September 23, 2015


Today marks 10 years of this weird, random little blog.  TEN YEARS.  In some ways, how has 10 years gone by?  In other ways...who was that person who posted that first time all those years ago?

Obviously I don't post here very often any more.  Instagram sort of took over my blogging obsession.  And I just felt a change and didn't feel the need to write all the nonsense I used to write anymore.    As I've learned to say from one of my favorite blogs, "that's okay."  There are seasons to our creativity just like there are seasons in life.  Maybe one day I'll be creatively pulled towards blogging again.  Maybe not.  But no matter what, I have years and years of records/posts of who I was.  Almost the entirety of my 30's were documented in posts here.  I started at age 28.  In some ways I don't even remember being 28.  In others, I feel exactly the same as that young girl.

I'm so thankful for this tiny space though.  Thankful for the photos of cherished times.  Thankful for the lists upon lists of the things I was excited or obsessed over.  It's a strange thing to come face to face with yourself 5 or 8 years ago.  Hear your voice in the words.  Remember the emotions that flooded your heart.  Realize you are no longer that person, but that person is still inside of you.  See how you have grown and learned and changed.  I love having that record.  I love reading the old posts.

My mind still swims with blog post ideas.  Ideas for subjects I want to explore like being single in your late 30's or writing short stories.  Maybe one day that will happen.  Who knows.  But no matter what, I'll still feel the thrill of having a place where the words can spill out if I need them to.

Happy 10th, little Cottage Girl blog.  I'm so glad you exist.

May 23, 2015

China: Those babies

As I was getting ready to leave on this trip, people asked me over and over “are you excited to go see China?  What will you get to do?  Will you see the Great Wall?” Confession time…I could have gone to China and done nothing but play with those sweet babies and been perfectly perfect happy.  They are the reason I wanted to go to China.  They are the reason I actually ended up getting on that plane headed to the other side of the world.  I’ve never wanted to go to China to “see China".  All those other things were great.  They really were.  The Great Wall really is inspiring and amazing.  But it doesn’t hold a candle to the sweet little people I met.  

I never wanted to go to China as a tourist. I didn’t want to go and just see the place itself.  It would have felt wrong on every level.  Dishonest.  I couldn’t do a cruise down the Yangtze and just forget that there were little ones just past those shores.  It wasn’t an option for me at all.  When Meredith asked me to come and visit, and not only visit, but come meet her babies, I jumped at the chance and pooled my all my spare change and bought that ticket.  This was my time to go.  This was what I had been waiting for.  

Before I arrived in China, Meredith asked me what I wanted to see while I was in Beijing, my honest reply was “Molly, Shalom, Benjamin, Ruby, Josie, Baby Kate, etc.”  One hundred percent truth.  The first full day I was there, we walked over to the babies home and inside I was secretly nervous.  This was a moment I had dreamed of since I was about 5 years old.  Not these kids in this particular home, but the whole idea of coming face to face with the children I have sponsored and prayed for and dreamed about for years upon years.  So, walking in that door and being greeted by all those little faces…well, I was instantly peeling off my shoes and sitting on that mat watching them in wonder.  They were living breathing children with precious faces and spunky personalities.  They weren’t just pictures on my refrigerator or monthly reports in my inbox.  

Truthfully, I didn’t think the kids would want anything to do with me.  And I was ready to accept this.  Tiny 0-2 year olds don’t necessarily warm to strangers.  Totally get that.  And I wasn’t about to force my way into their lives and into their comfort zones.  So I sat back and watched.  I saw them run/crawl/scoot toward Meredith as soon as they saw her smiling face.  I saw them pile in her lap and giggle.  I watched the nannies interact with the kids.  I sat beside baby bouncy seats and smiled at the tinies.  It was a wonder to behold.

And then Baby Kate was plopped swiftly into my lap.  Probably by Meredith.  And there I sat in complete and utter bliss, trying way too hard to make this tiny miracle bundle smile.  I just stared at her precious face and couldn’t look away.  
This is the best part of being at Morning Star Foster Home.  Having a nanny hand you a tiny and then go off to attend to other matters.  Your only job is to snuggle them and love them and keep them content.  Challenge accepted.  Most heartily.  
It happened over and over and over again.  I would lifted my arms up to snag another babe being handed over to me, bubbling with joy along with gulping back tears.  Every time I couldn’t believe I was there.  That this was happening.  That I was the person that got to hold them.  

Then the older kids started to warm up to me by that first afternoon.  Meredith was so kind to introduce them to me and show them that I was safe.  Molly, Shalom, Josie and Ruby all smiled at me and I was a goner.  I would do anything to make them laugh.  They are so precious.  Each day, they would feel a little more comfortable around me, which made leaving at the end of my time there pretty much excruciating.  Watching their faces go around the corner for the last time.  I still can’t.  Nope.  It’s too hard to think about.  Like a giant hole in my heart.   

