The pre-quarter-life-crisis… or outsmarting it.

I had an unsettling realization a few weeks ago.

The only tangible goal I had recently spoken, set, and was working myself toward was watching One Tree Hill in its entirety on Netflix. 187 episodes, at about 50 minutes a pop, comes to roughly 9,530 minutes of One Tree Hill. Roughly 156 hours of One Tree Hill. Roughly 6.6 continuous days of One Tree Hill. Nothing against OTH, but it’s not even that good. (Not in a work your brain, learn something, and ponder the deeper themes of life kind of good -or even like, good acting kind of good. I felt less guilt over my Breaking Bad binge last year. That is good television.)

Up to 22 and a half years of living, life goals always seemed to simply manifest themselves naturally –finish the semester strong, graduate high school, survive student advertising, finish my bachelor’s, marry Austin, settle into a new apartment and city and find a killer job (checked off twice this year.) Now suddenly I’m settled, blissfully married, with a degree hanging in an office I generally enjoy walking into 5 days a week –and without realizing it, telling myself the next natural progression of my life was to discover the ending to every story line ever of One Tree Hill.

I was on episode 134. I felt pretty low.

Now was that really my only goal? No, something I quickly mentally established in a hurry to make myself feel like less of a sad 22-year-old gum-chewing-preteen. But realizing I had never said the things I wanted from myself at this point out loud was a little eye-opening. It made me think. There are very real things –life things, personal things, family things- that I want, but wasn’t actively doing anything about.

(I’ll pause here for you argumentative types. I know you’re out there, likely rolling your eyes at me and crafting catty responses in your mind I may or may never see. Sure, argue that life isn’t a simple list of goals to be checked, and how sad if it is. To your point, I’d argue the same. Life isn’t a compilation of goals, but I believe it’s somewhat healthy to be working toward something, to be a responsible steward of time in an effort to continuously learn and actively grow into the person God created us to be –using unique gifts and brainpower to learn and really know accomplishment.*)

I spent days of free time thinking about it –what did I want?– narrowing down 6 major “things” to work toward. Maybe for you it’s 3 or 7 or 12. (It killed me for like five minutes not having a good, solid number like 3 or 5 –but what do I do? “Nope, sorry number six, I realize you’ve been a life’s dream but you didn’t make the cut, you didn’t fit.” I tend to have a little Type-A Crazy inside of me from time to time. I had to suppress the urge to fit my goals inside the confines of a round number.  I didn’t put an exact time on it, either, but in my mind I see it as a sort of 5ish-year-list.

Sharing my list feels really personal, and I don’t know if you and I are on that level yet. For the sake of making my point, though, I will divulge that one or two of my more fun “things” involve writing in some capacity. Consequently, I’ve been brainstorming (journaling, scrawling haphazard post-its, doodling) different, enjoyable habits I can be developing to help me meet those ends (better habits than watching the downward spiral of Chad Michael Murray’s fictional love life for hours on end. Sorry, Chad.) Like reading varied types of literature and “just fun” books and carving out dedicated writing time during the week -the types of hobbies I genuinely enjoy to help me develop the bigger picture. (Is my crazy showing again, or just my nerdiness?)

My 6 “things” ended up being, well, big. Each one of them have virtually a hundred tiny moving pieces, and sound pretty darn discouragingly impossible right now. But starting to figure out what each of those little pieces is, and realizing that I actually enjoy a lot of the little steps for some of them, makes them seem pretty darn possible

It’s important for me to note that ultimately I fully believe God is in control, and His will is going to be done on or off my list. Completion of these goals isn’t a measurement of my worth or my life. (Then what’s the point? Let the asterisk* lead you a few paragraphs up.)

It’s also important for me to note that none of my “things” are professional –not one. I’ve had this little tendency to bury myself to the point of suffocation and physical illness under piles of what some people like to call workaholicism or whatever for pretty much as long as I can remember. (That’s right, I’m instinctively one of those fun “all work and no play types.”) I’d like to think I’m growing (and for goodness sake loosening up a little bit,) and that’s what part of this is about for me. Exploring gifts I enjoy, meeting and making milestones, and becoming a more productive steward of my money and  time. Hopefully in doing this, also revealing opportunities to love God, my husband, and my friends & family a lot better than I have in the past. That’s probably the most important part.

