Me? Teach Piano? – Book Review

About the Book (from Amanda)
“You play piano? Could you teach my daughter?” The parent looks too desperate to turn down, yet your thoughts run wild. “Me? Teach piano? I can barely play myself! Do they know what they’re trying to get themselves into?!”

“Me? Teach Piano?” is a simple guide to clear up some of your questions as you learn a down-to-earth approach to creating piano policies, interacting with students, and choosing the correct curriculum. This booklet contains ideas, suggestions, and advice based on Amanda’s experience.

I wish I had had this when I first started teaching piano! I’ve written more about my piano teaching journey here, but to sum it up I started teaching my little sister and neighbors heard and so I ended up with more students, not really being a pianist myself, and only having had experience with the books my family had. There was a lot of floundering and learning things by experience that Me? Teach Piano? could have helped me avoid! I really could have used the section on different curricula, as well as about having a studio policy and tips on writing and implementing one.

Me? Teach Piano? focuses more on the practical side of things than on ideas for engaging distracted students or creative ideas for helping them understand new concepts or review things without getting bored – struggles that were bigger for me than the practical side as a teacher, but beyond the scope of a booklet.

The booklet is easy to read, perhaps more like a blog than a book, and full of good, practical tips from Amanda’s experience. Sometimes that differs from my preference or experience, but getting another perspective was helpful and may be just what someone else needs!

My only critique is that the way she uses “cadence” isn’t the technical theory definition but just a chord progression (she seems to mean teaching students how to find/use I-IV-V in any given key).

You can get the book on Amazon here! I highly recommend it for anyone interested in teaching piano.

About the Author:
Amanda Tero is a Christian music teacher, currently residing in Mississippi. She has played piano since the age of seven, studying classical performance, theory, and arranging from various teachers. She began teaching private piano and violin lessons in 2007, equipping church musicians with a balance of classical and hymn education.

Connect with Amanda
Website: http://

HypnoBirthing: Comparing other methods

Whenever I read a book about birth, I often find myself thinking “that’s just like in the Bradley Method” or “Ina May says the same thing!” There often are a lot of similarities in natural birth books. Much of this has to do with the influence of people like Ina May Gaskin, as well as Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, who influenced Ina May, Marie Mongan, and Dr. Robert Bradley. His book is “Childbirth Without Fear,” which I read while pregnant with S. It was geared more towards birth providers, but was still very interesting and focused mostly on the fear  tension  pain connection.

HypnoBirthing, Bradley Method, and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth all center on the fear/pain connection, with part of that including being informed about birth and your options and what is actually medically necessary, as well as building a positive birth culture. TV and movies most often portray birth as dangerous, frightening, and painful, which influences people’s view of it, although the media portrayal of birth was influenced by the medicalization of birth.
I was surprised the first time I read about how our culture views birth, since my mother had four natural births and didn’t talk negatively about them or about pregnancy, and that mindset was further solidified for me by my mother-in-law, sister, and sister-in-law before S was born.
But it brings up a good point – why don’t we teach our daughters and talk to our friends positively about birth? The opinion of friends and mothers are huge in how a pregnant woman looks ahead to birth, both things that are said in passing and the often lack of any sort of mentoring and teaching in that area.

Some more similarities: a focus on learning to relax your body, visualization, finding good positions to labor and deliver in, and pre-birth exercises to prepare your body. They also talk about pain and how our expectation of what labor will be like greatly affects it (because I had learned through Bradley method to really assess pain and think about whether or not something was painful or just uncomfortable, the only time I would say I was in pain during labor with S was the second half of pushing). All hold that our bodies are designed to birth, and one thing that is not always clear but implied in all is that birth pain doesn’t say flee, but relax, and with that, to remember that the pain of contractions is not BAD but is GOOD and is your body working to get the baby out!
Some of the differences:
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is not a method like HypnoBirthing and Bradley are. It is a collection of birth stories – not picture-perfect or all the same, but very truthful and raw yet still positive, and then chapters on birthing naturally. There is a lot in there to help you prepare and be informed, but not a lot towards practically practicing for labor.

HypnoBirthing was covered in detail above so I won’t go into it more here. The biggest difference is that HypnoBirthing is less physical and more mental, and that they don’t have you actively push.