Meredith asked me if there any of the kids that I couldn’t wait to actually see in person.  It was hard to think of them that way because I couldn’t wait to meet all of them for their own special reasons.  But Molly, little Molly.  I was smitten with her.  Her photos were always the ones that I would stare at the longest.  Her smile was the best thing I had ever seen.  
She can be tough, Meredith warned me.  I knew that my chances of even getting near Molly or holding her were pretty slim.  And again, that’s okay.  These are little people who have fears and lives that I don’t have any right to.  So I was cautious with her.  I let her lead.  I let her be the one to come to me and initiate anything.  Thankfully, she was kind enough to let me get glimpses of her sweet spirit a few times.  She let me take photos and videos of her.  She sat on my lap on the floor and scrambled around.  She laughed. Oh, that laugh.  It’s pure magic, I’m telling you.  And to see that smile in person…I can’t even take it.  She would use me as her crutch to stand up and practice walking.  Of course, sweet girl.  Anything you need.  I was smitten.  I couldn’t get enough.  She was the last one I saw disappear around the corner when I left that last day.  Her little face looking at me after she had been crying when she thought she had been left behind.  Her big eyes and perfect cheeks.  My freaking heart was about to burst and I still can’t think about that moment without tearing up.  Little Molly.  I wanted to stick her in my carryon and never look back.  

Oh, you sweet little babes. I miss you fiercely and am forever grateful that I got the chance to meet you.

April 27, 2015

CHINA: The Food

The food in China is quite different, but not shocking like you might think.  Rice, veggies, lots of cucumbers (who knew?!), meat, mushrooms and lots of cilantro.  Cilantro? Really?  I thought that was only the plague of the Tex Mex variety.  Apparently they love it in China and put it in everything.  Particularly awesome when cilantro tastes like cleaning fluid to certain taste palates. Um, me.  

(lunch time with the nannies.  so much YUM)

I actually really liked the food in China though.  I miss lunch with the nannies at Morning Star.  The nannies and MS’s driver would make lunch for everyone, and it was so delicious.  For those of you that are wondering... NO, real Chinese food is not really like American Chinese food AT ALL.  It's so much better.  Surprisingly so.  It is less, how do I explain this….fast foody?  All I can say is that their food isn’t neon orange or breaded and fried like pretty much all American Chinese food.

Oh and let’s talk about the wonder of Bubble Tea.  I had my first Bubble Tea in China which seemed very appropriate.  It’s available in the US, but not popular where I live, so I was still a Bubble Tea virgin.  Verdict:  YES.  More please.  I chose the milk variety.  Cold.  I want more right now.  Oh my, it is delightful.  

(Green beans in the center, come find me in America.  I miss you)

I also had the most delicious green beans of my life at the restaurant in Meredith’s neighborhood.  They were cooked with lots of garlic and tiny bits of port and some other magic deliciousness.  I need to figure out how to make those beans.  Yum.

The only hard thing about food in China is the water.  You can’t drink the water, which means you shouldn’t technically eat fruits or raw veggies that are washed in the water.  I did both and didn’t get sick.  But I also bypassed a few things that I probably would have tried if I wasn’t scared of getting sick (Hello, world’s most sensitive digestive system. You are so annoying.  The end) I did throw caution to the wind a few times and was so glad that I didn’t miss out on the deliciousness.  

Wrap up:  
#1  If you go to China, you won’t die of starvation if you don’t like Chinese food.  

#2  Go to a restaurant with photos of the food since you can’t read the menu.

#3  Don’t drink that tap water.

#4  Always say yes to Bubble Tea.  Always.

April 23, 2015

China: The Forbidden City

My sweet friend was kind enough to be my personal tour guide and take me to those places a good tourist goes when they are in Beijing. I mean, she's been too many times to count and yet happily toured me through the Beijing subway all the way through the Forbidden City.


And right across a super, busy highway from Tiananmen Square (children of the 80's like me, can you picture that photo of a man standing in front of tanks when I say those words? There was NOTHING marking that event in history. Like it never happened.) It's weird to have a giant historic landmark on the side of a highway. Kinda ruins the whole magic of the experience at first.

It really is quite a sight to behold, this Forbidden City.  Pay the money and check it out if you are ever in Beijing.  It’s what you think of when you imagine China of days gone by.  

And the old, old trees in the back section are so fascinating.  Tim Burton trees, I call them. They almost look like cartoons.

Side story:
Before we headed to the Forbidden City, we did the extra fun task of exchanging my American dollars for Chinese Yuan.  ONE HOUR, 5 copies of my passport, 10 red stamps and 4 signatures later I had cash.  And no, that is not an exaggeration.  #becauseChina  The struggle is real.  Let's all say a prayer for foreigners living there.  Good gracious.

