Thursday, May 31, 2012

International Love

There's something so satisfying about watching the odometer in my car turn over to a significantly new number. When all those nines turn to zeros, I feel not only a sense of accomplishment and rush of memories about all the places I've driven in the past, but also an excitement and exhilaration about what might be coming next.


This weekend, when my little blog's all-time page views reached the 10,000 mark, I felt the same giddy rush.  Honestly, as I go about the process of writing my posts, I'm not really thinking at all about the fact that others will be reading my words...I just write whatever is on my mind. It's only when I am looking back at my blog stats that I consider who might be interested in what I have to say, and I'm humbled and delighted to see that you are following along.

I'm particularly fascinated and honored to see that people around the planet are reading my words. Here are my all-time page views broken down by the top ten countries:

United States




United Kingdom





South Korea

This blog also has readers from Italy, Ukraine, South Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Namibia and Brazil. Wow!! So proud and excited to have readers and friends in countries all around the world!

* * * 

It's also interesting to look at my top ten most frequently viewed posts; let me count them down for you:

10. Handmade Valentine Love

This post captures a last-minute idea for making watercolor valentines. A fun process and a simple DIY; I especially like the bright colors and the un-fussy technique. Ripping paper is my kinda fun.

9. Khairul Hezry Is MAD About Books

Khairul is a passionate and devoted reader in Malaysia, a country that (according to him) does not love to read. In fact, his blog's tag line is, "I read books because you don't want to!" He's funny and articulate, and if you find his comments in my post to be interesting, you should definitely check out his blog. Good stuff.

Also, he is a massive Star Wars fan. Obviously a sign of excellence and integrity.

8. My Malaysian To-Do List

Describing my hopes and dreams for someday visiting my adopted homeland of Malaysia, this post is kind of an anticipatory travel blog. It would be really fun to make the trip, and then write another post that describes my actual experiences in each of the categories. Hopefully, I will never be writing about face-to-face encounters with monitor lizards. Gah.

Yes, I am currently accepting donations to my travel fund.

7. My Love Letter to the Kelantanese

This is one of my most favorite posts. I've told this story over and over, in response to the inevitable and very good question that I am often asked: "What's up with you and all these Malaysians, anyway?" When I'm telling the story in the moment, I usually skimp on the details, so I'm glad that I recorded it here with meticulous precision. For my memoirs, you know. ;)

Aww, this one is precious to me...a photographic peek into the charming little storybook home of six college girls, and the story of how they made gallery wall magic with some little monogrammed art I made for them.

Within a few weeks, the girls will be packing up their belongings and leaving the Manor, never to return again. I'm glad this little memory will remain forever.

5. Festive Garlands: Part Seven..FINALLY, It's Spring...

Another little DIY project unpacked. From doing several of these posts, I've learned that I enjoy describing the process of how I get inspired to make things much more than the tedious business of describing the step-by-step instructions. Both, I suppose, are important.

Just an hour or so ago, I was in this room watching a television program (America's Next Top Model, if you want to know), and I glanced up at these happy garlands, moving gently in the quiet room, and thought once again how cheerful and spring-y they make me feel. Yay, garlands!

4. Razaisyam Rashid

My Malaysian hipster friend, Ely, and his fabulous indie films still make me smile too. This one, based on the song, All Is Love, seems particularly relevant. Ely just got married! So happy for you, my friend!

3. Colorful Consolation

What the tree socks! One Friday this winter, when I was not able to make my usual trip to my beloved Stevens Pass, this fabulous art installation was colorful consolation indeed. Especially brilliant on this gray rainy day, I felt transported to a very magical place and I hope the photos convey that same transformation.

2. Home Tour: The Family Factory

It's very sweet and humbling to learn that my family room tour has generated interest. Honestly, it's such an often-used and hard-working space...but I think that is exactly the point. We are all curious about each others' lives, aren't we. But we want to see past the carefully composed exteriors and guarded public images to take a good look at what is real and authentic about each other. Trust me, I'm not holding anything back from you!

Also, this reminds me that I still need to give you a tour of my dining room, laundry room and den. Don't worry..I won't forget.

1. My Big Fat Malaysian Wedding

So glad that this post has been well received! It was a tricky one to write: it was one part, an attempt to sort out all that I've learned about Malaysian weddings; another part, a challenge to find photos that illustrated what I was trying to describe; and most importantly, a celebration of my friend Lokhman's beautiful wedding photography.

* * * 
As I browse through these old posts, I'm amazed at what has been accomplished in just a few short months, and I am energized to see what will happen next in this surprising blog adventure. So thank you, dear reader, for joining me on this journey - I really appreciate your international love.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

To Seaside And Back

Just got home from a one-day getaway with my two eldest daughters. This genius idea came from my first-born, who was feeling a mini-road trip in honor of her birthday. In order to keep the scheduling logistics manageable and our spontaneity intact, she suggested that we keep it a threesome. Again, smart thinking. 

We trekked four hours south to Seaside, Oregon, and plopped ourselves down on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. It was glorious. Here are the trip highlights:

Before we left the driveway, I was notified that my sunglasses were unacceptable. Umm, ok.  Thankfully, I was able to borrow these floral pups, and once the upgraded pair was on my face, we were good to go.

