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Lows & Highs: 31 Days & a Purse Remake

Welcome to Lows & Highs, a Stories from the Stairs weekly-ish feature! Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs from the week in the comments or by posting a link to your own lows and highs blog post.

 

Low

If you have not noticed, I took an abrupt break from my 31 Days series, Abby’s Apps. I honestly lost interest in writing about apps every day and life got busy. After what I thought would be a one-day hiatus, I decided to stop altogether because I had other projects needing my attention. Instead, I plan to start writing about apps or other tech tips once a week.

 

High

I had a long weekend, thanks to parent-teacher conferences and teacher inservice days where school staff like me do not have to go to work. I spent most of the weekend sewing and cooking. I am thrilled to have finished my first purse refashion and my Halloween costume. The original purse was made of buttery-soft leather with heavy hardware; I loved the former but the latter kept me from enjoying it regularly. I removed the hardware and the leather that had holes from the hardware and remade the top and straps with this gray chevron/zig-zag fabric. In the end, I eliminated over half the original weight!

Refashioned Leather Purse |StairStories.com

I am not posting photos of my costume yet because Brian and I are keeping them secret from our college students until Friday. You can, however, see photos of our previous costumes: Waldo and Carmen Sandiego (2012), Mayhem and Flo (2013).

 

What craft or sewing projects have you been working on lately?

 

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October Highlights

Where Does the Time Go?
Somehow October flew by and I have not been very inspired or prolific when it comes to writing of all sorts.

CCF Cookout
At the beginning of October, we had a CCF cookout complete with hot dog roasting and s’mores!
CCF Fall 2013 Cookout
Eli’s Birthday
Our nephew, Eli, turned one and we were able to visit the weekend before. He is curious and strong-willed, and very expressive. He went through a phase (and maybe is still in it) where he stared blankly at anyone trying to take his picture with a camera or phone. On this visit, though, I flipped the camera view on my phone so he could see our image while I took the photos and he had fun making these faces!
Eli Makes Faces

After five minutes, Eli figured out exactly where the camera lens was. Smart kid!

After five minutes, Eli figured out where the camera lens is. Smart kid!

Taking selfies with a cute nephew – Embarrassing or excusable? Vote in the comments!

Fall Break, Parents’ Visit, Snow
My parents came out to visit while Brian and I were on fall break. We wanted it to be a relaxing weekend for all of us but Dad and Brian finished their one project (replacing the furnace filters) and also tackled replacing bathroom outlets, removing and adjusting door hinges, and repairing a kitchen drawer support. Mom and I cooked, tidied, and did manicures.Mom & Abby Manis

We did squeeze in a fun dinner-and-games night with our friends Pennie and Clay, a movie night, and a yummy Chinese buffet lunch, too.
October snow!I had hoped to take our guests on some walking adventures through our local zoo and the nature preserve, but the first snow of the season arrived on October 18 and canceled our outdoor plans.

Pumpkin Patch
For one of our weekly dates, Brian took me to a pumpkin patch and corn maze. We wound our way through the maze and found all the markers, then took photos with some of the biggest pumpkins I have ever seen! Brian’s thumbs-up in the collage is because he ordered sweet tea at lunch and the waitress left him a glass and a pitcher full of tea. He was a happy guy!
Pumpkin Patch
Halloween
The CCF group helped serve snow cones at the college’s Halloween party. Brian was Mayhem from the Allstate commercials and I was Flo from Progressive. Rounding out our group of leaders, Clay was Jake from State Farm, Pennie was the Orbitz “clean it up!” girl.
Halloween 2013
Mayhem & FloFunny story: I sketched the lettering for my Flo apron on paper and then transferred the outline onto the apron and painted it in acrylic. When I was about halfway through painting (starting at the E and working backwards), Brian came over for a look and frowned.
“What’s wrong?”
“Um… you forgot the I.”
“What?!” I had a tiny bit of space between the S and V so I squeezed in the missing letter and moved on.

It so happened that my sister was on speaker phone when he told me and she thought it was hilarious because I am usually good at conventional spelling and she was a more phonetic speller as a kid.

Share your funny (mis)spelling story or tell about your Halloween costume.

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Lows & Highs: Labor Day

I know I am a day late posting this. Like most people I have talked to, I feel as if I have been a day off all week because of the three day weekend.

