welcome ... enjoy yourself

Friday, August 31, 2012

portland timbers

Tonight I get to go with my dad, my brother, and Paul to a Portland Timbers game.  For those of you not savvy to the Timbers, they are the new MLS (Major League Soccer) team in Portland, Oregon.  I went to my first game during our last trip to Portland with a few other family members and had a blast.  The energy of the games is crazy; everyone stands through the whole game cheering and chanting.  When I root I root for the Timbers!

I grew up in a house one might describe as being "football mad."  I hold my dad completely responsible for this. Can't wait to share a game like this with two of my favorite soccer fanatics. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

today i'm thankful for

trips to Portland, Oregon ... being accepted into Paul's family ... my mom's vulnerability, humility, and strength ... sharing new adventures with my family ... paid vacation time ... metamucil ... compassionate doctors ... health insurance ... grateful clients ... amy and rich's hospitality ... the oregon coast ... connecting with my wonderful sister-in-law ... nice suitcases ... southwest airlines ... having a good book to read ... friends who watch Pedro when we're gone ... tasty breakfasts ... having everything fall into place while packing and preparing for a trip. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

time in the garden

My community garden is one of my favorite places in the world.   I feel so at peace so easily in the garden.  I love watching the plants grow, getting to harvest Watching the changing of the plants, growth, harvest, decay.  I really enjoy my nightly watering ritual.

Photographing the garden has helped me notice details I might have otherwise missed.  Like the light hitting a small yellow flower on my cucumber plant.  Or the way another flower twists up as it prepares to give way for an acorn squash.  Or just how photogenic a daily harvest can be.  I've been really happy with my harvest this season and am looking forward to my fall crops (squash, carrots, onions, Swiss chard, and lettuce).  Can only imagine how good my garden will be next year with all I've learned in my second season as a community gardener.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

bring on the fiber

I don't think I've ever been so happy and relieved at the end of a doctor's appointment.  For the past several months, I've been dealing with stomach issues that never seems to go completely away and that several doctors visits couldn't solve.  But after a recent specialist's visit, I found out what was going on and what I could do to feel better.  The best news: there's practical things I can do to feel better, and I don't have to keep questioning what is going on with my body.  
The upside to all of this digestive trouble is that it's going to force me to lead a healthier lifestyle.  I'm supposed to exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, get 7-8 hours of sleep, and eat a healthy, high fiber diet (25-30 grams a day).  I'll also be trying to avoid high fat foods, highly processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine.  So no alcohol and caffeine -- major boo -- but like I told my brother, at least I'm 27 and not 21.  That would have been terrible.  

Ready or not, I'm about to get down with me and my healthy self!   Bring.on.the.fiber (BOTF).  

Thanks for reading! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

weekend recap

This weekend I...

Ate freshly foraged Wisconsin apples at a community garden potluck event.  Shared my favorite snack of crackers with goat cheese and honey with other gardeners.

Got my nails done nice and purty with my friend Mary.  Celebrated our beautiful nails with a delicious brunch at one of my favorite local Milwaukee restaurants, Cafe Hollander.  Decided to lay off iced tea and tomatoes for a while -- sorry tummy.

Watched two great movies with Paul (highly recommend this one).  Craved sushi but settled for mac'n'cheese and a fake hot dog.  Had time to paint and read.

Enjoyed lots of time in the garden pulling weeds and taking care of my tomato plants.  Remembered that low-key weekends with nice little moments are some of my favorites.  

What did you do this weekend?

jiro dreams of sushi

I'll continue to climb trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is!   

Jiro is the greatest sushi chef in the world.  The first sushi chef and the oldest person to receive three michelin stars for his restaurant.  And the 85 year old's small sushi restaurant just happens to be in a Tokyo subway and has only ten seats.  Jiro follows the same routine every day, believing that only by repeating the same tasks over and over can he reach perfection.  One of his apprentices explains that he had to make a dish over 200 times before it was considered good enough to serve to customers.  200 times.

This movie was beautiful and wonderful, probably one of the best documentaries I've ever seen.  It seemed that everyone featured and involved in the film was driven by a love for their craft, a desire to be the best they could be.  One of the most repeated lines in the film was "I'm not doing this for the money."  The cinematography and the score elevate Jiro's work (and the work of his sons and apprentices) to a symphony.

My favorite scene in the movie featured Jiro's self-proclaimed-anti-establishment-tuna-supplier.  The tuna supplier chooses his fish at a live auction in some type of warehouse, and the scene turns in to a kind of dance between the auctioneers and the tuna suppliers.  That's the level of amaziness of this film -- a simple not-essential-to-the-plot scene features an anti-establishment tuna supplier AND a bloody, gritty warehouse turned dramatic stage.

