Sunday, June 26, 2011

Happy 2 years!

This past week we celebrated our two year anniversary. Yea us! It was a lovely year in addition to our first and perhaps flew by at twice the speed!

We celebrated by spending the night at a wellness resort on the north side of Lake Travis. Fear not, we haven't become bizarre hippies who work on our marriage by spending hours sweating it out in yoga. (although we could have if we wanted to at this place) A few months ago, Arthur retweeted a contest giveaway by a local radio station and won a nights stay at Travaasa Austin, a wellness all organic retreat, for persons who proverbially enjoy the smell of their own farts.

Listen, we're not opposed to clean water, lots of trees, or recycling. But when you go to a luxury hotel, and your bathrobe looks like this:

You gotta wonder-- is anyone thinking through anything these days??

I have to say though, we slept like royalty on our all organic bed with all organic bed linens (which were wrinkled on the bed because ironing takes up too much energy...seriously) with AMAZING blackout shades, and the AC turned down low!

The hotel has a variety of rooms and ours was a trail view room--

It felt like we were a million miles from civilization. Tranquil indeed.

On Monday morning after our locally sourced, all organic breakfast (smell your own farts, remember?) we checked out, and treated ourselves to the early bird showing of Super 8. We loved the movie, and loved that we were practically the only people in the theater!

After that we headed down to our favorite nearby small town, Wimberley (we will live there someday....) to swim at the blue hole-- a local spring-fed swimming hole. It was refreshingly cold, and really the perfect way to finish our day.

And to top it all off, my dear sweet husband got me, his silly wife a beautiful anniversary gift-- one that I had spotted on pinterest and whined about frivolously wanting for no good reason other than it's beautiful. Behold:

Measuring cups. So pretty, I don't know what to do with myself.

He really does love me.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Arthur!

While this post comes a little late, our celebrations did not. Arthur's birthday rolled around, and since it's the last sacred year before the big 3-0, we kept our celebrations decidedly small, albeit still lovely.

Channeling my inner Martha, for unknown and ludicrous reasons, I decided to wrap Arthur's presents in matching kraft paper, and stamp a pretty, yet still masculine design on the wrapping, and the bag. A paisley will always be masculine will it not? I think so-- paisleys scream smoking jackets, the color burgundy, and everyone's father's ties. I added some pretty but still masculine hunter green raffia to tie everything together. As a side note, remember when hunter green was THE color of the 90s? I was thrilled to visit my local craft shop and find it still stocked.

I suppose I thought that if my little Martha venture was easy enough, I could replicate it at Christmas, and become one of those psychos who have beautiful and entirely matching presents under the tree. Well it was ridiculously hard, and so while I'd like not to, I have an entire roll of kraft paper, which tells me I probably will be stamping and creating my own nauseatingly pretty Christmas wrap. Sorry.

But onto the important parts-- the presents!

Opening with anticipation
A casual, yet classy addition to Arthur's ever-growing wardrobe.
Upon organizing his ties earlier this month, we discovered he had no really good blue tie. Thus, a tie.
Struggling with the wrapping.
A great stupor of thought. Actually, he's just reading the label.  A little known fact about my husband is that he enjoys a good bath. So, I thought, why not stock up on gender neutral bath bubbles so he can stop stealing (and wasting) my body wash? Not self-serving in the slightest.
Showing off his latest wares.
His last gift came a few days later, because it was bought via the intertubes, on A nifty little cord that goes from your iphone to your car's computer. With a couple of free apps, Arthur can now drive around town and get his exact mpg, oxygen intake, and other important car facts, as well as decipher what those annoying codes mean. Nifty huh? He was thrilled.

Happy Birthday my love. You mean the world to me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Graduation gifts...

To yourself, might be the best thing ever. Case in point:

Thug Life. Fo' Reals.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ALIVE: Jessica and Arthur!

