Friday, March 13, 2015

New blog!

For those of you who still follow A Red Envelope, thank you! However, after several years away from blogging, I've decided to start fresh -- with new ideas, a new direction, and a new blog-- Efflorescence. I'm also hopefully going to be opening my own Etsy shop soon-- so stay tuned!

Please visit me at Efflorescence, and as always thanks for the support! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dorothy Edith

I have sat down many times over the last week to express through writing my feelings about my grandma. But no matter the number of tries, I can’t find the right words, or enough words to describe my love and admiration for her. Even now, every word, every sentence feels inadequate. Dorothy Edith Sturges was not just another person on the street, easily describable with a few simple phrases.  She was so much more. Her personality was all encompassing, her heart big enough to hold everyone. When she’d grace you with her presence, you could feel it in your own heart, warming your own soul.

When I think about my grandma I think of a clear rain bonnet tied gently under her chin. I think of the floral ceramic teacup filled with straight black coffee. I think of the timeless yet elegant watch strapped to her wrist, the delicate earrings always dangling from her ears. I picture the nail file on the table next to her chair, ready to fix any slight mishap with her manicure. And I think of the green metal pipe, straight from Grandpa’s shop, used to wrap the Krum Kake every Christmas.

My grandma was the epitome of elegance and grace that I strive for every day.  She taught me the significance of etiquette—from how to set a formal table, to being properly handed off from my dad to my husband during my wedding ceremony. She demonstrated the golden rule each and every day—never judging negatively or speaking critically of others.  She took pride in her appearance—Even on days spent at home, she wouldn’t be caught without her hair curled, her lipstick meticulously applied and a freshly washed sweater set adorning her delicate body.

When I think about my grandma, I think of the colors she would rarely be without—pink, turquoise, and gold. I recall the stack of novels next to her chair, waiting to be read or already devoured. She and I were in the habit of exchanging books when we’d come across a particularly good one; a simple tradition I already miss.

My grandma had the utmost patience, contrary to our fast-paced world.  She found joy in perfectly decorating detailed Christmas cookies with tweezers, in quietly completing the most difficult thousand-piece puzzles, in peacefully recalling stories of her past to anyone that would inquire. She showed me that a quiet, simple life could be the most enjoyed life imaginable.

Grandma’s high school yearbooks recently made reappearance, and in one of them she stated she’d like to be a housewife when she grew up. I’m glad to know her dream was fulfilled, and I truly believe she was destined for the role. Whether in the kitchen cooking up a storm, or offering wisdom and a listening ear, she did the job flawlessly. No matter where our lives took us over the years, Grandma was the constant that held the family together. She was always the one everyone wanted to see, everyone wanted to please. She made you feel cared for and welcome—and you’d never leave her home with an empty stomach.

When I think of my grandma, I think of the cream puffs purchased from Thriftway down the street, and of the special pink, green and yellow mints she kept in a glass jar in the dining room. I remember joining her on walks to the post office—always with the “mail bag” in tote and my personal excitement of opening the lockbox for her. I picture the blue and white dishes she gifted to me when I went off to college—While other students were eating out of Tupperware, I was drinking from a porcelain teacup in true Dorothy-style. And mostly, I think of the hours spent organizing her yearly garage sale and being privy to the most precious gift of all: underneath the dusty household items were countless memories and stories ready to be recalled. And I was all ears.

My grandma was so much more than what I’ve put forth—She was gentle, classy and kind. She was an excellent cook—making grandpa decadent clam chowder despite her own allergy to shell fish. She was creative—a tole painter, embroiderer, seamstress, cake decorator. She kept traditions alive through her Norwegian baking—Lefse, Krum Kake and Fattigmand Buckles. She was polite and graceful. A treasure and a blessing. She was a fountain of wisdom, a quiet presence, an added warmth to any room.

