Feb 29, 2012

Guest Post: Kassi of Truly Lovely!

Hi everyone! I am delighted to have Kassi visiting us today. She is adorable, and I love that she knows how much I adore Pheobe. I am over at her blog today talking a little bit more about teacher fashion! Please stop by!


Hello there lovelies! 
Let me introduce myself... My name is Kassi and I blog over at Truly Lovely.

I am super excited to be snagging some space here on Jen's lovely piece of blogland today!

She's over at my little piece of blogland as we speak... I'm pretty positive she'd love a visit over there when you're finished here... just sayin'...

Truly Lovely is an 'all things lovely blog' written by me and my sister, Kayli.

That's us obviously... ;)

You can click that picture to learn more about us and our blog, but in the meantime I'd love to share this pretty awesome idea that Miss Kayli came up with... Being thankful! Monumental right!?! Who does that... 
I mean really, how many of us actually take time from our day to think about what we're thankful for?
Raise you're hand? Go ahead nobody's looking...? Anyone?
Me neither. *hangs head in shame
But Kayli had this idea to do Ten Weeks of Thanks and list a few things that you're thankful for every week. 

There's even a cute little button and a linky party! 

She's already on week four, but I'm a little behind so I'm going to share my week two with you dolls. 

Mostly in hopes that you'll take a minute at least today and think about what you're thankful for! 

Week Two's topic is Material Possessions (there's a different topic every week). 

So... here's MY list...

My sewing machine. My grandmothers came together and bought Kayli and I each a sewing machine about a two years ago now... We each received the machine and just about everything us future seamstresses would need. It was an AMAZING day! ;) I've already made blankets for my bridesmaids, a tote bag or two... It's been a real money saver and creative outlet! 

My computers. I have a laptop at home and my computer at work (which technically isn't MINE, but you get the point...) They keep me connected to friends around the world, allow me to blog, bring in a paycheck, store my photos and important documents... The list goes on.

My Scentsy warmers. Since the very first one my MIL purchased for me I've accumulated several. I loved them so much I became a consultant myself and actually sell Scentsy now to make extra income for my family. It's amazing the blessings that first Scentsy warmer has since brought into my life. 

My phone. We all know how much Jen loves her Phoebe... Just wait til she's had her for a few years... How I ever lived without my DroidX... Was there a time before smart phones?? I can't even remember anymore... haha. 

So... what are YOU thankful for? 

We'd love for you to write up a post or two and join us! If you don't have time, at least take a minute and think about it today... 

Be thankful lovelies!!

Thanks so much to Jen for having me over! 

Hope you'll pop over to Truly Lovely and say hello sometime! ;) 

Feb 28, 2012

Confessions: Bad Grad

So most of you know I am getting my PhD {in English, in case you were wondering}. I want to be a professor and getting the ol' PhD is really the only way to go about it. I am in my second year of what will probably be a six year endeavor.

{These glasses are fake. Just FYI.}

But before you convince yourself that I am all smarty pants and driven and scholarly and all that jazz, let me tell you that truth...

I am a bad graduate student.

I mean, I am good at "doing school." I can write well, I'm not afraid to speak up in class, I always meet deadlines {although I can procrastinate with the best of them}, I am a fairly confident and innovative teacher, but when it comes to grad school, I really just feel like a big fat faker most of the time.

See, in graduate school we are supposed to read all the time. When we finish our assigned reading, we are supposed to read other scholarly articles for fun. During summer break we are supposed to brush up on our Aristotle and return to school in the fall with fresh, new ideas that no one has ever thought of before, and should probably have a draft of a paper that is almost ready for publication. Ooops. Maybe I chose the wrong profession. I don't read scholarly articles for fun; instead, I anxiously await summer break so I can catch up on my Real Simple magazines.

