unceasing prayer

Probably five years ago, I was driving through the county with my little sister and one of her close friends in the back seat. Her friend lives in a very rural area and we were blasting music with windows down, being silly. We approached a stop sign and saw a white van coming from the other direction. Suddenly, my sister yelps and points out that the driver in the van was her friend's dad. As we passed, they both waved wildly and called out to get his attention, but his straight-facing vision never wavered. His lips were moving slightly but we couldn't hear any music. Laughing, we passed unnoticed. As we did so, her friend stated, "Oh, he's probably just praying! He's always doing that!"

At the time, it seemed so strange, that we all laughed and went back to our jam session. But for some reason, that moment has always stayed with, and been ever more present in my mind of late. Though I know this girl's parents to both be truly wonderful examples of Christ, it was still so bizarre to consider that he might be praying aloud while driving alone down a country road. Yet, what a more perfect model of I Thessalonians 5:17.

16 "Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This always seemed like such an impossible command. How could God expect us to actually pray "without ceasing"? I've heard a lot of sermons on how this intendeds for us to be in a "spirit of prayer" throughout the day. But what if we take it literally. Yes, stay in a spirit of prayer, but how many of us take time periodically throughout the day to pray, not just during our set aside devotional time or during crisis. Like those quiet moments at stoplights, during a TV commercial, waiting in line at the grocery store, or while folding clean laundry. Let's just say it's not usually the first thing that my brain defaults to, don't know about you.

What sticks out to me even more now is that his daughter's first reaction to such focus was prayer. It was her initial, unquestioning assumption that he was praying. To me, that loudly proclaims that he must demonstrate such unceasing devotion during all circumstances and times of day. I can only hope that someday I will be such an honest example to my children. What a goal to keep in mind...to be known so profoundly as a wife and mother devoted to constant communication with Christ! For now, I'll start small...in line at Walmart seems like an opportune time to practice.

Sidenote, I've been singing this song in my head all weekend...and love it!


current reads

I'm in the midst of what feels like a giant stack of "to-reads" lately, despite the fact that I have very little free time to actually sit and devour chapters at a time. Regardless, here's what's currently on my nightstand...a bit of sample platter with food, fiction, and faith.

The Food: 
I'm Just Here for the Food by Alton Brown (2002)

Extreme wittiness meets kitchen science meets passionate foodie. I've never read/watched much of Alton's stuff prior to this so I was surprised by just how much I appreciate his style. Given to me for free in a large box of "throwaway" cookbooks, this was an instant keeper. The science is fascinating and really helps me understand the "why behind the what" when cooking. I've got probably 30 pages to go yet but I have no doubt it will be a handy resource on my shelf for years to come. If only high school chemistry had made so much sense!

The Fiction: 
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry (2001)

Recommended by my cousin's smart and savvy husband, I figured this was really worth a shot. I'm only a little ways in so far but it is interesting. Not an immediate "I'm hooked!" but definitely intriguing.

The Faith: 
Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney (2003)

I snagged this one off Amazon after reading a fellow blogger's very positive review. Although I don't necessarily agree with 100% of Mahaney's views, I think her intention is good and that she makes a lot of great suggestions. Sometimes her tone is a bit too harsh/judgmental regarding women who make or are put in difficult situations requiring life choices other than those Mahaney feels are best, but overall, it has sparked a fair bit of interesting dialogue (between me, myself, and I). So early in our marriage, I am looking for & appreciating almost any Biblically based advice on marriage/wife-dom as I can. Which led to...

The Christian Homemaker's Handbook by Pat Ennis & Dorothy Patterson (2013)

This was a bit of an impulse purchase during a recent stop at the Christian bookstore. It looked interesting and at least sounded like exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for right now. I haven't even started it yet but I hope it contains lots of great advice and spiritual encouragement. Reviews are a bit mixed on Amazon.

What's on your nightstand? Read and have opinions on any of these?


cloth napkins - version 2

Cloth napkins...take two, AKA "the pillow method". In this post, I shared one way to make cloth napkins, but today, I'd like to demonstrate another variation. Because they're two-ply, today's napkins use twice as much fabric, but they're actually a bit simpler sewing-wise.

