Thoughts on camping

29 April 2015

I did not grow up camping. (I would famously sign up for girl scout camping trips, get all the way to the parking lot, then refuse to get on the bus with everyone else.) NO ONE would mistake me for a tomboy (even though I grew up playing outside most of the time). So when John first started expressing an interest in camping, hiking, and backpacking our junior year of college, my first thought was, oh HECK no. No, thank you. You go do your thing; I’m great right here.

However, a hallmark of our relationship has always been quality time together. We do almost EVERYTHING together, minus the eight or so hours per day we’re at our jobs. If John is mowing the lawn, I’m probably out weeding something. If I’m working on stirrers, John is probably researching a trip in the chair beside me. We do have our own interests and hobbies, but we love being together and try to maximize that as much as we can. So this new activity that I was vehemently not interested in caused a tiff between us for awhile… until I eventually gave in :)

And gosh, I’m so glad I did! We’ve had some amazing adventures over the last few years and seen so many beautiful things by traveling on foot and sleeping away from civilization. By far the most impressive was our post-graduation hike in the Presidentials, summitting Mount Adams (the second highest peak in the Northeast!) and Mount Jefferson.



Yes, that photo is showing you we hiked on our own two feet ABOVE the clouds!! The beautiful thing about camping and hiking, though, is that you can have equally fun, challenging, and inspiring experiences closer to home and without as much time commitment (or sweat!). We’ve had some great adventures in North Carolina, too:








These days, we do less backpacking (where we carry everything on our backs and hike out to a campsite) and more car camping (which still involves sleeping in a tent, but there are usually bathrooms and running water and you don’t have to carry all of your supplies with you!). Both are fun; the main trade-off is convenience for breathtaking vistas! If you want to spend quality time with friends, I can’t think of a better bonding experience than sitting around a campfire with no distractions and hours together stretching in front of you. It’s like the grown-up version of a sleepover!

I wonder if any of y’all were surprised when I mentioned camping on EFM for the first time. Either way, I hope my experience encourages you to give camping and hiking a try if you’ve been hesitant in the past!

In my next post, I’ll share some of our camping favorites. Once you have a basic stock of supplies it’s a delightfully inexpensive and beautiful way to travel, but it can be intimidating and expensive when you’re just starting out!

Fruit of the spirit: peace

27 April 2015

This year, instead of setting traditional goals, I am practicing a fruit of the spirit each month to move closer to the person I hope to be. I explain more here!


It did not go unnoticed by me that likely my busiest month of this year fell on my designated “peace” month. Peaceful, it was not. (Hence the fact that I didn’t get around to writing a post at all!) The peace I’m interested in pursuing for this project, though, is less about the circumstances I find myself in and more about the disposition and mindset that guides me through them.

The peace I’m working toward is the peace of an un-ruffle-able mind, a head space that’s calm and quiet instead of roiling.

I don’t spend a lot of time obsessing, over analyzing, or worrying about things, but one thing I can do is hold a grudge. If I’m in a grumpy mood and John does something to annoy me, I’m capable of freezing him out for as long as I want. (This is not new – my family nickname growing up was Princess Thundercloud because of the ease with which I could show my displeasure.) On the other hand, if I do something to annoy John (it’s difficult, but it does happen), he forgives me just as soon as I show the slightest bit of contrition.

This is one thing I love about marriage, that you can show your ugly and your person says, yes, I see that, and I still love you. At its best, it’s a lifelong, up close and personal opportunity to learn, with grace upon grace given and received.

I imagine this inner peace is something that’s always been with John, in some form or another, but when I asked him about it several years ago, I was surprised and tickled by his answer. Apparently in eighth grade, his English teacher led the class on a tangent about how holding a grudge is letting the past consume your future, and therefore is among the stupidest things you can do. John’s eighth grade mind immediately connected this to a particular scene in The Lion King.

In it, Rafiki bops Simba on the head with his stick.
Simba: “Ouch, what’d you do that for?”
Rafiki: “It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!”

Simple as that! Of course, there are some things in the past that do matter, but the vast (VAST) majority of minor injuries and injustices don’t, in fact, matter, and don’t deserve to be carried into the future. When your mind isn’t consumed with trying to remember why you’re angry at so-and-so or how the scales are balanced between you and what’s-his-name, it is free to be at peace. You are free to be at peace. A lesson I’m still learning, but trying to take to heart more every day.


I’d love to know: how peaceful is your mind? Are you great at holding a grudge or quick to forgive? Do you have a family nickname that you can’t quite escape? :)

P.S. Love and joy.