I’m the type of visual person who writes and draws concepts out to make them feel more real. What about you? If you have any type of goal-realization system, goals you want to talk through, or ideas for me, I’d love to have a conversation -comment below or using the little thought-bubble-guy near the title!

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New-Wife, New-Home Instant Gratification Syndrome: Fall Edition!

Karber_Fall(Pre-Lit Monogram Pumpkins from Kirkland’s. I told you, I’m all about the K’s these days. You know, in case someone forgets my last name starts with K now, I have to put it everywhere.)

October air has a spectacularly unique crispness and zeal. Temperatures dip just enough to prompt sweater-wearing, scarves, leather boots, and hot coffee. Everything from the colors of food to the shadows in designer eye pallets to the runners of dining room tables begin to mirror God’s miraculous and ever-changing, golden-warm landscape. Sidewalks crunch,  fireplaces burn, and a great big bowls of candy can be found on nearly every coffee table and desk for an entire 31 days. Then, after the last miniature fairy-princess and goblin get tucked into bed and the porch light is flicked off, the holidays begin.

There is nothing I find more comfortable, exciting, or warm than the last 3 chilly months of the year, and October has the privilege of kicking it all off. For the clothes, the food, weather, and football, I love October.

So I still consider myself to be a new wife, and one ridiculously high priority of mine is making our little place feel homey (not the first or last time I will likely mention this on the blog.) And there is something that makes me absolutely crazy over fall & holiday decorations. Nothing makes a space feel more snug to me than when it sparkles with fall & holiday charm –perhaps another reason these last 3 months of the year are the absolute best.

As we’re in this first year of marriage, I have sincerely struggled with wanting everything in our home to be perfect instantly -meals, scheduling, relationships, decor, the gamut. I call this something like the “New-Wife, Now-Home Instant-Gratification Syndrome.” I’m really working on it because I do realize this notion is stupidly unrealistic, but a very real battle in my heart. Not surprisingly, this syndrome leaked over into my ridiculously massive want to dress our home for fall.

Through these first nearly ten months, I’ve learned  to come to terms with something:

Creating a classically perfect collection of decorations will take time –a lot of time. And probably even more patience. This idea is super applicable to regular decorating, but especially to fall & holiday decorating, I think. It would be lovely if I had the budget to walk into Hobby Lobby, Kirkland’s, and Pottery Barn to simply buy everything off the shelves that sang to me (figuratively -singing holiday decorations can be totally creepy.)

Alas, I don’t (who does?) But honestly, would I want to? (Am I crazy? Maybe. Stay with me.)

If I simply bought everything in one swoop, where would the story be? Suddenly my house may look like Pottery Barn, but I’m not Pottery Barn, I’m Robin. My personality spans more than one style from one store from one season, and I want to reflect that in my decorating, including and maybe especially holiday decorations. My favorite decorations in my home have stories:  the lamp I bought shopping with a dear friend in Kentucky, the plaque I found in a hole-in-the-wall boutique in Gruene, Texas with my sister, the rug from my mother-in-law, my grandmother’s old table, the birdcage from our wedding. They’re a collection of memories that make our apartment ours, and I didn’t walk out of Pottery Barn one a Saturday afternoon with a sackful of memories. They took time to collect, and will keep collecting.

Ultimately, I’m trying to become more comfortable with the idea of decorating bit by bit, sale by sale, and being particularly choosy with what I find -to not just buy a vase to fill a table because I want the table filled right now. So I’m fighting to suppress the urge to go out and stockpile all the wreaths, garland, and pumpkins I see just to have a home that immediately sparkles with Fall, but to let time cultivate the space naturally with stories.

Lucky for me, I maybe mentioned to my mother one too many times how much I loved her fall decorations last time I was in Amarillo. Knowing I didn’t actually own a single pumpkin, she took me on a quick trip to Kirkland’s to kick-start my collection. Now forever, when I pull out that set of ceramic pumpkins or flowers, I have that special memory of shopping for my first Fall decorations with mom.

