Defining Your Home Team

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI’ve written about the concept of the home team a lot on my blog, either in entire pieces or in small references, so I was excited when I got the chance to expound upon this topic for Darling Magazine. In my most recent post for Darling’s blog, I wrote about the importance of defining the members of your squad. Shauna Niequist, the author who introduced me to this concept in the first place, makes great points about the importance of not only knowing who is in your home team but also being aware of who is not. Here’s a little peek at the piece:

[Niequist’s words] got me to thinking about continually seeking intentionality in relationships. Especially in this day and age of instant connectivity and constant communication, it’s easy to feel connected and close to a myriad of people from all different walks of life. And while that may be perfect for some people, it’s not the right fit for me. I know that I crave quality time with the people I love, and because there’s only so many hours in the day, I have to be realistic about who I’m giving my time and love and trust to — and when, and why.

Head over to Darling’s blog to read the post and let me know what you think about the idea of having a home team! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Above: a favorite photo of Laura & Kyla at the best taco shop in town

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Home Team

midommar2_kristin-lagerqvist-You all know by now that I identify completely with everything that Shauna Niequist writes, especially the content that pertains to relationships and community. This passage from Bittersweet about the concept of the home team is one I revisit frequently, as it’s always a reminder of how blessed James & I are to be surrounded by the most amazing family and friends:

“Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyways. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.”

When life is sailing along smoothly, it’s easy to take my home team for granted. I thrive on catch-up phone calls and margaritas on porches and flurries of text messages but I admit that I don’t always practice gratitude as frequently as I should, assuming that these happy occurrences are just a given. But when hardship occurs, as bleak as the dark days may seem, there is always a glimmer of light and brightness and hope, largely in part because of my home team. They bring over soup and wine and books and movies; they send texts and cards and leave voicemails, requiring no response in return. Some days they come over to laugh and talk about anything besides that one hard thing, and other days they come over to cry and talk about only the bad things – and they have the wherewithal and the savvy to know what’s needed most each day. Our family and friends have blessed us more than we can ever say, modeling what a home team looks like and inspiring us to show up for others the way they always show up for us.

Image via Lovely Life

Week & End

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetHappy Friday! These past couple of weeks have absolutely flown by; life has been moving at such a fast pace, per usual. I had to share this inspiring photo of our Callie girl running around our backyard – isn’t she the most darling tripod you’ve ever seen?! We are so grateful for her good health and for the way she’s adjusted to life without her fourth limb, and we are equally encouraged by her bravery and resilience. God really knew what He was doing when He gave us dogs, didn’t He?

The past few weeks have been full of lots of goodness. We’ve been meeting friends for dinner (at new-to-us spots, like Pints & Quarts and Wild About Harry’s, plus some favorites like El Bolero and Taqueria La Ventana) and delivering meals to friends with new babies. We attended a gorgeous wedding at The Brooks at Weatherford, and I’m heading home to Chicago tonight to attend my cousin’s wedding tomorrow (I’m wearing this dress and I’m really excited about it). We’re planning parties and adventures and schedules and trips (more on the latter to come!) and enjoying the hustle and bustle of it all.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy some fun links!

I’m not 30 yet but I totally identified with this list created by the Huffington Post, 30 Things We Do In Our 30s That We Didn’t Do in Our 20s. I really resonated with #2, #14, and #18.

This article – Why The Overhead Myth Stunts Nonprofit Growth – was so encouraging to read. Non-profit employees and donors alike should definitely check this out and join the conversation.

Speaking of reading, what titles have you been digging into lately? I’m currently flying through The Hypnotist’s Love Story and I recently finished In the Unlikely Event and The Status of All Things, both of which were really enjoyable. I’ve got The Royal We, Modern Romance, and Circling the Sun on the docket. What else should I add to my list?

I know it’s still blazing hot in Dallas but I’ve already busted out the dutch oven to make white bean soup and it’s just as magical as always, even if it’s not yet soup weather. It’s so easy to make and leftovers freeze really well.

Artifact Uprising is giving you 25 free prints – this is a MAJOR score, peoples. Sign up, sign up!

