Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Deep in the Heart of Texas


I have not abandoned you! In fact, I have been thinking about this blog a lot lately because I've had so many changes in the last month, allowing for numerous moments of thankfulness and inspiration. The truth is, I just haven't been consistent with sitting down to put these events into writing, but just so you know, the posts will keep coming!

Since I last wrote, I officially got a new job and a new apartment....in Houston, Texas!  The long drive from St. Louis to Houston was quite the haul, but Austin Bristow was an awesome road trip partner !  I navigated us all the way to Tulsa and a good chunk of the way through Texas into Houston...which is quite a feat if you know anything about my track record for directions and getting myself from Point A to Point B.  A huge thank you to Austin being such great company and a stellar dj during the 14 hour drive.

Alright, I'll be back soon with Texas adventures, finds and projects.  Until then, adios amigos!  (I'll be fluent in no time!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Picture Perfect Michigan

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Holland, Michigan for a good ol' fashion family vacation.

It was awesome.  See what I mean?

This was my family's fourth trip to Holland, and I've decided that Michigan is just one of those places that gets more magical with each visit.  I'm not sure if there was one event in particular that made it so special, but somewhere between swimming in Lake Michigan, eating too many blueberries to count, riding bikes everywhere and watching sailboat races, I fell in love with Michigan all over again. 
And since I was in such a picturesque place, I whipped out my camera every five minutes to try to capture some of the beauty.  It felt like a sin not to snap as many pictures as possible while on our adventures!  I also tried to master the manual setting on my camera to step up my photography skills.  Honestly, it was really fun to pretend like I was a professional determined to get "the perfect shot", and I've loved sifting through all my photos since I've been back.

Which leads me to a website I wanted to share with you in this post...

Having taken so many photos, I've recently been inspired to turn my pretty good digital camera photos into BEAUTIFUL photos by playing with them using my recent obsession, Pixlr.  Pixlr is basically an online photo editing program, similar in layout to Photoshop.  On Pixlr, you can create new images or enhance existing ones.  I love Pixlr because it's FREE, easy to use, and has given me some really cool results.  Below are some of my photos from the trip, with a few filters courtesy of Pixlr.
My sister and me!
The pride and joy of Holland, Big Red
Pops on a beautiful bike ride
My brother and me in South Haven

Cousin time at the beach. (Grace needs big sunglasses, too!)

Boogie boarding time

My favorite picture of the trip!  This is literally what the scene looked like!  The only feature added to this is a vignette around the edges.  Awesome.


Stopped at Notre Dame on the way up

Sailboats gliding on Lake Macatawa

As someone who has always loved playing around with Photoshop, tinkering with Pixlr has been a truly enjoyable learning experience and has made me want to get better at digital photography in general.  There's so much to learn and so many effects that I can use to grow better in this hobby!  

(A special thanks to goes out to my boogie-boarding brother, sun-bathing sister, blueberry pie-baking machine madre and jet skiing-professional pops for making the experience so special!)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rivoting Reads for Summer

I've been reading....and reading and reading. I just can't seem to get enough of it lately!  I just keep hearing about good reads and lucking out with fabulous finds from the library. I feel like I'm playing catch-up from college, when I hardly ever read books for pleasure because I was always plugging through books and articles for class.  With the lack of such requirements dominating my life, reading has become one of my very most favorite things to do.  With that being said, here are a few of the books I've read the past two months that have truly inspired me and some thoughts on each.  (I know the descriptions are pretty vague, but I'm paranoid about giving away any of the good stuff!)

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
Ever since elementary school, I have had a special interest in World War II.  I'm not sure why I've been drawn to veteran and Holocaust survivor stories, but I think it is because of the unbelievable amount of pain and suffering these individuals overcame during one of the darkest periods in human history.  Sarah's Key is a fictional story based on a true event, the Vel’d'Hiv’, a roundup of more than 13,000 French Jews in Paris by the French police kept very well hidden in French history.  The story is told from the point of view of a modern day journalist attempting to shed some light on the event so that those who suffered may not be forgotten.  The author uses an amazing twist to bring characters together that will help you remember this time in history.

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
A Ya-Ya Sisterhood-type book, this one is set in the 1950s and follows the lives of five very different women who meet as a result of taking their children to the same local park each week.  As the women become closer, they discover that they each have a secret love for writing and start their own writing club to hone their craft.  By the end of the book, I wanted to be a Wednesday Sister and found a new sense of admiration for the women raising a family in the fifties.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger Once again, I hadn't seen this movie, (I have never been a huge movie-watcher) so I wasn't sure of the plot before I dove in.  This novel is a romance that locks you in from the very first page, but keeps you on your toes throughout as you try to keep tabs on where you (and the characters) are in time and what information they may or may not know.  The author's concept of time and what happens when life occurs in the past and present simultaneously is incredible.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
I'm working on this one right now.  Again, I never saw the movie, so I can enjoy this one without any pre-conceived feelings towards the characters and plot.  I love Lily for her sassiness, Rosaleen for her honestly and August for her heart.  I'll keep you posted on my thoughts after I've finished the book, but so far, so good!