I know it's been awhile, and if you're our friends who happen to live in town and see us, then you know we're alive. But if you live elsewhere, I realize our web silence may appear as though we might be dead. I apologize for possibly giving you concern. We're not dead.... it's just been a couple of "those" months. The kind that make you fall in bed every night exhausted, become an expert at eating things while driving and talking on the phone at the same time, and glance at the calendar and wonder, "Where did the time go?" I finally saw our friend Amy recently, and she told us, "We haven't seen you in what seems like forever..." and when I told her about our past month or so, all she could say was, "Wow."

So prepare yourself, this post is a whole bunch of "Wow."

Where were we last? SXSW had just happened right? I was really happy to have my husband back after many moons of benadryl induced sleep. (That's the only way I sleep when Arthur is gone-- Benadryl.)

First, we lost one of the good people of the world.

Trevor Searle died in a skateboarding accident at the beginning of March. I didn't know Trevor personally very well, but he was good friends with my brother who is on a mission, my mother taught him for several years in Sunday School, and Trevor's Dad, Ryan, was my Sunday School teacher (one that left a lasting impression on me) when I was a youth. Ryan and his brother Jeremy were also very close to Harrison as a youth, as well.

But when I went to his funeral, to pay my respects, I truly grieved. Trevor was one of the really good people in our world-- at 17. He was the kind of kid who befriended everyone, had an amazing zeal for life, was beloved by parents, grandparents, school teachers, church teachers. He was an amazing brother to his siblings, an Eagle Scout, and was fully committed to going on a mission for our Church and going to Utah State University. It was a huge loss for his family, but also for his church family, and our community at large. He had already started a non-profit for families in his young age as well.

I'm not going to lie, I left his funeral feeling really downtrodden. While it was an uplifting funeral, in that his family talked about being together forever as an eternal family, I was still upset at the Lord's timing. I know He has a reason, and I have faith in that-- but it shook me to my core-- as to why. And over the rest of March, I just had to come to grips with the fact (again) that I will never know why-- with a lot of different things. Life is constantly going to give me "Why, God, Why?" in all kinds of forms-- like a good kid in the ward passing away. And it's up to me, to grieve, or (with lesser trials) to be frustrated or just to deal and to recognize that I do have faith in the Lord and that I have faith in his timing, however painful it might be.

Next, I decided to celebrate my birthday with a friend.

Tara and I's birthdays are less than a week apart. So it made sense this year to do something together. So the Saturday before my birthday, we decided to invite as many of our friends as possible and hike Enchanted Rock. It actually turned out to be just me, Tara, Michele and Arthur, go figure. And you know what? It was really fun. It was one of the first quite warm days (in the high 70s, maybe 80s, not like really hot) and it was beautiful out there. For those not in the know, Enchanted Rock is this giant pink rock dome in the middle of nowhere about an hour or hour and a half outside of Austin. It's a quick and easy 25 minute climb to the top, with spectacular views of the Texas Hill Country as it's the highest geographical point for miles...It was a very fun and simple way to celebrate a birthday, especially with what had happened that morning.

That morning I learned of some really dreadful news.

Let me preface this with a little back story. The ward I grew up in, and which I happen to live now, has some of my parents best friends in it. They're best friends because they're great people, and they raised their families together. And those other couples-- there are about 5 other couples besides my parents-- with their children are like extended family to me. They are the best of the best-- cream of the crop people, who I could turn to for anything, anytime. I love all of them in different ways, and yet, in the same way-- like second sets of parents.

So the morning that we were about to go out to Enchanted Rock, as we were finishing up breakfast, I get a phone call from my dad.
The kind you never want to get, ever.
And on the other end my dad sounded heartbroken and hallow and very very far away.
My father with hesitation and great difficulty quietly told me that our good friend, Mike Theodosis had passed away of a heart attack early that morning. One of our other friends Vince, had gotten a frantic phone call around 6 am that morning, and he jumped out of bed and beat the paramedics to the Theodosis' home, but there was nothing to be done. Mike was 52 when he passed away and left behind his beautiful wife Sally and four lovely young adult children.
(This is a lot harder to write than I thought it would be and I am crying still writing this....)

