Thursday, February 14, 2013

Oregon is for Lovers!

I completely forgot about my favorite thing about Valentine's Day until this morning when my cousin posted about it on Facebook.

Valentine's Day is Oregon's birthday!

So I guess I should like Valentine's Day a lot more, because I absolutely LOVE Oregon! And what's not to love, am I right? Rain, you say. Ah, but did you know that roughly two-thirds of Oregon is high desert? There's something for everyone in Oregon. I happen to live on what I consider to be the transition zone between raininess and desert. It's perfect, if you ask me! Right now I'm looking at sunshine and mountains, can't get much better than that!

For your Oregon's Day pleasure, here are some fun facts about the Beaver State:

1) Oregon is the only state with a double-sided flag. We have a beaver on one side and the state seal on the other.

2) Heceta Head lighthouse near Florence is the most photographed lighthouse in the nation.

3) Our state nut is the hazelnut. Oregon is the only state with a state nut. Explains a lot, right? Incidentally, a lot of state nuts are grown near Corvallis.

4) The Oregon Caves are naturally carved within solid marble.

5) Haystack Rock in Canon Beach is the world's third largest coastal monolith. Who knew?

6) Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states where you can't pump your own gas. Because of this, I did not learn to pump my own gas until last year. Now I feel lazy when I go to the gas station.

7) The world's tallest barber pole is in Forest Grove (for all you Pacific alums out there!)

8) Oregon is home to the world's shortest river, D River, 121 feet long.

9) Oregon has more ghost towns than any other state. Yay?

10) Odd Oregon laws: in Myrtle Creek, it is illegal to box a kangaroo; in Portland, you cannot whistle underwater; it is illegal to buy or sell marijuana in Oregon, but you are permitted to smoke it in your own home; in Oregon, it is illegal to use canned corn as fish bait.

11) Oregon is the most romantic place in the world (What? It's a fact! Our birthday is flipping Valentine's Day!)

Happy 154th Birthday, Sweet Oregon!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Last Minute V-Day Decorating?

If Valentine's Day and I were a couple, we would be completely dysfunctional.

I don't know why, but I've just never really connected with Hearts Day. It was all fun in elementary school. Candy, games, an afternoon off from lessons, what's not to love? But somewhere around high school, things just soured. When my husband and I got engaged, we just had this kind of unspoken agreement that Valentine's Day would go largely uncelebrated for us. We would do little gifts, maybe go on a date, but for the most part, I just feel very "meh" about it. I am really lucky in that I married a guy who feels "meh" about it too.

But this year, something's different. Maybe it's because we have little kids now, and everything is more fun with little kids (in my opinion. OK maybe not everything...fine dining comes to mind...) I'm actually kind of excited for Valentine's Day! And since we had a pathetic amount of decorations, I decided to whip some up. I ended up making three garlands, a sign, and Hound Dog and I made borax hearts. I love Pinterest.

I think my favorite garland is the shabby chic bunting. I began by rifling though my scrap bags and came up with some white lace trim, some off-white lace trim, pink lace, and white tulle.

I cut each piece of fabric into several small strips, about 6 inches for the laces and a little longer for the tulle because I wanted to double it up since tulle is so wispy. I think I ended up with about 8 strips of each fabric.

I found some hemp twine I had lying around. Yes, I am doing this project on the back of the couch as it is longer and taller than the table and Bubba is getting very good at standing and grabbing stuff.

Someone got into my scrap bag when I wasn't looking!

All that's left to do now is tie the fabric strips onto the twine. For the laces I just tied an overhand knot around the twine as close to the end of the strip as I could. The tulle I doubled up and tied in a lark's head knot around the twine. I didn't worry too much about even spacing, since it was shabby chic and all. And the fabric will still slide along the twine once you tie it, so you can adjust if something looks off.

I decided this would look good on our mantle, and I dug out some other Valentine's decor to go with.


Notice that little box in front of the sign I made? That's the first Valentine's present Dave ever made for me. It's like a little movie that says "I love you" when you turn the crank. Awwww...

And just so you aren't dying of suspense, here's a look at the other two garlands hanging in the window. The top one is just some hearts that I cut out of felt and then sewed in a long line. The second one consists of two hankies (I love vintage hankies. It's kind of an addiction), a doily, some more lace trim, and some ribbon. I took clothes pins and clipped everything together. Bam, done.

Hound Dog and I made the borax hearts from a tutorial that I found here. They turned out so pretty! Science at its best.

I hope everyone out there has a wonderful Valentine's Day! Don't be "meh" like me. Although, this year could mark the end of my V-day doldrums.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Remnant Infinity Scarf

Let me just start by saying this is my very first craft tutorial, so it's a big moment for me.
*Deep breath*

So today, my kitchen was a disaster and there were toys everywhere. You know, the usual. So what did I decide to do about it? Why, ignore it of course and make a scarf!