 Other Books I've Read Recently and Recommend:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:  READ IT!  You'll love it.  One of my top 10 favorites.  Romance, mystery, everything you want in one book.  Thanks, Scott K for this recommendation. 
Born To Run by Christopher McDougall:  I'm totally into running, so it was easy for me to drink this Kool-Aid and get obsessed.  While I admit it's probably more interesting to runners and endurance athletes, I'd recommend it to anyone curious about the human body and its amazing ability to run non-stop for hours.  The book describes a tribe in Mexico known for its incredible ability to run swiftly for hours on end, practically barefoot, without stopping.  It will blow your mind and make you think twice about your running form.   
Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy:  I recently finished up an internship with the Colts and simply had to read the book after seeing Tony's legacy on the organization.  Although my life isn't nearly as crazy as Tony's, this book gave me a unique perspective on an NFL coach's thoughts on faith in such a fast-paced, high-pressure environment in a way that was easy to relate to. 
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers  A story based on Hosea and Gomer from the Biblical chapter of Hosea.  Set during the 1850s California Gold Rush, this story focuses on faith, forgiveness and love.  LOVED it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

I'm a little late, but I didn't want to let the 4th of July pass by without giving a little shout out to all those who make it possible to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  You are truly an inspiration!

To celebrate the holiday, I made the most American strawberries I could find to take to a barbecue with some great Houston amigos.  (I already mentioned my addiction to Pinterest, and I owe credit to the site for the inspiration behind these berries.)  They were delicious.  Readers be warned:  Before you attempt to create American strawberries, double check that a grocer near you carries blue sprinkles.  I thought blue sprinkles would be waiting for me at Kroger, which was an inaccurate assumption.  Special thanks to Austin Bristow for  his help during our adventure to find the sparkling garnish.  Five different grocery stores later, we found "Periwinkle Blue sugar crystals" at Whole Foods.  Please don't ask how much they cost....just check out this picture of the final product and see for yourself why we thought the price was worth it!

God bless America!

Hope your Fourth was spectacular!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Girls on the Run

Chatting, running, learning, laughing.  Sign me up to help promote this mission.  Girls on the Run is an organization I'm especially drawn to because it combines a few of my favorite things: kids, community involvement and running.  I wanted to share this organization with you because its mission truly inspires me, and its founder is such a strong example of how one little action with a lot of love can make a huge difference. 

Molly Wilmer Barker, who founded Girls on the Run in 1996, describes the organization as a program "designed to help girls really capture the spirit of who they are and bring that to life."  Girls on the Run does this through 2 initiatives:  Girls on the Run for 3rd-5th graders and Girls on Track for 6th-8th graders.  Both programs consists of 12 weeks of practices where the girls train for a 5k run and have lessons covering a variety of emotional, physical, social and intellectual development topics.  During their training, the girls also choose and complete a service event.  At the end of the 12 week season, the girls have the opportunity to complete a non-competitive 5K running event. This is a HUGE event for a lot of girls because it lets them see just how strong and wonderful they truly are.  (Check out this video if you want to see just how pumped the girls are after the run!)

What started as Molly Barker and 13 pre-teen girls in North Carolina has become a huge movement.  Today, Girls on the Run is offered in over 170 cities across North America with hundreds of thousands of girls involved in program.  Molly, you go girl.

I know I can't wait until the fall when I can start my first season as a Girls on the Run volunteer.  Running has always been an incredible source of strength for me, and I look forward to sharing the fun with some awesome chicas.  For those of you who are also interested about how you can get involved with a Girls on the Run group in your neck of the woods, check out the "Locations" tab at www.girlsontherun.org.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Latest Pinterest

Someone help me, I can't stop pinning.

For those of you who haven't discovered Pinterest, a dangerously addictive social media community for the artsy, allow me to give you some background on this little gem.

As described on its site...
"Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes."

Basically, people can upload pictures of all of their favorite things for the world to check out.  If you are a Pinterest member, you can view these images, and as you find images that you like, you can "re-pin" them, or save them to your own little inspiration board.  You can organize your inspiration boards so you have visual collections of all your favorite things.

You can browse other people's boards, leave comments on images, follow other pinners and tweet your obsessions.  You can discover a new recipe, color combo, inspirational quote or adorable pair of shoes  every 4 seconds.  Once you sign up, you'll spend hours pinning random awesome pictures, and you'll love every minute.  I know I have.

Some learning takeaways from this social media community:

  • It feels like a new site every 10 minutes because of the rate images upload.  It's incredibly dynamic, contributing to the sites addictiveness.
  • Users are introduced to more websites and images that they will love because the images are linked to their original sites.  It's kinda like discovering new artist on Pandora.  When you find a photo you're obsessed with, you can follow its link and often find a whole new blog to stalk.  There's an awesome feeling of discovery when using the site.
  • It's easy to use, easy to search and easy to find people who like what you like.
  • You can define your own style by viewing other people's.  There's a sense of individuality, even though you're in a community where everyone is doing the same thing.  
  • Warning:  In order to pin, you have to join Pinterest by "Requesting an Invite."  I was invited to join 5 days after requesting an invitation a couple of months ago.  I'm not exactly sure why Pinterest does this, but it may be to generate a stronger feeling of unity between members.
Here's one of my recent Pins from my "Recipes I Can't Wait to Try Board."  (I know it's not a complex one, but doesn't it look delicious?!)  Thanks, Stacy Berg for pinning!

and here's what a Recipe Board would look like:


And how cute of an idea are these Necktie Cuff Bracelets?  Thanks, Little Pretties Cara Veeder for pinning!

I'd love to show you more of my finds, but I've got to keep pinning.  Feel free to come check out my boards at http://pinterest.com/cjinspired/pins/ .