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Apartment Hunting Remotely: Little Tips & Experience

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I enjoyed apartment hunting halfway across the country so much when we did it 9 months ago, I was simply itching to go through the process again…

No. It is a seriously painful process –and I don’t mean that figuratively. It literally caused me physical pain:  throbbing eyes & head from starring at a glowing laptop, severe tension buildup in this one particular region in my inner right shoulder blade, and immediate stomach aches every time Google broke the news that the apartment I had already begun fanatically decorating in my mind had an ongoing roach or violent gang problem the company somehow failed to list in the “community amenities.”

It absolutely sucks.

Silver lining: I had Austin. My husband was there to sweat and panic alongside me in 4 hour hunting binges as our moving date loomed closer by the necessary bathroom break (you can only sit in one spot refreshing apartment listings for so long.) Having duel gender points of view every time one of us found a potential home was so, so useful. I tended to look for things like washer/dryer hookups, flooring, and counter space. He was more keen on little particulars like, oh you know, area crime rate and building maintenance. We struck a good balance, and before long figured out exactly the key words to search for, questions to ask potential landlords, and tools to use for every apartment we found.

Neighborhood Livability Score
This gem of a website, Area Vibes, is really super useful and easy. It rates different neighborhoods or zip codes and gives them a “livability score” based on Amenities, Cost of Living, Crime, Education, Employment, Housing, & Weather. (Crime, Education, sure those make sense. Weather rating? Isn’t that a little subjective? It’s 91 degrees in Dallas right now and I would rather it be snowing. Contrary to their scoring, I would not give Dallas “A” weather.)

Google Street View
Creeping down the street and around the complexes looking at businesses, vehicle types, and pedestrians was probably the most fun way of scoping out an area 800 miles away. It gave us a relatively good idea of who our potential neighbors would be. (Also, we knew  it probably wasn’t going to work if there wasn’t a Little Caesar’s Pizza and a Starbucks within about a mile of the apartment. This way, we could see it with our own eyes. Priorities.)

Aggregate Listing Websites 
Common sense:  we used websites that gathered listings that allowed you to specify things like number of bedrooms, pets, hardwood floors, and extra storage. The the most user friendly I found were Apartments.Com and Zillow. I really like the layout and map feature of Zillow that lets you see exactly where on the globe you’re looking at.

Boots on the ground
Having physical eyes & ears are simply irreplaceable if at all possible, that’s all there is to it. Major shout out to our dear friend Lauren who ultimately saved our butts from renting a residence she “wouldn’t want to visit us at.” Pictures can be deceiving, and crummy townhouses can stand in beautiful neighborhoods that get reasonably good livability scores. At the end of the day, it’s scary, no matter how many tools you’re using. You have to be able to trust your instincts, or have a friend whose opinions are worth trusting, and be willing to be flexible when you get there and open the front door.

Now after a couple weeks in our new space I confidently say we’ve had good luck with our two remote apartment hunts this past year, and I hope to never do it again.
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Saying Goodbye to #4 Brownsboro Rd, our first little place. (Moving Day, because every girl should have their photo plastered on the Internet after hauling furniture all afternoon, right?)

“I Still Do” Conference: 7 gifts wives can bring to marriage

FamilyLife

Let’s be honest upfront:  my initial priorities were not the conference.

“In support of one of our clients, FamilyLife, we will be sending 3 interested couples to Chicago to attend one of their marriage conferences this summer.”

As this flashed across my inbox I thought:  Married? Yes. Free trip to Chicago? Absolutely I’m interested, what kind of question is that?

Frankly, I wasn’t interested in sitting through a ton of cheesy, embarrassingly unartistic Christian music, videos, games, or other forms of summer-camp-like-torture I was vividly imagining. First and foremost, I am a Christian woman, and wholeheartedly believe my love for Christ should shape all my feelings and actions. I’ll be the first to admit though, sometimes Christians have a pretty terrible way of communicating what are actually super stellar and important messages. (This isn’t an overarching belief of mine for everything Christians produce. There are incredibly artistic, brilliant Christian communicators and artists out there, few and far between.) But I’m in a really happy marriage, and I really like good food. I saw this as an opportunity for a fairly broke newlywed couple to just get through a conference and then be rewarded with the city.

Well, shame on me.

I realized I should have had a lot more faith in FamilyLife, and a lot more faith in God. Lucky for me as a sinner, God will ultimately speak when you need to be spoken to, even if I was more focused on cheesy deep-dish pizza rather than strengthening my marriage biblically. The day was peppered with comedy, surprisingly amazing praise and worship music, and theologically-sound marital advice (terrific for us specifically as we’re laying the foundation of our marriage in this first year.)

