La Vie en Rose

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Every time my better half goes exploring the world, I pretty much hunker down with the beagles at home and just watch the world go by.

So I was excited as could be when, Rick decided to plan a trip for us. The plan changed quite a bit. At one point, it was going to include scaling mountains to see ancient ruins. I was ready to just be thankful for the trip, but he read between the lines and finally said, “I think France is probably somewhere you’d really like to go,” and, with tears in my eyes, I heartily agreed. So France it was!

We heard a lot of things when we prepared for our trip. One was that Parisians were unfriendly and wouldn’t help us. I’m happy to report that with only hopeful, pleading eyes and the words, “Bonjour. Parlez vous anglais?” we got around everywhere just fine, and found Parisians to be more than helpful when we were in any sort of need. We also found the word “Pardon” to be more than enough for subway bumps or when we were getting in the way with our touristy distraction.

On the way to the airport, bags packed, pups kissed, passport in hand, I became suddenly nervous. We had to pause the pop and sing some worship music for me to even be able to slow my racing heart. Once we boarded the flight, I was totally fine.

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After leaving on Saturday morning, we arrived on what was Sunday morning the following day local time. We were red-eyed and disheveled, but ventured from our hotel to the heart of Paris to pick up our Museum Passes anyway. The excitement of being somewhere new carried us through the day.

After a bit of confusion and a lot of trial an error with public transport, we managed to make it to our destination (were I to give any piece of advice to a first-time traveler to Paris, it would be to take FULL advantage of the underground Metro. It was the best, most affordable, and often fastest way to get around town).

Everywhere I turned, I was dazzled by the architecture. Styles from many centuries mingled harmoniously. There wasn’t a detail that didn’t enchant me. I found everything from louvered shutters to lampposts to be exceptionally beautiful.

We had so many experiences that first day that remain undocumented by this jet-lagged pair, but the blur of wandering through Paris, seeing the Jardin des Tuileries for the first time (it brought tears to my eyes), getting caught on the wrong side of the street thanks to mobs of marathoners (we loved it), eating at a sidewalk cafe for the first time (and frustrating our waiter by not understanding how to order a breakfast), and deliriously checking into our hotel for a nap were things I’ll never forget.

Paris_1ParisWe concluded the first night with a dinner cruise on the Seine River and grabbed these quick snapshots despite our weariness.

The next morning, we awoke refreshed, ready to tackle the subway system, and were greeted by a cool, hazy morning.

Paris_2Our first stop was the Louvre. Forgive the photo quality; visibility was pretty low that morning (it was the perfect, chilly morning to spend in a museum). Paris_3Paris_4Paris_6Paris_5Paris_7Paris_9DSC02224DSC03082Paris_17Paris_13Paris_14Paris_15Paris_17Paris_18As incredible as the works of Art were, much of the building itself was just as impressive.

Paris_10Paris_19I can’t quite put into words the enormity of this museum. Had we been determined to explore it entirely, I imagine we’d have to dedicate many full days. We later explored Musée d’Orsay and found it to be much more manageable (and a treat for this impressionism-lover).

Paris_20The Jardin des Tuileries was by far where I felt the most ecstatic in Paris. It just felt like the sort of restful, friendly environment where you’d want to spend the day. From the many fountains to children’s playgrounds, it was a delight to spend a couple of mornings in these gardens.

Paris_21Paris_26Paris_25We spent the next few days exploring the city and its sites.

DSC02122DSC02133Paris_28We trotted to Notre Dame in the pouring rain, and it only got heavier as we walked.Paris_29Just as we sought shelter in a quiet cafe, this procession of men mounted on horseback rode by. It was an impressive display.

Paris_30We eventually reached Notre Dame. Paris_32DSC02334DSC02338DSC02350Another afternoon of walking around followed our visit to Notre Dame, and we were rewarded with the sun peaking out from behind the clouds.