There is so much more still to come.  The babies, the Great Wall, food, Morning Star and a million tiny moments.

April 21, 2015

China: All the Thoughts

So, China.

That happened.

It isn’t a dream or a wish any more. It’s a living, breathing place in my memory full of people and smells and foods and more people.  It’s real and there is a sky there and the sun and even some stars.  The same ones that are over me right now.  There are stories there and families and normal everyday things like making lunch and grocery stopping and walking up and down stairs.  

Sometimes I feel like it's easy to think that certain places are only real in movies or stories because they seem so far away.  But it’s only 16 hours on a plane, including one very long continuous “we’re never going to get out of here” 14 hour stretch.  Step off that airplane and the language is unfamiliar, the food is different and people look different too.  It’s kinda crazy.  Our world is so much smaller than we think it is.

China surprised me. In a good way. I was expecting to feel overwhelmed by it. I wasn't. I'll give my friend 100% credit for that because she interpreted everything for me and basically let me follow her around like a lost puppy. I really did. I was no help AT ALL. None. But I could follow along like a champ.  Give them this amount of it. Take the #5 train...okay. He's asking you if you want your bubble tea warm or cold...oh, um...cold? (btw: definitely the right decision. Officially addicted now).

But back to China. It's so different. I've been lucky to travel to quite a few places on this globe, but China wins the prize for the being most different from home. I kinda loved it for its vast differences. Now, some of those things are super annoying and I was ready to leave them behind when I got back on that plane, but overall I couldn't believe the wonder that is this place called China.

I've been writing for days. Trying to get my thoughts out of my head and into words. It's hard. So much of this trip will live inside me. It's changing me. There will be things I can't explain #becauseChina. (I swear that hashtag is truly the only explanation for some things. Things like Chinglish signs or squatty potties) There will be things that I'll realize 3 years from now that will all come back to this trip. But for now, I'll do my best to be brief while giving you a peak into this trip of a lifetime.

I leave you with this photo...

...this is the garbage truck in the neighborhood where I stayed.  This is 2015, not 1890.  Like I said #becauseChina.  No other explanation.

More, oh so much more, to come.

March 23, 2015

My claustrophobia is hyperventilating

In one week's time, I will be well into a 14 hour flight to Beijing, China.
(14 hours?!! My claustrophobia is already hyperventilating.)
For those of you who don't know, I've been wanting to go to China since I was elementary school age.  Not to see the Great Wall or the Forbidden City or the Terra Cotta Warriors, although I'm sure those things are incredible. No, I've always wanted to go and just hug the orphans over there.  I've tried several times to plan a trip with various organizations and each time, something came up and I was unable to go.

This time, a sweet friend of mine, who is living over there and working in an orphanage, kindly told me when she got her job that I was more than welcome to come and visit AND play with the babies under her care.  I believe her exact words were "YOU BETTER COME VISIT" in all caps. second thinking that decision.  Spend some time with my friend and fulfill a life long dream.  Yes and yes.

So off I go on this crazy adventure.  Semi-scared that China will get the best of me with its weird foods (I don't even like America's version of Chinese food) and over abundance of people and pollution.  Semi-scared that I will not be able to leave those precious kiddos behind when I have to step back on that plane to come home.  One hundred percent in awe of the perfect timing that God blessed me with in this whole situation.  And so freakin' excited that I can't catch my breath.

I'm hoping (and pretty confident) that I will be posting regularly on Instagram.  Thank you Jesus for iPhones and iMessage.  What did I ever do without them?  Truly.  I don't want to remember that dark time.  Plus, you can be sure that I will take 5 gazillion pictures and want to share every single one.  You've been warned.

It's happening.

March 06, 2015

Take a deep breath

A million different things can hold you back.  From the life you are called to live.  From the adventures that beckon.  Fear, money, time, people's expectations or assumptions.  So many things that seem so overwhelmingly huge in your head, yet in reality are just excuses, most of the time.  You meet people who do that thing or go to that place that you dream about.  You think "they must be special, not like me".

Sometimes...sometimes you decide to take the leap.  Look fear in the face and say "you will not win today".  You take a deep breath, gulp down the anxiety creeping up from your stomach and here-we-go...

(more details to come...)

February 28, 2015

being brave

I have multiple posts that I have written and not posted.  It's weird because this used to be such a comfortable place.  Now, I come here and constantly re-think what I should say.  Should I talk about the things I'm enjoying on TV/movies? (I wrote a whole post on that topic)  Should I tell a story like I used to?  (wrote one of those too) Or maybe just write and write and write whatever may come out?  (yup, wrote that as well)

I just don't know how to do this anymore.  And honestly, I don't think anyone reads, which is 100% understandable because I haven't written regularly in years.  But I miss it.  So I don't even care.  I'm going to write when I feel it.  I'm going to ramble and dribble on.  And post a photo or two because I'm still taking them constantly.