Mike and Sally and my parents went to Italy together twice-- they are great travelling companions and good friends-- the very best of friends. Mike was tough and smart and every bit of a guy's guy-- he loved cars and guns and hunting and he was funnier than anyone I know. My brothers always said and knew that if they ever did anything colossally stupid as teenagers, that it wasn't my dad that they had to worry about but it was Mike-- because they knew that Mike would be the friend my dad would call to find my brothers and beat sense into them! And they were scared of Mike even though they loved him. And as I was reflecting, I realized that the reason I felt safe, even thousands of miles away at college, was that of course, my parents were there for me, but if for any reason they couldn't be, I knew that I could call Mike or Sally, and at the drop of a hat they would be there for me. What more can you ask for in a friend? I grew to love Mike even more as I started to date Arthur, because they were such good friends (after an initial period of realizing they had met the other smartest guy in the room...) and because Mike was such a great role model for Arthur. Despite being tough and a "man's man" Mike had a soft heart and was the kind of person who was constantly serving others and looking to Christ in all things. Arthur looked up to Mike and Mike let him and I am so grateful for that, as is Arthur. I love this picture of Mike and Sally at my wedding, because they were such great supports to Arthur and I as were getting married-- they beamed like my parents when we got sealed in the temple and I was so happy to share that day with them.

Mike's funeral service was on my birthday. All of us as a family piled into one tiny bench in a very crowded chapel and said goodbye to him. I will never forget sitting next to my brother Harrison, who at one point truly started to cry his eyes out, and me start to cry because he was crying and then looking over at my husband and see him squeak some tears out. And then to read my little brother's letter home that week and say that when his mission president called him to break the news, he just started to weep in the street. We all miss him so much.

Shortly thereafter, my parents came face to face with a really hard decision.

My parents built a beautiful house that I have lived in most of my life. We moved there when I was in the 8th grade, and it truly is a unique home that screams "Brett and Claire" in a very tasteful way. For a number of reasons, my parents have considered selling it for over a year. And they waffled, and went back and forth and weren't sure that this was what they were supposed to do. Because you don't build a house like my parents house and expect to move. Ever. Seriously-- that house is my family's house-- it's where our family grew up. And to even think about saying goodbye to it was hit-you-in-the-stomach hard.

But they had good reasons to sell the house, sentiment aside. And they were dreading it, but they made the decision that this is what they had to do, even though there were houses in their neighborhood that had been sitting on the market for months, and that real estate was really shaky. None of us were sure the house would sell at all. This economy after all, doesn't lend itself to houses like my parent's house.

So we had once last big dinner at the house.

We got out the china and Mom fixed a big Easter dinner and we had the Harrisons over and had one huge family meal. And it was so fun. And so fitting. Easter is the holiday of new birth-- of resurrection-- and in some ways, letting go of the house was a new birth for my parents. A Hard one, but a good one.

And so, hoping for a miracle commenced. With a lot of faith based action.

There was a lot to do to get the house ready to put on the market and it required a lot of hard labor and resourcefulness. The house was challenging to keep up when there were three kids at home to do yard work, and pool work and clean, but none of us had been living at home for quite sometime. It was overwhelming to look at what had to be done, to get it market ready. And I am so proud of my parents for looking at that problem square in the eye and tackling it. Because I get anxiety just thinking about it now. It was a HUGE job.

And you know what? My parents' dear friends and even some of our ward members came to our rescue. They lovingly put in service hours helping us in a week get the house in selling condition. I was floored by their generosity. How do you say thank-you to people like that? (With a thank-you note. Which I have yet to write! There are so many!) When I think about members of the church living in a zion like society I think of things like this-- there's no other way to describe it but pure love, for which I am so grateful.

Somewhere in between all of this, in a haze, I decided I needed a day off to do nothing. So I took the Royal Wedding Day off.

I arrived to work one day after a lot of work at my parent's house, and after not sleeping well at my house, and thinking about more hairstyling drama, I just said no. No more. I need a break. So I scheduled myself sometime off, that happened to be on Royal Wedding Day. And yes, I got up at the crack of dawn, and watched the entire thing. (I don't have a DVR or Cable so that was my only option) I even got myself some McVittes Digestives and had some herbal tea while I watched the entire thing. Arthur thought I was insane.