Paris_36Paris_37Rick journeyed out that evening and captured so many gorgeous shots of Paris at night.DSC03152DSC03147DSC03130DSC03139DSC03144DSC03148DSC03118This photo is a favorite of mine.DSC03121DSC03116DSC03169DSC03159I hate to admit that I twisted my ankle many times on streets just like this one.

DSC03171DSC03156The next day, we traveled to Versailles and were greeted by huge crowds and long lines.Paris_3Paris_2Paris_4The hallways and servants’ quarters were my favorite parts of Versailles.Paris_38Paris_37Paris_36Paris_35Paris_6.jpgParis_33While other tourists clearly preferred the more-is-more interiors full of gilded moldings, marble, and dripping with crystal.

Paris_12DSC02418Paris_5More is more was certainly the philosophy for construction.

While we both found Versailles in June to be quite crowded and uncomfortable, we found the gardens to be delightful. In fact, we consider it one of our top five moments of our trip.

Paris_59Paris_58Paris_57I preferred these organic paths to the perfectly-manicured grounds closer to the palace.Paris_56Paris_55This goofy many posed like Hercules. He wanted me to know that Hercules copied him, not the other way around.

But I let it slide because he rowed me around in a boat that day.Paris_52And it was as magical as it sounded. I was sure to capture these hard-working hands that were so happy to treat me to a ride. Paris_53Paris_54DSC02537Paris_51Paris_49Paris_46Paris_45Paris_44Paris_43Paris_42Paris_41Paris_39Paris_31DSC02480DSC02468Paris_32Paris_30Paris_26DSC02454Paris_66Paris_65Again, one of the sculptures. This man never stops. Paris_64Paris_63Paris_62Paris_61

That evening, we traveled back to our first hotel and then walked to a cafe for dinner.

We set off for Nice on our fourth day. There was a great deal of uncertainty because, though we had planned to ride the TGV, we had to wait until the day before to book tickets thanks to an ongoing strike. Thankfully, we were able to book tickets and to travel on time (however, we were later unable to go to Giverny as planned thanks to the strikes).

We were glad to arrive in Nice. What a charming, vibrant city! After checking into our hotel, which was thankfully ready early, we hit the pavement and walked to an early dinner and then out for some preliminary exploration.

Paris_117Paris_114Paris_69Paris_70Paris_71Paris_72Paris_73Paris_74Paris_75We found a path and spontaneously began quite a memorable hike. Can you spot the pigeons taking flight?

Paris_76Paris_77This guy is definitely our gas pedal.

DSC02699And I am the brakes! I think I felt ready to read a book by the ocean rather than continuing to climb.DSC02708But our efforts were rewarded!

DSC02722The stunning view of Nice and the coast of the French Riviera was a refreshment.

Paris_79It revitalized us and carried us right back down.

Paris_81Paris_82DSC02764The next day, I was determined to visit the open-air market and Rick faithfully navigated us there.Paris_102Paris_101Paris_99Paris_96Paris_100Paris_98Paris_97Paris_95Paris_94Paris_93Paris_92Paris_91Paris_90Paris_89Paris_88Paris_87Paris_86Paris_83Paris_80Paris_84It did not disappoint! The charm peonies, lavender, and olive trees was all I could have hoped for after traveling through Provence. I would have loved to have spent more time in the region, particularly Aix-en-Provence.

After our morning at the flower market, we headed to the beaches soak up a rare glimpse of the sun.

Rick helped a couple of ladies out of the water; the rocky beach made it easy to slide back into the water.

We traveled into town and loved the fountain splash pad at the Promenade de Paillon.Paris_122DSC02785DSC02793Paris_115Next, we ventured into Old Town, or Vieux Nice, and were absolutely enchanted by what we saw and explored. This was also a “Top 5” moment for me on our trip. The locally-owned shops, winding streets, clothes out to dry, and wonderful bakeries made the day one of my favorite afternoons.