Within fifteen minutes of walking into the door of our room, all three of us took multiple shots of the beach from our balcony, edited up a favorite and posted to Instagram. This was my offering.

After piling on more clothes and sand-friendly footwear, we headed out. It was windy and cold, but we did a brief tour of the beach area directly in front of our hotel, then headed off to explore the environs. Between the three of us, we took at least a billion pictures. 

Please don't tell Ranger...but there were other dogs on this beach. Note the paw prints.  He did not get to come with us this time, and he would be soooo jealous and sad.

Saw lots of broken sand dollars and razor clam shells along the way, sure signs of a Pacific Northwest beach. I always get excited when I see a perfect pair of shells, still intact, despite all the forces destined to tear them apart. 

This big bluff guarded the southern end of our beach area and served as the unofficial goal of our hike. We went as far as the place where the beach curved outward, then sat in the sun on a log and enjoyed a brief reappearance of the sun.

Hunger drove us up off our log and back towards civilization. Well, that's an exaggeration...we were never out of cell service...but we did promptly point ourselves in the direction of the nearest pizza place. This creation was to die for - lots of cheese with a crispy, just-the-right-amount-of-thickness crust. We ate the leftovers in the car on the ride home.

Glorious sunset, and we watched it unfold from the comfort and warmth of our little chamber.  Again, between the three of us, we took enough photos to sink a battleship, and spent time sharing, comparing and debating shots and edits. We definitely bond over Instagramming. 

Once the sun finally went down and our photography frenzy wore itself out, we went down to the pool and hot tub to recuperate. We spent most of the time in the hot tub, still thawing ourselves out from the breezy cold weather, and yes, I did force my daughters to play catch with this beach ball. I love tossing around a ball in the pool. LOVE. Is that weird?

After a good long soak in the hot water, we took a few polar bear plunges into the regular pool. I love to get that hot/cold/hot/cold/hot thing going on. Is that weird too?

{After swimming, we went back to our room, unapologetically watched the Kardashians and Buddy the cake elf, and ate the most heavenly fudge. I wish I could show that chocolate to you; it was bliss. But we ate it without hesitation, and not one of us took a single picture. It was that good.}

In the morning, we ate a nondescript continental breakfast and went out to play on these swings. And take more pics of the beach. And edit and filter and compare with each other and discuss our favorite effects. So fun.

We wandered only a little to the north side of the beach, and found this determined beach grass. We also came across the remnants of someone's party from the night before; I saw only litter but my daughter ended up with a really nice photo from the rubble. Just goes to show what a creative eye can see.

I went for the easy target - pink flowers. They never fail to make me happy.

It was a bit warmer this morning - well, wait. It was less freezing. But I still was very happy to have my headband from Headbands for Vietnam, crocheted by my third-born who is selling them to raise money for her mission trip this summer. Kept me warm and toasty.

And then we packed up our bags, hopped in the car, and headed for home. Eating that still-glorious leftover pizza, bumping tunes, posting more Instagrams, and crossing this fabulous bridge across the Columbia River, we were home in time for dinner.

I even had time to bake a birthday cake.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hats Off To Browns and Greys!

Greys and browns are underrated colors. Oh sure, we call them "neutrals" and pretend that we care, but really, how many people do you suppose you would have to ask before you found someone who said their favorite color was grey?

Sad, isn't it.

So can you imagine my surprise when I was rolling through a group of recently pinned images in my Pinterest feed last night, and noticed that I was pinning greys and browns with abandon? Well, true, there are lots of other, much brighter colors mixed in with them. But still, I was really interested to see how that earthy pair of background hues can step to the front and command my attention, right alongside of reds, blues, purples, and other seemingly much bolder colors.

Just let your eyes run down this scroll of pictures - you'll see what I mean.

Wedding Chicks
Miss Jill McDonald on Etsy
Kportimages on Flickr
Travel Universally
Tonya Williams on Pinterest
The Cool Hunter
Stripespolkadots on Ravelry
Lost In Drawers

Jonathan Adler

Eric Lafforgue on Flickr

This little exercise reminds me that every single color makes a distinct contribution to a composition, and the steadfast and patient browns and greys are at least as important as the flashy bold shades that immediately demand our attention. 

Hmm. I never thought of it this way before, but maybe colors are a lot like people. 

Hats off to brown and grey!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Three Things I've Learned About Marriage

Today is my wedding anniversary, and as usual, I lugged out the ol' wedding photo album to reminisce about that illustrious day. I look back at that itty baby version of me, so naive about what it takes to make a successful wedding day, let alone an enduring marriage. At this point in my life, my thoughts on those subjects are much more clear and this seems like the perfect day to share what I've learned about what matters.

{1. Invite God into the center of your marriage.}

I grew up completely unchurched. As I was preparing for marriage, I knew almost nothing about the Bible or the value of church rituals and traditions in my life. But something told me that if I wanted a healthy marriage, I better get married in a church...and if I wanted to get married in a church, I probably should be baptized first. 