Say Something

Contax645, Kristen Kilpatrick, Bird Dog Wedding, Austin Texas Flowers, Austin Texas Wedding Stylist, Natural Light Photography Austin Texas, Design Love Fest, Fourth of July luncheon, Fourth of July inspiration, Fourth of July Party, The Kaki Pants, Mini Cherry Pies, Mini Pies, Champagne bar, Film Photography, Austin Texas interior, Claire Zinnecker Designs, Emily Leach, Fuji400, Austin Film Photographer, Blue House, Wildfox couture, Vintage inspired party, Retro austin house, Design Love fest DIY, DIY fourth of July party, Homemade popsicles, Fruit Popsicles, Mimosa Table,Shauna Niequist is my favorite author for a myriad of reasons. I love that she counts good food and travel amongst her top pleasures, that she viciously protects the time she has to spend with her family and friends, that she’s a voracious reader who gives out tons of excellent book recommendations. I love the way she writes about all of these things, and I love how she puts ideas and thoughts on paper in such an eloquent, impactful way. So many times when I’m reading her books, I lurch straight up in my chair or my bed and think, “You feel this way too? I thought I was the only one!” Shauna captures so many emotions I’ve experienced in such a concise, communicable way, striking through the very core of me.

Of all of the chapters in all of her books, “Say Something” (from Bittersweet) is the one that struck me the most profoundly. I could go on and on about everything I loved about the chapter, but instead, I’d rather share Shauna’s powerful words with you directly from the source:

“When something bad happens, people say the wrong things so often. They say weird, hurtful things when they’re trying to be nice. They say things that don’t hurt until later, and then when they do begin to hurt, you can’t get the words out of your mind. It’s like a horror movie: everywhere you turn, those awful words are scrawled on every wall.”

“Some people [don’t] know what to say, and they [say] just that. ‘I heard what happened, and I don’t know what to say.’ That is, I’m finding, a very good response. Because there was another group of friends who said nothing. I love them, and I know they love me, and the point is not what they did or didn’t do, exactly. The point is that they taught me something, and it’s this: say something. Always say something. Now when a friend loses a job or when a heart is broken or when the test results are bad, even when I don’t know what to say, I say something.”

“I know we’re busy. I know we forget sometimes. More than anything, I think, we so desperately don’t want to say the wrong thing. It’s impolite, we’ve been told, to bring up nasty topics like loss and sadness. But if we don’t bring it up, what are we left with? We talk about the easy things, the happy things, the weather, and then we leave one another totally alone with the diagnosis or the divorce papers.”

“I learned to say something. And I offer my apologies for all the times I didn’t say something. I’m really sorry about that. For a whole bunch of not very good reasons, I didn’t know better then. But I know better know. So when there’s bad news or scary news or something falls apart, say something. Send a note. Send a text. Send flowers. And if you don’t know what to say, try this: ‘I heard what happened, and I don’t know what to say.'”

Though I really took this advice to heart when I first read the book several years ago, implementing it whenever possible, I’m understanding the lesson so much more acutely since Callie’s terminal diagnosis a few weeks ago. Our family and friends have been unbelievably supportive during this trying time, and equally as heartwarming as their outreach and care has been is the response from people that we know through friends of friends or church or social media. They contacted us through text or email or in person, and they said something. They didn’t say something complicated or mind-blowing or other-worldy; instead, they said something that was simple and comforting. And those words meant, and continue to mean, the world to us. We are so grateful for everyone in our lives – ranging from our parents, our siblings, our best friends, and our small group to our coworkers, neighbors, parents of friends, workout instructors, and mailman (yes, our mailman!) – who has taken the time to acknowledge what we are going through, to say something. It means more than they know, and it has inspired us to continue to do the same to the people in our lives who are going through difficult seasons.

Image via Kristin Kilpatrick for designlovefest

Things I Don’t Do

beachside-australian-wedding-75The start of a new year is so exciting, so full of promise. It’s easy to get carried away thinking about all of the fun things there are to do in a new year – all of the new habits you can make, classes you can take, projects you can start (or finish), places you can go. I personally have a long list of resolutions for 2015, and, for me, the practice of annual goal-setting hasn’t changed much over time – I love writing down goals for myself each January (and each spring and summer and fall, for that matter). But I’ve also found that there’s a necessary counterbalance to all of the resolution-making, an exercise inspired by Shauna Niequist. This year, in addition to writing down the things I hope to do, I’m starting a tradition of jotting down a list of things I don’t do. As Shauna writes,

“It’s brutal, making the list of Things I Don’t Do, especially for someone like me, who refuses most of the time to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a limit to her personal ability to get things done. But I’ve discovered that the list sets me free. I have it written in black and white, sitting on my desk, and when I’m tempted to go rogue and bake muffins because all the other moms do, I come back to both lists, and I remind myself about the important things: that time is finite, as is energy. And that one day I’ll stand before God and account for what I did with my life. There is work that is only mine to do: a child that is ours to raise, stories that are mine to tell, friends that are mine to walk with. The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.”