Debriefing the conference between ourselves on the 5-hour ride home, Austin & I actually agreed the most impactful session for us was when speaker Crawford Loritts shared 7 gifts women should bring to the marriage for their husbands, and his bride of 43 years, Karen Loritts, shared  7 gifts men should bring to the marriage for their wives.

Convicting but not guilt-trippy and comedic in all the right places, here is (unfortunately) the abridged version of the 7 gifts Crawford taught that wives should bring to the marriage for their husbands:

1 Godliness
It is absolutely crucial to continuously grow your relationship with Jesus and to help be a Godly leader in your household. Everything stems from this truth.

2 Unrivaled Priority
Unrivaled. Your priorities should be God, your Husband, then your Children. Keeping this order not only benefits you and your husband, but your children, too. One of the worst things you can do for your children is not letting them know their correct order and place in your life. Otherwise, you create entitled children.

3 Respect
Honor your husband in his assigned place in your life and home -don’t demean or put him down in front of anybody. Anybody. Don’t throw in his face your walk with Christ to show him how lost he is.
Don’t underestimate the transformative power you have over your husband.

4 Support
There is one person who is with him in life, and that’s you. This does not mean blind allegiance -tell him what’s what when he needs it- but no matter what, you should have his back.
Also important: he isn’t going to grow if you’re constantly buying him the books and holding his hand to small group. Give him the opportunity to be the man.

5 Encouragement
Your words are the wind in your husband’s sails. Use uplifting language, it’s so detrimental to your marriage to continuously focus on his faults.

6 Loyalty
Your husband should never question whose team you’re on.

7 Confidentiality
Protect your marriage’s business, and don’t make it anybody else’s business. Talking too much is one of the quickest ways to destroy trust.
(My favorite point to this:) Be wary of the fishing expeditions that are Small Groups. Don’t dress up what should be you and your husband’s private business in a prayer request.

Theme of the session:  There is no such thing as a rich marriage built on selfishness. 

Terrific conference, and I’m truly glad God opened my heart to accepting the powerful, wonderfully applicable messages.But come on, could it be a true Karber vacation without a little light shopping?

Chicago is a terrifically fun city.

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My top 3 DO’s thrifting for furniture

My living room was the worst. I take my job in making our apartment feel homey very seriously, so this really bothered me. We were given a houseful of furniture before moving, for which I couldn’t have been more grateful -but we only had one couch. Imagine guests sitting awkwardly hip-to-hip in a straight line in front of the television making shifty-eyes back and forth. We tried to not have many people over.

It was necessary to start shopping for another tiny sofa if we ever had hopes of entertaining (which we did.) We also realized the most fun parts of furniture shopping were making fun of really bad prints, and not looking at price tags. The comfy ones were going to cost us.

Having put a pin in that project, a trip to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore for something else surprised me with our seating solution –and I loved it.

Thrifting for furniture can be a terrifying, smelly waste of time –but it’s all about mindset.

Rule #1:  Keep an open mind. Focus on the bones of the piece; don’t fixate on things like hardware or wood finish that can be altered–that’s the fun part. If it has great lines, the 20-year water stains and rusting, gold hardware should be invisible–look for potential. Things like knobs and handles are always replaceable; funky alternatives to tailor pieces to your home can be found like these from Anthropologie or these from Hobby Lobby (but really, what can’t you find there?)

Even if you aren’t looking to completely refurnish, but rather add decorative accents, thrifting can be your friend. For example:  nasty, old artwork. Good thrift stores stockpile the ugliest art because their previous owners looked inside the frame instead of at the frame.

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What was a mounted, colorful print of the anatomy of a plant is now the bulletin board in my office. Why the former ever counted as art was beyond me, but I scored a seriously inexpensive, large, ornate gold picture frame perfect for mounting a cheap cork board. Similar pieces can get expensive. Frame and board combined, I made my Goodwill version for under $15.

Rule #2:  Make sure you can use it. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. If you can use it and it’s cheap, that makes a good deal. Before going, have a general understanding of what will/wont fit in your space, and what your needs are. Once you’ve opened that mind, it starts to feel like you can fix everything, but should you?

