list for our house was five pages long.) 

But, Kyle and I decided a long time ago that relationships should always trump to-do lists. So, I took off my cranky pants, got a peppermint mocha, pushed the house reno aside, and got excited to spend a morning with our friends. The game before Thanksgiving week has been our long-standing reunion game, and I couldn't be the only party-pooper. We tailgated all morning, enjoyed brats at 10 am, reclaimed our victory in cornhole, and watched Michigan beat Iowa. Not to mention, I got to enjoy a football game with my hubby! Heart = happy.

After the game, we had a lot of visitors over to the house, gave some tours and got back to work! A second peppermint mocha gave me enough juice to last through the evening and some chinese forced us to sit for a few minutes and enjoy the views of a finished floor. Then we rolled around on it and kissed it, because it's so darn pretty.

Sunday painted a similar picture of living in dust and paint covered clothing. Having paint somewhere in my hair or on my face is perfectly normal these days. Thankfully, I had a little reprieve with a photoshoot, then returned to prepare the kitchen for our countertops. They were installed this morning, and we approve :)

Did anyone else dislike progress reports in high school? I certainly did. Thankfully, this is more of a "check in with the blog world" report, so I don't feel under as much pressure to bring an apple to the teacher.

Between work, renovations, trips to Lowe's, feeding a hard working team, managing a lot of projects (well, managing may be stretching it), keeping track of schedules, and making decor decisions, this week has been a bit chaotic. Such is the life of manual labor and house renovations.
But it's a good life.

It's incredible to see how far we've come in just six days. More so, it's hilarious to think that before we began, "putting in wood floors," was a simple, nonchalant comment that has turned into the biggest task. Nothing looks close to what it did when we walked in for the first time. It's finally beginning to feel like our home! Maybe it's the colors on the walls or the constant flow of loved ones that makes the new house feel cozy and warm (despite being a construction zone).

I've been taking most pictures with my iphone, simply because it didn't take long to realized the potential disaster of having an expensive camera anywhere around power drills, saws, and paint. I'll bring it back to it's rightful duties very soon.

Here's a little preview of what we've been working on this past week:

Since our countertops and carpet arrive next week, we have some deadlines on our hands. We will continue to be covered in sawdust and paint throughout the weekend. No complaints here, it's well worth the scrapes and bruises.

(oh, and GO BLUE! Last home game is tomorrow. Where did fall go?!)

Let's steer away from the house renovations  for a moment and visit a much more important subject: providing children an opportunity to learn.

Last Friday night, I spent the evening photographing the Art Aid for Tesfa Benefit.  Talking to people who are so passionate about Africa, art, children, teaching, learning, and providing opportunities for those less fortunate is always incredibly humbling (and inspiring!). As the keynote speaker talked about her experience in adopting one of her daughters this summer, the lump that swelled in my throat revealed a passion that has been in my heart from the moment I set foot in South Africa five years ago. Those experiences have helped to shape the way I see the world and have forever changed the way I interact with it. I could confidently say if you have never had the privilege of exploring African soil, this Benefit would have given you a small, beautiful taste that would move you into action.

Many companies throughout Michigan participated in the event, including Black Star Farms, one of my favorite vineyards in the state. Their wine bottles were decorated with the fingerprints of the children whose lives are changed through this organization.

The rows of art made by Ethiopian children represented two things: a group of people who have made it their life's purpose to give children a chance, and children who have been given it. Each piece is a story of hope.

Guests bid on silent auction items throughout the evening, with multiple pieces being  framed art from Ethiopian children. One piece now sits on my nightstand, waiting for a spot in the new house :)

Ethiopia Reads, Tesfa and Art Aid have now combined forces and resources in order to be more influential and beneficial. If you are interested in learning more about the mission of this organization and the simple ways you can change a life, visit their website here:

On Monday, I shared that we have been working on some renovations in the new home. Well, "we" includes both of our families! I'd thought I'd take a quick second to introduce them. Let's be honest, without them we'd still be working on tearing up the floors and I'd probably be in tears with the reality that it would never be done. Two people can only do so much, and Maizy is little help.

Allow me to introduce you to the best helpers in the whole wide world. I feel like we are on a TV show and I am introducing you to our characters, and trust me, characters is a perfect description.
We have our own version of Scott & Drew (HGTV anyone?!).

This is my dad, "Papa Mike"
He's extremely handy all around and knows everything about anything when it comes to houses. (You'll quickly see a theme here...)

This is my brother, Matt "BroBro"
He's an expert painter and perfectionist. More of an artist, if you will. He and Emily bought a gorgeous home and have been renovating the entire thing...thanks for taking a break to help with ours :)

This is Kyle's dad, "Big Kev"
Kyle attributes it to his Dutch heritage ("dutch are cheap"), but Big Kev LOVES doing/attempting house projects (must be where Kyle gets it from)!

Meet Linda, Kyle's mom. 
She's an interior designer by day, and night most of the time too. (They are also obsessed with their granddoggy)

Can you see the resemblance? This is my mom, Julie "Grandma Juju"
Her passion, next to spoiling Hannah, is landscaping & gardening. 

This is my step-dad, Pat "Mr.P"
Add him to the list of do-it-yourselfers! We had to force him to take a break from removing base boards, he was just that excited.

Ya'll know me, so I need no introduction. I'm just doing whatever they tell me to and hoping it involves power tools.

Of course this is Kyle, my hot partner in crime. He's handyman #4 on this list...

 "Oh! Don't forget me!" Hannah will be with us too :) During breaks, we have dance parties with her.

And Hannah's momma, Emily, "sis" 
She'll be keeping me sane and making me laugh all week

Our other two sisters, Kelly & Jessica will be in & out of town too! 
Jessica "Wessica" will be encouraging us with food...