So! Here goes nothing – my 2015 list of Things I Don’t Do.

Journal

Oh, this is a shameful one to admit. I love writing, clearly – whether it’s here on this blog, for Darling Magazine, or for Bungalow Magazine. I have tried journaling so many times (and I have stacks of beautiful blank journals to show how that turned out). I admire people who journal, who carve the time out to write and write and write, just for themselves. I often think about what an amazing keepsake a journal is, a place to catalogue your thoughts and fears and dreams and hopes. But this year I am saying it aloud: I don’t journal. I don’t keep up with it, going months and months without penning an entry. I channel my writing energy into other places and journaling goes to the wayside. This year I am saying that that is just fine. I have other ways of documenting my life – through photos and this blog and such – and I think it’s okay to reserve my pretty blank journals for to-do lists and recipes and other notes.

Attempt Crafting/DIY Projects

If I believed in reincarnation, I would hope to come back in another life as someone who is so effortlessly talented at crafting and successfully completing DIY projects. I see so many amazing ideas on Pinterest, making me want to invest in crafting supplies and a dedicated space in which to complete projects. However, in this very real life of mine, the closest I can get to any sort of crafting project is putting pictures in frames. So, yeah, there is no need for me to pursue this type of hobby. The only caveat is if a group of girlfriends wants to get together to do some sort of craft or activity – I can always get behind a group project (especially if a little bubbly is involved).

Check E-Mail Before Going to Work…or Before Going to Bed

I have literally zero reason to check my e-mail early in the morning before going into the office or late in the evening before turning in. I am thankful that as far as Touch A Life-related e-mails are concerned, there is nothing so urgent that it can’t be addressed during work hours – and, if there is some sort of emergency, I will receive a phone call or text. Nothing pressing will show up in my inbox, forcing me to miss out on some important bit of information before I can get to the office. The only thing that checking e-mail before work or before going to bed does is stress my little mind out. In the morning it makes me feel rushed to get into the office (even if the e-mails aren’t that urgent – just knowing that they’re there makes me fired up) and at night it keeps me up thinking about my to-do list instead of drifting off to dreamland. There is no point to that madness, so it ends now.

Say Yes to Every Event/Coffee Date/Party I’m Invited To

I have been working on this a bit over the course of the last several months, but I want to make 2015 the year that it sticks. I love a full calendar, one that’s packed to the brim with project deadlines and weekend trips and dinner dates and exercise classes. But I am an introvert at heart – I recharge best by myself, soaking in some quiet time, whether that’s by done by reading or napping or going for a jog or trying a new recipe. So I burn out easily when my social calendar is packed to the brim. I have learned that it is indeed okay to say no to things even though I don’t actually have a conflict that prevents me from saying yes. Since I truly love spending quality time with people, I  feel guilty when I turn invitations down without having a “legitimate” reason for doing so. But if I’m not refreshed and engaging, the person I’m with won’t enjoy our time together anyway – I frequently have to remind myself of that. I don’t need to run myself ragged in order to spend time with people I love.

Finish Books That Aren’t Good

There are millions of wonderful books in the world, so many that I don’t need to waste my time on reading the ones that aren’t great. This is not to say that I can decide, say, two pages in, that a book is bad – sometimes I’ve had to persevere through a tough section of a book to find out that, by the end, I love it. But if I’m over halfway through and the content or the writing style are just not improving, it is okay to put the book down and be done with it. The perfectionist in me rejects this idea wholeheartedly but I need to stop wasting time by finishing mediocre books. A plus – they can always be donated to good causes or sold at Half Price Books, majorly reducing clutter in our house.

There you have it! What do you think of a Things I Don’t Do list? Will you make one?

