Bad News, the Good News, and Easter

Just a silly little late-night couch selfie from my phone! Not very flattering of me, but I love his smile and sparkly eyes. So much love here.

So I don't know how to start this. I don't know how to breathe or be or live anymore. My amazing boyfriend, Jason Cuadro, suddenly passed away 2 weeks ago from a pulmonary embolism. We were getting ready to go to church on a Sunday morning. It is so weird to say this. It is so weird that this is my story now. I don't know how a person continues on without all of that love, so very much love, in their life. I guess I will have to learn.
So this is the bad news. The very, very, very bad news.
The worst news.


I guess something like this is what you wear to your boyfriend's funeral. To the death of your future as you knew it. A black dress, black tights, black shoes, a black veil. And I think you carry his teddy bear and I think you smile sometimes because there are only so many tears for a day, only so many tears for a moment, before you run dry and after that I guess you smile a little with sad eyes and unbelief in your heart so you don't die even more inside, too. And because for some reason someone is taking a picture of you at a funeral and that's just so weird. I don't know.



But Easter. 
But God. 
Easter has been speaking to my heart. Easter has been soaking into me. 
The good news.

God is still God, still God on the throne when Jesus was on the Cross. Still God on the throne when Jesus was in the grave on Saturday. Still God on the throne, today, when my heart is a black hole and the future looks like endless night, HE IS STILL GOD. I believe that. I wholeheartedly believe that. 

If it were not for Easter, and if it were not for that hope that I have, that I know my Jason had, we would be hopeless. We would be without cause to hope.  I cannot imagine going through a loss like this without the assurance that we serve a LIVING God, and thereby, we WILL see each other again, some glorious day. Some grand, glorious day, when we are all home.


I guess even when it snows on Easter, and your eyes are still puffy and the only thing you want is a hand to hold in yours and to hear his voice, you still put on your giant vintage daisy earrings and go to church.


Still wear the Easter skirt he picked out for you weeks ago, because you know he would have wanted to see you in it. Still make the wreath you bought the supplies for the night before he died, when you finally have a little bit of grit to get out of bed after 2 weeks, because you know it would make him smile. 


"Because HE lives, I can face tomorrow." 

and I guess you just keep trusting. Because God knew this was a part of my story from the beginning of time. And God was gracious enough to give me 2 years of the most amazing love ever known. For that, I can be grateful. To leave that love in death, to leave that love in anxiety and fear and to crawl into a hole like I want to would be to say it was all counterfeit.

For that, I can go on, carrying the love and life for both of us, forward. 
Into light. 

with all my love and sorrow, 
Natalie 

Reading Lately

Hello dears! I've been devoting a lot of my free time this month to learning how to hand letter (check out my instagram!) so it's been a bit lean on the reading lately. 


Happy Handmade Home
(from my bro and sis-in-law!)
4 stars

This is such a fun eye-candy book. A lot of the DIY projects are more like "hacks" and guidelines than exact directions, but that isn't the point. The point is to have a fun, gorgeously colorful invitation into Emma and Elsie's, of a Beautiful Mess, beautifully crafted, fresh homes. I came away with a handful of ideas and inspiration to create even more of a home that reflects ME.  A fun read to pick up, but don't be expecting in-depth DIY advice...just enjoy a cup of coffee with Emma and Elsie.


The Happy Christian
(provided by booklookbloggers)
by David Murray
4 stars

I admit I struggled through this one. It's not that the subject isn't interesting. It's not that the writing is particularly boring. I just couldn't jive with it. It's a mix of scientific exploration and personal anecdotes that engage the question of how believers can find joy in a world that is...well, falling apart. Turning on the news these days is enough to turn anyone's stomach, or maybe not, since we're so used to it. There are tons of facts and actionable ideas packed into this little paperback, almost to an overwhelming point. The happy cover belies its heavy subject, and Murray doesn't miss much in his examination of the subject. If you're in the mood for a studious read, pick this one up. If you're looking for a happy read to throw in your suitcase for vacation, maybe choose another book. I do SO appreciate a book that is able to weave faith and science together on such a tricky subject. I love the 10 areas of life he touches on, and find them to be very accurate. I admire Murray for this book, and do hope that perhaps re-reading it will give me even more to mull. 