Low:
I cannot remember a low for this week and have lots to talk about on the highs.

Highs:
Brian’s parents came to visit us over the long weekend, so they were our first overnight guests in the new house. (And the guest room is looking marvelous, thanks to my husband’s painting skills and our combined curtain-hanging efforts!)

The men’s major project was repairing holes in the shed and replacing the doors, but they also fixed the electric garage door opener that has not worked since we moved in.

2013-09-05 17.23.07

We ladies sewed living room curtains, which is to say that Brian’s mom sewed and I pressed or pinned things as she directed because my sewing skills are still at a “for survival only” level. Despite all the work, we had a fun visit and have lots to show for it!

2013-09-05 17.40.51

What were your lows and highs from the past week?

Lows & Highs is a Stories from the Stairs weekly feature. Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs in the comments or by posting a link to your lows and highs blog post.

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Lows & Highs: Late Nights & College Students

Low:
This week, my low was the challenge of working cheerfully on less than six hours of sleep on Friday. I came home and took a nap before continuing with the rest of my Friday evening activity!

Highs:
2013-08-27 20.57.471. One of my highs was the reason for my lack of sleep: 9 pm Bible study followed by half-price appetizers out with students. We had 24 students at the study and I have enjoyed getting to know them!


2. I also enjoyed spending a couple evenings with my friend, Pennie, preparing for her sister’s baby shower. We chatted and painted wooden letters in her nephew’s initials and made an adorable diaper cake. I had painted letters before and Pennie had made diaper cakes, so we made a good team.

2013-08-27 21.07.52 2013-08-27 21.12.49

What were your lows and highs from the past week?

Lows & Highs is a Stories from the Stairs weekly feature. Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs in the comments or by posting a link to your lows and highs blog post.

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Wedding Rehearsal Adventures

The day before our wedding was hot but cooled off a little in the late afternoon when thunderstorms rolled in. As we gathered for the rehearsal, my dad warned everyone we may have to take shelter because the storms were likely to produce tornados. My response was something like, “Okay, let us know if we have to move.”

We ended up having to take shelter twice in two of the church bathrooms (there were two consecutive storms or one big one with two parts). The second storm was the biggest and Dad had us take cover in the shelters right before the city tornado sirens sounded. (A storm-wary dad with a smart phone is better than a weather radio and faster than tornado sirens!)

While we were in the shelters/bathrooms the second time, the power went out. Eventually, the worst of the storm passed and we emerged to a dark church and flooded parking lot (as far as I know, no vehicles were damaged).

Taking shelter with friends & family

Taking shelter with friends & family

WeddingRehearsal2

Tornado buddies Gram & Eli (a.k.a. my mom & nephew)

Conveniently, we had planned to have the rehearsal dinner in the fellowship hall and the lasagna stayed warm in the ovens. There was still no power, though, so the hall was very dark. I saw someone start lighting tea lights on the tables and realized I had better candles. I recruited my brother-in-law, an usher, and a friend to help me get most of the pillar candles decorating the sanctuary and put them around the dinner tables.

One of the guests seemed surprised, “These are your wedding candles! Are you sure you want to use them?”

“Oh, sure! They won’t burn down much. At my sister’s wedding, we burned the pillar candles all day and barely made a dent.”

Before dinner was over, the power came back on. As people finished eating, Brian stood up to thank everyone. His speech began something like, “Abby and I would like to thank everyone for being a part and – oh, we have a fire!” By the time his sentence registered in my brain, he was already at a nearby table, snatching a burning paper napkin and dropping it on the floor to put it out. Everyone was fine and I found out later that one of the kids had been playing with a tea light. Poking a candle with a paper napkin is not advisable!

Brian finished his thank-you speech and we wrapped up the rest of the evening without further incidents. As Brian drove me to my apartment, I told him, “After what happened today, I think there’s something we need to discuss that most couples don’t think about.”

“What’s that?”

“If we have to take shelter during our wedding tomorrow, I’m not waiting anymore, I’d want Jon to marry us in the shelter.”

“I don’t think there are any storms forecasted for tomorrow.”

“I don’t care. If there’s another tornado, will you marry me in the shelter?”

He laughed, “Yes. Maybe we could stand with Jon between the two bathrooms and finish the ceremony there so people could see from both sides!”

