Monday, March 31, 2014

I recently heard about through the blogosphere (thanks, Ashlee!) and wanted it to try it out myself before I mentioned it on the blog. thredUP is an online consignment store where you can browse through thousands of items and have them sent to your door. They're mostly name brand clothes that are new or barely worn. A couple items I purchased claimed they had a "tiny flaw" but I have yet to find it. I had the best experience and just had to tell somebody... anybody... you! You just can't beat it. 

Here's what I bought this first time around: 

For me:
1. Banana Republic shirt, $8.49
2. Oxford Circus casual dress, $11.99
3. Francesca's top, $5.49
4. Deletta top, $9.49
For Liam:
5. Old Navy button-down, $4.99
6. Gymboree board shorts, $3.49
7. Ralex sneakers, $7.99
8. Nike sneakers, $5.49
9. Baby Gap hoody, $5.99

With my first time customer discount of $10, I paid a total of $50.78 for all of this, including free shipping (for orders over $50). Kind of unbelievable.

I'm not getting paid for this post and thredUP only knows me as a happy customer. I just honestly had a great first experience and thought you should know. If you do want $10 off your first order, I'll also get $10 if you use this referral link.

Happy, happy shopping!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Let me be the first to admit that having a daily quiet time in this season of life feels nearly impossible some days. Let me also be the first to say it's never been more essential.

A "quiet time" is a Christian colloquialism that may not make much sense to people who haven't grown up in the church. Essentially, it's a time set aside each day to be still before the Lord, to read the Bible, to pray, and to ask God to quiet your heart enough to hear Him speak. I guess I'd prefer to call them "devotions" as "quiet times" with a toddler around are not always quiet.

These times aren't always life changing in big ways. Reading my Bible doesn't always bring me to tears or reveal huge and enlightening truths that I've never pondered before. Some days, opening my Bible is simply an act of obedience, as my affections for God feel weak.

But when I miss them, I miss what God has chosen to teach me that day. I miss the encouragement and the joy that comes from being close to my Creator. And I feel it. I feel it deep down in my bones. My patience with Liam runs thin, and my patience with myself runs thinner. I get so overwhelmed by another email, another spill, another load of laundry, another purse to sew. There's little room for gratitude and plenty of room for comparison and exhaustion. Just as eating gives life to my body, reading God's Word gives life to my soul.

Recently, it's felt most practical to open my Bible as soon as I open my eyes, and to focus on a short passage that I dwell on throughout the day. A few weeks ago, this one jumped off the page (from Psalm 119):
Don't you need this, too? For Him to turn your eyes from what is worthless (vain, empty, void) and give you life walking in His Ways? I do. Every day, I do.
B&H Publishing recently gave me a copy of their new study Bible for women, and I am so thankful for it. (If you're a blogger, you can even request a review copy for yourself.) The study notes are so helpful for new believers and seasoned believers alike, and they don't shy away from delving into controversial topics or mining the depths of theologically rich passages. It's not a women's study Bible that adds a lot of fluff between the pages. 

So maybe you've never done devotions on your own and you're wondering where to begin? Here are a few thoughts... 

Do it daily. I read somewhere that it takes two weeks to form a habit (and perhaps two weeks to break one, if I remember correctly). Purpose to sit down at the same time, in the same place for two weeks and open God's Word. Pray He reveals truth to you as you read. It will change your life. 

Set the tone. Have everything set up and ready to go. For me, it's a Bible, sometimes a journal, a devotional book (I actually love reading Liam's devotional book ), and a pen. If I'm alone in the house or Liam is asleep, it also includes something hot to drink, a candle, and some worship music. Right now, I'm loving Sovereign Grace Music, Phil Wickham, Rend Collective Experiment, or All Sons & Daughters. And if I'm really dreaming in color, my living room is clean. I'm not distracted by books scattered on the floor or a half empty bottle between the couch cushions. 