Here's to being brave and posting again.

January 09, 2015

I am...

(from that glorious day in Maui spent on the beach getting a wicked sunburn on my back)

I am a writer.
No, I'm not paid to write.

I don't have novels with my name on them stacked on shelves or piles of magazines with my short stories printed in them.  I've never been published.  I've never been given actual American dollars to put pen to paper.  But I read Stephen King's book "On Writing" and he says that if you write, even for yourself, then you are a writer.  You write for your sanity, not for a pay check. I feel like he's earned enough credit as a writer to define who as writer is, don't you?  Thank you, Mr. King.  I am definitely in that boat.  The one where sanity wins after the words finally finish spilling out.

This past December thirty-first, I completed an entire year of writing every day.  Mostly in a journal.  My favorite form has always been pen and paper.  Computers are great and all, but they just don't hold the same punch.
Anyway, I wrote every single day.  Okay I may have forgotten -or fallen into bed too exhausted- 3 times, but I went back the next morning and filled in the missing day's entry.  My journal went with me to Hawaii and Utah.  It followed me on trips home to see my parents.  It was always in my carryon for easy access.
I wrote what I did that day. I wrote what was on my heart. I wrote out my tears and frustrations and there were a lot of them last year.  I wrote out my joys and the times when things were good.  I wrote about books I finished and loved.  I wrote about The Walking Dead and The Good Wife.  I wrote when I was scared.  I wrote about being lonely. I wrote when I didn't understand why things were happening and didn't have the answers.  I wrote about dear friends and the times I felt loved and cared for.  I wrote about what God was teaching me.  I wrote when I was angry at Him too.  I was honest.  Brutally so.

And then the year ended.  But I couldn't put my journal down.  I was more hungry to write than I had ever been. Can I tell you after doing a 365 challenge (see my other year long 365 projects like a-photo-a-day or the Bible in a year) that same thing you loved can become the one thing you almost dread.  It can feel like a chore.  When I read the Bible through in a year, it felt like a chore. The day after I finished, I read just a handful of verses and Jesus and I had a glorious time together.  And I still take a lot of photos, but certainly not one every single day.

But just captures me.  Nonsense, good-sense, no-sense.  I love it all.  I love to end the day with full journal pages and a mind at ease.

Now there are things I would love to write.  A novel.  A completed story.  A devotional.  A play. Whatever else sounds fun.  And maybe one day those things will come.  I take comfort in people like Julia Child who didn't begin cooking, like, didn't even know how, until she was in her late 30's.  There's still time for me, if there was still time for Julia, right?

So for today, I am a writer.  A writer of dreams and hopes.  Of a life lived.  Of tiny insignificant details.   I may be the only one to ever read this story.  And that's okay.

I...I am a writer.
(it's crazy to say that out loud)

December 31, 2014

Farewell two thousand and fourteen

It's been a while.  Just acknowledging that so you don't think I just didn't realize that it had been 6 months since I've posted on my blog.  I knew it.  I would go and even check the blog myself to see if I had posted anything.  Me.  The dummy who writes this thing.  

Because, you see, this entire year has felt very much out of body.  And mostly not in a good way.  I feel battle scarred and bruised.  Limping across the finish line.  No.  Crawling and moaning is more accurate.  

2014 was a year I will never forget.  It was full (to the brim, I might add) with hard, life altering lessons.  Brutal truths and hard moments followed by glorious wonder and provision.  It has been lesson after lesson in seeing God more clearly than ever before, but with the knowledge that that sight usually comes in the darkest of times.  

I have seen Him do miracles this year.  Provide where there was absolutely nothing that my human eyes could see or reason. I've seen Him grant mercy and grace.  I've seen Him show love and kindness. However, each of those things had to be granted in the darkest of hours in the most challenging of moments.  I'm learning how much brighter He shines when the darkness threatens to swallow me up.

Life was hard in 2014.  And I am very VERY glad to kick it to curb and leave it behind forever.  I've been longing for December 31st for months.  Not that a date change on the calendar really means much, but it sure does feel good.

So as not to end on a horribly depressing note (hello, pessimism, my old friend), I decided to pop in on the last day of the year to list a few things that I have actually enjoyed this year.  Because I know you want a list from this "really cool girl who is happily snuggled in her pajamas at 8:30pm on New Year's Eve."  I'm sure that girl has mountains of advice and recommendation you want to hear, right?  
Thought so.