I long to see her gentle, lipsticked smile and her twinkling eyes one more time. And yet, although the last page of my grandma’s life may have turned, I know her spirit will linger on forever.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A touch of Autumn

"What I mean by the first day of fall is that day when you suddenly understand with your whole body that the season has changed. When the air feels snappier against your skin and the sky's blueness turns wistful, and the humming of insects shifts pitch, and you just know like you know your own name that summer is over."
-- Marisa de los Santos, Belong to Me

Yes, Autumn started quite a while ago. Today is not the first day of fall. And yet, each morning that I awaken to the luscious colors of the changing leaves, the soft pitter-pattering of the rain, and the briskness of a cold morning, I feel like Autumn is starting all over again. And I love it. 

And because I love this season so much, I've been bringing it into my apartment in every way possible. I love using natural elements in the home, and what better time to do so than during the vibrant months of fall? 

The other day I made a sparkly door hanger using acorn caps... 

 For full tutorial, click here

And a table display with pumpkins and gourds (all lined up in an antique drawer I purchased for $1 from an estate sale)...

Notice the gorgeous copper handle?

And of course I had to add a little color to my --otherwise ugly-- apartment deck...

And finally, what fall day would be complete without a warm, soothing, pumpkin spice latte? :-) I hope you are enjoying this fall weather as much as I am. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Image via Better Homes and Gardens

Loving that I get to dress up for work. After being a preschool teacher for three years and wearing nothing but jeans and sneakers, it's nice wearing skirts and slacks and jewelry. No more little ones pulling on my earrings! Bonus: I'm finally learning my way around an ironing board. 

Daydreaming about a potential trip to Europe in the next couple of years. Particularly, walking the narrow streets of York, England with my husband's hand in mine, channeling my parents younger days when they fell in love with the quaint town. 

Reading Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy. I originally went to the bookstore in search of his collection of short stories Love Begins in Winter (which I still intend to read). But a passage on the first page of Everything Beautiful made it hard to resist: 
     "She waits at the wild end of the garden, leaning on a gate in her coat-- the one she wouldn't wear. But now everything about it seems beautiful-- especially the buttons; small tusks discolored by a thousand meals. The mystery of pockets. 
     At the farthest end of the wood, where no one comes, is where her life begins and ends."

Searching for A rustic rake, to create the lovely fall display pictured above. I love how unconventional-- yet brilliant-- it is.  

Missing my college days when good friends were just a doorstep away, instead of hours and cities apart. When plans to walk to the park or bake brownies or throw a picnic together could be made on a whim instead of carefully thought out weeks in advance. Checking schedules was unnecessary. Picking a location in close proximity was easy. Spontaneous decisions were made and carried out and life just happened.

Thinking about a T.S. Elliot quote: "Love is most nearly itself when here and now cease to matter." My husband and I had a date Saturday evening, and while walking the sidewalks of downtown Corvallis I was flipping through a book when I came upon this quote. I instantly loved it and stopped my husband to share it with him. The moment was perfect: the sun was setting, a cool breeze was teasing the hem of my dress and the ends of my hair, and we were standing in the middle of a busy sidewalk sharing a special thought. It literally felt like here and now had ceased. The time had stopped. All that mattered was the way my husband smiled at me and put his hand on my back, the way the book pages felt in my fingertips, the way the words filled my soul. 

Longing for cooler, crisp weather that actually feels like autumn, instead of the 85-90 degrees we've been having all week. Boots, scarves, candles, and blankets are calling my name (while my hot, sticky first grade classroom full of twenty sweaty children is definitely not). I just have to wait and be patient and remember that discontentment springs from a lack of thankfulness for what I have. 

Enjoying mixing pumpkin in with my oatmeal in the mornings. Add a little cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a sprinkling of sugar... maybe even some walnuts or almond slices, and you've created one delicious breakfast. Try it!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

DIY fall wreath

I love fall. Love, love, love. 

Crisp leaves, warm hues, tall boots, and pumpkin-flavored everything. New school supplies, cold mornings, wool jackets, and hayrides. Hot cider, cozy blankets, and beautiful scenery. It's all wonderful.