First, collect your fabric. As a reminder: the general sizes are 22" x 22" for formal, 20" x 20" for dinner, 17" x 17" for lunch, and 10" x 10" for cocktail. Allow for your desired seam allowance on all sides then cut out your squares. As with the first batch, I did 18" squares with a 1" seam allowance on all sides, so each piece was cut to 20" x 20". Unlike the other tutorial, you will need two squares per napkin, either in the same fabric or in coordinating pieces.

Lay your squares with the right-sides facing each other. This is a sewing 101 idea that seemed crazy when I first started learning - the catch is to remember that any time you are sewing like this, eventually the pieces will be flipped inside-out. I don't know why but that seemed crazy to my younger self, sitting bewildered in front of a Singer.

Pin the edges and sew a 1/2" seam all the way around, pivoting at the corners by raising your machine's presser foot while the needle is in the lowered position still in the fabric. Turn the angle of the fabric and lower the presser foot back down, then continue to sew at a 90 degree angle from the seam you just completed. Just MAKE SURE to leave a gap of 2-3" at the end so you have room to flip the fabric.

Clip the excess fabric from the corners then carefully turn your entire project inside-out so the right sides are now out and your seam is hidden inside the napkin. At this point, I like to iron everything to make sure it lines up before final sewing passes. (Side project: If you were making a pillow, just leave a larger gap in the hem then after flipping, stuff with a pillow mold or Poly-Fil before closing. This is a great beginner project!)

Finally, place a pin to hold the inside-out seam gap in place then sew around the napkin edge to secure it. As with the other style napkins, I chose to do a single line stitch at the 1/2" and at the 1/4" mark. Final result below.

As with the other napkins, just fold them into quarters and stack them up for everyday use. 

Because this version uses twice as much fabric, I only made two napkins this go around. I plan to use both versions for a while and see which ones we prefer and which hold up best for use and washing. 

Do you have a favorite napkin method or some family napkins that you love?


rosemary pork tenderloin

Super yummy dinner last night improvised from a WW cookbook recipe. Though I was initially a bit disgusted by trimming slimy lengths of pork, it was totally worth it for this healthy, filling weeknight meal.

Rosemary Pork Tenderloin & Veggies
- 1 lb. pork tenderloin
- 3 Tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
- 1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 clove garlic
- assorted chopped veggies (I used carrots & spinach but the original recipe called for turnips and parsnips)  

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Trim excess fat off the tenderloin then rub it down with the salt and rosemary. Let it sit and come closer to room temp while preparing veggies.
Heat oil in a Dutch Oven (or large skillet if, like me, you only have a Le Creuset in your dreams) over medium heat then sear tenderloin for 8-10 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Add veggies (I waited to add the spinach), garlic, and broth. Cook another 8 minutes.

Move Dutch Oven into the preheated oven or transfer food from skillet into a casserole dish, depending on which you started with. Bake for 8-10 minutes until meat thermometer reads 145 degrees.

Let it rest for 5 minutes or so, then slice the tenderloin on an angle and serve with veggies on the side. 
Tasty, quick, and healthy!


cloth napkins - version 1

For a few weeks now I've been trying to get around to making some everyday cloth napkins for the apartment. We received a set of beautiful napkins from the wedding but they're more the fancy-party-use-with-napkin-rings sort of thing. As much as it pains me to admit it, we usually just use paper towels, and truthfully, it's very wasteful. We usually don't get them that dirty during one meal but also don't feel like they're worth the effort to save and use a second day. ... Which brings us to a napkin-making quandary.

I searched a bunch of tutorials online and it seems that there are two basic ways people go about making them. Today, I'm sharing my take on version 1...we'll call it the "Less Fabric But A Bit More Complicated Way". 

First, gather your fabric (this is an excellent project for using up stash leftovers). Though not a rule, in general, the standard sizes are: 22" x 22" for formal, 20" x 20" for dinner, 17" x 17" for lunch, and 10" x 10" for cocktail. Allow for your desired seam allowance on all sides then cut out your squares. Fun fact - apparently the narrower the hem, the more formal the napkin. I did 18" squares with a 1" seam allowance on all sides, so each piece was cut to 20" x 20".

Next, fold your hem over 1/2" and iron, then under again 1/2" and iron so the free edge is hidden. I suggest doing top and bottom then the sides. Pin as you go.