Become part of a Bible study, or start one of your own. This past year, I was involved in a weekly women's Bible study at my church and it helped keep me accountable to studying the Bible each day, keep me close to other Christian women my age, and it was just encouraging to talk about the Lord with others who love Him, too. Highly recommend.

DIY: Throw pillow with pom pom trim.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In my desire to update our living room and our reality that we have a very small budget for it, I found 30 minutes and some scrap fabric and made a throw pillow that I really love. 

The velvet and canvas fabric was leftover from a custom order of clutches, and I can't seem to find the name of it. (If anyone finds it, let me know!) Here is a similar fabric. You'd only need to order 1/2 yard. For the back of the pillow, I used painter's drop cloth canvas, which was leftover from the slipcover I made for the chair you see above. 

I had an extra 14" x 14" pillow form, so I cut the front piece of fabric to 15.5" by 15.5" and used a 1/2" seam. I like the pillow form to fit snuggly inside the pillow case, and I knew this pillow was very overstuffed. If yours is a more flat pillow form, I'd suggest making your pillow case even smaller (maybe cutting your fabric 14.5" x 14.5").

If you've never made an envelope-style pillow case, it couldn't be easier! Here's a great tutorial I recommend. 

For the ball trim, I added it to the front piece of fabric by stitching it near the edge before I sewed the back and front pieces together. That way, when I pinned the front and back pieces together, the trim is inside the pieces and I could see my stitch line. I sewed inside the stitch line so that only the balls would show - not the trim piece holding them together.

And that's about it! Once you sew the front and back pieces together, turn the pillow case right side out and stuff your pillow inside.

If you're a beginner seamstress and can thread your machine and sew a straight line, I think an envelope style pillow is the perfect starting project. It only involves sewing straight lines, nothing tricky. Once you master that, you can move on to adding piping and trim and dress up your whole living room.

Notes from Saturday.

Monday, March 24, 2014

On Saturday night, I drove through downtown Raleigh for what felt like an hour, hunting for an open coffee shop with an open seat. Shawn had lovingly pushed me out the door at the mention of wanting a place to think and write. After accidentally stepping into not one but two hookah lounges, I finally landed in a loud, somewhat scuzzy café on a local college campus. (Raleigh friends, tell me your secrets. Where can I find a quiet, classy coffee or tea shop close that's not bursting at the seams?)

I scanned the crowd and saw a couple of students with dark-rimmed glasses and philosophy books piled high. I spied a nervous couple at the end of their first (and possibly last) date. I watched a guy with a flawless Afro tap the table to the beat in his neon headphones.

I felt... mom-ish. Frumpy. With crumbs in the bottom of my purse and a spot of dried applesauce on my jeans, I felt past my coffee-shop prime. I used to be one of them, a coffee shop dweller who whiled away hours with a laptop and a latte, complaining about how insanely busy I was. Busy enough to sip lattes most nights, apparently.

But it didn't take me long to close my eyes and remember my day. Isn't that the key so often? Not pining for what seems like the greener grass, and taking account of what has so graciously been given to you?

Saturdays in the Newby house have been declared Family Day, and there's absolutely no work allowed. No Etsy convos to answer. No sewing. No distractions from the little things, which are really the big things.

Here's what's allowed: Waking up without an alarm. Watching a couple episodes of Curious George. Serving up apple cinnamon pancakes and steaming cups of tea. Opening the back door wide to let the fresh air blow the smell of grass through our house. Finding bikes on Craigslist and exploring the Greenway all afternoon. Tending our baby garden. Kneeling next to the bathtub, scrubbing the day's dirt from between toddler toes. Looking into my favorite green eyes. Admiring my favorite dimples.

Saturdays are about creating open space: to breathe, to think, to give thanks, to just enjoy one another for maybe the first time all week.

