Thursday, August 27, 2015

around here

doing
- Design work! I’m planning to launch laurarennieinteriors.com in a couple of weeks, and I am bursting at the seams to share it with y’all!
- House updates. We got a gorgeous four-poster bed frame for the basement guest room! For FREE! I also sold some furniture to purchase a new desk for my new office. :) :) :) I’m going to paint this weekend while Andy is off doing fantasy football shenanigans. It’s a good thing I still have a few Undisclosed episodes to listen to!
- Reading outdoors. These crisp mornings and sunny-but-not-sweltering afternoons have been amazing. I’ve been hit with deep sorrow on an almost daily basis and getting outside always boosts my spirits. 
- Barre. What?! I tried it for the first time last week and loved it. I went back this morning and had an awesome “Center Stage” moment while doing glute bridges.

eating
- roasted petite potatoes like it’s my job
- butter lettuce. With roasted potatoes on top. :) And bacon, and fried eggs. My new favorite salad.
- honey bunches of oats with unsweetened almond milk. And roasted potatoes. (Kidding!)

watching
- Project Runway is back!!!!!!
- Playing House on USA is great. It’s our new favorite show.

reading
- I just finished “The Martian” by Andy Weir — have you read it? I have mixed feelings about the movie cast.
- “Anything” by Jennie Allen. Who gave me this book? Whoever you are, thank you.
- “The One Year Book of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie. I tried to start this devotional after John died, but I gave it up. Then I tried it again after Jane. I’m finally dedicated to having a morning quiet time, and this daily reading plus some Scripture has been manna to my soul.

wishing
- Doritos were vegetables
- For more crisp mornings and sunny afternoons, and that it would be Monday, because that’s when Dunkin Donuts starts selling their pumpkin coffee!!!!!!!!!

What’s going on with you? What are you reading/cooking/watching these days?

Monday, August 10, 2015

my first Stitch Fix



My friend Jackie received a gift card to Stitch Fix last Christmas and has been talking about the service ever since then. (She finally got a box last month.) I'm more likely to try something if someone else tries it first, so I followed suit and decided to give it a try for myself!

Stitch Fix is an online styling service that sends five items picked for you right to your door. (Packages are the best!) You fill out a style profile when you first sign up to let your stylist know what sizes you are and what styles of clothes you like, hate, and want to try. You pay a $20 styling fee for each fix, which is later applied as a credit if you choose to keep anything from your fix. If you keep all five items, you receive 25% off the entire purchase. Return shipping is free and easy. 

Click here if you want to try it yourself!

Stitch Fix sends the items neatly folded and wrapped along with a run-down of item names and prices and tear-off style cards that give you examples of how to wear each item. Your personal stylist will also include a note explaining why she picked each item for you. It's a really nice touch!

I knew if I took pics with my Nikon that I’d be really picky about the background and I’d want to edit them and I’d put stupid pressure on myself, so I decided to snap pics with my phone instead. I am a super awkward selfie-taker. Also, I'm clearly in a bathroom. #keepingitreal

Here we go!


Market & Spruce Sam Hi-Lo Short Sleeved Tee, Gray - $44
love this top! It fit perfectly, the hi-lo isn't too drastic and it’s incredibly soft. Unfortunately, it's a little bit sheer, and it's not quite special enough for me to spend $44. Regretfully returning!


Just Black Rogers Distressed Boyfriend Jean - $78
These fit me like skinny jeans - not at ALL like boyfriend jeans. Regardless, I liked the fit everywhere except the knee. The material was noticeably loose in the knee area, and that would be a problem for me. I also didn't love the distressed detail on the top part of the jeans. But, I was impressed that they fit well (other than the knee area), considering how hard of a time I normally have when it comes to finding pants that fit. Returning.


Market & Spruce Corinna Striped Dolman Top, Navy - $48
Stripes. Dolman Sleeves. Navy. These are a few of my favorite things. I am on the fence about this one! It’s GREAT and I’m willing to pay for it, but I have several similar tops. Update - sold this item to a girl who returned hers and regretted it. 


Levant Wavy Laser-Cut Earrings - $28
I asked for medium-sized gold earrings, and my stylist delivered. Unfortunately, the wavy texture was a bit too funky for me. Returning!