Today in a meeting, one of my classmates started talking about a concept he is working on with mapping. The problem he sees is that when we make maps {of any sort - not just geographical} they are static. They don't show movement or changes over time. If too many things change, you just have to make a brand new map to account for it, so he is trying to think of ways we can make non-static {moving} maps in academia. I spent the next five minutes thinking about the Marauder's Map from Harry Potter {the one that shows where people are moving all over Hogwarts} and decided that a Harry Potter allusion would be a most excellent introduction to the mapping article that this classmate will probably be publishing next year after he brushes up on his Aristotle over summer vacation. Harry Potter is my Aristotle.

So there it is. I am a bad grad, but I'm okay with it. I will keep faking it each and every day... and maybe, someday, I, too, will publish a paper with Harry Potter introduction. I can only hope...


Feb 26, 2012

Lovely little things...

Glorious weekend. One of my best friends {since 4th grade!} came into town with her husband. Sometimes I get a little stressed with all the visitors we have, but not this time. There is nothing like face-to-face time with a soul mate friend. I've realized since coming to Arizona that I miss these types of friendships. I have met some amazing women here and I love them, but most of my girlfriends are more couple-friends. Like... I am paired with Micah and we go on double dates with other couples. And I am completely blessed by that, but sometimes it's nice to have some girl time with someone who knows me like a sister. And that is exactly what I had this weekend!!!

I haven't had time to edit the pics from the fancy cam, but here are some pics from Saturday. We hiked Camelback, although we probably looked for parking for longer than we actually hiked, but that's what you get on an 80 degree Saturday in February. Hoorah! We finished off our night with some amazing Cabernet glazed burgers and a round of Settlers...

Trying to find parking... Nick is giving up hope!

Ready to go...

And here are some other lovely moments from the past week...

Reminiscing about some of my other dearest friends... my college roommates, the Greenhouse Girls // My car temp read 99 degrees around 5pm on Thursday. It was more like 80 out, but isn't it CRAZY to think it could even get that hot inside a car in February!?

This day started off with sleeping through my alarm, but I recovered nicely when I discovered a place called "Seattle Espresso" on my lunch break {powder white chocolate... yes, please!}

Smashburger craving satisfied. I went almost two months without it. // The pretty red shoes Micah bought me last week.

Hope you have a lovely week!

Linking up with Life Rearranged and Hello Hue!

Feb 24, 2012

Shine Project: Pass It Forward

There is a sweet girl that lives down the road from me {okay, suburb next door to me in Phoenix} who is as obsessed with her sister as I am with mine, who loves underprivileged high school students even more than I do {and I didn't think it was possible}, and is an all around great gal. So when she asked me for help with launching the next big project for her non-profit organization, I was honored!

Meet Ashley!

And here it is... the top secret project she's been working on for months!

Pass It Forward

From Ashley...

"Pass It Forward was designed to get people to do little things, everyday, that makes an impact on the community around them. Pass it Forward is designed around a card (read card that I've attached now so you understand). Each card is given a unique ID number. Lets say we're at McDonalds, and I decide to pay for the person behind me in the drive through. I'd give the cashier the card, and tell them to pass it along to the next car when the give them the food that has been paid for. I then go home and log into the website that was on the card, and find my unique ID number. I log into it, and add my information... My first name, city, and a description of what I did....Let's say the person behind me was you, you would pass it forward to someone else, and then would go home and do the same thing. 

From the very beginning, you will be able to track where your card goes, and how many people you affect just by doing one simple act of kindness.

This project had the potential of working small miracles in the lives of those we pass, and we will then be able to see how far one simple act can go. I want to spread the shine community into something that is in every city, so that we can get more projects done and change more lives... I have strongly felt like this is a big way that will get accomplished."

Heather, Erin, Ashley and me at the first Shine Event this past fall.

So exciting! I love Ashley's heart and I am thrilled to be a part of the launch of this project!
Ashley's Blog // Spread the Shine


Feb 23, 2012

Flowers Fade Friday: Both.

I feel like I am on a theme of “both” lately. As Christians, we so often try to divide and compartmentalize things… For example, am I supposed to save money or give money away? The answer is probably both. If you are a parent, one of your commitments to your family should be to save money for emergencies, for the future, etc. But as a Christian, you are also called to give a portion of your money back to God and be generous with those around you. You are called to BOTH save and give.