Paris_119Paris_120Paris_116Paris_113Beautiful moments were at every turn (like these gorgeous public fountains). Paris_110One of these baskets (along with a table throw and a pillow cover) came home with us. Paris_109Paris_112After some exploration, we headed to dinner and opted for the beach front.

Paris_123Paris_124Paris_129Paris_131Paris_127Paris_130Paris_125Paris_132Paris_133We were surprised to eat one of our favorite burgers of all time in France! The waiter made us laugh by apologizing for it not being a big, American burger. But we assured him this was actually much better. Paris_134We were so sad to bid Nice goodbye, but we’re happy to return to Paris.

Visiting the Eiffel Tower was a bit of a surprise to us; the park felt like a giant, relatively-tame, college frat party with a few families mixed in. There were people selling wine, beer and cigarettes all over the park, and we stepped on plenty of bottle caps and corks.

Everyone was festive and friendly to say the least.

We walked from the buildings you can see at the far side of the green lawn up a long ways for this photo.  We climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe after a rather eventful trip down Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

The spiral staircase climb upward was a bit taxing, and even dizzying, but we were again rewarded for our efforts with stunning views. DSC03066DSC03065DSC03069DSC03073We lingered for quite some time and enjoyed a sunset before a night stroll back to our hotel. DSC03071The next day, we set out to visit Montemarte: the hilly, Parisian neighborhood of my dreams. First, though, we dedicated the morning to my favorite spots. I insisted we have a leisurely morning without cameras (well at least after grabbing the fountain photo below).

We stopped in a natural bath shop, and I was pleased to come home with a hand soap, bath wash, and perfume without artificial fragrances.

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After a leisurely rest in the Louvre Gardens (duck watching was a must-do on my morning itinerary), we stopped by Musée d’Orsay and I soaked up all the impressionism my heart could drink in. While we didn’t get to visit his home and gardens in Giverny, I was still able to see many Monet paintings in person.

On the way to Montemarte, we encountered a fabled bridge. It’s said that if two people leave a lock on the bridge, their love will last forever. We embraced the whimsy. DSC03199Paris_4Paris_3We symbolically threw away the keys. 🙂 Paris_2DSC03198

After completing our last detour, we hopped on the Metro and walked/climbed the rest of the way to Montemarte.

By this time, I was no longer surprised to see throngs of people concentrated in a touristy area like this, so we did our best to push our way to quiet alleys and the outskirts of the area as quickly as we could. Paris_7The Sacré-Cœur Basilica was the most notable landmark on the hilltop overlooking the city below and the area immediately surrounding it to the South and West were especially crowded. Paris_8Street art was a theme all over Paris. Paris_9I loved the view behind the restaurants, though just around the corner was a flood of fellow tourists. Paris_10DSC03242Paris_12Cobble stones; multi-story, narrow homes; operable shutters and lush window boxes made this area feel extra French. Paris_13Paris_14Paris_15Unbelievably, there was a vineyard called Vignes du Clos Montmartre tucked away in this hilly, urban environment. I snapped a photo through the chain link fence. Paris_16Another aspect that delight me throughout our time in France was the plant life the pushed through every manmade crevice. Paris_18Paris_17Well-tended gardens and climbing vines galore added so much charm to this area. Paris_19I loved this little pocket park, Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet,which was full of locals enjoying the park with friends and children. It is just North East of the Basilica, and was so quaint and restful.  Paris_20Paris_22This guy does the best glare every time he reads. Here, we were navigating our way back to the hotel. Paris_21After a day of zipping all over (from our hotel near the Eiffel, to the Louvre Gardens, through a museum, and Montemarte), we took a short rest in our room. Then, we grabbed dinner (more like sat down and enjoyed a meal; I’m not sure the American idea of quickly grabbing a bite to eat was something we experienced once) and Rick took us on one last adventure.

We bought tickets for the Montparnasse Tower to get a panoramic view of Paris at night. Rick was able to take the most incredible photos from this vantage point.