The Reluctant Midwife
(provided by William Morrow)
by Patricia Harman
3 stars

I've been pining for a fiction read, and the cover of this book was so enticing. Having become completely enamored with the BBC series, "Call the Midwife," I though the subject matter would likely be intriguing as well. Unfortunately, this one didn't stand up to my expectations. It's a thick book, 409 pages, but gave away its gig far too soon. Within the first 20 pages I could see the story arc already unfolding before me and felt that I didn't really need to read any farther. Reading the entire book proved this thought to be true. Granted, the characters were intriguing, and I found myself thinking about them long after I read the book. But I wanted more...the ending was lackluster, character development bumpy, the second half of the book rushed and I found some of the literary devices employed clunky to the reader. The author also seemed to have some strange preoccupations with little things she keeps mentioning. 

What have you been reading lately?
Any good fiction? I'm dying for some!

Happy reading!



New Firmoo Glasses & Sweater


I'm feeling Spring-y with my super fun retro-y new glasses from Firmoo.com. They are a lovely magenta-red that rolls into a soft creamy translucent color, with some fun vintage metal "arrows" on the corners. I've received several compliments on these already, and my mom said, "Take your old glasses off immediately and wear these instead." Ha! Yes, mom!

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I also took my new vintage-style jumper from London (sweater, hehe) for a spin in the Spring sun (don't be fooled, it was still cold). I could NOT resist this darling little sweater. It's absolutely SO 1950s-school-teacher-Laverne-&-Shirley-esque which I ADORE. So especially fun with my new glasses.

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The sweater is a tad on the short side, so I tucked a nude cami in underneath it (which helps with the sheerness, too), so don't worry, you aren't seeing my tummy. They call this shirt a "one size" but I'm not sure how they think this is one-size, since if you were any bit bigger than me, it wouldn't fit. Bummer.

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I love these magenta high heel smoking slippers. They are just so fun and unexpected. The multi-strand pearl bracelet has gotten so much wear since I received it from my boyfriend's mom for my birthday a few months ago.

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I popped a little green velvet hair bow at the top of my bun, too, for an extra dash of charm. One can never have too many "dashes of charm." 

I'm so pleased with my retro-styled glasses from Firmoo.com. The quality is top-notch and they are beautiful. The price can't be beat and the quality is definitely there. I definitely recommend them!

Glasses: Firmoo.com // Sweater: Miss Patina // Printed Wool Pants: J.Crew // Heels: Thrifted

Happy almost-Spring!


Under the Weather Favorites & Sale Shout


I've been a bit under the weather this week, which spurred me on to share some of my favorite seasonal supports and remedies. 

Traditional Medicinals Tea...Breathe Easy, Throat Coat and Gypsy Cold Care. Drink lukewarm for best effect.
Urban Moonshine products... Immune Tonic (daily support) and Immune Zoom (acute support)
Diffusing essential oils...I've got lavender and geranium right now for a calm comforting effect
Local honey...Add this to any of the teas above, or warm lemon-ginger tea.
Sambucus Black Elderberry Extract Throat Spray...I always keep this handy when I have a sore throat. The elderberry has great healing properties. 
Zand Elderberry Zinc drops...Take these at the first sign of a cold. They taste great and really work!

I love that I can buy ALL of these items from Vitacost for the best price and one easy shipment (it's like a "hey you might get sick which is a bummer but these things will help you feel better and it's a package in the mail so it feels like a present!" thing). I usually stock up at the beginning of the season so everything is within reach when a cold strikes. The Zand drops sell out fast because Vitacost has a FANTASTIC price on them! While I'm shopping, I usually grab a bag of Bob's Red Mill oats from Vitacost for my winter morning breakfasts. 