Image via Erin + Tara Photography for Ruffled

White Bean Soup

I swear that I crave soup on a weekly basis in the wintertime. It’s not even very cold here in Dallas (I think it’s supposed to be 70 degrees on Saturday!) but there’s something about the combination of soup and December and the holidays that is nostalgic for me, so I find myself making tons of different kinds over the course of the month (continuing on into January and February, too). Since I’m cooking through Bread & Wine, I decided to try author Shauna Niequist’s White Bean Soup, a hearty mix loaded with delicious beans and vegetables. It is safe to say that I am now obsessed with this soup – it was so easy to make and it is extremely tasty. It thickens over time and gets better and better each day, almost chili-like in texture and so flavorful and robust. I add vinaigrette to my steaming bowl of soup, and James liked his with prosciutto. Both of us agree that parmesan cheese a must. And here’s an important note – I couldn’t find fennel at the store when I was shopping so I made the soup without it, and I think it turned out delicious. I’m sure it tastes wonderful with fennel included, as the recipe suggests.

White Bean Soup

Recipe via Shauna Niequist

Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1/2 lb carrots, sliced into thin coins on a diagonal
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced
  • 4 celery ribs, sliced on a diagonal
  • 6 cans white beans in liquid
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, rough chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a stockpot or Dutch oven, soften two sliced shallots in olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add carrots, fennel, and celery, and allow to soften for 10 – 15 minutes.
  3. Add beans in their liquid and chopped rosemary.
  4. Cover and cook for 20 minutes at a gentle boil.
  5. Taste, add salt & pepper, taste again – and keep in mind that you’ll get a good amount of salt from the toppings.
  6. Cook for 20 more minutes, or longer if you have time. Off heat, mash with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon for a rustic chunky texture. If you’d like a smoother texture, run it through a food processor or use an immersion blender in the pot.
  7. For the balsamic vinaigrette, mix a spoonful of Dijon, a few tablespoons of balsamic, a quarter cup or so of olive oil, some salt and pepper in a glass jar, then shake well. Adjust to taste.
  8. Serve with a small pitcher of vinaigrette, and bowls of prosciutto torn into ribbons, grated Parmesan, and chopped rosemary.

Around Here

Party DecorWow, time sure does fly – December 10th already?! I apologize for my absence on the blog lately – but then again, I don’t because so much goodness has been happening around here and I’ve stepped away from my online presence to soak it all in.

The holidays are such a magical time of year, aren’t they? We had an amazing time in Chicago for Thanksgiving, and last week was spent celebrating James and my birthdays, which are just four days apart (so fun!). My 29th birthday was on Wednesday, the 3rd, and Touch A Life has a policy that gives employees the day off on their special day, which is such a treat. I got my stretch on at yoga and my sweat on at City Surf, treated myself to my favorite juice and smoothie at The Gem, picked up some birthday goodies at J. Crew, and got a foot massage at my favorite place. James and I noshed on filet mignon, barbecue ribs, creamy spinach dip, and French fries at Houston’s for dinner, toasting with martinis (for me) and whiskey (for him). It was the perfect day.

James’s 30th birthday was on Sunday and I threw him a surprise party! It was the best. Nearly 35 of our closest friends came to celebrate James and he was so totally shocked when he walked into our house – we nailed the surprise! My super talented friend Bri took photos of the day, which I’ll share here soon. I had so much fun planning the decor (a few party remnants are pictured above), snacks, and drinks, and all of our friends pitched in with setting up, throwing James off, and keeping the secret about the party. It is the best party I’ve ever hosted, filled with so much fun, love, and good food. James had a fantastic time, which made me so happy.

Holiday events are in full swing, which I love! Tonight is a Christmas-themed girls night in at Korena’s, and tomorrow the Black Frames are playing at a charity wrap party hosted by Fullosophie. My dear bestie Becca and her boyfriend Mark are coming in from Nashville to attend a wedding this weekend, and I can’t wait to see them (and eat tacos at the best spot in town). Sunday night marks Laura, Kyla, and my fifth annual Christmas besties dinner, and the following day is my favorite event of the season (tied with the besties dinner, of course) – the Cone Christmas dinner at Patrick and Lauren’s, where Patrick cooks an entire holiday meal filled with delicious seasonal favorites. James and I are going to check out the Highland Park lights with Callie and hot chocolate in tow, and we’re scooting down to Austin the weekend before Christmas as a special treat to one another (also with Callie in tow, as we’ll be staying at my favorite hotel).