So of course I'm planning ahead, gearing up for my favorite season-- despite the 90 degree afternoons spent sprawled out in front of the fan eating popsicles. I know autumn is just around the corner-- I can feel it.

The past few evenings a cool breeze has settled in the valley, hinting at the first taste of weather to come. The way it catches in my hair and chills my skin excites me. Watching the grass fields billow ever so slightly warms me to the bone.

Autumn-- I am ready for you.

And to prep my home for the season to come, I have started in on some appropriate decor. Behold the (possibly overdone and somewhat cliche) fall wreath.

10 inch Styrofoam wreath
4 Ply Jute
Fall decor (leaves, flowers, twigs, etc... I found mine at Joann's for 30 % off)
Glue gun and twine (not pictured)

Begin by hot gluing the end of the jute to the wreath form, and then wrapping the entire shape with the jute. Every 5-10 wraps, add another drop of glue to hold everything in place. 

After the entire wreath is wrapped, decide on the placement of your decor, then secure each piece with hot glue. I decided to reinforce my branches with small pieces of twine, but you might be able to get away with just the glue. Make sure you layer the decor on top of each other so the glue is not visible (and trim any excess twine). I was able to find a giant flower to cover up all of the glue in the middle of the leaves and branches. 

And that's it! A beautiful fall wreath in preparation for the lovely months to come. If you want to hang your wreath on the door, simply add a piece of ribbon to the top.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A hidden gem

Image via WeHeartIt

This past weekend, we spent a night at a tiny, easy-to-miss inn right on the harbor of Depoe Bay. And in this eleven-room oasis, in our quant and cozy room, in the top middle drawer of the writer’s desk sat a well-used guest book dating back to 2008.

I was immediately entranced with the 4 x4 square, paisley-covered notebook with its simple lined pages—the type you might find at the local dollar store, or at the end of a Target aisle where the clearance items are located. Despite its commonplace appearance on the outside, it was the writing inside that mattered—that made a lasting impression on me.

What inclined past guests to contribute their thoughts and feelings to a sea of other strangers’ writings, to a book they would likely never see again?

Did they feel expected to do so? Were they so moved by the place, they felt they had to share? Was it a last minute thought as they packed to leave on their next destination? Or was it the idea they were contributing to something greater? Something to be read by people in the future?

I found myself not thumbing half-heartedly through the pages, but rather reading each page with purpose— determination to find something exceptional. A hidden gem in a pile of rocks. A silk scarf amongst a drawer of cotton ones.

As I flipped through the pages, I admired the different handwritings, some scrawled largely across the page, others concise and steady with even spaces. I noticed the different signatures—some full names, some mysterious initials, some with no closure at all. I recognized locations from Idaho, Canada, California—even Michigan and Colorado.

Who were these people that stayed here before me? Were they young couples like my husband and myself, celebrating anniversaries? Were they well-traveled adventurers just passing through? Maybe some were families, taking a yearly vacation. Or artists and writers, finding inspiration in the ocean and slow-paced life at the beach.

I may not have found a specific special entry, written by someone famous or full of beautiful extraordinary thoughts. But I realized something else.

So much can be discovered from a guest book hidden in a desk. So much curiosity and wonder can be provoked. So many stories can be imagined, so many insights into ordinary lives can play out in a few short entries.

And that’s the gem. 

All the entries as a whole make it the treasure it truly is. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Delicious spiced walnuts

As I was browsing the internet for dinner recipes yesterday, I came across a snack I had previously bookmarked from (Sidenote: if you haven't already, you should consider signing up for their Natural Pantry emails-- always full of healthy recipes, without the cost of purchasing the magazine).

Anyway, the recipe was for Spiced Walnuts, which you can view here. And let me tell you, they are delicious! Not only are they spicy but they're also sweet-- a great combination for a simple, crunchy snack. Plus, I'm all for promoting antioxidant-filled walnuts, as you can see from this post. Much better for you than peanuts, and you know exactly what is going into them (unlike store-bought seasoned nuts). Yummy, simple (prepared and cooked in about five minutes!) and healthy. Perfect.