Speaking of amazing deals, I just found out about ePantry this week, which is quickly becoming a new favorite. My first order is on its way...the process was fun and easy with the best user interface I've seen online in a LONG time to get the best natural products that I actually need and want delivered to me. AND they rescue 25 square feet of rain forest for each order and offset the shipping by buying carbon credits (at no extra cost for you), then ship everything using only 100% recycled materials. I'm in love! I always buy Mrs. Meyer's dish and hand soaps anyway (and sometimes refill with my own soap) because the match my kitchen perfectly. I've heard great things about the Mrs. Meyer's candles, so I added one of those to this order too, since they are hard to find on store shelves. 

ePantry has a great deal going through Friday only...if you order $30 worth of merchandise, get a $10 instant credit, a FREE Mrs. Meyer's hand soap AND free shipping. So you get close to $50 worth for only $20. Score! It will be automatically added to your cart. Get started HERE!

Stay well!



Dear Kates Yoga Pants and Bralet Review


I love Dear Kates "performance underwear" and I've told you about them a few times before. 
Last summer, they launched a Kickstarter for their new line of yoga pants and shorts, and you know I had to be in on that! They had a few delays in production, but did the BEST job of managing expectations and keeping customers in the loop and excited during the months that followed. 


My Kickstarter goodies (and a few extras to review) arrived with brand-spakin'-new packaging and two luxurious Vosges Haut Chocolate chocolates. I adore Vosges and was thrilled to see their trademark deep purple box in my package. Dear Kates also gave everyone a free online yoga class for waiting so patiently. Good things come to those who wait!


My yoga pants, panties, and bralet are all new favorites that I will be wearing often, no doubt. This time I ordered Mediums in everything, since my Smalls were a bit too snug last time. These yoga pants don't have a ton of stretch. Instead, they skim over your skin, which is nice but takes a bit of getting used to. Sizing varies on the items from DK, so take a look at each item before you order. 


The real star here is the bralet, in my opinion. While the yoga pants are super comfy and thick, I am more impressed by the darling little bralet that is perfect for yoga, slackline and wearing under loose tees around the house. The little keyhole (where the two cups meet..hard to see in photo) and delicate crossed straps are lovely. I do wish it were a bit more stretchy as the thick material can take a bit of work to get over one's head ;) I love that the yoga pants have a band around the tummy (perfect for keeping things nice and smooth!). My yoga pants fit a bit higher in the front that the back, but did not fall down in the back, just sat lower. I'm not convinced about the crotch seam...I think that could use a bit of re-engineering.


My Ada hipsters in a Medium are perfect, and my Dear Kates favorite. The lace top is feminine and delicate, but the thick yet silky fabric beneath it feels wonderful. I highly recommend these! 



The pros win! Let me know if you try DearKates yoga pants, bralets or performance panties. Don't forget to give me a shout-out by using this code for $20 off your yoga pants




Get Your Craftsy On!

Have ya'll heard of Craftsy? I've told you about them before :) I love their simple-to-follow but really informative online classes and the prices are great. Even better? Their free digital e-guides that you can download at any time! These are all at least a $4.99 value, for free. Grab 'em all!



It's the time of year for cabin fever which means it's time to learn something new or dive deeper into a favorite or forgotten hobby. Let's talk about this free doughnut recipes class. Or watercolor. Or SUCCESS with container gardening, which cracks me up, because they don't just say "container gardening"...it's SUCCESS WITH, which is a class I need, given my perpetually brown thumb.

Check them out here:

Photography
eGuide: Understanding Exposure for Better Photos Now: Beginner Photography Tutorials
Cake Decorating
eGuide: Not-So-Basic Buttercream Decorating Ideas
Food & Cooking
eGuide: Delicious Doughnut Recipes You Can Make at HomePaper CraftseGuide: 6+ Stash-Busting Paper Craft Projects
Drawing
eGuide: Drawing the Human Face: A Primer
Painting
eGuide: Beginner's Guide to the World of Watercolor
Gardening
eGuide: Success With Container Gardening
Woodworking
eGuide: Woodturning Basics for Beginners

Happy craftsy-ing! 