Bradley Method goes into the physical processes more than HypnoBirthing, and the visualization in Bradley Method is also more physical – imagining what your body is doing rather than imagery of a flower opening, etc. I couldn’t stand the side-lying/lateral position recommended for labor, and after labor felt like we didn’t really use the method in general, but everything on pregnancy, preparing your body for birth, the husband’s role, and the physical side of what is actually happening in labor were all SO helpful to us, as were the emotional road map (the only way we had any idea I was in transition), and the Six Needs of a Laboring Woman (since then I’ve read numerous articles that support this, especially the darkness part).
My personal preference would be Bradley Method, but would want more info on different labor positions, emphasis on the power of reminding yourself of truth, and breathing the baby out instead of pushing.

However, they all fall short regarding spiritual preparation for birth.
I read “Redeeming Childbirth” during both pregnancies, and while there is a lot I really don’t like about the book, the overall message of viewing difficulties in pregnancy and birth as a time to grow in your relationships, particularly with God, and worship Him is very true and important. I re-read it after reading HypnoBirthing, hoping it would be the “renewing your mind” part I was looking for, but I found that aside from the big-picture ideas, it was even less helpful to me than it was when I read it while pregnant with S.
But I think that learning how to focus on God in birth or any other painful or difficult circumstance is not something that can be taught like a birthing method, as it is so much more individual, and applies in whatever kind of birth you’re having.
Some things that can be helpful to encourage that mindset:
– having a birth playlist of Christian music (I didn’t use this in labor with S, but it was so helpful with minor complications afterwards and also for struggling with postpartum depression)
– verses or phrases up where you will be laboring or for your labor partner to remind you of
– Praying and journaling through fears and worries, and then having truth to remind yourself of when those fears come on, in or out of labor.
In many ways, I feel like this is the “Christian HypnoBirthing” – renewing your mind, by submitting the whole person to the truth in prayer, reading the word, and meditating on truth. And if you’re going for a natural birth, it can easily be paired with techniques found in HypnoBirthing or Bradley Method.

Ultimately, our goal should not be a natural or painless birth, but to birth in a way that turns to God for our help and strength, no matter what our circumstances are.

HypnoBirthing: Some Thoughts on Hypnosis

It seems that when a lot of Christians hear about hypnobirthing, they immediately write it off because of hypnosis. I had felt the same way myself, but also had never been able to articulate scripturally what was wrong with the kind of self-hypnosis put forth by hypnobirthing, before or after reading the book. So we did some research.

The most common arguments against hypnosis:
-The Bible condemns hypnosis directly (I have yet to find a verse condemning hypnosis itself as much as hypnosis-like things that are condemned because of their use in pagan worship)
-Hypnosis opens a person up to demonic influences (If it a self-hypnosis that is controlled by the person being hypnotized, and is not pagan or “mind emptying” this argument may not be valid, but is still a big concern).
-Hypnosis is a step away from the alertness and self-control that Christians are supposed to operate under (However with self-hypnosis you are in control and aware of what is going on, thus less likely to be influenced by bad teaching or thought. But in a state where you are withdrawn from reality and have altered perception, there is still need for great caution).
– The way it has been viewed historically. (Often associated with the occult, why is it only now becoming fine for the church? Or has it always been linked to new age/occult, or is that the new thing?)
– It closely parallels mysticism, which is also a tough subject for Christians. We don’t believe that mystical experiences are wrong (if defined as simply supernatural experiences), but we do believe that the kinds of mystical experiences in oriental and catholic mysticism, not to mention the occult, etc. are evil. Paul was a mystic; he reaches places in his epistles where the logic goes away and gives way to doxology. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is a mystic experience in a sense; it is supernatural. Having a deeper sight of the glory of God or the love of God can lead to a mystic experience. But these are truth-driven spiritual reality-drive experiences, not simply good-feeling experiences or vague spiritual experiences that we then later define as having been a gift from God. And we are not seeking these experiences so much as we are seeking God, and sometimes it may cause such an experience.

Arguments Christians make defending hypnosis:
-The bible contains positive examples of hypnosis (often referenced is Paul’s vision in Acts 10, where he falls into a trance, but there is no indication that this was any form of self-hypnosis – the only physical indication we have is that it may have been hunger-induced)
– Jesus wants you to have an abundant life, and we have studies showing that this helps, so we should use it. (This is used more in reference to using hypnosis for weight loss, etc. But that’s not what Jesus meant when he was talking about an abundant life, nor is it the most biblical way to change your life).

Some critique of self-hypnosis applies less to birth than to other things it is used for (like weight loss, breaking habits, etc). In those cases, hypnotherapy does not match up with the biblical system of sanctification and mental/spiritual healing. It would seem to “short circuit” the process of the renewing of the mind, which involves submitting the whole person to the truth in prayer, reading the word, and meditating on truth, so we would urge Christians to step away from using hypnosis beyond an analgesic.