Had I seen my latte-sipping 21-year-old self across the coffee shop that night, I'm not sure I would have seen a girl quite so content as the 28-year-old with crumbs in her purse and applesauce on her jeans. The 21-year-old I remember was constantly waiting for something. Constantly impatient. Just ready to move onto the next season already, surviving the current season in angst.

This season is different, and in many ways, better. Perhaps less adventurous. Definitely less spontaneous. But as I looked back at Liam in his bike seat as he took in the passing landscape with wide eyes, I told Shawn, "He's totally content." As I said it, I realized, so am I. Contentment: it's the one puzzle piece that's been missing from my life for so very long. It doesn't mean that every moment - or even every day - is happy. Just yesterday, I sat through the funeral of a very young man who took his own life, and I felt more sadness than I've felt in months. There are moments of self pity, of stress, of frustration. There are days when the budget feels too tight, the workload feels too heavy, and the moments of happiness and ease are few and far between.  But the thread of contentment, of deep peace, is woven so deeply in my soul that even the rough days don't shake my core like they used to.

The difference is Christ. Knowing Him and loving Him deeper and fuller than I did 7 years ago, I can say that the journey with Him just gets sweeter with time. I know that my circumstances have not brought more peace - we probably have tighter margins with time and money than we ever have. Life hasn't gotten easier. My new roles as wife and mom, as so many dream to become, do not fulfill every deep desire and need I have. He brings peace. He brings joy. As I have tasted and have seen, apart from Him is no good thing.

In which Liam photobombs every single picture.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dear Pinterest-loving, design-blog-following friends (that's you, right?),

I need your expertise.

Since moving into our house 5 months ago, we've yet to buy one single rug. The only rugs that even exist in this house are two bathmats.

So, considering our entire house is hardwood floors (with tile in the bathrooms), it's time. Time to buy a rug. (It feels very "adult" of me to talk rug-buying, much less actually purchase a rug. They're just about the last thing I ever want to spend money on.)

We want to start with the living room.

I'll give you a little tour...
1. $60 Craigslist find from a few weeks ago. It's a mustardy gold velvet. Yum.
2. The blinds on both windows are about to go. We're thinking white plantation-style blinds (we need them to be able to close at night because we're very close to our neighbors) and/or possibly curtains as well.
3. Another gold velvety chair that our neighbor just gave us a few weeks ago. She's like our other chair's mustard cousin. Not sure she'll stay there forever. It's a bit of mustard overload.
4. The cutest photobomber I ever did see.
5. The verse painting I did, though we're looking for something else (a little larger and brighter) in this spot. Perhaps a New York or Chicago map framed?
6. This couch definitely needs some color. Maybe I'll make a couple more throw pillows.
7. Remember this chair? Never knew it would find such a perfect home in Raleigh.
So back to rugs. 

I really only have two stipulations:
1. It has to be under $200. I just can't come to grips with spending any more than that (though these Anthro rugs are all so tempting). 
2. No chevron. I like chevron (obviously), but I have a feeling it's a home decor trend that may be on its way out. 

Here are a few ideas I have so far: 
Star Tile Rug ($199)
Jute Rug ($153.99)
Flourish Tile Rug ($89, but possibly too small for the space)
Maples Fretwork Rug in Charcoal ($127.49)
Ok, so those are 4 preliminary options. 

What do you think? A more flat, woven-style rug? Something more plush and comfy under your feet? No rug at all? 

Are there places online that I should definitely look? 

I'd love to hear your votes...

A few things on a Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I've been under the weather since Saturday night with a nasty case of strep throat, so I've had ample time to catch up on blog reading, Netflix watching, and lounging around in my robe and glasses. It all sounds lovely aside from feeling completely miserable.

I thought I'd share a few things I've stumbled in on in the last few days that I thought you'd enjoy...