Luna Bars Review: Gluten Free


Ok, I have some really fantastic news for all of my gluten-free on-the-go snackers...ALL Luna Bars are now gluten-free! YES, the cupcake one. YES, the brownie one. YES, the cookie one. 
(also: need I mention how happy it makes me that their new 'gluten free' symbol is PINK?!)


Have you tried Luna Bars? I like them because they are tasty, not too chewy, and have a well-rounded flavor profile. Granted, they have a bit of sugar, but I'm fine with it once in awhile. It's better than grabbing a candy bar, which I am apt to do now and again. Don't get me wrong, I love my Lara bars, my KIND bars, my Bumble bars, and others, but these are a part of my rotation, too. It's easy to get burnt out on snack bars.

ClifBars sent me an assortment of the new line to try and give you my reviews. They sent me 7, but I like these and have tried some of the other flavors on my own, and I'm including those below. My absolute favorite one is Chocolate Cupcake. The runner-up is Blueberry Bliss. Here are the official reviews, in no particular order. 

Chocolate Cupcake: Absolutely delicious. Truly, it reminded me of a Little Debbie brownie from elementary school days. 

Blueberry Bliss: My second favorite. Beautifully decorated with a thick layer of blueberry jam and oatmeal flakes, this is reminiscent of a blueberry Pop Tart. 

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut: I took a box of these on a long road trip with me and they are still a favorite (that's saying a lot after eating 6 in 2 days).

Caramel Nut Brownie: This was dry and hard. Not my fave...and it didn't taste like caramel. 

Honey Salted Peanut: Tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios! Reminds me of the Milk and Cereal bars.

Iced Oatmeal Raisin: I had such high hopes for this one, but it was relatively flavorless.

Lemon Zest: A cheerful and easy one to keep handy no matter what flavor you're in the mood for (sometimes you just don't want chocolate in the middle of the day, believe it or not!).

Nutz Over Chocolate: A good granola-bar-esque flavor. Nothing to write home about.

Peanut Butter Cookie: Quite tasty indeed. I love peanut butter in mid-day snacks, and this fit the bill nicely. 

Tell me, do you grab Luna bars or another favorite when you're on the run? 




What I'm Watching


The Great British Baking Show on PBS: This is my latest obsession. It is so CALMING and lovely to watch. A totally lovely television viewing experience. In direct contrast to the overblown dramas and hype of the Food Network, this show is congenial and real. The contestants actually HELP one another. This is our Sunday night ritual, followed by Downton. 


If you haven't seen these on Netflix, you're missing out: Call the Midwife, The Paradise, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (not for the faint of heart), Bomb Girls, Little Men.


Also loving HitRecord on TV, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's awesome (Emmy-winning!) quirky television show I've written about before. You can now own the whole glorious shebang in a boxed set with download codes, and be the hippest person you know. Then watch for the next season, coming soon! 


Movies I've Watched Lately That Are Not Necessarily New (But Some Are) & My Ratings Out of 5 Stars: The Imitation Game (4.5 stars), Unbreakable (4 stars), Grand Budapest Hotel (3.5 stars), 42 (5 stars), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (5 stars), Grey Gardens (4.5 stars), Three Coins in the Fountain (3.5 stars), Silver Linings Playbook (3 stars), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (3.75 stars, lol)  and a few others I can't remember, so I'll add them to my next list! 

What I'm NOT loving: haha: The Wedding Pact (on Netflix) was one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It was painful but hilarious (since we were in the right mood) to watch.

Happy Watching! 


Book Review: Scary Close



Scary Close
provided by booklookbloggers
by Donald Miller
4 stars 

I finished this book in an afternoon. Three hours went by in a jiffy as I was involved in Miller's story, which truly is a "Scary Close" picture of his recent trials and triumphs in life. The story is engaging, and gains momentum as Miller dives into the story and finds his footing for the telling of it. I found myself nodding along, pondering how things applied to my own life (some applied a little too much!) and generally enjoying the story. To some degree I think we all have our "capes" we wear and hide behind, afraid of truly being seen.