Here we go:

Books I've enjoyed:

* Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

* Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas (and you MUST listen to Kristen Bell read it aloud to truly enjoy every second of this gem)

* Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

* Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon

* Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

* 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker 

* Harry Pottter #1,2,3,4 (I'm re-reading [and listening to Jim Dale read] these gems in order from the beginning again.  And can I just say they are just as enjoyable and perfect)

Movie/TV shows that I enjoyed:

Last Days in Vietnam  (I saw this movie in January and am still thinking about it constantly.  One of the best documentaries I've seen.  Ever.)

* The Walking Dead (the end of season 4 and the first part of season 5.  Good gracious, YES.)

* The Good Wife (season 5 was simply the best thing on TV)

* Veronica Mars (I Kickstarted the movie and it did not disappoint. In fact, I've watched it about 16 times since it released in March)

* About Time (surprised me in all the best ways)

* The Theory of Everything

* Mockingjay Part 1 (thank you for being so much better than the book)

* The Imitation Game

* Parks and Rec (continues to be the best comedy on TV)

* Downton Abbey (I can't help but love and re-watch every season)

* Sherlock season 3

* Broadchurch (please don't watch the horrid American version, Gracepoint, and think it is the same thing)

* Homeland season 3

* Short Term 12 (maybe my favorite of the whole year)

* The Way, Way Back

* Saving Mr Banks

Random others:

* HONY on Instagram (It is simply the best thing/idea/creative endeavor/little corner of the internet.  I adore it)

* VSCOcam app.  (the best photo editing app got even better this year)

* iphone 6 (I'm ashamed to admit that I can't live without it)

* DSLR SnapShop (Ashley Ann's online class was incredibly helpful and full of lightbulb lessons for me.  Highly recommend it)

* Kauai (it is the most beautiful place on the planet and the fact that I got to spend a few days there this year made me insanely happy)

* David's Tea (for all its delightfully addictive flavors)

* Essential Oils (It was the year of full emersion in EO's for me.  I'm a convert and now use them multiple times a day)

*  She Reads Truth (beautiful devotions and lovely design)

*  Moleskin unlined journals w/ black Sharpie pens

* movie (instrumental) soundtracks (they still continue to be my music of choice)

It's always good to focus on the blessings and fun/good things.  
Puts things in perspective.  

Goodbye 2014.  
I won't miss you.  
I'm glad you are leaving.

2015, let's be friends, okay?  
Be kind, won't you please?

June 01, 2014

So I don't forget what's going on right now

>>I took a nap today and it was glorious.

>>This past week was one of amazing blessings that occurred only because of the incredible trials that happened simultaneously.  You can't have one without the other, right?  Well, I guess you can, but you certainly won't appreciate them as much or revel in their wonder as much as when you are flat on your face with nothing but Jesus to pick you up.  I'd like to see a blessing brought by good things, but I'm also learning to be content with where God has me.  Including those times when life is hard.  Choosing joy. Learning that my peace comes from Him and not what is swirling around me.

>>My pastor's sermon was about trials this morning.  No joke.  It was about the disciples on the water in the storm and Jesus coming to them.  He basically gave an entire message that was 100% exactly what I needed to hear after a week of trial after trial.  I took lots of notes and just soaked in every verse.  Love it when God shows up like that in life.  He feels so personal and close, doesn't He?

>>I finished my first book of off the summer reading list.  These Broken Stars.  It was good.  I couldn't put it down, so I finished it quickly.  But it wasn't one of those "stay-with-you-for-a-while" stories.  I just wanted to know what happened.
Also, I would like to just like to comment on the trend of naming characters way-out-there names.  I feel like it started with Hunger Games years ago.  Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch, Primrose, Gale (which now seem normal because we all know and love them).  The two main characters in this book were Lilac and Tarver.  Kinda weird.
I'm totally fine with fun new names, but please, can we just back off a bit and stop trying to re-invent the world we create by giving people random names just because?  The 100 was the worst offender.  I literally didn't remember who anyone was because the names were so ridiculous and hard to remember.  Clarke was a girl.  Bellamy was a boy. And Glass...a girl.  It was distracting.

>>Current obsessions: getting everything on my list completed (I'm determined to not be 50% behind when camp starts on Wednesday.  This might be a pipe dream, but by hook or by crook, I'm gonna try.); Catching Fire: movie and soundtrack (still re-watching/listening constantly), Fever by The Black Keys; Ruth and the whole concept of a Redeemer and Christ being my Redeemer; How I Met Your Mother (just started from the beginning for the first time); reading this (I'm into the Great War and poisonous gas and the horrors of Gallipoli.  I keep thinking about that scene in Legends of the Fall when Samuel gets stuck in the barbwire fence when the gas is released and Tristan is screaming his name searching for him) and listening to this (2 months free of Audible courtesy of Amazon Local coupon).