+ "A Casserole Is Not Enough. Except When It Is." My mother in law sent this to me and it's just so full of truth. As one who gives meals and receives them on a regular basis, it's vital to remember why. Beautifully written.
"A casserole, baked until bubbly, seems like such a small offering in a home where someone is lying in the bedroom, fighting that last enemy, death. Cheese and noodles in a foil pan - so flimsy in a place where a child is chronically ill, where a family has been deserted by a sin-craving father, or where cancer is every moment growing under a woman's skin. 
Waving chicken-and-rice in the face of death seems so pointless.  
But - as my husband so kindly reminds me - it's not."
+ If you're a blogger or a blog reader (which I think accounts for everyone reading this post), this post by Ashlee on supporting the bloggers we love is a must-read. I wish I would've written it myself. Let me just "Amen" every point she makes.
And I do all of that because I love this blog. I love it because I work so hard at it and because at the end of the day, I feel like this blog is a little piece of me. It’s my life story, all wrapped up into one tiny website. 
Do I wish I could make money off this blog, this thing that occupies so much of my time and effort? Of course I do. Do I feel entitled to make money off this blog, because of the fact that other people are reading it regularly and often gaining something from it? Not really. 
Because at the end of the day, it is my choice to blog.
+ Are you as fascinated as I am with the Malaysia Airlines flight? What in the world do you think happened? Maybe it's false hope, but I think the plane landed. Oh, those families. My prayers are with them in this agonizing not knowing. I cannot imagine.

+ I've just released three new tutorials over the weekend in the shop: the fabric peony, the ruffled rose, and the pleated flower. They are $2 each, perfect for adding to your Emma clutches, and they're instant downloads, so you can get started right away. I am having a blast with these tutorials and have lots of ideas for more. Thank you for supporting me in this. It means the world.

+ Though I've never been a shepherd's pie fan (or really given it a chance), Summer's Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie looks simple, comforting, and delicious for a rainy day.

+ We are addicted to a local chocolate ice cream here in Raleigh that's (dangerously) within walking distance and not that great for our wallets. Thankfully, I just found this dairy free coconut chocolate ice cream that tastes so similar and can easily be made from home. Score!

16 months.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dear Liam,

Your mom is a broken record, but I can't help but say it again: each new month with you just gets better, and 16 months is positively the best yet. You finally decided to walk (and run) like a pro, and you adore being outside. With a stick in your hand, dirt under your fingernails, and the neighbor's doggie in sight, you're one happy little man.

Wednesdays are hard for you to understand as they're Daddy's longest work day. Tonight, we headed to church and as soon as you marched through the double doors, the search for "Dadda" began. You peeked into the worship center. Nope. Fellowship hall? No, not there either. We finally discovered him in the rehearsal room upstairs, and you refused to leave his side without a fight. When we finally had to leave to head home, you screamed for Dadda as crocodile tears dripped down your cheeks. It broke my heart. I know that I, your Momma, am your bread and butter. Your best buddy. Your comforter. But Dadda is your hero. You talk about him all day long, and your eyes light up for him in a way they don't glow for anyone else.

You're insatiably curious - especially when it involves a dishwasher, a trashcan, or a pile of leaves. You're impressively smart, surprising us with new words every day. Just today, it was "Dadda 'tar?" (Daddy plays the guitar?). And you're unsurprisingly stubborn.

You amaze your mom, little guy. I wouldn't trade being your mother in a million years or for a million dollars. You're the best gift I've ever been given.


That one time I kept a plant alive.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I like looking at flowers, smelling flowers, and even painting flowers. But keeping them alive? It's never been my forte. I've tried my hand at a few houseplants since we've been married and I either forget to water them, overwater them, put them in the wrong spot, or something. Once, when my mom came over to visit, I said, "Look! Am I not doing great with this one?!" At first glance, it looked green and full and, well, mostly alive. She looked a little closer and thumbed through a few dry, brown leaves at the bottom and said, "Yeah... uh huh." Point taken. It's just not my gift.

