60 Before 30

28 February 2014

With my birthday, this project has concluded! Go here to see my full recap.

Happy birthday to me! 27 is the first year, I think, that has felt “older.” Not “old,” and not older in a bad way, just… older. It seems like I’m closer to late-twenties than mid-twenties now. I see 30 on the horizon, and I want to be ready for it. So, instead of launching a third 101 in 1001 list, I’m trying a 60 Before 30 list! Some of these “goals” are silly, some are serious, some will be really hard, and some are already well on their way to completion. More than anything, I hope writing these things down and working toward them will help me become the person I want to be — strong in mind, body, and spirit; capable and adventurous; encouraging and kind; grateful and generous — when I reach a new decade.


Start: February 28, 2014
End: February 27, 2017
Items completed: 43

1. Cultivate a lemon tree and/or blueberry bush (blueberry bush planted April 2015 and I am so excited!!)
2. Post a guide to the Triangle on EFM
3. Support a friend in something he or she is doing (Kollin’s Kickstarter!)
4. Expand on my very minimal eye makeup techniques (thanks to my personal consult with Sam in December 2016!)
5. Host a themed party
6. Go on a missions trip
7. Plant something pretty around our mailbox (March 2014)
8. Order an heirloom-quality wedding album for our home (January 2015 – post here)
9. Make a watercolor, oil, or acrylic painting
10. Develop a repertoire of at least 12 plant-strong meals we love (post here)
11. Make an appointment with an allergist and consider treatment plan options (June 2014)
12. Pay off the Mariner car loan (February 2014 – post here)
13. Pay off the Focus car loan (June 2014)
14. Fully fund a savings account for our next car purchase (completed December 2015)
15. Host a favorite things party (February 2017)
16. Make our porch a comfy place to gather (in progress)
17. Learn to French braid
18. Celebrate our two year anniversary (September 2014)
19. …and our three year! (September 2015)
20. …and our four year! (September 2016)
21. Hang a giant wedding canvas in our living room (February 2014)
22. Barter a skill in exchange for family photos (January 2015, for June’s newborn session in January 2016! :)
23. Become a morning person (a.k.a. a person who has a habit of waking up at 7am or earlier) with a consistent morning routine
24. Buy a headboard/frame for our bedroom (I’m marking this complete in September 2016 with the addition of decorative pillows after deciding the headboard we want is not in the budget right now!)
25. Develop a consistent and fulfilling prayer life
26. Make a square newel post for our stairs
27. Extravagantly and unexpectedly give to someone else (December 2016, to Nancy’s Dressember)
28. Renovate our backyard so it’s more private and a great place to gather (in progress!)
29. Explore the California coast (May 2014 – posts here, here, here, here, here, and here)
30. Film and edit a video for our church (February 2017 – didn’t film or edit it ourself, but chose the team and helped facilitate it!)
31. Convince Nancy to give me a hair tutorial
32. Open a Fidelity Giving Account (April 2014)
33. Grow a cutting garden with dahlias, roses, and peonies
34. Send out a Christmas card that conveys what Christmas means to us (December 2014 – post here)
35. Pay off at least 35% of our outstanding mortgage
36. Arrive at a compatible bike situation with John (road bike bought on Craigslist September 2014!)
37. Weed through my shoes and remove/sell the ones I don’t wear and decide on storage for the ones I do (September 2015)
38. Go antiquing at Brimfield, Round Top, Scott’s, Alameda, Brooklyn Flea, or another famous market
39. Start a luminaria tradition in our neighborhood (February 2017 – found out there kind of already is a luminaria tradition, so I started a Favorite Things party tradition instead!)
40. Replace my everyday bag (June 2015 – new Longchamp purchased while in Paris!)
41. Expand our family (here she is!)
42. Run a Chick-fil-a 5k
43. Make a will
44. Create a drop zone near our garage door
45. Go to Europe (Paris, Provence, Cassis, and the Cote d’Azur in June 2015)
46. Give away as much as we spend on Christmas gifts in 2014
47. …and 2015
48. …and 2016
49. Canoe down the Haw River (March 2014 – post here)
50. Follow a year-long Bible reading plan with John
51. Send my mom flowers out of the blue (December 2016, for her handbell concert)
52. Rehabilitate luggage rack passed down from my grandmother (April 2015)
53. Increase yearly giving until we are tithing
54. Learn some flower arranging skills (January 2015 – post here)
55. Post a full house tour on EFM (downstairs + upstairs in 2014)
56. Make at least one friend in our neighborhood (Hi, Ally!)
57. Write an article for our church’s newsletter on something we’re passionate about (December 2014 – see it here!)
58. Start Life Handbooks for Tegan, Wes, Maisie, and June
59. Buy a new Bible for the long haul – one I love and can scribble in (February 2017 – ESV Study Bible)
60. Make a quilt

There you have it! I’d love to hear your thoughts, if we share any goals, or if there are any goals you’d like to help me tackle! Here’s to a marvelous three years!!