What’s your funniest or most memorable rehearsal story? Ours is a tornado, a flood, a power outage, and a fire!

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Catching Up

I am back from my semi-unintentional three-month vacation from blogging! Here is a summary of what has been going on in my life. What have you been up to this summer?

April/May

At the end of April, a school where Brian applied in Oklahoma called for an interview. He had three rounds of interviews for one teaching job in May while preparing for our wedding.

At work, I wrote and updated what felt like 100 pages of procedures and trained people to cover my job. Let me tell you, it is challenging to explain how to analyze information I have handled automatically for the past eight years! My last day as a factory accountant was May 29 and we still did not know whether we would be living in GB or Oklahoma when we returned from the honeymoon.

June

We rehearsed, got married, and went on our honeymoon without major catastrophes. (There are fantastic stories and photos to go with each of those experiences, so they will have separate posts later.)

At the end of our honeymoon, we found out the Oklahoma job was offered to someone else. For three weeks, we prepared to live in GB and started packing my whimsical, single girl apartment with its lavender living room, sunshine-yellow kitchen, and royal purple doorway.

We made a home-hunting trip to GB again and bought a ranch-style house (more details in a separate post). Closing was mid-July, so we lived in Brian’s bachelor pad apartment for three weeks while he taught summer school in the afternoons.

July

We closed on our house and moved everything from both apartments. We are still sorting and finding places for things and decorating (it will take a while!).

We are preparing for student ministry kick-off as college students return for the fall semester.

Side note: I updated my blog header, The List, and About today and have more stories on the way!

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Lows & Highs: 4/17-4/30/13

Lows:
1) I started drafting a tentative schedule for the day of the wedding and it looked like I would have to start getting ready at 6:30 a.m. (which seems far too early).  Brian and I talked about what truly matters to us on the schedule, though, and pared it down so I can start at seven. I know it is only 30 minutes later, but it seems much more reasonable in my mind.

2) I went clothes shopping by myself, spent hours trying on lots of stuff, and did not find garments that fit well. I finally stopped for a hazelnut Americano and a blueberry scone when I realized I was tired, frustrated, and hungry. I felt much better after that.

Highs:
1) Brian and I met up with our good friends, Jon and Priscilla, for dinner and our last scheduled premarital counseling meeting before the wedding. (Jon is going to be our officiant.) Since we had not seen them in weeks, we had a good visit with lots of catching up on plans and travels.

2) I went shopping for wedding and reception decor and found everything I was looking for that day at very reasonable prices!

3) I tried on my wedding dress for my first fitting and it looked even better than I remembered! In addition, jewelry I already have looks terrific with it.

What were your lows and highs from the past week?

Lows & Highs is a Stories from the Stairs weekly feature. Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs in the comments or by posting a link to your lows and highs blog post.

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Simple, Summery, & Fun

Wedding Planning2

Have you ever planned a wedding? Boy, can it be a lot of work!

I have attended, helped plan, and bridesmaid-ed lots of weddings, so I’ve seen how much work wedding planning can be. Now that we are planning our own wedding, Brian and I have a philosophy that the important thing is the two of us committing to each other before God and the rest is just a party with people who care about us.

We want to enjoy our brief season of being engaged and to spend the majority of our time preparing for a lifetime of marriage instead of for a one-day wedding.

Early in planning, I told him, “I think we need to communicate clearly about what’s important to each of us. If neither one of us has a strong opinion about something, we should pick the simplest, least expensive option or eliminate it altogether. Like, if neither of us care what kind of mints we have at the reception, maybe we shouldn’t have mints.”

“I agree and I don’t really care about mints.”

“Okay, bad example. I care and we’re having cream cheese mints.”

For some reason, he laughed really hard.

We still laugh about that conversation, but it greatly simplified the planning. For example:

  • Our theme (wedding themes are trendy, right?) is simple, summery, and fun.
  • Decorations will be cute but minimal and I will probably delegate them to friends who are better at it than I am.
  • We are having an afternoon wedding because more people will be able to make it a day trip.
  • Plus, a cake reception lets us include more people on our budget than a dinner. (We are going to have a light lunch of party subs and chips and fruit with our family and wedding party between photos and the ceremony, though.)
  • We made our guest list in a spreadsheet so we (read: my mom) could do a mail merge to print address labels with minimal effort. The invitations do not require any folding or assembling, so we will just stick them in envelopes.
  • We chose music we like but that is not particularly traditional for weddings.
  • We will have our favorite cake flavors (lemon and red velvet) and some of our favorite drinks (iced tea and peach Italian soda).