When we moved into our house in October, my sister-in-law Shannon brought over this pretty orchid as a housewarming gift. I'm sure she was clueless to my history with plants or she wouldn't have entrusted it into my care. Still, it felt like a fresh start. A new house. A new plant. A new color thumb? Perhaps. I figured if I had the wherewithal to buy a home, surely I could keep one plant alive and thriving.

Shannon mentioned something about feeding it ice cubes, so I looked it up. Apparently orchids (or at least this orchid) love a slow watering technique, and ice cubes do the trick. So I feed the orchid three ice cubes every Monday morning. Apparently mornings are key, too... or so I read. And look! Just gaze at her for a moment. Isn't she beautiful? And can you believe she's survived for 5 whole months? I know... me neither. She's even inspired me to branch out a bit and try an aloe plant, a gardenia, and another something green and flowery that I don't know the name of. And they're all alive!

PS - We tried to extend the sticks to make it grow up a little bit more, but now I'm thinking it will always be this size. Orchid experts out there... is that true? Once a medium sized orchid, always a medium sized orchid?

The Emma Clutch tutorial.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's here. It's here!
I'm so excited about this pattern. It's incredibly versatile, as you can see here, here, and here. You can make it with silk for a dressy evening out, then make another one in linen for an everyday bag. It's the perfect clutch size for carrying the essentials.

Here's the deal: because of some... ahem... technical difficulties (or rather my lack of Photoshop know-how), I haven't finished the flower tutorials. They will be coming - and will be added to this pattern - this coming Friday, March 14. Until then, I've priced the pattern at $6 and if you purchase it between now and Friday, I will send you the three flower tutorials for free. Or if you'd like to wait to purchase the pattern until Friday, the price will increase to $8 and will include all three flower tutorials. Did I just confuse you? I hope not.

Anyway, I'm thrilled to see what you make with your new Emma clutches. You guys always have the most inspiring ideas. Oh, and you can sell the finished product. Hooray!

Coming on Monday...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's true! I'll be releasing a new sewing pattern this coming Monday, March 10. It will include the pattern pieces and very detailed instructions of how to make this bag - the Emma clutch - as well as the patterns and tutorials on how to make 3 different style flowers to add to your bags. Just like the Sydney pattern, it's an automatic digital download. So once you purchase it, you can print the pieces and start sewing right away.

This bag is so versatile, and such a perfect size. If you choose to use a dressier fabric - like dupioni silk or silk shantung - it's the perfect clutch for a wedding. If you go with something more casual like this chevron print, it's a sweet date night bag or even a makeup bag to keep you organized inside a larger tote. There are so many possibilities, and I can't wait to share them. Monday!

PS - This post? It's my accountability. I just told thousands of you that the pattern will be here Monday. It will be here Monday. In the meantime, I have work to do.

And the winner is....

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Emma Conner! Congrats, Emma!
Stay tuned for next month's giveaway.

Recent reading.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

{Recently read}
Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton
What I loved: Glennon's writing style. While I've never read her blog (, several friends have pointed me to it in the past and I now understand why. She is candid (!!!) and witty and doesn't seem to take herself too seriously. I've heard a few say this book is just like reading her blog posts - and there is definitely recycled material - but because I wasn't a blog reader of hers, it was all new to me. I devoured it in less than three days.
What I didn't love: Her murky theology. She claims Christianity, but it feels much more like some thoughts of Jesus mixed with Oprah-like, self-help, feel-good, zen religion that is very far from what I believe Christianity to be. She openly says that she only follows what she understands in the Bible. So the topics she doesn't understand or agree with Scripture's viewpoint, she takes matters into her own hands. She ends the book in a hypothetical scene where God is a "she" and is knitting in a rocking chair while Glennon asks her questions. I understand the point of her vignette, but diminishing God to an old lady in a rocking chair feels irreverent and just kind of silly.
Would I recommend it? No. For the new Christian who is shaky in her theology, absolutely not. For the seasoned believer who might want to read a common theology of our time, maybe. But mostly no. Had I not been reading this along with my Bible and an Elyse Fitzpatrick book, I wouldn't have finished it.