I'm just gonna preface this whole thing by saying that I am no seamstress. I don't know much about sewing, I don't know much about fabric, I just pretty much know how to fake it and some tips my mom has given me that I managed to remember. Like, I don't even know what kind of fabric this is. It's a light, crepe-y, billowy type of fabric. I know, impressive, right?

I found this fabric on my last trip to Joann's. If you've never perused the remnant bin at a fabric store, then you need to start doing so. You never know what good stuff is going to pop up in there! Take, for example, this little find. I forget now what I paid for it, but the remnants were on clearance, so I think it ended up being a dollar give or take a few pennies for about 2/3 of a yard. Not too shabby. Then I sat around and stared at it for a while thinking, "What am I going to do with this?" Then it came to me: infinity scarf! I'm an accessories type of girl, but having a grabby baby makes it pretty much impossible to wear jewelry (or even glasses, yikes!). But Bubba can yank on this thing all he wants, and I don't feel so under dressed (like when I go to Wal-Mart. I hate being under dressed at Wal-Mart.)

First up, I laid the fabric out flat. Here it is in all it's glory:

I love the color and the stripes. Makes me think of the ocean.

Then I folded it in half and cut it, trimming off some extra so the two halves would be more or less congruent.

Depending on the fabric you're using, you might be able to skip this next step. This fabric frayed like crazy with tiny, maddening, spider web-type threads. Out came the Fray Check!

Once that's dry, it's time to get pinning! Pretty easy (like everything I sew), just overlap the short ends about 1/2 inch and pin, pin, pin! (My mother taught me you can never pin too much. Go ahead, go nuts with it.) Then thread up that sewing machine and get to it! I used a zig-zag stitch to make the seam more secure and more attractive.

Once that's done, just pin the other two short ends together and sew just like you did before. If I really wanted to, I could have finished the raw edges and whatnot, but like I said, my sewing skills are very basic. Also, I didn't have much time to do this project. Bubba takes short naps. It's great. Also, I'm a little bit lazy. But raw edges are trendy, right?

...And the other side. Feels like we've been here before, huh?
And that's it! Start to finish, with Bubba waking up halfway through, it probably took me an hour. For someone who is actually good at sewing, it would probably take half that time. The finished product is really long when it's all unwound, but I'm a big scarf kind of girl. We like our scarves in Oregon. Plus the fabric was so light I wanted to be able to really pile it up for some volume.

It's as tall as the fireplace, yay big scarves!

Naturally I had to model it.

I love how it turned out! And yes, I wore it to Wal-Mart. I felt pretty fancy.
Let me know what you think, or if you made one too!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rule Breaker

So a little bit about me: I'm a rebel.

Oh yeah. You heard me. For starters, I'm a lefty. When all my friends were learning to write and color, they reached for those crayons with their right hands. I watched them and said, "No, forget that, I'm going to use the other hand." But guess what? Kindergarten rolled around, and it was time to get down with some serious scissor usage. Apparently I was the first lefty my tiny rural school had seen since 1957, because all of their lefty scissors had been purchased around that year. Read: those lefty scissors would not even cut air. So what did I do? I rejected that rusty box of lefty scissors and was all like, "Whatever, I'm using the righty scissors from now on." And I do still use righty scissors.

I'm such a rebel I became a Mormon. What? Not fitting within your "rebel" schema? Yeah, that's how much of a rebel I am.

I have a bachelor's degree in English and writing. Do you know what they drill into you in every writing class? They tell you to WRITE EVERY DAY! Well, not exactly. Usually they say it with more profanity than that. Writing professors love profanity. I also do not use profanity. Rebel.

So here I am on my honeymoon, writing on the beach. I'm pretty sure this journal was never seen again.
So, since every teacher I've ever had has told me to write every day, guess how often I write? I'll give you a hint, it's not every day. Not even close. Maybe there was a time when I used to write every day, out of necessity, just trying to get things done and handed in. But when that was all over and I was left to just write for me, I didn't quite know how to do it. And then I was married. (They told me not to get married in the middle of my graduate program. So I did. Rebel.) After Dave and I got married, I suddenly stopped writing. I stopped because I was happy.

For so long, writing was an escape for me. When I couldn't sleep, I would write, pouring stress and anxiety and anger and loneliness and confusion and anything else trapped inside me into poems, short stories, letters that were never sent, until I lay exhausted on the floor of my little college apartment. I don't want to say that getting married solved all my problems overnight, but it sure did make me happy. And I didn't know how to write from happy. At least, not without it sounding like the opening of The Sound of Music. I guess now I have to finally learn how to be a happy writer. I found this great list on Pinterest. If I had a studio or a room just for my writing, I would seriously paint this all over an entire wall:

My husband has been encouraging me to write for a long time now. He is wonderful beyond belief. He buys me books for Christmas. Swoon. Two years ago he bought me The Complete Works of Flannery O'Connor and the Writer's Market. I almost cried. A few weeks ago, he came home from work and set The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market down on the kitchen table.