Teal and emerald bridesmaid dresses

21 February 2014

Plans for Natalie and Joe’s wedding are coming along wonderfully. In fact, this week we made a big decision: bridesmaid dresses!


From the beginning, Natalie knew she wanted something long. She didn’t need all three dresses to match, but she wanted at least one person to represent emerald, the anchor color in their palette. With that in mind, we collected inspiration for a few months, including these lovely examples…


Photo by onelove via Style Me Pretty (dresses by Alfred Angelo)


J. Crew


Katch Silva via Style Me Pretty


When He Found Her via Wedding Chicks


J. Crew


via Vogue

True emerald dresses are hard to find! We requested swatches from several companies, but were totally perplexed when some didn’t come labeled with which swatch was which color — how is that helpful when you’re comparing similar shades??

Another (happy) wrench was thrown in our plans when we found out Marget (lady of honor) will be eight months pregnant at the wedding!! Because a standard gown won’t really be an option for her at that point, we tentatively decided to find one (emerald) dress for her to wear, and then a different, teal-ish dress for the other bridesmaid and me to wear. Marget is pretty settled on a Two Birds dress, since she’ll be able to wear it even when she’s not pregnant. We think the rich peacock shade from J. Crew will be a good complement, so I ordered the Nadia (love that style!) and I think Kate is going to order the Megan. Hopefully we’ll look a little something like this all together:


I just knew we should wait for a Weddings sale event to bring the price down, so I patiently checked my inbox every morning. And oh happy day, the sales email arrived this week!! 25% off gowns, bridesmaid dresses, and bridal accessories through March 3rd. If you’ve been waiting to make a J. Crew Weddings purchase, hop on it!

Now we just have to see if everything looks good together in person, because even with swatches, it’s still so hard to judge! Fingers crossed we can check this item off the list for good soon :)


17 February 2014

My junior year of college, I bought a canvas tote bag printed with pomegranates from a company called Ann Judge. (Sadly, I don’t think they exist anymore!) For the last six years, I’ve used it to carry my things to and from school and then work every day (including my laptop and planner). It’s been thrown in cars, toted to the beach, and tucked under countless airplane seats. If we were doing a cost-per-wear analysis on this piece, it would be in the pennies. Naturally, it’s showing its age, but I love it so much that it never occurred to me to replace it until I noticed that the previously threadbare corners had become holes.


Since that’s actually a problem, I’ve been reluctantly looking into a replacement. Reluctantly, that is, until I found Cuyana. I don’t think there’s ever been a company that has so immediately and completely resonated with me, and I know that many of y’all will feel the same way. From their website:

We believe in both beauty and intentional buying. We love the joy of finding treasures and the pride of spending wisely. Cuyana means “to love” in Quechua, a language of the Andean regions of South America, and every piece we design is imbued with our love for quality, timelessness, and beauty. We want to love every item in our closets. We want to revel in the tactile beauty of the world’s finest materials and marvel at consummate craftsmanship. We believe in style, not fashion; in quality, not quantity. We celebrate fewer, better things and strive to live a life of inspired simplicity.

WOW! Isn’t that amazing? I just love it so, so much, and feel like it applies to so much more than just clothes or accessories.


If you’re interested, here’s a little video from their site that explains their mission in more detail:

The Cuyana Story from Cuyana on Vimeo.

Cuyana is based in San Francisco, but they travel around the world to find and match the best craftsmen and materials (the same ones luxury brands use!) with each product. Because they’ve consolidated their production in one country and sell directly to consumers, they can offer pieces at a much lower cost.


I was not surprised to see that Jamie, someone I consider to have perfectly classic style and excellent taste, carries a Cuyana tote. (That’s her husband’s overnight bag, which I also love!)


I found this gal while Googling, and she looks pretty stylish, too!

I’m pretty set on the tote in caramel, but I’d love your opinion on two details:

Tall or short? I think the tall is more similar to the shape of my current bag, but I like the look of the short.
Foil stamping? Since I don’t particularly love my initials (EAT, yikes) or monogram (ETA), I’m considering “T” or “EM.”

What do you think?

Affiliate links are used in this post!