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ParisI don’t have the words to summarize our trip and what it meant to me.

I do know the world sure feels a lot smaller. I do know I love the idea of allowing travel to touch your heart, change you, and become a part of you. I learned how much I adore observing cultural difference, and I realized just how little World History I know.

I know I will treasure this experience forever. It was bittersweet knowing we may never come back, but that only grew my adoration for the trip. Not only was this, perhaps, once in a lifetime, I realize that some folks never even dream of a trip like this. I am forever thankful.

I also know I love this man, that I cherish alone time with him, and that every bit of our life together has been, and will continue to be, a grand adventure.

Easter 2018

Easter 2018 was lovely.

It began with the early service at Long Hollow Baptist Church followed by Easter lunch with a dear friend’s beautiful family, and ended with my own family.

Only my best guy was missing. Easter 2018 Mom and Dad.jpgEven though everyone had changed back into comfy clothes, everyone cooperated when I showed up (late) and asked them to halt dinner production so we could snap a few photos. Easter 2018_1.JPGEaster at Momma and Daddy’s house was wonderful. Jenna joined us after she and Brother brunched with her family. Easter 2018_5.JPGJenna graciously swapped places with me so I could be in a photo, too. I still introduce this guy as my “little” brother. Easter 2018_12.JPGMomma set a simple, pretty table (like she always does). Magnolia at Target to the rescue.Easter 2018_18.JPGThese bunnies have been with us since the house on Branham Mill.Easter 2018_20.JPGA neighbor brought my parents these cheery tulips. Easter 2018_22.JPGI laughed to see this little mouse keeping guard on the edge of the table. Easter 2018_24.JPGHappy Easter from us to you. Maybe next year, that man of mine will be with us.

Long Hollow Baptist Life Group Christmas

We are blessed beyond measure with a kind-hearted, Jesus-loving group of friends in our Life Group at Long Hollow. We’ve been friends with some of them for nearly a decade, and they’ve walked with us through college, engagement, marriage, deployments, illness, highs, and lows. They always point us to The Lord through sound doctrine and loving kindness. 24991174_10214709606359651_4752229180655399114_nBut, in addition to all of those things, none of us take ourselves too seriously.

These friends know how to laugh, and that adds joy to our days and refreshment to our bones. 24993649_10214709606959666_9030649206177871034_nI think this “Speak Out” picture may be a better representation of us than our normal grins.

A friend for seasons of hardship, of joy, of love, and of laughter is a gift.

In the garden 

I knew I dreamt of gardening and planting things in our own soil long before we owned a home. 

But I didn’t expect to be the sort of person who dreams about getting home to the yard while on vacation. Or who runs out to the yard every day after work to inspect for new growth, leaf spot, or weeds. 

But, a year and a half of home ownership and a space to cultivate and call our own has brought unspeakable pleasures. 

I do think there are a hundred or more lessons to learn in the garden. This year, I have been learning several. I’m seeing the rewards of discipline (that daily upkeep yields so much more joy, while periods of laziness only leave me with hours of catch-up), and that mentality has carried over into other areas of my life. The patience and foresight of buying smaller things and waiting for them to mature and grow (like when I planted shrubs too close together for their mature size and had to dig them all up, or when I expected instant gratification but realized our budget meant that it would be many years before we enjoyed a full laurel hedge). The wisdom of seeking out expertise has also become apparent, because if nothing else, I’ve begun to see how little I actually know about gardening (not to mention lawn care; ours looks particularly pitiful). 

The limelights we planted last year with (with a pick axe through the hard, summer clay) have grown many feet, perhaps three feet just in a year’s time! The two nearest the bench stand even a little taller than I am. 