Natalie + Joe’s summer wedding at the Branford House

24 April 2015

From the minute John and I met Joe, we knew he would be the perfect addition to the Thomas family. In fact, I don’t know about anyone else, but I took it as a foregone conclusion that he was going to be a permanent addition from that first meeting! (Which was actually at Marget’s wedding, and the way he charmed, chauffeured, and danced with random family members he had never met before told me all I needed to know!) He and Natalie, my sister-in-law, fit together beautifully. I am SO lucky to have these two in my life, and lucky to be sharing their wedding with you today. (Natalie graciously agreed to share a few thoughts, too!)


Marget drew the most beautiful illustration of the Branford House for Natalie and Joe’s save the date, and I contributed the graphic design!




Hana Floral did a beautiful job with the flowers, just like she did for Marget’s wedding! Natalie’s bouquet included garden roses, lavender, tweedia, freesia, a cafe au lair dahlia, and mini phaleonopsis orchids.



Bridesmaid dresses were a little bit of a conundrum, because as you can see, Marget was the most beautiful 39-week pregnant matron of honor I can imagine! She chose to wear a Two Birds dress while Kate and I wore J.Crew dresses in rich peacock. I love that color SO much! Jennie Fresa made everyone look good!


Joe chose the same tuxedo John wore for our wedding, and has worn many times since – I can’t recommend it enough!


From Natalie: Joe and I were married in July before a group of close family and friends at the Branford House at Avery Point in Connecticut. Being the third and last of my siblings to wed, led to some benefits and challenges! Among the challenges was finding a location we loved that would be unique to us (in other words, we didn’t want to revisit a venue that had already hosted a sibling’s wedding, which was hard because Marget/Seth and Emily/John got married in such amazing spots). However, the Branford House ended up working out really well for us—we were still on the shoreline and it was fun to choose a spot where my family had previously enjoyed picnics and where I had taken a physics class over the summer while home from college. It’s fun to think that I have pictures of me from elementary school enjoying a grinder on the steps of the lighthouse on the property and I now also have our first look photos from almost the same spot.


Among the benefits was that Joe and I were able to put all of the wisdom and experience that my siblings had gained from their shoreline weddings to good use! We knew right away that we would use the same wonderful caterer and we also used the same amazing florist that Marget and Seth worked with (as well as the same musician for the ceremony!). Another benefit—our splendid photographer, Meredith Perdue, was recommended to us by Emily and John as both a great photographer and great person and, as promised, she made two camera-shy people feel comfortable and relaxed!

Marget and I were thrilled that Natalie chose to wear the custom horsehair veil we each wore at our weddings. Fingers crossed my younger sister will choose to wear it, too! :)




I am grateful that we managed to bring personal touches into the ceremony. Joe and I met while serving as law clerks and we were so honored to be able to have the judge that we clerked for officiate. It was also particularly meaningful to us to have close friends contribute readings and offer blessings.


Look at those happy faces!!




Natalie, Marget, and I joke that we should start some sort of southeastern Connecticut shoreline wedding blog, because between the three of us, we have quite a bit of experience in the area! I personally couldn’t have been happier that N+J chose the Branford House, because when John and I were back in high school, we would (pretend) argue about whether we should get married at Branford House or Harkness some day. We didn’t end up getting married at either, but instead got to live vicariously through our siblings!


John’s amazing parents grew lavender specifically to use in the centerpieces and floral arrangements. It looked beautiful! Another fun detail: one of Joe’s culinary specialties is sriracha deviled eggs, so A Thyme to Cook included a riff on them at cocktail hour.




Eagle-eyed readers might recognize those cloth-wrapped frames. They were built for our wedding (see them here!), and have since made appearances at two other celebrations!





Natalie and Joe chose to have a delicious desserts table as well as a small cake for cutting. They baked the cake themselves using Joe’s grandmother’s recipe, and we three girls used rosemary and lavender to accent the tiers.




One of the favorite memories that Natalie wrote to me about was Joe calling the Virginia Reel at the reception, and I’d imagine that pretty much every guest would echo that! I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun on a dance floor!!


Dj JD (with whom Natalie and Marget went to high school!) kept the dance floor packed all night. Even Marget was tearing it up, which had me convinced our nephew was going to be born at midnight. He ended up waiting about one more week for his debut :)


Natalie and Joe, I love you. Thank you for letting me be a part of your magical day. I am already a bit in denial that I only have one sibling wedding to look forward to… but it’s hard to be sad when each was more wonderful than the last!

Marvelous Money: Start Rich

23 April 2015

I’ve been working on a longer post for the past few days (hopefully ready for tomorrow!), but in the meantime, I wanted to share this quote. I’ve been reading Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins, and I appreciate his emphasis on giving and cultivating a mindset of generosity alongside saving and asset allocation. This particular passage really resonated with me:


Hope you all are having a great day!