As I said, Miller takes awhile to rev the engine in this book, which is understandable. As a prominent Christian figure, he is headed into deep waters here, and I feel he toes his way in. One can't fault him for this, but I felt the writing really gained his trademark voice about halfway through. He was able to become more philosophical and introspective about what he was experiencing. This book is not for those who like their leaders on pedestals (which is often part of the problem of them having personal troubles anyway...who can stand to be alone that high up for long?). But for those who have been down a similar road or who admire the courage of getting help, it's inspirational.

I did find the lack of mention of God and the role of the Holy Spirit in such healing work to be disconcerting, which adds to the lack of that fifth star in my review. Another reviewer noted Miller's brand of "subtle Christianity" here, but I would have liked to have seen a stronger correlation. For that, I HIGHLY recommend Sheila Walsh's Loved Back to Life (read my review of it here).

Overall, as I said, this book was a quick and fascinating read. It definitely offers more insight into the person behind the persona of Donald Miller, and is a helpful mirror to look at your own foibles and relationships. That's always a good thing to do. 
Thanks, Miller, for braving this. The next part of your story should be just as interesting. 

Happy reading!



Sun and Snow


So here we are, still most assuredly in winter, but with more sunshine, bringing with it a longing for Spring. 

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And pink lipstick, because that's sort of like spring. 

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And Valentine's Day, coming soon! 
Oh I can hardly wait! 

Enjoy the sunshine on the snow...it's quite beautiful and it makes me smile. Spring will come soon enough, dears.


More of What I'm Reading

Goodness, you guys, I've been on SUCH a reading kick lately! In 2014 my goal was to read a book a month (which I exceeded). I'm at about half a dozen books so far this year! Here is what is on my bedside table now: 


13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do
(book courtesy of Harper Collins)
by Amy Morin
4 1/2 stars
Goodness gracious. This book is another game-changer, if you have the tough skin to take it. It's truly therapy-in-a-book. Morin doesn't pull any punches, and her writing is to-the-point and practical without being off-putting. Not a whole lot of warm-fuzzy, but not overly clinical either. Morin earned my trust right away from her Introduction. After losing her husband and several others in her family in short order, she realized she had to dig deep and put into practice the things she told her pyscotherapy clients. This book is all about avoiding negative traps that we can all so easily fall into. Exercising our mental strength, particularly in times of duress, can really strengthen our entire selves. I highly recommend this one. It only loses half a star for me because the writing may be too tough for some who are struggling. 


Where'd You Go, Bernadette? 
(from local libary!)
by Maria Semple
4 1/2 stars

This one has been on my library list for awhile, and I finally nabbed it. That cover, though, right?! Adorbs. Once you get used to the unique format of this book (it's a collection of communication from different parties to tell the story), it is engaging and a very quick read. This one kept me up until 2am to finish it and find out WHERE Bernadette went! But I won't tell you :) It's a romp, a funny look at life and cliches. I think you'll enjoy this one. Perfect for a beach read, too, if you're taking a vacation any time soon to some place sunny and warm. 



Supermarket Healthy
(courtesy of bloggingforbooks)
by Melissa D'Arabian
4 stars

I was really excited to get this new cookbook at the start of the New Year. I'm looking for some quick, easy, healthy recipes to add to my repertoire and get out of a food rut. This book doesn't disappoint, with upscale twists on healthy dishes, such as grilled portobellos, acorn squash with a "fondue" baked in it and, my favorite: 


The Fried Green Tomato, Bacon and Spinach Sandwich. 
I mean...Wow.

D'Arabian is a Food Network personality, with her "Ten Dollar Dinners" series. Another recipe that stood out to me is the Carmelized Brussel Sprouts, Pine Nuts and Penne for a nice meatless dinner. My only qualm with this book is that she says in the subtitle, "Recipes & Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending a Lot." I didn't see any prices or references to spending less at the grocery store throughout the recipes, which was disappointing. Not every recipe has a photo, another negative point for me. I need photos in a cookbook! However, there are definitely a few in each category here that I think will become regular rotations. So, mission accomplished!

Happy reading (and cooking!) 