HIghly recommend checking this movie out (you can do it on Netflix instant watch!).  I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

oh my god, shoes

I made one of my my most ridiculous purchases to date this week.  Though my wardrobe purchases are usually pretty predictable and practical, sometimes I like to buy something just slightly out of my comfort zone.  Something just for fun.  Say hello to my latest just for fun purchase - my new bright orange 5" platform heels.  "Hello new bright orange 5" platform heels!"

Here's another view to help you understand just.how.tall these shoes are.  And how silly this purchase was.  I had to practice walking around in them! 

Sometimes a new pair of shoes does wonders for my mood.  And these shoes certainly did just that.  Now, who's up for a night on the town??

Friday, August 24, 2012

beasts of the southern wild

The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right.  If one piece busts, even the smallest piece, the entire universe will get busted.  

I am really looking forward to seeing this movie.  The trailer has a super magical feel to it, doesn't it? 

The movie is about a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy who lives in a southern Delta community (the Bathtub) with her father (Wink). When her father gets sick, the universe unravels --  global warming essentially sets in allowing prehistoric creatures named "aurochs" to escape the polar ice caps.  As flooding begins, Hushpuppy sets out on an epic quest to find her mother.  That plot line mixed with the music, acting, and cinematography makes me super excited to see this.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

why i live in community

Sometimes I have a difficult time explaining to people why Paul and I live in community.  If I'm venting about frustrations to someone outside the community, the response I usually receive is "why don't you just move out?" To be honest, I've asked myself the same question.  With the challenges of community life, you really have to be dedicated and have a reason for staying.  So, what is keeping us here?  

An answer came to me last night while I was talking with one of my friends at the community garden pruning tomatoes - the place where all great thoughts are revealed.  Before I even realized what I was saying, I started talking about how moving around so frequently in the past few years has allowed me to avoid working through many difficult parts in relationships.  Just around the point when I'm starting to get to an overall level of annoyance with where I'm at, I have the opportunity to move, and I never have to work through those feelings of annoyance.  

This year, I've had to face many uncomfortable and challenging situations head on.  There's only so many places to hide when you're living in an apartment with three other people.  I've had to grow past my tendency to run from conflict like the plague.  I've had to learn how to resolve problems so that we can continue living as community members and have a peaceful household.  I've had to grow in honestly and non-violently expressing my feelings and in admitting when I'm wrong.  While visiting my family in St. Louis last weekend, a few things happened that helped me realize I've made progress in dealing with conflict and uncomfortable situations.  "Oh my God!" I thought, "I'm GROWING!"  Staying committed to this community has broken the cycle of being able to avoid uncomfortable parts of relationships.   

While learning healthy ways to deal with conflict resolution isn't the only reason I'm living in community, it's an example of how living in community can help lead to personal growth - if you're willing to commit and stick with it when things get tough.  I've got a LONG way to go, but living in community has helped me kick start my journey to being a better person.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

beautiful ruins: a novel

And on and on it goes, in a thousand directions, everything occurring at once, in a great storm of the present, of the now...

Just finished this really satisfying book recommended by a friend with great taste.  Written by Spokane based author Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins tells the story of an Italian inn keeper, a 1960s Hollywood actress, a Hollywood producer, a Donner party survivor, and Hollywood wannabees.  Their stories jump back and forth across several decades in such a way that the book ends up making better sense because you can understand the connection between different events in different time periods.   

My favorite character was the Hotel Adequate View keeper, Pasquale.  I loved his struggles in love, with his family, in finding his place, in figuring out how to do the "right" thing, and in his efforts to speak English.  I just wanted to give him a big hug... and then have a drink with him.   

The book has one of the most beautiful and satisfying concluding chapters I've read in a long time.  Questions are actually answered!  Parts of the story come to a conclusion!  But not too completely or concisely that you're overly satisfied or bored.  It begins with this beautiful quote: 

There would be nothing more obvious, more tangible, than the present moment.  And yet it eludes us completely.  All the sadness of life lies in that fact (Milan Kundera).  

I finished reading this book with a smile on my face.  I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it!  I'll leave you with one of my favorite segments from the book: 

But aren't all great quests folly?  El Dorado and the Fountain of youth and the search for intelligent life in the cosmos -- we know what's out there.  It's what isn't that truly compels us.  ...true quests aren't measured in time or distance anyway, so much as in hope.  There are only two good outcomes for a quest like this, the hope for the serendipitous savant -- sail for Asia and stumble on America -- and the hope of scarecrows and tin men: that you find out you had the thing you sought all along.