For HypnoBirthing, I’m totally on board with deep relaxation and reminding yourself of truth to speed and ease labor (while remembering it’s not a magic bullet!). The shady area is when it gets into altered consciousness (discussed more in my previous post) and repetitions that aren’t entirely true and become the mind-emptying mantra-like meditations related to eastern religions. It also becomes dangerous when it is used as escapism (a pitfall I see more outside birth/pain) – our first resort and our escape should be crying out to God and looking to Jesus, not self-hypnotizing. I think that if the focus within the hypnotized state is God (ie, the “affirmations” are biblical truth) then the two can become intertwined.
But if you aren’t comfortable with the self-hypnosis part, there is still much that can be learned from HypnoBirthing, not just the information in the book, but even the method itself.
The idea that our minds affect what our bodies are doing, especially with regard to fear/stress/tension making birth more difficult and painful (something that is common throughout Ina May’s book, Bradley Method, HypnoBirthing, Childbirth Without Fear, and Redeeming Childbirth) so reminding yourself of truth is going to help, like it would calm any anxiety or stress (“My body is designed to do this,” – however one disagreement I have with most crunchy birthing method stuff is that it doesn’t take into account the fall, “God is in control,” etc).
However, to me this falls more into the prayer and renewing your mind category so I feel like it’s something that while it may have the same effect is entirely different at root. Our goal shouldn’t be a result of pain-free childbirth, but the truth. For the Christian, truth brings peace, whether it brings relief of suffering or not, and any discomfort in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum can be met with worship if we have prepared ourselves to do so (I’ll give some ideas in my next post).

HypnoBirthing: Summary

I had heard about HypnoBirthing before I was pregnant with S, but hadn’t looked into it that much and didn’t look into it much during that pregnancy. It seemed like it would be weird and new age, so I avoided it. But a friend that teaches it said that while some people use it that way, it really isn’t, which got me interested in it, especially after I talked with her about S’s birth and how much I hated pushing. She looked at me and said “you didn’t have to push at all,” and talked about HypnoBirthing’s breathing the baby out technique. So I borrowed the book from her to learn more.

HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method is not hard to read, and not that hard to understand, but like Bradley Method, would take a lot of practice if you’re really going to utilize it. I was reading it more from curiosity than with a plan to utilize it in labor, and many of the concepts were familiar to me from Bradley Method, Childbirth Without Fear, and Ina May.
Its basic philosophy is that childbirth is normal, natural, and healthy, and therefore can be calm. It focuses a lot on the power of the mind and words, neither of which can be denied, and are things that are emphasized by many other birthing methods. It sees the birth provider as a lifeguard, there for problems but otherwise as uninvolved as possible.
HypnoBirthing traces the history of childbirth, especially how it became negatively stigmatized in the 2nd Century AD, and with that fear of it increased and so did pain, and when chlorofoam became popular, birth moved to the hospital so that it could be used, and from there anesthesia, analgesia, and medicine to speed and ease labor became the norm. It focuses on the fear = taut cervix= pain idea, that a perceived threat puts our bodies into flight/freeze/fight mode, which when you’re in labor leads to tension and thus more pain as the baby needs space and opening to get out.

This all leads to the method part of HypnoBirthing: teaching your body how to relax so that your muscles can do their thing and the more relaxed you are, the less painful birth will be – some HypnoBirthing mothers say their births were painless, which I don’t think is contrary to the curse as what we often translate “pain” is the same word used for Adam that is usually translated “toil.”

HypnoBirthing teaches relaxation through breathing patterns, massages, music, etc, that will help you relax, and having an “anchor” to help you go into relaxation mode (think Pavlov’s Dogs). It reminded me a lot of the Bradley Method’s emphasis on relaxation, at least at first.

My biggest surprise while reading the book was how little of it was anything beyond relaxation. It defines hypnosis as the same thing we go into when we daydream or are so absorbed in something we lose track of time or stop paying attention to what’s around us. This is consistent with a lot of the techniques in the book, as the teaching is on how to deeply relax and not how to hypnotize yourself in the way most people think about hypnosis. But while the book uses “hypnosis” and “relaxation” synonymously most of the time, it does eventually move from deep relaxation techniques into things that would be more generally considered as hypnosis, so its definition isn’t completely accurate. Later on, there are exercises for “numbing” parts of your body and things like that which are more of how we generally think of hypnosis, a transition into an alternate reality. This seems to be the danger with hypnosis, where the lines between what is real and what isn’t are blurred, and in a state where you are so deeply relaxed you are unaware of a lot of things, this could lead to acting on things that aren’t true (like a woman who, in hypnosis, thought her pain was gone and began to run around, damaging her spinal cord and dying). HypnoBirthing’s use of hypnosis is more than just what you find yourself in when you zone out and does get into a slightly altered state of consciousness – not one that we find so completely altered that the method should be thrown out, but altered enough that caution is urged.