>>Essential Oils.  I use them every day now.  Diffuse them at night (alternate between Thieves so I don't get sick and lavender and peppermint for a peaceful night sleep).  I use them on my face in the morning (frankincense) and evening (blend called Clear Skin).  Still searching for something to help with headaches though.  Nothing I've tried has truly taken them away, only helped slightly.

>>One of those blessings this week was phone calls and texts from dear friends whom I haven't seen in a long time.  It's amazing what a short conversation with someone who loves you and is genuinely concerned for your heart will do for you.  I felt so much better having just had them listen to me and care about what was going on in my life.  And hearing their burdens and taking those on my shoulders as well.  I hate distance and the inevitable lessening of time spent together.  But I'm also thankful for those dear ones that instantly feel like home when I'm with them or talking with them no matter how long it's been in between visits.  I'm incredibly blessed by the friends in my life.

>>It all starts Wednesday.  Summer #16 here.  I'm equally so excited I could jump out of my skin and terrified that that it's actually here.

Summer 2014, let's be friends.  Let's have some adventures.  Let's learn some lessons together and make some fantastic memories.

May 23, 2014

5th Annual Summer Reading List

It's that time of year again.
Summer Reading List time.
I have almost as much fun making the list (maybe more) than I do actually reading the books.
It's all about having a list of exciting titles ready at a moment's notice, more than it is about completing each and every one.

Some turn out to be awful.
A few unexpected ones always manage to squeak their way onto the list too.
And sometimes you find a book that you will love for the rest of your life like this one and recommend it to everyone you've ever known (and sometimes strangers).

This year is much lighter on fiction than it has ever been before.
I've picked up a few from the thrift store.
Two have been gifted.
One arrived randomly by mail.
Two more are classics that I've never read before.

The Summer 2014 Reading List:

1.  Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon.    My parents got me this one for my birthday.  I'm already halfway through, and it's so incredibly interesting.  It reminds me of Rilla of Ingleside and how Anne Shirley and her family went through The Great War.  But this is a true story and it's the uber rich of Great Britain.

2.  Lady Catherine, the Earl and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon.  Another gift from the parents.  If it's anywhere as good as the other one is, then I can't wait to dive in.

3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  This one has been on my to-read list for a long time.  Found a copy at the thrift store for 50 cents.

4.  Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty.  Another thrift store 50 cents deal.  Hopefully it's as good as another Pulitzer Prize winning epic that is on my favorite-books-of-all-time list.  (If you've only ever seen Gone with the Wind, you must read the book.  It's 960 pages of amazing.)

5.  These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.  My only YA fiction novel on the list.  Shocking, isn't it.  I've heard this is a good one.  Hope so.  I've been disappointed by the last few YA novels I've read lately.

6.  The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas.  It's a follow up to the Veronica Mars movie.  Enough said.  I think I may have to get this one on audio book just so I can hear Veronica herself read it.

7.  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I recently watched Capote with Philip Seymour Hoffman for the first time (um....amazing!).  Of course I must now read the book.

8.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I had no idea that Lee and Capote were BFF's.  And I've never read this and have always wanted to.  

9.  Preemptive Love by Jeremy Courtney.  This was the one that was sent to me in the mail.  A friend of mine spent her summer with Preemptive Love in Iraq last year.  She had some amazing stories.

That's it for now.
Definitely more titles than I will actually be able to read during my crazy camp summer.
But the list will just roll over into the fall.
I've realized that I'm a slow reader.
Unless a book truly captures me and I can't stop turning the pages (example: Harry Potter), I take my time.
Usually that means that I'll have to check things out from the library a few times to finish it.
And you know what?
That's okay.

What's on your list right now?
What are you recommending to every one?
(and Unbroken.  I don't have words to adequately describe how it will capture your heart.)

April 30, 2014

30 Days: Day 30 - the end

I'm finishing up my 30 days of blogging in the midst of a thunderstorm and a torrential downpour that has been drowning us all day.  No joke.  I love a good rainy day, but this is a little extreme.  We're having costal flooding from the river and rain flooding all over the rest of the property.  The photo above was just taken outside of the cottage.  It's wet here.  Very wet.

Well, 30 days of blogging.  I have to admit that it was hard.  I didn't love it.  It felt like a chore to cross of the list each day.  In fact, I felt like most of what I posted was just mumbling because I didn't know what to write.  I need a direction for this little spot on the internet.  Somewhere to focus.  Right now, I just post whatever comes out of my head.  I want it to mean something.

All that to say, that I think my posting will continue to be sporadic until I figure out what this space is supposed to be or if it's supposed to continue at all.  I used to love blogging.  This year is Cottage Girl's 9th blog-iversary.  Most of those years, this has been a place where I love to come and share.  But I also know that there are seasons in life and sometimes it's time to let things go.  Don't know if it's exactly time to say goodbye to this space yet, but I'm also okay with taking the time to evaluate whether this is the platform I want to use to share my thoughts.