"We're going to write a children's book," he said, like he was telling me we were going to wash the dishes after dinner or something. Here's the thing about my husband: he is so not a rebel. If something is going on with someone in his family, they call him because they know he will give straight-up level-headed advice in the most loving way possible. So when he says we're going to write a children's book, or that I can be a real writer who, you know, writes stuff, I think I should believe him more. After all, if he were lying to me, that would make him a rebel, which he is not. He's my husband for a very wise reason.

So I guess I need to stop being a rebel, at least at this one thing in my life. I need to write. Do you know, this makes two days in a row for me? Could be the start of something big.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

True Happiness

Hello again, Friends!

We have taken quite the hiatus at Blessed Defeats. Maybe you noticed. Like, a year and a half long hiatus. Well, I can explain. But not here. I have stories to tell here. You can check out the new Living the Dream page if you want to read my completely inadequate excuses for neglecting my blog for a full 18 months. But now it’s time to share another conversion story with you.

The honor of the first post-hiatus story goes to my good friend, Avery Lemmon. There was a time when I thought I was just going to walk away from this whole blogging thing (again), but then there was always sweet Avery, Facebook stalking me and saying, “When are you going to start your blog up again?” So, as thanks for her motivation, I made her share her story. Ah, friendship.

Avery grew up agnostic. She was always interested in religion, but never found one that felt like a good fit. Little did she know that a simple conversation one day would eventually change all of that.
She was attending Portland State University, and the winter term had just begun. In fact, she remembers the exact day of the week: “Wednesday, January 7, 2010,” she says. She sat down next to Brian, a classmate of hers, and they began talking. After class, they went to lunch together. After lunch, they went to dinner. Seven months later, they were married.

Brian, as you may have already guessed, was a member of the LDS church. The weekend after they met, he took her to church with him. But on that first Sunday, Avery seriously doubted she had found herself a religion.

“I thought it was weird and creepy that everyone was so nice and happy,” she says, “I was sure that everyone was faking, because normal people aren’t that happy about anything.” But there were things about this new church that made sense to Avery. The doctrine relating to the Godhead, that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are three separate personages united in purpose was particularly appealing. 

Another teaching that brought her comfort was, “people not being sent to Hell for not believing in God, but just being sent to the part of Heaven furthest from God instead. That made a lot of sense, because I never liked how certain religions would condemn non-believers to burn in fiery torment, even if they were good and kind people.”

And then, about four months after she had met Brian, Avery was at home, relaxing by herself. As she describes it, she suddenly felt like God was all around her, and she perceived the Holy Spirit prompting her to accept Jesus Christ into her heart.

“So I did,” says Avery. It’s hard to argue with the Holy Ghost. Wanting to be sure she made the right decision, she looked into different Christian churches and questioned her Christian friends about their faiths. But in the end, the one that made sense and felt right to her was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She prepared for baptism, and entered the waters in July of 2010, soon before she and Brian were married.

But as usual, there were bumps along the road to membership in the church, and Avery experienced opposition from friends and family. Most meant well, and were concerned that she had joined a cult, rather than following the example of Jesus Christ. Some had heard terrible rumors about the LDS church and passed these on to Avery. Her mother warned her that Brian would one day want to take other wives. It went so far, in fact, that many of her friends boycotted her wedding and even her baby shower a year later. It was all very frustrating for Avery.

“It mostly bothered me that they thought so little of my judgment and intelligence that I would fall for something that wasn’t true,” she says. Things gradually turned around, and today her friends and family can see the change that accepting Jesus Christ has wrought in Avery; not so much in her personality, but as she puts it, “they can see how much happier I am, and they’re happy that I’m happy.”

True happiness was something that eluded Avery for much of her life. She describes herself before her conversion as being angry, bitter, and self-destructive.

“I came from an abusive home,” she confides, “And I carried my anger and regrets and mistakes around with me like a festering wound in my heart. Becoming a member of the Church and learning about the Salvation and the redeeming power of Christ's sacrifice, along with the presence of the Holy Spirit, have helped me slowly but surely let go of those negative feelings, and to forgive those who have wronged me, and also to forgive myself for wrongs that I've done.”

Now a mother herself to an adorable little boy, Avery finds comfort in the companionship of the Holy Ghost and thanks Heavenly Father every day for her blessings. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has truly changed her perspective of the world. As she puts it: “Having the knowledge of Christ's sacrifices for me has seriously reduced my stress and…I've learned self-control and how to be happy because of the Gospel.”

Avery says that her testimony grows with each kind, loving, righteous member that she meets. Through their works, she can see the positive effects that faith has on their lives, and it serves as an affirmation to that the Church must be true, and that God is good.