We laid down pine straw out back and plan to mulch with it elsewhere as well. I’ve sort of accidentally created a little, informal perennial garden that’s taken on a life of its own. I learned right away the deception of no-stake gladiolus. These things need a stake no matter what the bulb packaging promises. Phlox, echinacea, Shasta daisies, veronica, and salvia fill this space. I’d like to sow some larkspur in next year in early spring, and perhaps tucks away some dianthus in the front. The phlox and coneflowers seem to especially attract honeybees, while others are favorites of butterflies. I’ve greatly enjoyed picking all the flowers my heart desires. I fell for mini pennies right away, and I expected not to see any this year (I’ve been told hydrangeas often establish root systems the second year, and we experienced a late frost that killed off most budding leaves), but was delighted to see three flowers spring forth anyway. That spinach on the far left above, almost out of the frame, was a total failure this year. I haven’t determined why, but I’ll try again next year after more research. Our hostas and autumn ferns all returned this year, bigger than last year.I spent many hours out here digging up built-up mulch, cleaning up the edge with a spade, and ensuring the beds slope away form the house. After a recent minor operation, this was perhaps the most unwise endeavor in recent memory. These hostas, like everything near the back patio, were quite an adventure to plant due to all the gravel underground near the poured concrete sidewalk. 

If only our front yard were still this tidy; beginning in June, our river birch develops spots and constantly sheds leaves. I cannot determine if the problem is fungal or insect-related, but I hope to consult with an arborist soon. What a sweet spring of learning and dreaming in the garden. 

Updates All Over

Here’s a quick photo update of our progress on our sweet little first home. 

We are so grateful for it, love to fill it with people we love, and hope to stay here for a long time! After a year of planning, our layout is how we’d like it for a while! We have some pretty low-end furniture here mixed in with a few “grownup” pieces. I’m going to resist the urge to replace until I have peace about investing in more.I hope to enjoy our kitchen table for decades to come! This little sideboard was actually our Homegoods media stand until we mounted the TV above the fireplace his summer. I refinished our guest room dresser. This is the one we inherited from my parents who got it from my grandparents. Updated hardware and Mindful Gray by Sherwin Williams gave it a fresh look. We also finally found a mirror that’s better scaled for the piece. There’s so much painted furniture in here that I wanted to incorporate more natural wood. Nearly everything in this photo was in our apartment, and it’s all just found homes here. The side table served as my nightstand, but I only keep a Bible, commentary, and journal at my bedside, so this piece now houses our very-small collection of movies, remotes, leashes, and not much else. I’m determined not to overstuff our home. Little lambs that were found last Easter have returned. They remind me of several sweet scriptures. We love to light the lamp and copper lanterns at supper instead of the harsh overhead lighting. We’ll always prefer a soft glow after crazy days of work. I brought in the rug and side table form the living room into our bedroom. We’ve swapped our heavy curtains for sheer linen, too. 

I searched for over a year for just the right bench for the end of our bed; it needed to be wide enough to look proportionate at the foot of our king-sized bed. I have enjoyed having a landing spot for our pillows and a place to put on my shoes in the morning. It’s the little things! I printed this free botanical art from The Graphics Fairy blog! I already had the frames on hand. The euro shams are from the Southern Living collection at Dillard’s. Harley can finally get on the bed independently. Mr. S pretends to protest, but deep down, he loves this! I found the large-scale vase at a Franklin antique store and liked that this Lowe’s lamp feels somewhat symmetrical. Someday, we’d like to replace this dresser. I’d prefer natural wood in our space, and a few bottom drawers need repair. This would be perfect for a guest room, but for daily use, it may be time to upgrade this piece to something we’ll keep for many years, Lord willing. Recently, I’ve really fallen for the online store Everyday Occassions thanks to the influence of a friend whose style I admire. I was particularly excited about these labels for cleaning supplies, since I have always had a (totally silly) dislike of busy product labels. Why not have a little more joy when doing the dishes and cleaning house? 🙂 My Rosemary topiaries are still thriving in this South-facing window. I’m so pleased! 

