Jul 31, 2012

Confessions: Cool Kohl's

Most of my summer days consist of wearing pajamas til noon and then wearing my workout clothes for the remainder of the day. There have been a few rare days this summer that I have made myself look presentable before going out in public. The pictures below were taken on one of those days and when I analyzed my outfit, I realized that it embodies my taste in clothes perfectly.... tailored, feminine, conservative... and affordable.

For some reason, I don't like the idea of wearing the same thing everyone else is wearing. I would not describe my look at eclectic at all. I'm not a hipster or into vintage apparel, but I still don't like feeling like I am twins with every other 20-30 year old woman in America. Which is why it's hard for me to shop at Target. I'm not against Target by any means, and five years ago I actually bought a lot of my clothes there, but now I just can't, because when I wear something from Target everyone else knows it is from Target and they probably own it too. In fact, they are probably wearing the same article of clothing at that moment and we should probably take a picture together and post it on Instagram...

So here are a few of my secrets for filling my closet with cute, affordable, clothes that don't necessarily look like everyone else's...

I'm not too good for any store... My friends and I have many ongoing jokes about how I am not ashamed to shop at Kohl's. I know many of you probably hate the idea... but you shouldn't. About ten years ago when I moved to Texas, I visited a Kohl's for the first time. It reminded me of a Sears and I left the store as quickly as I could. It was not until a new Kohl's was built by my parent's house a few years ago that I gave the store another chance. And I was happily surprised to find that it was no longer like Sears. Actually, it is still like Sears in a lot of ways, but there is this one glorious little department that is filled with great stuff. I don't think it has an official title, but I call it the woman's young professional section and you will find it near the front of the store. It carries lines by Vera Wang, Lauren Conrad, and Jennifer Lopez, and seriously, the clothes are cute. Not all of them, obviously, but enough to make it a monthly shopping stop. The prices are great too. The moral of this story is not that you have to shop at Kohl's {although you should} but that you should be open to shopping at any store with cute clothes, good quality, and decent prices. When I was a teenager, I was the biggest store snob. I only wanted to shop at Abercrombie and Fitch and was ashamed that my parents made me shop at places like Fred Meyer and Target before it got cool to shop at Target. But now I don't consider myself too good for any store. Last year, I got my first cross-body bag at JCPenney and if Sears had something cute for a good price, I would probably shop there too...

The outlets are your friend... The Banana Republic Factory Store is one of my favorite places to shop. If you have outlets anywhere near where you live or have a chance to visit them on a trip, I highly recommend it. I used to think that outlet stores sold "seconds" or name brand clothes that were somehow flawed for discounted prices. That's not really how they work. Every once in awhile you will see some slightly flawed goods, but most store chains make separate styles for their stores that are sold at a lower price point. Banana Republic is one of my favorites because I get the tailored granny chic style of Banana Republic for about 40% off their usual prices. The other great thing is that because outlets are so rare, the chances of other people wearing the same item are incredibly slim. Other great outlet stores are GAP, Ann Taylor, J.Crew, and Nine West.

Discount stores are also your friend... I cannot rave enough about the amazing things I find at TJ Maxx and Ross. Many people are scared of Ross, because some of the locations can be pretty chaotic and crazy, between the racks and the clientele. The one right by my house has a line at every register until closing every night. But if you can find a nice clean Ross, I highly encourage you to shop there. My shoes in the picture above were from Ross and cost $10. Recently, I got two pairs of sandals from Ross. One pair was Chinese Laundry for $10.99 and the other pair was Steve Madden for $15.99. Amazing. Recently, I went into Marshall's for the first time in years and discovered the jeans I just bought at the Nordstrom Anniversary sale in there for $18 less than the Nordstrom sale price? What???? Remember, that Nordstrom Anniversary clothes are for this coming fall... so Marshall's had current, on-trend Nordstrom merchandise for post-season prices. Discount stores are great places to find designer clothes and trendy labels for extremely discounted prices. Yes, please.