Recently, my small group was talking about giving. And the question came up… are we supposed to give our money or our time? Are there different seasons in life where we are to do one and not the other?

The answer… we are supposed to do BOTH.


I spoke about this a few weeks ago, but if you are not giving to your church {aka giving back to God what is His to begin with} you are in sin. Except for the rarest of seasons where a person might not be making ANY income, everyone should be tithing. Remember, even the widow gave a penny with a joyful heart {Mark 12:42}…

But you are also supposed to serve your church with your time and your talents. The discussion that led me to write this post actually started with this example: There was a man who was very wealthy. He worked all the time and he gave a very large portion of his income to his church. He was one of the top givers there each year. However, he was so busy working that he never really connected with anyone at the church. He couldn’t even stop working long enough to go to the yearly men’s retreat.

This man was also in sin. We are called to serve the body. Granted, this man’s spiritual gift is probably the gift of giving, so this might be the main way God wants him to serve. But if he is not investing in the people of the church and building the body up with any of his time, he is not being all that God has called him to be as a member of the body.

Writing a tithe check consistently, while good, is not enough. You should be looking for some other way to serve your local body – whether through volunteering in the nursery, sending emails, helping with parking, leading a small group, opening your home for meetings, cleaning the bathrooms, running the sound board, greeting newcomers, etc.  You should be doing something. It doesn’t have to be some fancy task with an official title.

You should be giving AND serving. It’s a “both” thing.


Feb 22, 2012

Keyword Analysis {#3}

If you are new around here, welcome to a keyword analysis. Every now and then I like to look at the words people are typing into search engines that somehow lead them to my blog. Most of the time they are super normal, like "AZ Russums" or "newlywed date ideas" or stuff of that nature... but sometimes they are completely ridiculous/hilarious. Here are a few of my favorites lately...

 {You can also read Keyword Analysis #1 and #2 if you want!}

Kohl Cords – Technically, I think it’s Kohl’s cords and more specifically I hope you are talking about the Lauren Conrad Skinny Cord, because that is one fabulous pant. So fabulous, in fact, that I now have two pairs – one in rust and one in gray. Sometimes it’s hard for me to wear any other pants but these.

Cute husband site. - Well, this is a site with a cute husband on it. But he’s mine and you can’t have him. I hope this person was at least looking for a site to find a cute bachelor to become a husband. Because searching for men that are already married seems pretty sketch to me...

Cloth paper scissors paper mâché  – Ummm… what? Even though my friends, Heather and Erin, try to claim I am a craft blogger because I mod-podged a piece of paper to some wood last year, I really am not a crafter. I have no time for it and I am not very good at it, unless it’s a very basic project. And I have never in my life made paper mâché. Sorry to disappoint.

Swedish Immigrant Girl – Are you talking about this one? Because she is the only one I know.

Shannon Miller 1992 Olympics – Yes, wasn’t it great? Best Olympics ever if you ask me. Although I always liked Kim Zmeskal more than Shannon. As we watched the competition, my sister and I would do cartwheels back and forth across our family room thrusting our arms in the air afterward to be just like our gymnast heroes.

How women can dress for NASCAR races. There are a variety of ways really… We chose the ensembles on the left {this was a costume… I HATE Nascar…} but they chose this twinsy ditty on the right…

Sexypaper. Why, yes, I am writing one of those. It’s about mommy bloggers… J

Foot worship moccasins I got Minnetonka Moccasins for Christmas, and while I love them, I think worshipping them is going a bit far…

What's the strangest keyword search on your blog lately??? {Aren't people so weird!? Ha!}


Feb 21, 2012

Recipe: Strawberry Layer Cake

Okay, I’m back with another cake recipe. If you missed it, my sister in law had a big birthday party a few weeks ago and I was put in charge of cakes. I already shared the PB Fudge Cake recipe I made and today I have a delicious strawberry cake recipe for you. I wanted to make two cakes because we had 30 guests and I wanted to keep non-chocolate people happy too {I am not sure how non-chocolate people even exist, but I’ve heard that they do!}…