I’ve been cooking some of Shauna Niequist’s recipes, as I planned, so I’ll be sharing a recipe tomorrow, as well as some fun posts the rest of the month! But if I go MIA again, have no fear – I’m just enjoying all that the holiday season has to offer, namely the fact that we get to spend this month thinking of the amazing Christmas story and Jesus’s birth. What a beautiful season – I hope you are loving it as much as I am!

Cooking Through Bread & Wine

lindsay-letters-betweenus-canvas-navy_1024x1024As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I reread Bread & Wine recently and it inspired me to get creative in the kitchen. When life gets chaotic and full, I tend to fall back on the recipes I know and love – enchiladas, quinoa bowls, breakfast for dinner, tortilla soup – instead of foraging into the land of the unknown. Shauna Niequist, the author of Bread & Wine, shares loads of delicious recipes in her book, which is part memoir, part cookbook, and they got me excited about trying out some new dishes. Shauna uses good wholesome ingredients and her instructions aren’t a mile long; instead of using complicated, fussy verbiage, her recipes are straightforward and easy to understand. So I thought it might be fun to work my way through the book, chopping and dicing and sautéing, stirring and tasting and trying, and then reporting the results to you here on the blog.

I’m already a fan of several of the recipes in the book – the blueberry crisp, the basic vinaigrette (which I make once a week and pour on just about everything), the goat cheese scrambled eggs, the lentil soup – so I may post about them here, or I may just venture into uncharted territory…we’ll see. Either way, it will be fun (and delicious). Stay tuned!

Image & canvas via Lindsay Letters

Monday Inspiration

diy_marble_vase_still_61I’m rereading one of my favorite books, Bread & Wine, for the millionth time, and something I love about rereading a great book over and over again is that I can read the same pages and paragraphs and quotes and yet each time I read them, if they’re from a really rich, layered book with lots of depth, I come away with something new, a page or paragraph or quote that strikes me differently this go around. The quote below really jumped off the page at me today, so much so that I had to share it with you as a little inspiration for your Monday:

“I want to cultivate a deep sense of gratitude, of roundedness, of enough, even while I’m longing for something more. The longing and the gratitude, both. I’m practicing believing that God knows more than I know, that he sees what I can’t, that he’s weaving a future I can’t even imagine from where I sit this morning. Extraordinary, indeed. More than enough.” – Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine

Image via My Dubio

Fall Reading List

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I have always loved to read but there’s something particularly special and invigorating about the beginning of the new school year that causes me to line up a bunch of new titles to devour. I was so thrilled when I recently learned that my favorite author, Shauna Niequist, is working on her next book, Present Over Perfect – even though it won’t be published until 2016, you can bet your bottom dollar that this spurred on my passion for gobbling up a whole shelf’s worth of books while I wait for her next creation to come out. She’s also releasing a devotional next spring that I can’t wait to get my hands on. In the meantime, here are some books that I’m looking to add to my reading list this fall (plus, see the rest of the books I’d like to read [and have read!] here on my Shelfari profile):

  • A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live, Emily Freeman – I admit, we were supposed to read this for our book club in January but I only got through the first few chapters. The content is so good but I got sidetracked by a really delicious novel and didn’t ever get back to the rest of A Million Little Ways. As I seek out inspiration heading into this new season, I can’t think of any better way to dive right in than by reading this book.
  • I Am MalalaMalala Yousafzai – My sister-in-law gave me this book for Christmas, so it’s been on my list for a few months now. I’m so excited to dig in to this inspiring memoir.
  • The Circle, Dave Eggers – I love all of Dave Eggers’s books so The Circle definitely makes this list. This novel, set at the world’s most powerful internet company, is described as a “heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge” – intriguing, no?
  • Rework, Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson – I have heard so many great things about this book and the way it transforms the reader’s concept of work, business, time management, and efficiency. I definitely think it will give me a kickstart, work-wise, as we head into our busiest season of the year and corresponding fourth quarter donation push.
  • Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, Nish Weiseth – Speak is “a book about the power of telling our own stories and hearing those of others to change hearts, build bridges, advocate for good, make disciples with grace, and proclaim God’s kingdom on Earth today.” Boom.

What’s on your back-to-school reading list? Got any great book recommendations?

Image via Pinterest