Shop handmade... The longer I spend in the blogging world the more I am drawn to handmade shops, especially for accessories. It's fun to support the businesses of friends and entrepreneurs by buying handmade goods. My bracelet below is from Neon and Nude and is just one of many pieces of jewelry I have bought online lately.

So there you have it. My tips, tricks, and the lessons I've learned about wearing unique, high quality clothing without going broke. Well, as long as you can control yourself in TJ Maxx, you won't go broke...

*Linking up with The Pleated Poppy*

Jul 30, 2012

Our Story...

We are headed to Seattle today for a little family vacay. The highlight of the trip will be the wedding we get to be a part of this coming Saturday. Micah's little bro is getting married... to one of the most fabulous girls I know! I have already considered her a sister in my heart for years now, and it all becomes official on Saturday at 3pm.

In honor of their wedding and marriage in general, I thought I would share the condensed version of the Russum love story with y'all. I am so excited for there to be another Russum couple to continue the legacy of God's faithfulness through marriage in our extended family. Praising God for that...

* * * * * 

Our story is a long one. It started in 11th grade... no 9th grade... maybe 8th grade...

Then and now...

Micah moved to our small town the summer before 8th grade. He went to the "other" middle school, but I had heard about him... the oldest Russum boy of those athletic and good looking Russum kids. I even saw him one day. Our middle school did a leadership event with the other middle school and we rode a bus over to Micah's school. There was THE Micah Russum leaning against a wall when we pulled up. I could now affirm that his cuteness was more than a rumor...

Micah turned sixteen before anyone else in our grade and was therefore the first in our class to get his license. I had never uttered a word to him before, but on the day he passed his driver's test I said "congratulations." A few months later he used that license to drive his buddies around and egg my house. Thanks, dear. {Disclaimer: Micah had nothing against me that caused this egging incident - this is simply what kids did for fun in our town... egging, TPing, interviewing people on film as they walked out of the local grocery store, driving a car into that grocery store. You name it; we did it.}

In eleventh grade, we actually became friends. We were both student leaders for Young Life and a YL retreat sparked our romance. During the second half of junior year, we began dating.

We happily dated for two years, but then college pulled us apart. Really, God pulled us apart by sending us to colleges in different states. Micah headed off to Minnesota and I moved down to Texas, and we quickly realized that God had called us to different places for a reason. We trusted the Lord and decided to break up to see what He had in store for each of us.

We talked on and off during college, less and less as the years went by. It wasn't until the summer after college graduation that Micah called me up and told me he wanted to pursue marriage in a godly and prayerful way. He was still in Minnesota. I was still in Texas. The next two years of dating were full of uncertainty as we tried to discern our future plans and navigate a relationship while living 1000 miles a part. Honestly, it was pretty ugly at times. I was selfish and wanted to go on living my happy little life in Texas for as long as possible. Then I wanted to get married and move somewhere new with Micah so I could attend grad school.  It was all about my plan and my timing. It was not about Micah and it definitely wasn't about trusting the Lord. I had so much to learn...

Finally, Micah called me out. By this point, he had moved back to Washington and he asked me to move back too, so we could live around each other before we got engaged and married. I was reluctant at first, but as soon as he asked me to do it, I knew it was the right thing to do. I left all my best friends in Texas and moved back home to rainy Washington and embarked on one of the most refining years of my life. I lived in my parent's basement, substitute taught at my old high school, and worked through years of pent up pride and selfishness. But it was in my parent's basement, in the most humble and lonely of circumstances, that I clung to the Lord, read His Word with new eyes, and was broken for the first time. I understood the love of Jesus in a new way and He changed me. During those days, weeks, and months, God continued to break me, shape me, and prepare me to be a wife that loves Jesus first and her husband second.

Finally, on New Years Day 2010 Micah proposed and we were married six months later on July 11th. We had a fabulous wedding and an even more amazing honeymoon in Hawaii, and two days after we returned, we packed up a rental truck and headed down to Arizona to become The Arizona Russums. We love it in the desert and have been blessed beyond belief by our new church, new jobs, and new friends in our little palm tree paradise.