{In progress (nearly finished)}
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
What I loved: Her writing is as delicious as the sweet honey she writes about. This story is complex, her characters well-developed, and I'd read it again and again. I felt like I was there, sitting under the sweltering South Carolina sun, watching August and Lily check on the beehives and wrestle with big life questions, which is just a testimony to her gift as a writer. It wasn't life changing (and I didn't love it as much as I loved The Help ), but I did enjoy the read quite a bit.
What I didn't love: There's an undertow of "female power" that feels preachy at times. The spiritual aspects of the book are also pretty interesting. At the same time, I felt more comfortable reading this (as opposed to Carry On, Warrior) because it's a novel chronicling someone's experience, not someone preaching to me their theology.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely.

Love Story: The Hand that holds us from the garden to the gates by Nichole Nordeman
What I loved: Considering Nichole Nordeman's music was basically the soundtrack to my middle school years, I went into this one having a feeling I'd love it. I did. Nichole's writing is witty, poignant, honest, and bold... many qualities I hope my own writing possesses. She had an incredibly daunting task before her: writing a chapter about a Biblical character (Mary, Paul, Daniel, David) that is fresh and somehow relates that person to our modern lives. She handled her task beautifully.
What I didn't love: There are song lyrics posted after every chapter. Maybe it's because I'm not a big poetry buff, but I don't love reading song lyrics. I kind of skimmed over them, halfway wishing they'd been left out.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Any book that refreshes my take on Scripture (and makes me want to reread the Biblical accounts) is a worthy read, in my opinion. I think it would also be a great book for a new Christian as it gives a little snapshot of some key Bible figures, making them feel fresh and alive and a little more relatable to you and me.

These are simply my own thoughts and opinions. I appreciate the freedom I have in sharing with you my honest reviews of books/blog posts I've recently read. You are certainly entitled to disagree wholeheartedly with me - just please keep your comments civil and constructive. Thanks.

63 years.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Today my grandparents celebrated 63 years of marriage. It's hard for me to fathom 63 years of life on this earth, much less what 63 years married to one person must look like. For Grandma in these last few years, it's looked like a whole lot of work. A life altering sacrifice. My sweet Grandpa has been enduring the ugly, ravenous monster that is Alzheimer's, the disease that doesn't seem to stop until it's stripped a person of everything. Still, Grandma's courageous love for him has been unshakeable. Never stopping, never giving up.

Not too long ago, my Grandma told me over the phone that it had been a particularly rough day with Grandpa. I listened while she recounted his unsurprising stubbornness - one of his best qualities pre-Alzheimer's and the most difficult quality now - when it came to just about every part of his daily tasks.

But then she paused. And I'll never forget what she said: "I still remember watching him walk up the drive to pick me up for our first date. I was 16. It's still him. I love him, and I'll love him 'til the day I die."

Five years into our marriage, I can only hope for 58 more years of marriage to Shawn. I can only hope that when I look back over our lives, I'll look at him and say, It's still him. I love him, and I'll love him 'til the day I die. I can only hope that I'll be able to remember this afternoon. The day Shawn brought home Liam's first soccer ball from the store and unwrapped it excitedly, hoping for a reaction. I hope I'll remember the open field behind our first house. The hazy, glowing sun and warm wind that brought a welcome reprieve from a brutal winter. The way the light hit his hair. The way he picked up Liam so gently, loved him so deeply, smiled so big his eyes disappeared. The hopes we shared for our future as a family. It will still be him, and I will love him.

To my grandparents who have forged such a beautiful path ahead, thank you for the gift of your legacy. I know your love for each other isn't without flaws, but it sure is strong. And to your granddaughter who's been watching closely for the past 28 years, it's as beautiful as ever.
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