Pixley Kathy Striped Fit & Flare Dress - $68
I fell in love with this dress when I saw it on another girl's blog. I had a hunch it would fit my body type well, and I was right! It fits like a glove, and I feel great in it. I already own a 3/4-sleeve striped fit and flare dress from GAP, but I don't care... this one I'm KEEPING!!!! (Knowing the dress will be $48 with my credit made this an easy decision for me.) I may never take this dress off. 

----

I was grateful to receive lots of advice from Jackie on how to get a successful "fix." I was as specific as possible when filling out information about my body type and style preferences. I also provided my stylist with a link to a Pinterest board containing images of clothes I like. I even included a few pictures of myself.

What I didn’t like about my first Stitch Fix
I was really hoping to see a fun sleeveless top in my fix. I pinned a bunch of different ones I liked, so I was surprised not to see one. HOWEVER...

What I did like about my first Stitch Fix
I was overall thrilled with my first fix. My stylist clearly took the time to read through my notes and look at my Pinterest board. ALL of the clothing items I received were ones I had pinned! Some people don’t love their first fixes because their stylist is still getting to know them. I’m glad I took the time to give my stylist a lot of information about myself. My stylist played it safe by giving me items I specifically said I liked, and I think that was the right way to go.

This post contains referral links. If you sign up for Stitch Fix using my referral link, I will receive a $25 credit to use toward future purchases. (Please use the referral! If you accidentally skip the referral section, you can still get me the credit by sending my email address and name to the customer service email. Id love to try Stitch Fix again! Make sure to read this post about how to get your best fix.)

Friday, July 31, 2015

God’s real love in my real suffering


our precious baby John

Each night at VBS this week we’ve focused on a characteristic of God’s love: incredible, faithful, invincible, unconditional and real.

Last night the 4th and 5th grade girls in my group learned about the realness of God’s love. Both their craft-time and Bible-time teachers asked the girls if they could give examples from their own life of how we know God is real (even thought we cannot see Him). Several girls had stories to share, and they all went something like this:

My cousin’s baby had a hole in his heart but everyone prayed and now that baby is eleven.
My mom’s stepsister’s baby was sick before it was born and it was really scary but she’s okay now.
My sister’s extension umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and she almost didn’t live, but she did.

Goodness, was it ever tough to sit there and hear those stories.

When the doctor listed off everything that was wrong with John, it made sense that he would die. But I believed God could make John whole. I believed (and still believe) God could have done some crazy heavenly fetal surgery and the doctors would have been speechless, and I could have gone on to birth a healthy, living baby, and people around the world who had been praying for us would have been able to point to John as an example of God’s love. He could have healed John, but He didn’t.

When I became pregnant with Jane, I battled fear constantly and I prayed constantly. I believed God was blessing us with a life after our loss. I believed God would rejoice in giving us a healthy baby, and I prayed that He would. He could have, but He didn’t.

God didn’t show His love to me by giving me what I prayed for. The evidence of God’s real love in my life does not look like what I thought it would (but it is still there). There have been many dark days when the choice to recall to mind God’s love and goodness has felt excruciating, but I HAVE that choice because His love IS real.

"I cry out, “My splendor is gone!
Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”

The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

-Lamentations 3:18-23

We need these stories of real love during real suffering.
We need to remember God’s realness isn’t only found in “success stories” and prayers answered “yes.” We can experience God’s love throughout our times of trial — not just when the trial is over.

My story is not "God is real! He healed my babies."
My story is "God is real! He is healing me.

Monday, July 27, 2015

what I buy at Costco and Trader Joe’s

I know I can’t be the only one who is curious about how other people live — whether it’s how they schedule their day, what makeup they wear, what TV shows they watch, etc. I’m sharing what I buy at Costco and Trader Joe’s because I’m hoping you’ll tell me what one (or five, or ten) thing is missing from my list that I absolutely must try.

I do most of my shopping at Giant Eagle, which is close enough to our house that I occasionally walk there. I usually go two times a week, for around 5-20 minutes of actual shopping time. I write my list according to where things are in the store. I always use a basket when I’m doing my weekly shopping. It helps me to stick to my list, and I move faster when I’m desperate to relieve my tired arm! Plus, I have enough items in my pantry and freezer that I tend to only need produce, meat and dairy products.