But you know what? That is not the most important part of the story. I think it's so easy to focus on a couple's dating, engagement and wedding as their love story... when really that's just a page in the story of a couple's marriage and just a sentence in God's story of salvation for the world. Our story is actually God's story. Long before July 11th, 2010, God was working in our hearts to convict us and transform us and save us and prepare us to be a husband and wife who follow Him. And our story isn't over just because we are now past the newlywed stage. Our story only becomes more important as we grow old and our skin wrinkles and our love stands the test of time and all the trials that are undoubtedly ahead. Our story is what happens when we stand before God someday and give account of our marriage and our family. Our story is the faith, the trust, the love, and the service that happens for as many years as God gives us on this earth, all enabled by the grace given to us through Jesus. Our marriage is not really about us anyway, but about the privilege we have of painting a picture of the way Christ loves his bride, the church. And hopefully when that day comes and we stand before God, our story will recount decades of faithful love to God and to each other and He will look on us and say "Well done, good and faithful servants." And then we will celebrate at the true wedding feast...

Jul 29, 2012

Lovely Little Things: On The Bachelorette and Being Tired...

This last week has been crazy... in a fun and funny yet sad, busy, sleep deprived way. It all started when two of my favorite girlfriends, Lisa and Anne, invited me over on Sunday night to watch The Bachelorette finale with them. You should know two things about me... 1) I don't watch The Bachelorette or any other show with the word "bachelor" it. 2) I relentlessly make fun of such shows {gasp... how do I even consider myself a blogger???}. However, due to many of you who watch such shows and tweet about them and a sister who watches The Bachelorette religiously with her Young Life girls, I always kind of know what is going on each season. So when Lisa and Anne wanted me to come over and watch the show and eat homemade muddy buddies/puppy chow {must be bilingual for all my readers here...} I couldn't resist. They informed me, if I came over, I had to take the show "seriously." I laughed at that suggestion... and then I came over anyway.

Best decision ever.

That show is comedy. And about halfway through the {THREE HOUR!} ep, I started following the Twitter hashtag for the show and that made it even more funny. Hahahaha. Seriously. How do you guys watch a whole season? I would get so skinny from laughing... except for the fact that I compensated for it by eating THREE mugs full of muddy buddies...

It was such a fun night with some amazing ladies, but I didn't get home until after midnight... which is late for this old married woman. And I don't think I've slept even six hours a night since. See, the sad part of my busy week is that both Anne and Lisa are moving away in the next few weeks. I'll probably write some sappy post about it later, but for now it is all about savoring the time! Happy hour, helping with packing, babysitting, even stooping so low as to watch The Bachelorette just to cherish every last minute with them. Between trying to hang out with them as much as possible, some big changes happening in our church {another sappy post for another time}, trying to gear up for school starting in a few weeks {eek!}, and getting ready to be out of town for two weeks, I am tired. In a good way.

And that is all for now. Here are some pictures of me being crazy, fun, busy, and tired...

Hello muddy buddies and the best {worst} TV show ever. 
Hello to another gorgeous bracelet from my girl, Jenna!

Hello to crazy days of trying to run errands, work on school stuff, and make it the gym.
These are the days I need to be reminded that God's grace is sufficient.

Hello the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever made. I ate them for breakfast two mornings in a row...oops
Hello to my newly remodeled office. I am not very excited to go back to you next month, but I am excited that you have new carpet and paint to make it a little more bearable.

Goodbye Mr. Basil 3.0. My career as a basil farmer is over. I have officially killed three plants in the past year...
Goodbye clothes. I did a major overhaul of my closet this weekend and I'm getting rid of SO many clothes. Would anyone be interested in a "shop my closet" sale on the blog?

Hello Anne. Thank you for teaching me how you package the products from your amazing Etsy shop.
Hello Summer Olympics. I am glad you are here. I really can't wait for women's gymnastics!