And you know what, this ended up being the more popular cake! It’s super delish. So here we go…

What you need:
1 box white/vanilla cake mix
1 package strawberry gelatin/jello {smaller 3oz. box}
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup oil
3 eggs
¼ cup frozen smashed strawberries in syrup {thawed}

2 sticks of butter at room temp, but not melted
3 cups of confectioner’s powdered sugar {approximately}
½ cup frozen smashed strawberries in syrup {thawed}
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 TBSP. of milk
Pinch of salt {optional}

Carton of fresh strawberries

What you do
Preheat oven to 350. Grease two round cake pans and line with wax paper if you are a wax paper convert like me. 

Mix cake mix, jello powder, buttermilk and oil at medium speed. Add in eggs. Beat for 1-2 minutes.

Add about ¼ cup of thawed frozen strawberries to the mix. The more mashed or cut up the pieces of fruit are better! Beat on LOW for one more minute.

Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake for approximately 30-32 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your frosting by mixing butter, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. All the measurements above are approximate. I had to add a little more milk to get mine to the right consistency. Once the texture is right, add ½ a cup of juicy, smashed strawberries… make sure that there is more juice than fruit at this point. Mix until frosting is fluffy and chill until you are ready to frost your cake.

Remove cake from the oven and allow layers to cool completely. Now it's time to build your cake. Place one layer on a flat sheet or tray. I put mine on the cake stand and just wiped up the frosting spills afterward.  Remove frosting from fridge and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes before frosting. Stir is rapidly to whip it up and get it ready. Use a spatula to spread frosting evenly around the first lay and then add the top layer and repeat.

Garnish with the fresh strawberries. I cut mine in slices and made a spiral around the top of the cake!



Linking up with Tatertots and Jello and Five Days, Five Ways!

Feb 20, 2012

Good news!

You might remember about a month ago when I wrote this post? If you are new to my journey, here is the long story short. About a year ago, I felt like I needed to make a change. I was one semester into my PhD program in literature and suddenly God started opening doors for me in another field. It's a different branch in our English department called Rhetoric, Composition and Linguistics. This was completely surprising for me - a long time British literature lover {nerdy, I know}... but it all made sense. Switching programs would allow me to pursue a really awesome research project. It would allow me to teach a greater variety of classes in the future. It would give me a better chance of getting published. And it would make me far more likely to get a job after I graduate. Win/win/win/win. Thus started a year long journey of figuring out what it would take to switch programs. I learned I would have to reapply and had just missed the application deadline for last year. I took a leap of faith and started taking classes and working on my research {studying mommy bloggers!}, even though I hadn't officially been accepted to the new program yet.

About a month ago, I finally finished and submitted my application with lots of prayer and hope. And last week I finally got the answer. I'm in! I am seriously praising God right now!

And the moment I got the news, I felt a great weight lifted from my shoulders. I hadn't realized how stressful it was for me to bridge two programs and take classes for each, not knowing what the result of this application would be. But no more of that heavy feeling anymore!

Not much will change, honestly. I will stay in the same office, teach the same classes, continue working with the same teachers that have been helping me with my research already. But now it's all official. I can finally choose the committee that will oversee my dissertation. I can finally choose a specific dissertation topic. Life is good and I feel like I am right where God wants me. My grad school journey has been crazy, but I know that God has been directing my steps along the way. Thank you for your prayers, friends!


*Linking up with Jami and Casey!*

Feb 19, 2012

Lovely little things...

I kinda sorta had an easy week last week. Isn’t that strange? If you have ever been in grad school, you know that easy is NOT supposed to happen. But for some reason, I had a random and unexpected “no new reading” day in each of my classes. So weird. Usually, my schedule looks a little like this…

But now I am back to reading a ton and I have student papers coming in that need to be graded and life is as busy ever.