A Few New Additions

My favorite thing to do is to have people in our home. I love to brew people coffee, make people meals, and encourage them to kick up their heels and rest!

A couple of months ago, I rearranged our living room to make room for two new chairs. 

The sofa was moved to right against the wall, and the two chairs we brought from the apartment were left in front of the patio door.The TV was hung above the fireplace. This was probably the first time I’ve truly done the opposite of what Mr. S wanted. Truthfully, neither of us are fans of this look. However, it’s a small sacrifice to make considering that this means we can welcome more people into our home.A pair of swivel gliders has arrived from Ballard Designs. The shape and function of these chairs have captured my eyes for a few years, so I was so excited to grab them while they were on sale. Our bookshelf has moved back, too. I haven’t bothered to style it.I knew I wanted everyone to have a place to set their drinks, but because of our small space, the side tables needed to be petite.

This brass side table from Urban Outfitters did the trick and on a budget. I decided to use the same table on both sides of the room to unify the mismatched pairs of chairs.This side is shaping up, and this place if finally starting to feel as homey to me as the apartment. This lovely poster from Tanmachi goods arrived this week. It brings to mind one of my favorite scriptures:

“Seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you”

Bright and sweet and happy. Maybe it’s not like a designer room, but it’s certainly a lot like home. 

I’ll Drink to That!

Better health, that is!

This fall marks the beginning of something I’ve neglected for years; self care.

I am sometimes consumed with the idols of work, busyness, and people pleasing. I need to begin with that confession. 

I have neglected caring for my body and my mind these last few years. As I inch (more like race) toward thirty, I am beginning to feel that lack of care. A less trim waist is one thing, but tired eyes, an achey body, a weak immune system, and a scattered mind are not acceptable. I have too much good work to do to let my body become a hindrance.

I realize that these years before children will set a precedent for the rest of my days and the way I care for the well being of my whole future family. 

So, I have a few specific goals:

  1. Exercise moderately. 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of strengthening just three little times a week. This may seem like a small goal, but for me, it’s a far cry from where I have been
  2. Make meals at home, eating out only twice a week for any given meal. I always choose health groceries, but I always choose unhealthy options away from home. I may also have to skip eating with those who will make unhealthy choices until I have practiced self discipline, since I always fall off the wagon when others do. I will instead recommend little coffee dates, walks, and hikes. There are many reasons to get together besides food. 
  3. Sleep. 8 full hours a day. I want to go to bed in time to do that. I think a big part of this can be accomplished by simply leaving my phone on my dresser instead of scrolling through it before bed time.

So, onto the eating front for now:

I know how good fruits and veggies are so good for us, but I could always incorporate more. Especially vegetables!

Their nutritional value and lower sugar make them so healing for our bodies, but if I reach for any healthy snack on the go, it’s much more likely to be a piece of fruit than a veggie.

But you can fit the nutrients of so many veggies into a single glass by simply juicing them. 

My favorite juices  are veggie heavy with just a little fruit, but there’s no harm in easing your way in with extra fruit until your palate adjusts.Now, this is no substitute for the fiber found in whole foods, but it sure makes a nice supplement.

Look at all the gorgeous, fresh-washed produced that fit into my glass.

I can hardly wait til Mr. S is home and I can surprise him with a glass of veggie juice. He would love it!

Today

I had a quiet day of solitude, bluegrass music, hymns, hot coffee, and laundry. Between loads, here’s what I did: Reworked these shelves to include just a few decorative touches.Did some serious online shopping to prep for future guests (and switching slowly to more faux flowers for a little less maintenance in this life)Took in Brother’s girl, Remmington, for the week. Played with things that have been in storage since we moved.The rug is only gone because of the extra pet around here and my desire for easy clean up.Washed the soap dishes I hoard (I’m too ashamed to show you how much hand and bar soap I have).This.
Thanking the Lord for the blessing of peaceful days. For bills to pay and work to be done. And for the beauty to be found right here without ever leaving the comforts of home.