Just seemed like the natural order of things. So that's what I did.

Looking back, I see this as one of the wisest decisions I made to prepare my heart for marriage. While I didn't quite have these words on the tip of my tongue at the time, I realized that God's presence is essential to a strong marriage, and I had an unspoken intuition that I needed to invite Him in at the very start. 

So glad I did. 

{2. Share your married life with your family, especially your siblings.}

My brothers all took on starring roles in my wedding. Sad, perhaps, that I had no sisters to share my special day with me, but I could not be more proud, then and now, that my bros stood up with me.

Like many families where siblings are close in age, my brothers and I all got married within a few years of each other. This transformation brought a lot of change into our relationships with one another, almost all of it for the good. Right away, I noticed the calming, even civilizing effect that married life brought. We all just seemed to settle down and get along better.

Over the years, I have had glimpses of the important ways that siblings keep watch over each others' marriages. When my brothers and I are all together with our families, we have a special kind of radar with each other. A simple gesture or a meeting of the eyes is enough to send each other feedback about what is going on around us. Wordlessly, we keep each other grounded in what is reasonable, and what is not.

This is one part of my married life that I wish had gone differently. Because I moved three time zones away from my brothers, I've only been able to experience our bond once a year or so, and that is not enough. I love where I live, but I wish I was closer to my brothers.

My siblings remind me of who I am, and help to keep my marriage real.

{3. Friends matter. Hold on to them.}

One of my favorite parts of wedding planning was choosing my bridesmaids. Because I had no sisters, I was able to take a long, careful look at my friends and ask those who meant most to me to stand up in my wedding. Of the four women I asked, three still play a meaningful role in my life. I am glad of that.

Friends make a marriage stronger. My friends are like a banquet of delicious foods; I enjoy the variety and tastiness of each one and they make my life richer and more satisfying. That positive energy feeds into my marriage and makes me a more interesting, vibrant and completed person.

It's so popular now to say, "Oh, my husband/wife is my best friend." I hear that sentiment all the time and I understand that on one level, it's a way of saying that this person enjoys spending time with their beloved. That's fine. But on a deeper level, it reveals to me an unrealistic and potentially dangerous picture of marriage.

Despite what Disney movies tell us, one person cannot make all our dreams come true. We need our friends to add dimension and variety to our lives. If we expect our spouse to satisfy all our needs for companionship, we are asking too much. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Go Boat, Go!

I love everything about boats. I love the look of them, sun bleached and wind whipped. I love the smell of them, the old ropes and gas fumes. I love the way they bob and toss in the water, I love the purr of their engines, the splash of an oar or paddle, or the snap of a sail filling with wind. 

Sadly, I do not own a boat. Maybe someday, but not today.

So when I am in need of a boat fix, I go looking for some to admire. Today I wandered to Seattle's Fisherman's Terminal. It's a boat-lover's heaven, with fishing vessels from barely sea-worthy to monstrously huge, with a handful of pleasure vessels thrown in for good measure. When I arrived, I went straight to the waterfront and took in this glorious sight.

Don't let the itty bitty sizes fool you - a ship with one of those bristling contraptions overhead is an ocean-going working vessel, even if it looks tiny enough to be a bathtub toy.
These are the big boys. 

Before I wandered out to get a closer look at the ships, I spent some time at the Fisherman's Memorial. Between the terminal building and the base of the docks, I found a tall statue of a man wrangling a fish. The base of the monument was a circular bronze bas relief of fishies and other sea life. Along the nearby pavement, I found tiles inscribed with the names of local men and women who have been lost at sea.

Water side view of the terminal building.
This bronze fisherman seems to be wrestling a giant bronze fish. Looks like quite a battle.
This octopus and tiny squid are my favorite creatures on the base of the monument.
Stephen A. Brooks is a family friend who was lost with his entire crew on the Pacific Alliance.  Rest in peace, Steve.
Captain Phil Harris was the colorful captain of the Cornelia Marie, of Deadliest Catch fame.  My husband saw him once at our local Home Depot. I think that means we were friends.

Just to the side of the terminal building were giant heaps of nets and floats of all shapes and colors. In the hot sun, several groups of men were sorting through the nets, spreading them out, and presumably, repairing them. It looked like hot and sweaty work, not at all fun. I thought about buying them each a frosty Coke, but instead I just took pictures of their heaped piles. I felt especially cruel. 

Ok, time to get to those boats! As I wandered up and down the docks, taking pictures here and there, drinking in all the nautical vibe, I was fascinated at the variety within the fleet. The range of shapes, sizes, colors, ages, etc. was staggering and I felt like I was at a great big boat party. 

Big ships...
and little ships.
Yellow ships...
and black ships,
red ships...
and blue ships.
Wooden ships...
and steel ships.
Ships with buoys...
and dinghies... 
and round cabin door windows.
High ships...
and low ships.
Mirror-image ships...
and ships that reflect light with an eerie beauty.

 If you've ever read Go Dog, Go (and I certainly hope you have!), I felt just like I was at that big dog party in the tree, except with boats instead of dogs. 

What a boat party!