A marvelous love story

14 February 2014

A sweet gal emailed me a few weeks ago wanting to know more about my and John’s love story. While I was initially suspicious it was my Mom writing in to make me feel good (ha!), she’s not that devious. Even if not everyone is interested in this long-form version of our story, it’s a good way to record it for posterity! And it’s a good fit for Valentine’s Day :)

John and I grew up in the same small town in Connecticut, but we didn’t meet until middle school, when all of the elementary schools pooled into one school. John was without a doubt one of THE coolest kids in seventh and eighth grade — athletic, handsome, and just shy enough to be mysterious :) I had a crush on him, but sadly, I was just one in the crowd. I can even remember a friend asking me to take her picture while they slow danced at a middle school dance — ahh, the agony! Thankfully, God’s timing is good!


Our respective groups of friends gradually merged senior year of high school. This wasn’t entirely by chance – John had developed a crush on me, and was angling for a way in. He even resorted to loudly talking about how much he liked me while sitting a few seats away from my younger sister in the cafeteria, hoping she would overhear and report back to me. (It didn’t work.)

Finally, in January, he mustered his courage, called me up out of the blue, and blurted out, “So… I think I like you.” To which I responded with nervous giggles, obviously. Nervous giggles to cover the panic. This would be my first date ever (yep), and I was extremely flustered, to say the least. Thankfully, one of my best friends talked me down from the ledge for over an hour, and I agreed to go. (All I can remember saying to her is, “What if I don’t like him??” To which she said, “Then… you don’t go on another date?” Duh.)

It turned out pretty well :) We started with ice skating, then, at John’s suggestion, spent a half an hour slogging through knee-high snow at a local historical site, then finished with an early dinner at a downtown coffee shop. One thing I remember clearly – the whole time we were in his car, we listened to the funniest mixed tape (it included both Barenaked Ladies and the 1812 Overture!). John has gone on to mix me many more memorable CDs over the years.

5:05 senior prom

We finished senior year with prom, then headed into the best summer of our lives. I know you’re not supposed to say things like that — the best years are always ahead! — but that particular summer was just golden. We had part time jobs, but we mostly had so much freedom to do all of our favorite things with some of our favorite people. We went to the beach and swam at the lake, watched movies in the hammock, played board games and badminton, met for breakfast and lunch and picnic dinners, and hung out with each other’s families. We took trips to Cape Cod, Maine, and Block Island.

The day of our departure for college finally arrived, the worst possible ending to the best possible summer. We had started dating long after college application deadlines, and were headed to different schools in different states — he in Washington, DC, me in Massachusetts.

Every way I try to describe our last night sounds ridiculously dramatic, and yet, nothing encompasses the wrenching pain we felt. When he finally shut my house’s front door around 2:30am (far later than we should have been up, but our parents were kind enough not to intervene), I sunk to the floor and wailed. Tears leaked out of my eyes in a near-constant stream throughout the next few days as I packed and moved into my dorm.

I suspect transitioning to college life would have been difficult for me under optimal circumstances (remember this post? I don’t do well with change), but these were certainly not optimal circumstances. Thankfully, we were able to see each other about once a month that first semester – once when John came home for an emergency wisdom tooth extraction (a blessing in disguise!), twice when I visited DC, and once each for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In between, we talked on the phone multiple times a day, and instant messaged almost constantly (yes, people were still IM-ing back then!).

We immediately began brainstorming ways to change our situation. For a variety of reasons, it became clear that the best option was for John to transfer to my school, and in the spring, we found out he had been accepted for our sophomore year! Though we were both elated, it was a bit of a stressful decision – being so miserable, I wasn’t even sure I liked the school I was at, and yet John was making an enormous effort to join me there. Transferring also meant he would lose an impressive merit scholarship. I’m sure some people thought we were crazy — we had been dating for less than a year — but we knew this was it for us. We became each other’s future quickly and seamlessly.


Life began looking up once we were together, and the rest of our college career was filled with some amazing memories. We both interned in New York City the summer before our senior year, and my experience there prompted me to start this blog!

As graduation approached, we agreed that we would both search for opportunities, and follow the first person to be hired. I ended up receiving an offer in July, and John again made a huge leap to accompany me to North Carolina (more about that here). Many of our adventures since then have been chronicled on Em for Marvelous, including our engagement, wedding, honeymoon, and, most recently, house purchase.


I’m not sure if I’m qualified to give marriage advice, seeing as we’ve only just passed our first anniversary, but perhaps I can offer some relationship advice — we have been together for almost ten years, after all. There are a lot of things I could tell you about what works for us, but I think one of the strongest things about our relationship is that we trust in it without reservation. We’ve never given each other a reason to doubt it, and so we’ve never been tempted to do so. We don’t treat our love for each other like it’s conditional, or could be threatened to be taken away, or withheld as a bargaining chip. Even if we are angry or frustrated, at bedrock, we both have always known without a doubt that we are acting from a place of unshakeable love.

And that, my friends, is our marvelous love story. Happy Valentine’s Day!