*Linking up with Life Rearranged and Bits of Splendor*

Jul 26, 2012

Flowers Fade Friday: A Vapor

I've been thinking a lot about eternity lately and how fleeting this life really is...

Or at least, I've been trying to grasp it.

Because I know I don't live in the day to day like my life is vapor. I don't live like my present trials are the blink of an eye before the eternity of heaven.

But what if I did?

What if I counted each trial as a blessing that sculpts me to become more like my Maker, whom I will see face to face one day?

What if I considered each daily task, whether difficult or mundane, as a small note of worship of music, the prelude to the concert that will take place in the Kingdom come?

What if I learned to overlook the wrongs done against me, trusting fully that they will either be forgiven and redeemed by Christ or repaid with the due justice of God's wrath when this life and this earth are through?

What if I lived without fear, trusting fully that my Savior stands on my behalf at the right hand of God in heaven, and that one day I will look and see him there?

What if I lived each day like the Spirit of the Living God, the one that raised Christ from the dead, dwells in me and gives me power? Because He does...

And what if I stopped dwelling on life's difficulties and disappointments and counted them all rubbish for the sake of Christ? What if I praised God for anything that makes me more like Him or gives me an opportunity to tell of His faithfulness to others?

And what if I delighted in today while making plans for tomorrow with open hands, knowing only if God wills it will I do this or that in the future?

And what if I gave up regrets knowing a past redeemed brings God glory and what if I trusted that tomorrow is in His hands too? What if stopped caring about age and time and instead thanked God for the opportunity to serve Him in my youth and trust Him to use me and bless me when my hair turns gray?

And what if I gave up the trivial wants and needs and desires that crowd my mind and heart and rest in the fact that my soul is satisfied in Christ and I will have Him forever?

On this earth, I am nothing more than a mist. My life is like a flower that sprouts and blooms and then fades away. And, yet, I am wonderfully made and I have been chosen to live as a child of God forever. Lord, teach me to live in this joyful paradox of fleeting and permanent, of temporary and eternal.

*Linking up with Casey Leigh*

Jul 25, 2012

Phoenix Tourist Guide

So we have officially lived in Phoenix/Scottsdale for two years now. And we love it even more than when we first arrived in that dusty Budget truck with all our wedding gifts hastily stuffed into the back and our honeymoon-tanned bodies sitting in the front. Today I thought it would be fun to share a little city guide with you. One of the best things about living in Arizona is all the visitors we get. I'm not sure if it's just that all of our Pacific Northwest friends and family are dying to get out of the rain or that Phoenix is some type of crossroads between the west, the north and the south, but we have no shortage of visitors since moving!  If you think you might be visiting the Phoenix area anytime in the near future, here are my suggestions for what to do, where to go, and what to eat.

First things first. If you are thinking about visiting our desert, let me briefly explain the weather to you. It's not really HOT all the time, and even when it is, it's not as bad as the locals make it out to be...

Mid-May through early-October... it's hot. We are talking anywhere from 90 to 120 degrees. Usually there are only a few days that approach 120 in July or August. Most of the time it's between 100-110. And it's a dry, lovely heat that makes you feel you are a cookie baking in an oven. I love it.

November is beautiful month with 70-85 degree temps.

December, January and February range from 55-75 degrees. Usually there is one cold week per winter when it gets into the 30s or even the 20s at night and remains in the 50s during the day. The average temp in January is 65 degrees. And it's sunny almost every day of winter. Glorious! Consider coming to run the Arizona Rock and Roll Marathon {or half marathon} on MLK Jr. weekend.

March and April are also amazing months here if you need to escape from a place where winter just won't seem to end. You can almost count on 75-85 degree temps and can usually start lying out by the pool in April, although it's still a bit too cold to swim unless you are really brave.

But enough about the weather. Here are some fun things to do around the city...

 Let's just say I have never been to a mall before that has so many stores that I like in one place. Nordstrom, Banana, Anthro, J.Crew, Crate and Barrel... you name it, it's probably there.