Any one else read Beautiful Ruins?  Read any good books lately?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

the fonz


I wanted to share one of my favorite parts of the Milwaukee riverwalk, the Bronze Fonz portraying Happy Days character Arthur Fonzarelli.  Yes, you heard that right.  Downtown Milwaukee is home to a bronze statue of Henry Winkler giving thumbs up to all passersby.  It's things like this that make me love living in Milwaukee.  Any city that erects a statue of a beloved 1970s sitcom star is ok by me.

What quirky things do you love about your city?

Monday, August 20, 2012

handmade nation

I've been creating since before I can remember.  I loved drawing, coloring, and making bracelets and "jewelry" as a kid.  I went through a big American girl doll phase and loved making recipes and crafts from American girl themed books (with my best friend in grade school).  I even had a short entrepreneurial streak and sold crafts I made at our church's craft fair for a couple of years.  As an adult, I still really enjoy painting, crafting, baking, cooking, gardening, and creating all sorts of things, but my slightly perfectionist nature can make it difficult to enjoy creating just for the joy of creating.  

Reading Handmade Nation was a bit of a revelation for me.  The book focuses on the rise of DIY (do it yourself) art, craft, and design that has been happening over the past decade or two in the U.S.  Websites like Pinterest and Etsy have made it increasingly easier for more people to be inspired to create and sell their own products.  More middle of the road artists/creators/makers are being recognized and finding it easier to make a living from their craft. 

I loved the book because it spoke to the dilemma I've had about whether to call myself an artist.  Though I love to paint, I've never called myself an "artist" because to me it implies artistic professional -- and I just don't feel like I fit into that world.  I don't know the official lingo, I don't know the official supplies, I don't know the official techniques.  The professional artistic world is completely intimidated.  

But the creators in Handmade Nation have helped create a niche for people who fit into this exact category.  They create things that fall somewhere in between embroidery thread bracelets and high end art.  While reading, I kept thinking "these are my people!"

Reading this book reminded me that it's not necessary to be a high end artist to be creative.  It's inspired me to foster my imagination again.  I can draw things that aren't museum quality, create things that aren't super professional, and they can still be beautiful and good.  If it makes me happy, I can do it.  I can find the joy in creating without the pressure of having to be perfect. 

This book (along with my current obsession over A Beautiful Mess) also helped spark my interest to start an Etsy site with my sister Libby.  This weekend, we made a trip to the craft store together and spent our Saturday evening sipping wine and creating pieces to sell.  We had such a good time, and I felt so rejuvenated spending time creating together.  

I love the feeling that I can do what I love without trying to be anyone else but exactly who I am.  And I am very intrigued to see where mine and Libby's vision might take us....I hope this post has helped inspire any of you who may feel in the same boat -- remember that it's not necessary to be the best or to be an "artist" to spend time enjoying being creative!  

What do you like to create?  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

trip to st. louis

I came home to St. Louis for a little R & R this weekend.  Every trip home feels so short, and I'm never able to visit all the people I want to see.  But luckily, my mom, my sister and I made time for a girls' day, and we managed to do three of my favorite things - all in one day.  We visited  the Tower Grove farmer's market (above)...

went to the Missouri Botanical Garden and saw the final weekend of the Chinese lantern festival (absolutely awesome)...

and ate some cupcakes at Sweetart in Tower Grove Park (I had the harmony cupcake in the lower left corner).  The day didn't end there.  My sister Libby and I made a trip to the craft store and spent the rest of the night making beautiful little things to sell on our Etsy store.  So tired now and so ready to sleep.  Looking forward to a visit with my grandpa tomorrow before I head back north!

What are you up to this weekend? 

Friday, August 17, 2012

and the winner is...

Because I couldn't pick a winner, I enlisted Pedro to help me pick a winner randomly out of the pitcher of names.  Only trouble was that he didn't have any interest in helping me and really just wanted to eat a bone.  <Come on Pedro!  The contestants need your help!>

Luckily Pedro has an intense weakness for treats.  So in went a treat into the pot, and in went Pedro's nose right after it. 

And as he took his nose back out of the pot (he was very confused about where the treat was) out popped a name!  Literally one popped right out, it worked out pretty nicely.  Pedro obviously still just wanted the treat though - he was determined!  In case you can't read the tiny piece of paper, the winner is...

Rachel T!  Congratulations!  Your fabulous prize will be arriving in the mail very soon!