A sample shopping list might look like: salad, green beans, bag of baby potatoes, an onion, apples, grapes, deli meat, chicken breasts, milk, eggs, cheese.

Costco and Trader Joe’s build up my pantry and freezer.

Costco

I don’t go to Costco very often, since there are only two of us. (I’m grateful to have a free membership through my dad’s company.) I store the bulk items in our laundry room and I freeze whatever bread products we aren’t using that week. 


I mostly go for specific food items, but I occasionally browse the center area and the small kitchen appliances section. I’ve bought socks, flip flops, towels, a rice cooker, splatter screens, a beach chair...and maybe two or three times a year I’ll stock up on movie passes, toothbrushes, shampoo, and baking goods (I love their bulk spices and salt and pepper grinders.) These are the things I most consistently purchase:
  • naan
  • rotisserie chicken
  • frozen meatballs
  • paper products (tissues, TP and paper towels)
  • dog treats
  • black beans
  • tomato sauce
  • Kirkland tuna
  • rice 
  • coffee

Trader Joe’s

Our closest TJ’s is about 25 minutes away, but I’ve actually never been to it! I always go to the one in Springfield, VA, which is right by my parent’s house. I’m there every two months or so.
What else should I try? 

Friday, July 10, 2015

cabin weekend and homemade thyme rolls

Last Friday we met my parents at the cabin for the weekend. I made chicken tikka masala for dinner and we read, played Pinochle and watched “Big Hero 6.” The temperature dropped to the low sixties and we had the windows open when we went to bed. It was gloriously chilly. I woke up to the sound of rain and Andy’s soft snoring, and I burrowed back under a quilt and fell back asleep.

The cabin is my very favorite place to sleep in.

Sometimes, if you’re very good, your mom or dad will creep up the stairs and bring you a little “taster” of bacon. And if you like, you can take a mug of coffee into bed with you and spend the morning reading and staring out the window.

Once you’re finally out of bed, you can read on the screened-in porch for a bit. You can have a snack, then climb in the clawfoot tub and read some more. And if your nightmare comes true and you realize you didn’t bring enough books, you can dip into the basket of James Herriot books and old Martha Stewart Living magazines that permanently reside next to the couch.



CAN I JUST LIVE THERE, PLEASE?

As lovely as summertime is, it’s a bit sucky that I finally got over the hump of Jane’s anniversary only to face another anniversary: the death of our son, John. Two years on Monday. Blegh. It’s frustrating to be in a complete state of bliss and then suddenly crying, or simply feeling blue. A few days ago my body started freaking out. I was dry heaving, my head was killing me and the area around my incision was hurting. (It rarely ever hurts anymore.) It’s amazing how our bodies react to stress and pain.

A lesson on grief: there will, eventually, be good days. Followed by hard days. Followed by numb days.

This week has flown by. I’ve been spending hours each day working on my first paid design job (!!!), catching up on lessons and assignments for my design class and trying (but failing) to keep the house in order. I’m having one of those seasons of being completely uninspired in the kitchen, but Andy is usually able to get me out of my rut by suggesting I try to copycat a dish we’ve had at a restaurant. (Like Old Bay wings.) On Wednesday Andy cooked me up a fabulous ribeye that he seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. He remembered a restaurant we went to in Culpeper, VA, back when we thought we were going to move there. The restaurant, called “It’s About Thyme,” had rolls with...you guessed it...thyme!

how many times (get it?) am I going to write the word ‘thyme’ AHHHHH I need more coffee.

ANYWAY, long story short, I made homemade thyme rolls last night! I hardly ever bake, so I was thrilled when the rolls came out looking just like they do in the picture. They were incredible! I cut the recipe in half, because I knew we were going to eat all of the rolls that night. You can’t not eat all the bread when it’s hot out of the oven!

No-Knead Thyme Dinner Rolls from Alexandra Cooks
I served the rolls with heated up tomato and roasted red pepper soup from Trader Joe’s and a salad with goat cheese, walnuts and dried cherries. I would be perfectly content to have that meal every week!

I'm working on a post of my favorite things to buy from Trader Joe’s and Costco. Stay tuned!