Once you start thrifting, you ride a fine line between upcycling treasure and hoarding junk. (Please don’t use this post as a green light to start hoarding useless junk that doesn’t fit your home.)

Tip:  Carrying a pocket tape-measure in your purse to make sure your find is useable is never a bad idea. There is nothing worse than finding the one, then going home for measurements, to have someone else swoop in and carry off the antique buffet table of your dreams (trust me, I’m not over it yet.)

Rule #3:  Make sure you can fix it if it needs it. I get sort of carried away really quickly. Quickly. I have a bit of a confidence issue in that I have way, way too much confidence in my ability to create absolutely anything my brain can cook up. This stems from being moderately good at being able to create some of the things my brain can cook up. (My brain is constantly cooking.)

Don’t consider this a point of discouragement, but rather a point of caution for overzealous “projecteers” such as myself. Make sure you have the right tools, or can obtain the right tools while still maintaining your find was thrifty (don’t buy a $5 door to repurpose into a shelving unit, when the table saw to complete the project could cost you $650. At that point, you could have just bought a much cheaper shelving unit that somebody else made out of a door.)

While a bench seat may be an easy upholstery job, I broke the news to myself recently that I cannot reupholster an entire couch. I had no intentions of thrifting for a sofa then, because what were the odds of finding exactly what I was looking for? And a clean one, at that? Shame on me. (See rule 1 about “keeping an open mind.”)

I did not intend on buying a rust-colored, plushy love seat that looked like 1973 –but being ready to design a quick Plan B when you find what you weren’t looking for is a big part of it.

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Sure enough, I fell for this one. After inspection, the only thing wrong was a missing back cushion –it wouldn’t need any new upholstery -absolutely no tears or stains. For me, this was an easy fix that I could handle because Austin and I didn’t care if the back cushions perfectly matched – and it was so darn comfy.

I actually prefer now that they don’t match, I like our weird little love seat (and I like that we could afford it.) I feel like it adds the good kind of character to our home –the kind you go looking for in thrift store projects to begin with.

Do you have any thrifting success (or horror) stories? Share below!

Have your cake, and still pay rent

Opinions on using coupons in the dating-scene are varied. I err on the side of “for goodness sake, just be a man and buy her a nice meal.” However, getting married changes the game. 
 
Several months ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice if I was hit with a fried rice craving -just order some, duh. But now finding ways for us to save money for pesky things like rent are part of that game. It’s kind of annoying. 
 
We genuinely love eating out and trying new restaurants though -I feel like it’s kind of one of our “things,” especially when we find an excuse for a celebration. (Today Austin finished the first semester of his graduate degree, which just screams date night, right?)
                                                                                                                                                          
So the lifesaver for a couple of Foodies on a bologna budget: Groupon.
 
Our latest gem has been Hillbilly Tea -a spunky little cafe in Downtown Louisville that specializes in Appalachian Mountain-inspired cuisine and loose-leaf teas. We’re obsessed. From the atmosphere to the menu, nothing comes close.
 
Image If you’re new to the idea of Groupon and wondering what the heck I’m talking about, a quick example:
 
I bought a $20 Groupon for $40 worth of Hillbilly Tea food. I also had a bonus $10 off code, so ended up spending $10 for a $40 dinner. Of course our ticket wasn’t $40 on the nose, so we also paid the small difference. But really, it’s that easy, and made our date 75% free –which in my mind, is basically completely free. Using Groupon also opens the door to taste more of the menu (appetizers, desserts, beverages) since we’re “forced” to reach that $40 spending minimum. (If you’re still confused or want to learn more -or hey, you want to snag this deal yourself- click here.)
 
What better way to celebrate than by drinking boozy tea out of a giant mason jar? (And at SBTS, they’re under contract to not drink alcohol while enrolled in classes.) So cheers to summertime, and cheers to still having small celebrations while still being able to keep the water running.
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*Disclaimer:  For the love of goodness, please don’t tip based on the amount you’re actually paying when using Groupon. Consider the person who has helped you through the experience, and tip according to what the ticket would have cost you without the deep discount. It’s just called being a reasonably good person.