Thanks to everyone who commented.  I had so much fun reading all of them (so much fun that I'm thinking about doing another giveaway next month!) -- each one put a smile on my face.  I loved reading about your love of home cooked meals, puppies, watching the cardinals, relaxing vacations, great sunsets, watching people "wigglewigglewigglewiggle" on a wedding dance floor, LMFAO's song "Sexy and I Know It," reading at coffee shops while drinking a yummy white mocha, camping and telling ghost stories, reunions, ice cream, friends who will help you move an entire apartment on a moment's notice, seeing grandchildren play and getting to relive the simple joys of life, being at the beach, listening to people speak a different language, and fall time!

I am so thankful for all of you and have loved sharing this blog with you!  It brings me a lot of joy!  Hope you all have a great weekend!  Have anything fun planned?  

Also - if you liked the mini painting, I may be doing more of them soon.  My sister and I are plotting to open an etsy shop.  You heard that right.  We're not planning, we're plotting.... 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

my grandma

This week seems to be a week of anniversaries.  Yesterday was also the one year anniversary of my Grandma Susan passing away.  Not a happy anniversary like starting JVC but definitely a meaningful one.  My grandma suffered for a few years after receiving her cancer diagnosis and had a very difficult struggle on hospice for the last few months of her life.  While she was in hospice I remember feeling sad, angry - with the situation and with her, upset, and numb.  But now, I just miss her (especially when I come across her name in my email or cell phone).
A year after her death, I feel grateful that she was such a huge part of my life.  One of favorite memories in her last year was getting to celebrate mine and Paul's engagement with her, my grandpa, and my immediate family.  We had a casual BBQ, and Grandma was completely impressed with the sausage my mom cooked for dinner.  Grandma loved things like that.  She talked to my grandpa for most of dinner about how excited she was to buy and cook the sausage for him, because it would be healthy and delicious.  Grandpa just nodded and smiled (like he usually did to her when he was around us).  

We gathered in that same room around the same table to write her eulogy the night before her funeral.  My siblings and I talked about the great interest she took in all of the details of our lives.  She wanted to know about the classes we were taking, the sports we were playing, the activities and projects we were involved in.  We talked about all the events we shared with her.  We talked about how much she loved us and how much we loved her.  

I feel so lucky that I knew that she was proud of me and happy for me with where my life was going.  I feel so lucky to have had one last good talk with her in her assisted living facility room while she was still lucid.  I feel lucky that I got to tell her how much she meant to me.  I feel so lucky to have had someone who cared so much about me and loved me so much.  -- Miss you and love you Grandma

P.S. Today is the last day to enter the free giveaway!  Leave a comment here by 7:00 pm (CST) to enter. Pedro will help me pick a winner, and the lucky person will be announced tomorrow! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

five years ago...

I tearfully said good bye to my mom and my sister and boarded a plane to Washington, DC.  After visiting with my aunt and uncle, I took a Greyhound bus to Blue Ridge, Pennsylvania, and started my year in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.  What an unbelievably transformative year.  I feel like I'm still unpacking the lessons I learned and realizing the influence the program had on my life.   Before I started JVC, I had no idea I would...

live in Syracuse, New York, meet the famous Eddie Clancy, visit the Brooklyn Pickle, and go to Sky Chiefs' games... 

meet, fall in love with, and marry Paul Freeman...  (This is our first picture we took together!  We look so young!)

hike the Appalachian Trail...

meet these amazing people...

live in Chicago with these awesome folks...

graduate with my Master's in Social Justice from Loyola Chicago...

enjoy lots of movie nights and Sunday brunches with this family...

start this community garden...

or start the Casey Sister-Brotherhood community.  

Isn't life crazy when you think about it in terms of where your decisions have led you?  I'm sure I still would have been a similar person if I hadn't done JVC, I'm just really happy with where that experience led me.  The experiences I've had and the people I've met have made my life so much richer.  I think about spirituality, simple living, community, and social justice in such a different way than when I started my year as a Jesuit Volunteer.  I learned that community is at the heart of any social justice endeavor.  I learned that simple living is so much more than living cheaply.  I learned that a strong spiritual life will help you get through many challenges.  I learned that the friends I made during my year will be with me the rest of my life.  I learned about the value of the Former Jesuit Volunteer (FJV) community.  I learned that It's true what they say: JVC ruins you for life. 

P.S.  There's still time to enter this week's giveaway!  Leave a comment here to enter!  I've been having a lot of fun reading the comments so far.  

What event or experience has shaped your life for the better?

Monday, August 13, 2012

i am enough

Sometimes I forget that I am enough, just as I am, right now.  As a person who likes goals and accomplishments, I often fall into the trap of thinking that I'll only be good enough after a few more improvements.  I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect or to have everything in my life figured out.        