I'll still be on Instagram because I love it dearly (and avoiding Facebook because I really don't like it even one little bit).  I'll still be sharing snapshots of camp life and travels and pretty things there.  You are welcome to come and join me.  I'm finding that a photo and few words are where the wind is taking me these days.  And that's okay.  Seasons to everything.

So, I'll see you when I see you.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe next week.  And maybe no one is even reading, so this is all just a journal entry for someone to find 30 years in the future.


Cottage Girl

April 29, 2014

30 Days: Day 29 - Gem

It's always fun when you find gems like this on your camera.
When your brother takes your camera and takes selfies.
Major bonus of this one is that it is in my favorite spot on Kauai, the Napali Coast.

When I say it's the most beautiful spot on the planet, I'm sure you can't tell from this photo.
But those cliffs make your jaw drop when you see them for the first time.
Or the 15th time.
They are that spectacular.
You also can't tell from this photo, but the wind could blow your camera out of your hand.
This spot was an overlook on a hike we did that has the beach on the right and the cliffs on left and nothing but miles of ocean in front of you.

I miss all the hiking we did in Hawaii.
Living in Kauai would be so perfect because there are cliffs to hike and beaches to swim.
A dream.

Anyway, I love this photo.

Enough rambling.

April 28, 2014

30 days: Day 28 - Seeking Him

A few days ago, I wrote about the study of Joshua I had been doing this spring with the camp girls.  Remember how I said it was perfectly timed by the Lord for my heart at this exact season of my life?  Well, at the same time I was doing this study with the ladies at my church.  And I ,once again, was blown away with how God met me and used this study at exactly the perfect time of life.

I've done a lot of Bible studies.  Some in small groups.  Some just alone on my own.  This one ranks up there as one of my very, very favorite.  It is no nonsense, tell it like it is, make me deal with my stuff right here and now.  That's the way I like a study to work.  Don't dance around the Bible.  Don't try and sugar coat things.  Tell me what the Word says and ask me if I'm doing that.

This study had one of those session each week that had a list of things you should be/have/behave/think/do and things that you shouldn't.  Very revealing of my heart and where I really was in my relationship with Christ.  It asked questions like "Do I see my sin as God sees it, or do I tend to think in terms of "weakness," "problems," slip-ups," or "personality quirks"?  Yikes.  There was a whole week focusing on pride.  Oh, dear.  Let's just say I asked for lots of forgiveness that week.  LOTS.

I was also incredibly blessed to be put in a small group with some dear ladies who longed to know Jesus better and weren't afraid to admit they didn't have it all together.  We could be honest with each other in our struggles and our victories.  I loved that.  I loved that we started as strangers and God knit our hearts together in our struggles and our honesty.  That's the way it should work, don't you think?

So, if you are in need of hitting the refresh button on your walk with Jesus, this is a good place to start, as long as you are willing to put in the work and be honest with the condition of your heart.  I recommend finding a group of women who want to know Jesus better and do the study together.  Accountability is key.  I pray that it brings revival to your heart like it has to mine.

This study along with a few dozen other things have been a big part of a wave of grace and revival sweeping through my church.  When people decide to get real with Jesus, He shows up.  My goodness, does He show up!

April 27, 2014

30 Days: Day 27 - Printing photos

(a snippet of my growing magnet collection)

Photos are a big deal to me.
I need reminders of those little snippets of life.
We don't have to print photos out now that actual film is out of the photo taking process.
But I say that there is nothing like have a photograph in your hand and around your house.

Here are a 5 simple ways that I've gotten my photos off of my hard drive and into my hands.

1. I can't get enough Instagram magnets from Sticky9. The hardest part is whittling down which photos to print.  The quality is superb and size is just too cute. These would make adorable gifts to family who live far away.

2. I've also had great luck with prints from MPix. Their colors have been spot-on for me, which is my biggest gripe with lots of photo printing these days.

3. Printstagram also has super cute mini prints that I've used as tiny note cards for friends.

4. Blurb makes beautiful photo books of all types, shapes and sizes.  I've used them many times and the quality is great.

5. Postagram is the easiest way to send a note complete with your own personal photo from your phone.  I've used this app countless times to send fun, personal thank you notes.

How have you gotten your photos off your computer and into you hands?

April 26, 2014

30 days: Day 26 - Working Saturday

Today is a working Saturday day, which unfortunately turns into a working Sunday as well.
Working weekends has been a part of my life for 13 years.
Thankfully I don't work every weekend like I used to.
That was challenging.