This the touristy area of Scottsdale. It's mostly filled with art galleries and shops that sell Native American jewelry. You might not find a lot to buy here, but it's fun to walk around and there are lots of delish restaurants in the area... try The Breakfast Club, The Herb Box, Oregano's, Salty Señorita, or Saddle Ranch Chop House.

This is where I go to school. It's the largest university in the nation. It's the home of Sun Devil sports, if you want to check out some PAC-12 action, and the Gammage Theater, which features Broadway shows each season. We went to see Stomp there at Christmas and it was so much fun! Also, next to the university is Mill Ave. where you will find some shopping and lots of great places to eat. Some of my favorites are La Bocca, Rula Bula, Bison Witches, and NCounter. If you want a treat, I highly recommend Paletas Betty for a Mexican popsicle or Slickables for an ice cream sandwich.


If you are near ASU, you should also check out Tempe Town Lake. Yes, it's man-made but it's still really pretty. Take a jog or a stroll along the pathways or you can rent a paddle boat if you want to go out on the water. At night, it's my favorite view in all of Phoenix because of the pretty lights on the bridges above the water. If you are really hard core, you can come do the annual Iron Man hosted at the lake in November.

Spring Training

Okay, I have to admit... I have yet to go to a spring training game. Micah got to go for work this year and said it's lots of fun. I've heard tickets cost only a few bucks and you can sit on the lawn in some of the stadiums. Count me in for next season! {Update: I finally went to a game and it was super fun! Such a laid-back atmosphere and beautiful weather!}

La Grande Orange {LGO} is hands down my favorite restaurant in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. By day, they serve amazing coffee, delish breakfasts, sandwiches, salads and sushi in a seat-yourself dining room, and they don't care if you hang out there all day on your computer or with your books. At night, this place turns into a candlelit pizzeria. Oh, and there is gelato shop right next door if you want dessert. I also have to give a little shout-out to the wine bar Postino that sits in LGO's backyard. If you aren't in the mood for pizza, I highly recommend Postino's bruschetta!

The Phoenix area is known for its urban hiking -- meaning there are a few mountains that pop up right in the middle of the city that are just begging to be climbed. The famous Camelback Mountain towers over Scottsdale and offers a short but intense hike for breathtaking views of the whole valley. Down the road a bit you will find the Phoenix Mountains Preserve with hundreds of trails right in the city. If you are farther south, South  Mountain offers a variety of trails and some fairly easy hikes if you don't want to sweat too much!

If you are brave enough to venture here in the summer, I highly recommend floating the Salt River. One of the downfalls to the summer heat is that the pools often get too warm to be refreshing. That's when you escape to the river and take a three hour float. The water is perfect... cool-but-not-too-cold... and the views are breathtaking. You feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, but it's just 30 minutes outside the city. Salt River Tubing will rent you a tube and shuttle you to and from the river. Don't forget your sunscreen! *A word of caution: the river can get pretty crowded and rowdy on the weekends, so try to go on a weekday if you can! Tubing is open Memorial Day to Labor Day.

That's it for now. Come visit our Valley of the Sun! You won't regret it!
Let me know if you have any other questions down in the comments...

Jul 24, 2012

Sunset Cliffs.

About two months ago I went to San Diego for a weekend with my girlfriends. It was fabulous, because everything about San Diego is fabulous all the time. And my two friends are particularly amazing women whom I love with all my heart. I already wrote about this weekend here, but I never got around to editing the pictures I took on my nice camera during a morning stroll we took on Sunset Cliffs. Until now. What a perfect day...

There were so many weddings around town. Perfect day for it.

I don't know these people... but I will take their engagement photos if they want me to.

So pretty.
The end.

*Linking up with The Hollie Rogue*

Jul 23, 2012

Answers {Part II}

Okay, friends. Here we go. Part II of your super fun questions.... answered. See Part I here.

What do you love most about being married?
The thing I love the most about being a wifey {besides my husband himself} is managing our home. Making dinner and doing laundry are boring when you are just doing it for yourself, but when you are doing it to show your love and support for someone else, it makes it seem more worthwhile. I truly enjoy making Micah's lunch each day, keeping our house clean, and having a home to invite our friends and family into, in order to share life with them.