But I loved it--every second of it. It makes me believe in fairytales and that good things happen to good people everywhere! I love her and how she's a commoner, and I love that the Prince is brave enough to get married as he is a product of quite possibly the worst marriage in history, and I loved the pomp and circumstance of it. I loved that they looked so nervous and yet so happy! And my favorite part of the ceremony was all the hymns they sung-- especially Jerusalem. I love that everyone in England knows the words. I wish we sung it in our Church! (It makes sense sort of, an apocryphal story of Christ visiting England) See this video below:

Love love love it. Oh and as a side note I'd like to point out that she and I have very similar tastes in wedding dresses. (See our blog header) I got a lot of texts that morning proclaiming that I was fashion forward!

A few days later, after looking at numerous pictures, reliving the most fairytale wedding ever, I got really great news.

The house sold. In three days. THREE DAYS!!!
I'm not the kind of person who marvels at everyday miracles-- the sun rising, birds singing, fresh air or green trees. Sometimes yes, but most of the time, no. And you know what I should. Because I think when we look at those kind of miracles in every day life, we can expect Miracles in our own lives. I did not expect this Miracle. I didn't think the house was going to sell. Not for the exact asking price, and not in three days, not in a small neighborhood where 6 other houses were on the market for several weeks with no bites.

But it was a miracle, and an answer to prayer. Many prayers in fact.

And so the hard work truly commenced-- sorting through 13 years of life. What do you keep? What do you donate? What do you toss?

I kept my american girl dolls. I kept my wedding dress. (duh.) I kept quilts and my favorite stuffed animal. But I had to get rid of a lot. And I found some really funny things in there, that my 13 or 14 or 15 year old self thought were really important.

Apparently, I went through a big rule phase. Where I gave myself lots of rules to live by. Judging by my handwriting of one piece of paper I think I was 15 or 16 at the time. Looking at this, my mom started laughing and I said, "When did I stop being so ambitious?" And then I answered my own question: college.

Somewhere in there we celebrated Mother's day.

Happy Mother's Day mom. I love you. You are the best for a million different reasons that cannot be put into words.

In the middle of sorting and donating and keeping and tossing we decided to do some nannying for some friends.

They aren't kids that need to nannied actually. They're teenage boys that need light minding. But it required not living in my own house for a week, and dealing with dogs, and allergies, and eating lots of junk food. It pays well, and for every time our friends offer, I will go and "nanny." But it was the timing that was just a bit inconvenient. At least I got to see Thor.

And in the middle of that, it was my sister-in-law's birthday.

Happy Birthday Ashley! You are the best and only sister in law I have. I appreciate your humor, your fashion sense, and your intelligence, plus a lot more that I can't think of at the moment, but truly know I appreciate.

Immediately after all of that, my husband and my sister in law graduated.

Luckily Ashley and Arthur graduated from the same college (different schools) and so we got to sit together in the Erwin center through one long graduation ceremony.

I am truly SO PROUD of Arthur for his accomplishment. Many don't know that Arthur didn't graduate high school, but dropped out in the 8th grade, got his GED, practically emancipated himself, and starting going to community college, saving for a mission, and working full time AS A TEENAGER. He beat all kinds of odds and haters and nay-sayers who said he would never get here. Well-- not only did he graduate but he did it with style! He has truly learned the value of an education and hard work and he's an inspiration to me as well as those around him.

In prep for his graduation, I decided to design and send out my husband's graduation announcements and party invites. This happened in between the Royal wedding, somewhere in between sorting through life, kinda sorta while nannying and before the actual graduation. Looking back, I don't know how I had the time to do this, but somehow I did.

I don't love graduation announcements. They're stuffy and formal and boring. So I decided to create some that reflected Arthur's personality, his major and career choice. And I had a lot of fun doing it.

I decided that it would be great to have the old intertitle that used to show before a movie started in the theater. A projectionist used to load the film into the projector, and then the numbers 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, and then "Picture Start" used to flash across the screen before the actual film began. This is called the film leader and we only see it now as a "flashback" moment in movies typically. Picture Start might be a great way to say Career Start or Life after college start.