Do you have any ideas for simplified wedding planning?

If you need a fun, talented photographer in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, check out Keri (she didn’t ask me to say that). She is our engagement/wedding photographer and I really like her!

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Ping-Pong Ambush

Brian’s fortieth birthday was last week so I wanted a fun and memorable way to celebrate him. Even though we live 250 miles apart, we planned to meet at his parents’ house for his birthday dinner on his actual birthday (and other engagement festivities during the weekend).

Out of Nowhere
Brian knew something was up when he was setting up for college Bible study the night before his birthday. A few students were already in the room when one of the girls stuck her head in and motioned them to come outside. When he walked through the hall a few minutes later, the students immediately stopped talking. Near the beginning of Bible study, the ringleader gave him an envelope that contained a decorated plastic zipper bag and a note from me. He was about halfway through the letter when the students began throwing ping-pong balls at him! On each ping-pong ball, I had written a milestone from his life and a note from me.

The last part of the letter explained:
To honor and celebrate you on your milestone birthday, I have prepared an unconventional highlight reel of a few of the experiences, achievements, and blessings of your life so far. Enjoy!

Ambush #2
The next morning, on his birthday, Brian stood chatting with colleagues who share the same office area and told them about the students’ ambush from the night before. He went to his morning class and was trying to call the office secretary when she and the rest of his colleagues came “charging in and throwing ping-pong balls.” Brian was so surprised that he gaped at them, still holding the phone until it went to voicemail. He was not, however, as shocked as the student who was caught in the crossfire next to him!

Flashback: The Setup
Over a week before Brian’s birthday, I secretly recruited my co-conspirators via email and Facebook and then mailed them each a box of decorated ping-pong balls. They may have thought it was a weird request but both cheerfully agreed to help and to enlist others.

Back to the Birthday
After birthday dinner with his family and some relatives, Brian opened his gifts and wisely (or cautiously?) saved mine for last. The first package held a large jar and I asked if he knew what it was for.

“I have an idea.”

“You’re probably right. Where is that bag I suggested you keep handy?”

“In my car.”

“You should really go get it.”

“Oh, really?” He grinned as he started out of the room slowly and looked behind him. When he saw me going to get something, he began moving quickly in the direction of the car. I called after him, “Take your time!” but he didn’t listen and was back in the living room before we finished passing around the ping-pong balls. Brian sat there smiling and laughing while we all threw our projectiles at him and even his grandma joined in the fun!

Side note: The jar I liked and purchased to hold the ping-pong balls did not come with a lid, so my dad made a custom lid out of walnut.

BallJar

People ask how ping-pong balls became a symbol of our relationship. The short answer is that I have a vivid imagination and Brian listened and then added his own romantic spin. It has escalated from there.

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Lows & Highs: 2/4-2/12/13

Lows
1. Tuesday night at class, I spent the first hour doing the administrative work of testing instead of the teaching work I love. I was grateful to have my assisting teacher there and she cheerfully went through the planned activity with the class until I could get there. I did enjoy getting to teach and interact with students during the second half of the class, though.

2. I keep growing frustrated – mostly at myself – for being unable to do everything on my to-do list. Between my own expectations and those of others, my to-do list grows long in a hurry and I am still unskilled at delegating and telling people “no.” I keep forgetting that God gives me enough time to accomplish everything He wants me to do but not necessarily to do everything I think I must do.

Highs
1. Friday night at class, I taught a lesson based on drawing your own family tree and got all but one of my fifteen students chattering enthusiastically and practicing their English!

2. On a shopping trip in a nearby city with my parents, we accomplished all our errands and went to Panda Express and Starbucks! Oh, and my dad decided to join Twitter while we were on that shopping trip. So far he doesn’t tweet but treats it more like a personalized news feed.

What were your lows and highs from the past week?

Lows & Highs is a Stories from the Stairs weekly feature. Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs in the comments or by posting a link to your lows and highs blog post.

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