Married life.

When did you become a Christian?
This answer is two-fold. I "asked Jesus into my heart" when I was five years old. I think I had real faith at that point and I know God was watching over me for the next twenty years of my life. However, it wasn't until I was 25 years old that I actually began to understand God's unfailing love for me shown through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus. I finally began to grasp {as much as a mere human can} the grace of God and it transformed my life drastically. I no longer "acted" like a Christian because I was "supposed" to,  but I began to live a life of obedience because I truly loved the Savior who loved me first {I John 4:19}.

What is your all time favorite book?
The English nerd side of me loves this question. The obvious answer is the Bible, but other than that... I usually say The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. If you haven't read it, you should. It's a real Holocaust story full of faith and hope in the face of extreme hatred and cruelty. But you know I'm not going to stop there... My favorite old book is Jane Eyre. My favorite new book{s} are Harry Potter {#4 is my personal fave}. If you are anti-Harry Potter and you haven't read them, I will just say this: do not neglect them because you've convinced yourself that the series is just some craze of the early 2000s meant for teenagers, or full of evil wizardy stuff. It's a beautifully written story with gripping characters, classic allusions, a plot that will make you shiver, laugh, and cry at various times {possibly all at once}, and themes of unconditional love, loyalty and redemption. Bam. Read them. I finally convinced my mom to read them after ten years of her foolish resistance :)

Why were you the weirdest roommate in the Greenhouse?
This was an anonymous questions asked by one of my college roommates, and I think I know which one. Only the weirdest girl in the Greenhouse would ask this...

Thanks for your questions, friends. It was fun to answer them. XOXO!

Jul 22, 2012

Lovely Little Things: Easy, Breezy

Summer is almost OVER! Okay, so school starts exactly a month from today... but that basically means it starts tomorrow because the next four weeks are so jam packed. I need to make sure I savor every last minute because I know it's going to fly by. Next week we leave for Seattle where we will be celebrating Micah's brother's wedding, camping with family, visiting with friends and then I will be roadtripping back to AZ with my sister. Anyway... the way I see it, these next five days are the last easy breezy days of summer. Then it's on to travel, celebrations and syllabus writing... and all that good fast-paced stuff. But here's what the slow-paced days of summer look like...

Hello français. Yes, I'm still trying to learn French for my test in October. All I know how to do is ask where the bathrooms are... Browsing the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale catalog was a nice distraction from my language learning one night.

Hello color. I scored all this make up from E.L.F. for $13 AFTER shipping thanks to Groupon. I wore this brightly hued outfit last week. I usually wear lots of neutrals and metallics, so this outfit was like WHOA for me!

Hello alone time at home. Reading about prayer with She Reads Truth. Just finished season two of Downton Abbey this weekend. That last ep was a tear-jerker...

Hello afternoon activities. I babysat these cute little ones a few times over the past few weeks. I had to return this basket to the store, so it hung out with me in the front seat during my errands one day and carried all my stuff. Very efficient. I might always keep a basket in my front seat. Maybe I shouldn't have taken it back...

Hello crazies. My friend Anne and and I took these two precious girls on a date this week. On the agenda: goofy costumes, ice cream, and Mirror, Mirror at the dollar theater.

Hello shopping. Every since my shopping fast in May, I haven't been in the mood to shop. Finally on Friday, I hit the town. I didn't buy a whole lot, but I did hit up the Anniversary Sale {and just might have bought leopard print jeans and a metallic shirt} and the in-studio sale at Whippy Cake. Sprinkles wasn't on the to-do list for the day, but I just couldn't pass up a free Moon Pie cupcake.

Hello date night. Micah suggested a tennis date night on Friday. We rented a ball machine and went crazy for 90 minutes. So fun. I hurt now...

*Linking up with The Anderson CrewHello Hue, and Life Rearranged*

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