Next, and I'll warn you now that I'm not very good at this, tuck the corners under so they are "mitered", aka pointed on the angle instead of overlapping. There is a great tutorial for this method here, but to cut down on sewing, I just folded them under and secured it when I sewed the hem -- not an optimal or pro technique by any means but I decided to embrace it as a lesson in learning to love imperfection!

Once you've ironed and hemmed all your pieces, take a seat and sew them up! I did a straight line stitch twice around then tied them off at the corners and sunk the loose ends into the hem. 

When done, fold them into quarters, stack 'em up and get excited about how much less kitchen paper waste you'll be making every weeknight.
And there you have it, a stack of napkins! Final thoughts:
      PROS: less fabric, no flipping inside-out
      CONS: mitered corners are small and difficult

Check back soon for the next tutorial on cloth napkins -  version 2!


marriage secret #2: putting things into practice

Hello friends! Today's post is a bit long, but I promise promise it's worth it!

Things are "trucking right along" in these parts. Birthday week was fun, for the most part, and now I just see a huge load of summer work on the horizon. Oh days of carefree summer vacation - you are so dearly missed.

Annnyyways, I have an awesome relationship resource to share today. A very kind Starbucks customer -- who is also a pastor -- gave Strider and I some books a while back as a newlywed gift. (Have I mentioned that I sometimes really love my job?) You may remember that we worked through Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts well, before it started, and it was great - we highly recommend it. However, I can't not share these as well (so much so that I'm willing to violate my never-under-any-circumstances-use-double-negatives rule).

If you're dating, engaged, or married at any stage, I'd highly encourage you to check out For Men Only and For Women Only. Written by a married couple, these companion books are pretty unique in their approach to understanding and relating to the opposite sex. Strider was a little unsure, and frankly, I think a bit tired of me bringing home personal-development-type books. But after a week of gathering dust, I came home and he had almost finished reading it...in one sitting. The books are based off extensive research and present data and relationship points from an analytical, almost clinical, approach. They aren't text-booky but they certainly aren't your typical inspirational marriage books either. The surveys and poll statistics really helped Strider engage as he is one of the most logical, non-emotional thinkers I know.

We decided to read the opposite books from our gender first and mark what our answers would have been to the surveys as well as underline any points which we particularly identified with. I felt pretty on-board with most of what they found and strongly agreed with something in almost every section. Once we swapped, it was like lightbulbs galore. And by reading For Women Only with Strider's notes, it felt like I was able to understand some key reasoning and practices that he may never have been able to communicate otherwise - he says he felt the same way. We both were completely dumbstruck by some of the ideas presented while the other was like, "Well...yeah...obviously that's how I see it." Totally game-changing material.

But frankly, reading marriage or personal help/development materials, even if you connect with them, means squat if you don't put anything new into practice. Based on what we read and discussed, I realized that it would be beneficial for me to find new ways to affirm Strider as a great husband. I also knew (and discovered reasons why in the book) that Strider, like most men, really hates to be pestered about being asked to do something. As such, we came up with a way for me to acknowledge his awesome-husband-ness more visually and also to ask for help without nagging.

Made out of an extra 5x7 frame and some scrap scrapbooking paper, this hangs in our kitchen right next to the front door. I change it every few days and just use a dry-erase marker straight on the frame glass. He says he likes it because he can always see something I appreciate or love about him and since he usually wipes it clean once the "help" item is completed, I can chill knowing that it's there to remind him and will get done...without me bringing it up a million times. For us, it has been such a simple and effective way to show love and support to each other in praise and helping. And all from a few statistics presented in For Men Only and For Women Only. This might not be a great tool for everyone, but it's this kind of putting-into-practice-ness that makes me feel like we really are committed to our covenant to each other. So yeah...check out the books for sure!

On a sidenote, check out this gorgeous tea tray I snagged while birthday antiquing. Not everyone's favorite celebratory activity, I'll grant you that, but I had fun. And this sweet $8 find will be much loved and used (after a gentle clean up and some polyurethane, that is).
Last, last sidenote, I used my brand new, fanzy schmantzy smartphone and Starbucks app to pay for my bagel this morning. I used a phone...to pay...for food. First thought:

Hope you have a great week!