Another word of caution: I had already returned the book before I was made aware of this so I can’t remember how it was talked about, but HypnoBirthing does mention Harmonious Attraction/the Law of Attraction, which is a New Age version of Karma.

While hypnosis and relaxation have more to do with the mind and body, HypnoBirthing also focuses on the power of word. This comes in having a positive view towards birth (mentioned above, with pregnancy and birth being normal, healthy parts of life) and knowing that the female body was designed to birth. It also includes “birth affirmations,” which some people use as mantras, but they don’t have to be used in a repetitive/mind emptying way. Some of them are also odd and things that I would debate the truthfulness of (“your birthing will unfold exactly as you see it now. You have defined your birthing in this way, and your birthing will happen as you have defined it”). This can be taught and used in a new age way, with the idea that you can not only affect your body by what you say, but even alter reality by your words, especially when you are in hypnosis, which is something we are not comfortable with.
That said, the idea that words are powerful and can affect the physical body is not wrong, but we need to make sure that they are TRUTH. As Christians we should be preaching truth to ourselves whether we are in the pain of labor or not!
With this, I want to note that HypnoBirthing talks a lot about the design of the body for birth, and how our bodies are not flawed. I agree with this in part: the design of the female body to birth a baby is not flawed. However, we live in a fallen world, so we do have to be careful in how we think about all that. That said, the uterus is a powerful, well-designed muscle and the way the physical birthing process works is amazing to study. Ina May says that if men had such a muscle they would brag about it… and while I don’t usually do that it IS my favorite muscle.
A third aspect of the HypnoBirthing method is visualization, picturing things like the opening of a rose (in relation to your cervix opening, etc), which I would categorize similarly to words and the effect words can have on our physical bodies. However, I don’t think I would give words and visualization quite as much power as HypnoBirthing does.

The book is also full of other stuff:
– pre-birth nurturing and connecting with your baby
– Nutrition (pretty standard recommendations)
– Exercise (again, pretty standard for pregnancy, with an emphasis on posture/positioning)
– It talks about perineal massage as “mandatory,” but more recent stuff has shown that it may or may not really help.
– Sample birth preferences (love the wording choice there – preferences, not plan)
– Breathing the baby out instead of pushing (see video here).
– some talk about postpartum – breastfeeding, fourth trimester, etc.

It brought up a lot of wondering for me about S’s birth and the way it progressed – especially if her birth was so easy because we were on our own and unhindered for most of labor and really quite unaware of how far along I was. But also it has me wondering about pushing and tearing – since I hated pushing so much, and I know that rather than loosening when she crowned my reaction to the midwife saying “this is the part we talked about where you stop pushing,” was something that caused more tension and thus tearing. So I am hoping to “breathe the baby out” but we’ll see what my body wants to do… with S the natural expulsive reflex got pretty strong and there were times I definitely wanted to push!

HypnoBirthing was a helpful book for me to read, and I think it definitely could be a very useful, pain-relieving method. But it did leave me with questions, mostly as I worked through the feeling of hypnosis being wrong, which led to really thinking about WHY it is viewed that way in Christian circles and if it’s a proper view for the self-hypnosis in HypnoBirthing that goes beyond deep relaxation.

Book Review: Resounding Truth

Jeremy Begbie’s book “Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music” had been recommended to me a few years ago. I read the first few pages on our West Coast road trip this summer since a friend had it on her bookshelf, and then put it on my list to read in 2016. It took me a while to get through it, but was very good. It’s probably the most academic and technical book I’ll read all year, but was still very easy to follow and understand, and very accessible to my level (or memory ;)) of music theory and history – background that you wouldn’t absolutely need to read the book, but that was very helpful and meant that I didn’t have to stop and look things up while reading. I enjoyed that side of it, though, because it’s been a while since I did anything that engaged me with music theory and history so my brain was eager to have those thoughts again.

A few times I commented aloud “this is so good!” while reading it, and Ezra would ask “what’s it about?” and I found myself struggling a bit for answers, since it was about a lot more than I had expected. Resounding Truth is about how our theology should affect our music, but also pulls a lot from music that helps understand theology more. But that’s an overly-simplistic summary because it’s about a lot more than that, as Begbie traces aspects of music history and church history, applying it to life as a Christian Musician as he builds on things he talked about in previous chapters.