What I'm Reading


Vlog Monday 1/19: Reading from Natalie of Good Girl Style on Vimeo.

I have this bad habit of recording vlogs on Monday and not posting them until Friday, just to confuse you. I really should just wait until the next Monday, but...I'm terrible at waiting. And you need to know about these books!


Living Well, Spending Less 
(provided by BookLookBloggers)
by Ruth Soukup
4 stars
Ruth Soukup's popular blog (I read it myself!) has been translated into a book by the same title. Blog-to-book direct translations can be hard to manage, but Soukup does a great job here of bringing more fullness and personal stories to the book, along with action steps. Best of all, Soukup doesn't shy away from her Christian faith one iota, which is so refreshing. I also really appreciated Soukup's honesty in sharing her own relatable life stories. This is not ground-breaking information, but if you like Living Well, Spending Less the blog, you're sure to enjoy the book. What is at least slightly ground-breaking is her use of QR codes throughout the book to give readers direct access to extra resources on her blog. I wasn't sure about this, because I was under the impression that QR codes never took off, but then again, I only got a smart phone a few months ago. It was a quick read that's sure to glean one or two things that add value to your life. Then, pass it along to a friend so she can get a few tips to add value to her life. Plus, this cover is so pretty, and...well, sometimes I judge a book by its cover. I know, I know.

Make it Happen
(provided by BookLookBloggers)
by Lara Casey
5 stars
Lara Casey's writing comes to life and stirs the soul. There's just no other way to put it. This book is sure to inspire you to Make it Happen in your own life. And if you aren't sure what "it" is that God has called you to? Casey has the formula and the grace to help you uncover the divine appointments God has created for YOU right where you are, with what you have. Casey teaches us to be faithful with the little, but to nurture it and grow it in accordance with God's heart for us. Casey writes with heart, in a a vulnerable but grace-filled way that is easy to soak up into your soul and translate into action. The action-steps and thought-provoking questions along the way, along with the entire last section about HOW TO make it happen, beg for a pretty notebook and long, uninterrupted hours in the coffee shop. Or at least, an hour too late after bedtime with the nightstand lamp on. I highly recommend this one. Bonus: It also has a pretty cover!


Loved Back to Life
(provided by BookLookBloggers)
by Sheila Walsh
5 stars
Oh, this title just spoke to me so loudly. I've used those exact words about myself, needing to be loved back to life. Sheila Walsh had it all together before...well, it all fell apart. See it's funny that our facade of perfection crumbles so quickly, isn't it? The thing we most wish to protect (our image) is the first thing that goes tumbling down, bringing our worst fears to life. Depression, anxiety and recovery are very touchy subjects to write about. Sheila is able to share her story in a tone that is incredibly motherly and yet sisterly at the same time, with finesse. She is beside you, but has gone before you. Her own story gives strength and hope and a sense of God's divine plan for every person. To live with peace and in an intensely intimate relationship with Him, deeply dependent upon Him. I had never heard of Walsh before (I don't have a TV, ha!), but appreciate her story and her sharing it.

And a bonus not in the vlog that I just finished:

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
(provided by the local library, ha!)
by Mindy Kaling
4 stars
I've been reading a lot of deeper, self-help and/or business books and was looking for something lighter. This definitely fit the bill. Mindy Kaling, from her start on The Office to her new Mindy Project, has always been a fun one to watch...her personality shines through and she just is. I love that she doesn't apologize for who she is. The first half of this book is hilariously funny (I wrote a bunch of alternate titles over on Twitter of the best lines), but the book drags a bit in the middle as she gets more biographical about her start on The Office and as a writer. This book is half tell-all, half comedic romp and all Mindy. If you love her, this is a gem of a book. I highly recommend reading it on an airplane so you can snicker out loud and everyone will be annoyed and wonder what you're up to. Or read it in bed with meatloaf for dinner on your lap because that's what I did. I feel that both of these would be Mindy-approved reading scenarios.
*Bonus: Mindy went to Dartmouth like I did, so I'm pretty sure we're best friends. #duh #obvs

Happy reading, my dears!


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