The most stressful question of the day

Something I was anticipating most about getting married was cooking our meals. Once all of the little kitchen parts were finally put together and I had a semi-functional workspace, I sat down on our couch, ready to turn a sticky note into a grocery list, and thought, “Alright, what’s for dinner?”

That’s when it hit me:  I had no idea.

Somehow it had never occurred to me how much work went into making the home’s menu.  Mom always just knew what we were eating, so I would just know, too (as if by setting up my own rotating utensil-caddy some compartment of my brain would unlock and out would flow all the secrets of homemaking). I panicked.

Just find a recipe, buy ingredients, and cook. Why was this so hard?

I sat in the same spot on the couch with my iPad for no less than 4 and a half hours that afternoon, scouring the Internet, trying to figure out the first real dinner we would share in our new apartment (the PB&J’s and Fruit Loops we’d been sustaining on through the big move-in didn’t seem to count).

I just wanted so badly to be good –to not identify with any of the “new-wife’s cooking” jokes or horrors told and retold and exemplified through sitcoms (even though I had been equipped for years with cooking basics, tricks, and recipes from my mother).

But I learned something:  I do not have time to spend nearly 5 hours planning one meal.  So I hung up a chalkboard and developed a system that works for our home:

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  • Put it in writing.  One convenient day a week, come up with as many meals one trip to the grocery store will allow, and jot it down. I chose this big chalkboard in our kitchen that has all of the daily components I’m trying to plan around (different jobs and classes), as well as the weekly meal plan. Don’t limit yourself either -draw pictures! Try and make it fun. It’s also nice to have a big, visible reference board (and a nice reminder if I’m supposed to get a crock-pot started before work).
  • Look for overlap. While choosing meals, eliminate waste and save grocery money by cooking foods that have a little ingredient overlap –especially with items that will rot more quickly, like produce or bread. (For example, cooking cheeseburgers and pulled pork sandwiches in the same week to use up a package of buns.)
  • Calm down, and just pick something. As it turns out, Austin did not have nearly the anxiety I did about this dinner-planning situation (go figure!), and I underestimated his graciousness. (I should point out here that none of this pressure stemmed from him, and he is always more than happy and complimentary with whatever we’re eating at mealtime –a wife’s dream.)

Just trust what skills you have, and realize you will be eating dinner every day. Everyday. Which means every day, you get another chance to redeem yourself if something burns, goes flat, or tastes funny. But I’ve found that meal planning is an easy way to curb new-wife cooking anxiety and save some serious time and money.

Home Sweet …How did I get here?

Really, the time to start a blog would have been about 10 months ago. When I tell you why, though, you’ll understand why it never happened, (and why the stories from that time were probably gold).

The last half of 2013 I was finishing my bachelor’s degree with a 17-hour course load, working in marketing for a financial institution 30 hours a week, packing up my childhood room (and three closets of clothes) in preparation to move cross-country to a state I had never visited, job-hunting online in a state I had never visited, apartment hunting via Internet, too, in a state I had never visited. I was planning a large (and kept getting larger) mostly DIY wedding for New Year’s Eve, and had a surprise root canal the Monday before Thanksgiving. The cherry on top:  back surgery about a month and a half before Christmas (meaning through most of this fun, I was walking like a hunch-back 87-year-old.)

I developed an affinity for wine.

Alive on the other end, I could say that I’m stronger, it built character. I have actual battle scars. But I wouldn’t soon say any of that is really true -except the part about battle scars (lift with your knees, y’all). What we have now is actually the same Robin, maybe more well-rested with fewer caffeine jitters, and in quite a new season of life. In a matter of weeks, I suddenly became a wife, a college graduate, and a resident of Kentucky -leaving the only dot on the globe I’d called home for 22 years.

The past few months have been full of firsts, adjustments, experiments -surprises. I wouldn’t say at the point of normality we’ve finally reached with our lives that every day is super different (for which I’m extremely grateful), but everyday certainly has different sprinkles that make it special.

And that is what this blog is about.

Sprinkles of kitchen successes (and fails), thrifty style ideas, simple DIY projects, an assortment of homemaking tips from a new wife in a new city -the little, pretty things that exist in life for us to enjoy.

I definitely wouldn’t claim to have figured it all out -but I think that’s the point, too. Maybe we can learn something together.

logo(Leave a comment by clicking the conversation bubble  up next to the title of this post!)