I also squeezed in 2 personal projects between serving meals for the groups that are here.
It always feels good to cross things off the check list, doesn't it?!
All this bright warm sunshine does wonders for my laziness.
It's not so hard to be productive when it feels like the earth is doing the same thing with all that green growing around me.
I always find myself turning off the TV this time of year and heading outside to find a weed to pull or a porch to clean or a photo to take.

Deep happy sigh....spring, spring SPRING!

April 25, 2014

30 days: Day 25 - nothing else

Sometimes your mother and your brother go on a spectacular helicopter tour of Kauai
and you take a nap in the rental car with your dad.

And there is nothing else in the world that you would rather be doing.
Because you realize that this is vacation and you can do whatever the heck you want to do.

***and because you suffer from the plague named "motion sickness" and 1.5 hours in a floating bubble sounds like H-E-doulbe-hockey-sticks.   

April 24, 2014

30 Days: Day 24 - Wall art

I've had my eye on quite a lot of prints on Etsy lately.  Time to refresh some walls and add some new life.  Here are a few favorites that are just waiting to go into the old shopping cart.  

(I've always been a little obsessed with space and the moon and stars)

(one of my favorite pieces of scripture)

(i love this x900.  so perfect.)

(I've been drooling over NL's work for years.  This piece is one of her best.)

VN Printable Art
(I'd love to do an all black and white wall like this one)

Concepcion Studios
(cause he's my favorite character ever, EVER)

April 23, 2014

30 Days: Day 23: Cold Complaining

(one of my favorite thrift store scores ever.  a Beatles album in playable condition for $1)
(it has nothing to do with this post)

I'm trying really hard not to complain.
I am.
Now...I'm also failing miserably in all this trying.

It's cold here.
One of the coldest, most snowy winters I have ever experienced here on the East Coast.
It is now being followed by one of the coldest Springs.
It's miserable, you guys.

I will admit that Hawaii was the cruelest of teases.
80 degrees days and 60 degree evenings.
We left a day early for that trip to Hawaii to avoid a massive snowstorm.
Only to come fly home the day of yet another snowstorm.

It feels like Narnia when the White Queen was ruling.
Always winter and never Christmas.

I'm ready for short sleeves and flip-flops.
I'm ready for planting flowers.
I'm ready for the annual cleaning of the porch to enjoy the sunsets (at 8:00!).
I'm ready for not putting on extra layers of clothing because the chill just won't leave the air.

I'm sorry for complaining, but I need winter to disappear!
Come, Alsan and vanquish this wretched winter.
Banish it to the depths of the sea for a few months.

2014, you will be remembered by your horrid, cold entry.
Let's hope you decide to play nice the rest of the year.
I can't take any more of this cold non-sense.

April 22, 2014

30 Days: Day 22 - The ordinary

(new art for my walls from my sweet sister)

I haven't a proper post because I was scouring the beach for driftwood and cutting paper feathers out of old Anthropologie catalogs.  Oh, and doing a load of wash while watching Mary and Matthew have their proper fairy tale engagement.  Phone calls with parents.  Cooking of dinner.  Talks with old friends.  Plus, working a full 8 hours cleaning the gym, sweeping floors, answering phones, opening and distributing mail and having a long discussion about fashion with a highly intelligent kindergartener.
Life is funny, sometimes, in the things that make it up.  Bits and bobs of randomness that string together to make our days.  Little moments of seeming unimportance.  Usually they fly by at such a rapid pace that we don't have a moment to sit in the wonder of their ordinary existence.  I know I can end days thinking "today was so ordinary and boring".

But is there really such a thing?

April 21, 2014

30 Days: Day 21 - color and light

I have been re-watching Downton again, but then again it always seems to be queued up on either my computer, iPhone or DVR.  Period pieces have always been a weakness for me.  I adore them.  So a TV show that's also a period piece in my favorite era of fashion?  Well, basically, Downton is a perfect storm of entertainment.

And while we could get into a great discussion over the stories and plot ups and downs, it's the light and color that I have been unable to stop staring at this watch-through.  The color palate in the dresses and outfits that everyone wears.  The details and perfect contrast of black and white in the simple black dresses the maids wear in season 1.  The colors of the Crawley sisters' dresses.  Oh my.  Mary is my favorite up until this past season and then Edith steals the show.  The colors they put her in with her red highlighted hair.  Her wardrobe was magic.  

Then there is the perfect lighting.  Who ever lights this show deserves all the awards they could ever possibly be given.  It is one of the most beautifully lit shows I have ever seen.  It's an art form.  It is one of the main reasons that you could take any single frame and hang it on your wall and it would seem like a work of art.  Oh, to know light like that.  What a wonder to see the world in perfect shades of light.  

And one more fun one that isn't an example of either light or costume, but simply makes me smile from ear to ear.

Are you a Downton fan?
Am the only one that is constantly re-watching it and loving even more each time?