 And Kelly "Wiener" will be joining us from Indy!

Oh! and last but not least...Maizy wants to be part of all of the action. She's found a closet that she loves to sit in and watch while all of the chaos ensues. She'll bark when she is in agreement, and then roll around in sawdust to show her excitement. The poor thing is a bit confused, but she is loving her big yard in the mean time.

I know it sounds clique to say "we are so thankful," but we REALLY, REALLY are!
We could not be completing all of these projects without all of our family & friends! Not only do they actually know how to do everything, they are taking the time from their busy lives to totally bless us.

Okay, I'm off to paint the cabinets!

The past three days have been full of excitement, family and power tools. Lots of power tools.

I spilled the beans few weeks ago that we were under contract, so this past Friday we sealed the deal! It felt good to have the keys in our hands!

The real estate firm never put a "sold" sign on the house, so we didn't get the stereotypical owners-in-front-of-sold-sign for our photo album. We did, however, get one of Kyle carrying me into our new home. Even better.

Saturday morning came around and we were at our new home bright and early, ready to get started on our list of projects that will overtake our lives for the next two weeks (well, we quickly discovered that maybe two weeks was an ambitious goal).

(We had an excited group, so it was difficult to take "before" pictures, but here is a sneak peak of the exterior)

(Landscaping and exterior paint is on our "Spring" to-do list)

Our renovations list includes redoing 100% of the flooring, painting the entire home, refinishing the cabinets, new counter tops, putting in an island, and resurfacing our fireplace. We also knocked out a wall. The wall part wasn't on the original list, but I will say it's been the most fun! (I'll share more of the whys and hows later on, but for now...)

Removing carpet has proven to be the most tedious job, just picture thousands of nails needing to be removed from the subfloor. Our backs and knees were not happy about this. As of last night, I'm happy to report that  the job has been completed!

After carpet, came linoleum removal.

some base boards...

and some backsplash:

Lesson 1.
Demolition is never what you'd expect it to be. It's always more work.

Lesson 2.
Patience Required.

Lesson 3.
Knee pads should be a basic in a tool kit.

Lesson 4.
Radio essential.

Lesson 5.
Gold was really "in" in the early '90s. See: every light fixture.

Lesson 6.
Sitting around a card table on fold up chairs, in an empty room with only tools and trash bags to fill the space, wearing clothes covered in dust, laughing with friends & family and enjoying our take-out meal = heart filled with all those butterflies that make you step back and appreciate everything in life.

Looking forward to sharing the ride with you as we renovate part of new home!

I'd love to write today and say "whew, we survived election day!" but it seems the bickering and insults have increased with each electoral vote being counted.
Typically, I discuss my thoughts with close friends and family, and let the ranting continue throughout the mainstream. After reading so many distasteful comments this morning, I find it difficult to keep my lips clenched. My goal for this post is not to join the ranks of the fighting armies, rather just the opposite.

Over the past few months, I've been contemplating a lot about how I, as a Christ follower, should approach and respond to the election. I think passion is a great thing, but where is the line? When does it go from passion, to disrespect and ultimately to not glorying Christ?

The real question that I keep returning to, the thing that makes me cringe in my chair, scream "noo you didn't just say that!" and restrain my fingers from responding, is this:

Are any of the words that you are saying (that I am saying!), glorying Christ?

Meaning, will people be drawn to the Lord through your status update or the words you speak, or will they be confused that a "Christian" can say such things yet claim to be a Christ follower. The problem is, when we tear down people who vote for candidates or even the candidates themselves, there is no regard for who they are as a person. Everything is overlooked in lieu of an opinion. We are saying that their opinion defines who they are and it gives us the "right" to react.
We've all been there, on both sides: we've been the ones insulting and we have been insulted.

However, as Christians, we are called to something much, MUCH higher.

"Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.  Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. "
1 Peter 2: 13- 17

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
Ephesians 4:26

I hope as the days go on, we as Christians will choose to PRAY for our President rather than tear him down. We will RESPECT him , respect those who support him and those who do not. It's easy to become the "foolish people" rather than simply do good. The world is full of hate and slander, and I hope that each of us will continually choose to take the higher road and live out the peace given to us through Jesus. God is not shaken, surprised, changed or moved by the results of this election, and thus we have no reason to be fearful. We do, however, have EVERY reason to show his goodness.

We all know it is Election Day, and if you don't, well...we may have other issues to discuss.
Sure, I have a lot of opinions about the current state of our economy, foreign policy and rights, but, I'm not going to dive into those. What I will say, for now, is whoever wins needs to be diligently prayed for, as they have a job on their hands that most of us think we know everything about and yet we know very little. This last Sunday, I visited a new church and the Pastor spoke a lot about the election and respect. His challenge, among other things, was to pray for the candidates as much as we talk about them.

Now, since we are all on election over-load, I thought I'd steer us away from the political talk which tends to bring angst, frustration and, let's face it, sometimes complete ignorance. I'm sure we're all a bit tired out.

Instead, let's talk about something that makes everyone happy, shall we: FOOD.
It's the sure fire way to anyone's heart. I've been a cooking machine lately (I'll tell you why later this week), so I have recipes on the brain.
Thanksgiving is a few weeks away and I've been scouring the web attempting to find some desserts to bring to the parties. I've narrowed it down to four. Who wants to make them, taste test them and then tell me which is best :)

   Pumpkin- Cheesecake Truffle                                                  Mini- Pumpkin Pies

Pumpkin French Toast                                                 Mini Caramel Pumpkin Bites

See, don't you already feel a bit calmer and happier already?
Now, if you are really adamant about staying on the Election Train today...

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