But I enjoyed the short segment of rest and calm while it lasted! Oh, and the house cleaner came, which made my life even better {I think Micah and I have finally compromised on having her come every other month for a deep cleaning - hoorah!}. Here are some of my favorite moments from the most restful mid-semester week ever...

I never get tired of Arizona winter mornings // Finally got to bust out the Girl Scout cookies!

Note in Micah's lunch on Valentine's Day // The dessert Micah brought home that night

V-day dinner at home // My love

Our phones have names {used by me, of course; Micah would not name his technology} // My favorite type of morning

I took a moment this week to praise God that I no longer live in Seattle // My watch from slister!

Real Marriage Conference {so good} // The best drink

Shopping with Micah // Trying to wear boots as much as I can in these final weeks of winter


Linking up with Finding Beauty, Bits of Splendor, and Hello Hue!

Feb 16, 2012

Flowers Fade Friday: A Sweet Aroma

I was listening to a sermon recently on Luke 1 about the arrival of the angel to Zechariah {to announce the birth of John the Baptist}. The angel arrived when Zechariah was completing the special priestly task of lighting the incense in the temple while all the other priests were outside praying.

When the angel arrives, he stands next to the incense and says “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son..." {Luke 1:13}.

Hold the phone. Zechariah was an OLD man. His wife was possibly even older than he was – “advanced in years" as he reminds the angel.


So why was he praying for a son? Shouldn’t he have given that up long ago?

Maybe he was still praying actively for a son each day, because he knew that age, menopause or a barren womb could not stop the mighty God that gave a son to Abraham and Sarah when they were older than most of our grandparents.

Or maybe he had prayed for a son for years and years, and even though it seemed too late, God knew that in the depths of his heart, Zechariah still longed for a son, even if his lips no longer uttered the words.

The story of Zechariah {although he doubted the angel’s news and was struck mute for the next nine months} is a sweet reminder of God’s faithfulness to answer our prayers.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but God always answers our prayers… with a “yes,” “no,” or “later…”

But sometimes that later is much later… like months, years, or decades from now.

Pinned Image

Don’t give up praying to the Lord even if you don’t get the answer you want immediately. Why? Because God might answer the prayer when you are old. Long after you assume his answer is "no" you might discover his answer was "later..."

And the other reason to continue praying? Prayer honors God. It is an act of worship when we go to him humbly and dependently and ask for his help or his blessings.

It was significant that Zechariah was lighting the incense when the angel appeared to him to announce his prayers had been answered. In Revelation 5:8, it shows us a vision of heaven where “the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."  Our prayers are a pleasing aroma to the Lord and he remembers them, even if we cannot discern his answer right away.

So keep praying. Keep hoping. Keep praising God with your prayers. He is good and His answer, whether "yes," "no," or "not yet," is always the answer that is best for you because He loves you.



Linking up with Casey and Jami.

A quick re-cap!

I feel like this week has been crazy busy on the Internet. I wanted to do a quick recap to make sure you didn't miss anything {and to keep it all straight in my head as well!}.

+ I am currently giving away a large ad space in two AMAZING giveaways over at Finding Beauty in the Ordinary and Small Bird Studio!

+ I am running my own giveaway to win a digital scrapbooking program. It will be open through Tuesday!

+ I guest posted my tips on how to sell your gently used clothing for cash over on This Camera Tells My Story.

+ I know Valentine's Day is over, but if you haven't read my love story with Micah, you can read it here.

+ I am trying to use Bloglovin' more; you can find me here.

+ I am doing Fat Mum Slim's February Photo Challenge. Follow jenrussum on Instagram!

And enough about me. Here are some other things I'm loving this week:

+ My friend made a Pinterest for men called Manteresting!

+ Have you seen The Letter 4 blog organization tips?

+ I made Ruthie Hart's Chicken Enchilada Pasta this week and I don't regret it one bit!

+ This is my favorite blog in the world. Here and here are two reasons why. Convicting, yet overflowing with grace.

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