The old film leaders often had hand painted text but after looking at quite a few I realized that they were very close to the Futura font-- which totally makes sense, from a historical stand point, where film and type meet. (For non typographical weirdos like me, Futura was designed as a purely geometric font in 1927 and is kinda sorta lumped in with the Bauhaus movement. 1927 was the start of modern movie making with the release of the jazz singer, the first "talking" picture) Inside film joke #1

On the reverse side, I used two fonts also inspired by movie making. Courier, the typewriter looking one, is the standard font which all screenplays are written in. Inside Joke #2!

The other font, the tall and skinny one, is a new font, that was inspired by the titles of Dr. Strangelove: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb, Stanly Kubrick's classic film. Inside film joke #3

Lastly, I created a small insert card for the party we decided to have. (Not photo editing software isn't up, and I needed to blur my address and phone number...sorry!) I wanted it to feel like summer, since it was happening on memorial day weekend so I used a slightly larger version of the same font for the word celebrate, and in a slightly deeper hue from top to bottom.

In my dream world, I get to do this kind of thing every day.

Then it happened, my parents actually moved.

It was hot and tiring and overwhelming. Do you know how much crap is in a house after 13 years? Tons. Things you don't even see, ever, when it's your house, when you're living there. There was this moment that I was walking around, double and triple checking everything for stuff we had to throw away (I found a suitcase of pictures, a fake plant, some manila envelopes, some tupperware....all hiding) and I looked into what was our informal living room, and the way the light was just pouring in on the empty wood floor... it just hit me, full force. We will never be here again. This place that held such great memories, beautiful ones, funny ones, and so many friends, it will never be ours again.

And as I drove out of the driveway where I almost always run over the stupid little bushes on the left, for the last time, I cried a little. It was like saying goodbye to a faithful, well loved dog-- you know it will be happy with someone else, but you still miss it a little.

And being a crazy person, I decided to host a party for my husband not 48 hours later.

And this wasn't a casual party. I sent paper invitations for crying out loud. So what did I do? I spent two whole days baking. And cleaning. It was awesome.

The party was great. I invited people who have been great supports of Arthur over the years, friends and some new peeps to shake things up a bit. If I had it my way, I would have invited like 10 more, but I had about 20 people show up and that is maximum capacity for our apartment.

And did I take pictures? Nope. Seriously, how do you people do it? I NEVER remember to take pictures, ever, unless I'm like at home. And this party was at my home and I didn't take pictures. Thankfully Michele did.

But she didn't take pictures of the food, and I was kinda sad about that.

Have you heard about this great site called Pinterest?

Its the best. Seriously. You "pin" things to boards that you like visually and you share it with friends. Almost all of the recipes I used for the party came from pinterest.

Such as these:

These peanut butter and pretzels dipped in chocolate were the runaway hit of the party. Recipe here.

These cupcakes were a bit of a disappointment, even though I followed the recipe to the letter. What was even more maddening was that I took them the next day to another grad party, and told an acquaintance that they were a bit disappointing (I thought the cake was kinda dry. The frosting--divine!) and I didn't know what I did wrong and she proceeded to tell me what I should do next time. Thanks for your uninvited advice. I really wanted that. I feel even more like a loser with my cupcakes. Insert inappropriate words and mean thoughts. Recipe here.

These cookies tasted like heaven and air. Recipe here.

This was the easiest dessert ever, and most everyone loved it. Recipe here.

This lemonade was not so easy to make, but tasty although a bit tart. I would make it again provided I had more time, and a juicer, and less people. Recipe here.

All of these I found on pinterest! I love the site. If you want an invite, let me know! Get to pinning!

And now it is June. 
I've already laid out by the pool (for very short intervals, natch), seen some great movies (Thor, X-men, and moooore), celebrated my dad's birthday (happy birthday dad!), but it is very shortly Arthur's birthday (I'm in panic mode. Seriously.) and then our Wedding Anniversary. And then my brother's birthday. Oh and Father's Day too. Heaven help me.

It doesn't stop does it? Nope, it doesn't. And you know what-- I told you this post was a whole lot of "Wow."