I wonder if other people my age fall into the same thinking trap.  Being a twenty-something means I often feel like I'm in a development stage or on the way to something.  Sometimes I equate where I am in my career or personal development with my personal worth.  And connecting the worth of my being with my doing is something I would like to be more aware of and hopefully avoid. 

Working in the garden has helped teach me more patience for being on the way to something.  I consider most of my plants to be beautiful no matter what stage of growth they are in.  I love seeing seeds pop up, I love seeing the early stages of development, I love seeing new flowers, I love seeing vegetables begin to grow, I even appreciate their slow decay.  All stages of growth are beautiful in their own way, and the plant doesn't have to do anything except what comes naturally to it to be perfect and whole.  

I find comfort in remembering that I am enough just as I am.  Regardless of mistakes made at work, regardless of how I'm looking or what I'm wearing, regardless of how fast or far I am able to run, regardless of what others may think of me, regardless of how many places I have travelled or how many crazy experiences I've had, regardless of whether I leave my tupperware out for Pedro to chew up again.  Right now, sitting on my bed, typing this post ... I am enough.   

And if any of these thoughts resonate with you ... remember you are enough too!!  

Don't forget to enter this week's giveaway!  Just leave a comment on my giveaway post before Thursday for a chance to win a beautiful joyful painting, some of my favorite granola and honey, and some tasty tea!   Winner announced this Friday!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

free giveaway alert!

Happy one month-iversary "Finding Joy in All Things!"  Seems like only a few weeks ago that I began posting here.  Ahh.. nostalgic tear. 

To show my gratitude for all the support you've shown in my first month here, I'll be giving away a care package to one lucky reader.   Since I couldn't give away Pedro or fresh veggies,  I came up with some of my next favorite things that are sure to put a smile on your face ~

Delicious tea and Wisconsin honey ... origami paper and a paper crane making tutorial ... my favorite Beans and Barley granola ... a copy of the Summer 2012 soundtrack ... and a Joyful Painting!!  

To enter, just leave a comment below by Thursday, August 16th sharing something that brings you joy.  I'll announce the winner on Friday, August 17th.  Good luck and thanks for reading!

Friday, August 10, 2012


I have an intense love for collecting postcards.  Some of the first postcards I remember buying were on my family's vacation to Gulf Shores in 1992.  I was in 7 year old heaven on that vacation.  I got to hang out at the ocean with two of my aunts and uncles AND my baby cousin, which was about as cool as things get in my book.   

Since then, I've bought postcards on most vacations I've taken over the past 20 years or so.  I usually buy them with the intention of sending them to people, but inevitably I forget to send most of them (I have a stack of postcards that I've written, sadly waiting to go to their intended parties -- these are very entertaining to read).     

Postcards are a great way to remember and to share places you've been.  It's also an inexpensive way to display prints of paintings you admire (above you can see an O'Keefe and Gauguin plus some Gwen Frostic cards from my collection).  I've made many collages with these postcards and have framed some of my favorites -- depending on your choice of frames, it only costs about $5 to add some pretty art to your nightstand or about $20 to make a nice wall display!      

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a free giveaway that will include this cute mini painting made by yours truly!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

summer 2012 soundtrack

These cute little guys are here to bring you a summer music mix!  Woot!  I had a lot of fun putting this mix together for you all.  I even made it under 80 minutes long in case you want to get nostalgic and burn it onto a CD!  Or you could take the more modern route and put them into a mix on spotify or grooveshark.  Either way, I highly recommend these songs (and in these order, they gel well)!  (If you know of any tricky ways to upload a mix directly into a post, please let me know!)

1. Simple Song by the Shins
2. Bright Whites by Kishi Bashi
3. Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men
4. Emmylou by First Aid Kit
5. You and I by Ingrid Michaelson
6. Rivers and Roads by The Head and the Heart 
7. Folding Chair by Regina Spektor
8. Wedding Song by Anais Mitchell & Justin Vernon
9. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire
10. We Are the Tide by Blind Pilot
11. One Two Three Four by Feist
12. Kiss by Prince
13. 1901 by Phoenix
14. I Know What I Know by Paul Simon
15. Tony the Tripper by The Fruit Bats
16. Oh Very Young One by Cat Stevens
17. Ho Hey by The Lumineers
18. This Must Be the Place by Talking Heads
19. I Can't Help Myself by the Four Tops
20. Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People
21. Midnight City by M83  

Hoped you enjoyed!  All songs are available on i-tunes for purchase.  

What music have you been listening to this summer?  I always love checking out new music and artists so let me know if you have any recommendations!