In his conclusion, Begbie asks questions that I think summarize well what the book is about –
“Are music making and music hearing to be understood as embedded in and responsible to an order wider than that which we generate? One that is worthy of respect and trust? … even if not raised with theological concerns in mind, this issue inevitably presses us strongly in a theological direction – if the world is given, then by what or whom, and to what end?” (page 307)
On page 308, he says “my prime concern has been… to jolt the imagination by setting every aspect of music in the context of the breathtaking vision of reality opened up by the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Begbie looks at a lot of pitfalls in how Christians think about music, how having God as Creator should affect the kind of music we write/perform/listen to, and how as Christians Musicians we can take part in the cultural mandate (Genesis 1:28), discovering, respecting, developing, healing, and anticipating together as the body of Christ, musicians and non-musicians.

I am glad I read Resounding Truth more slowly than I read most books, but even so I feel the need to go back over many parts of it and re-read the book from time to time to really grasp everything Begbie writes. And I have some listening to do that I didn’t get around to while reading… like listening to Messaien’s “Quartet for the End of Time” with a better understanding of its history and Messaien’s approach to music.

If you’re a musician I can’t recommend this book enough, and if you have little to no background in music I still recommend it, but you may want to read a book about music history first, or something about art and worldview, like Nancy Pearcey’s “Saving Leonardo” before you read Resounding Truth to be more familiar with some of the music history Begbie builds on.

Ottolenghi: Jerusalem

My brother-in-law gave my sister Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook, and my parents saw it while visiting them. Then Ezra and I visted them and loved looking at the recipes – and then my parents gave it to me for my birthday. We decided pretty quickly that we didn’t just want to try some of the recipes, but we wanted to cook through the entire cookbook. So in August 2014 we started cooking through it, taking a break for a bit after S was born and when we first got to Japan. We finished in May 2016 (but if we’re honest there is one pickle recipe in the back we haven’t made because I can’t find turnips out of season).

(date and almond spinach salad)

A large number of the recipes are spectacularly delicious. Quite a few are also rather labor intensive and very few are quick, weeknight meals. Some call for odd ingredients that we had to substitute or order online (especially when we moved to Japan and lost our International Market!). The International Market was a huge help in finding some of the odder ingredients or finding higher quality tahini than the American grocery stores carry and getting a better deal on spices and fresh herbs. But even with the market it wasn’t the most budget-friendly book to cook through, although it made having meatless nights easier because his vegetable, grain, and side recipes are so delicious you can use them as a main and don’t even miss the meat.


There were only one or two recipes did we not like (and those were ones we had expected to not like). Some weren’t spectacular but were delicious for what they were – like wilted chard. Our most common substitutions were using honey instead of sugar and using ground spices instead of whole ones. We couldn’t find quince so used pears, and iinstead of Jerusalem artichokes – which I have never seen – we used water chestnuts. A budget-minded substitution was using canned artichoke hearts instead of 12 artichoke bottoms.

(chocolate krantz cake)

Most of the time the recipes went off perfectly, but the one thing we always had trouble with was the dishes where rice is cooked in with other things. Our guess is that he had a gas stove, but we did have a gas stove for part of the time we had trouble with it. So I’m not entirely sure what was going on. But we usually ended up adding more water and extending the cooking time a bit. Otherwise we didn’t have any trouble with following the directions or recipes flopping. That said, they never looked quite as beautiful as the pictures, but were still usually safe to make for guests even if we hadn’t cooked them before, and it’s still our go-to for guests.

(ma’amul was the one more labor intensive recipe I gave up on and made into bars)

The cookbook itself is gorgeous, and one of my regrets is not having a cookbook stand that would cover it. We did write notes on all the recipes, but I also got a lot of splashes and grease marks on pages.

(the result of a confused cooking time)

It really grew my cooking, too. Using allspice as a savory spice was new to me but now something I love with ground beef. There were also a variety of new techniques (like confit) and skills I learned making things, especially working with phyllo dough. We were introduced to some new ingredients and vegetables (like kohlrabi, although I usually couldn’t find it and used jicama), and used cuts of meat we wouldn’t normally use (I never would have purchased lamb neck, nor guessed it would be so tasty!).

(hummus and tabouleh)

He was often very clear about weights and measurements even of produce, which was very helpful, especially as onions come in all sorts of sizes!

(fig compote)

For me, having grown up around a lot of these dishes, cooking through was very nostalgic, and there were times I didn’t recognize a recipe but as soon as I bit in memories came flooding back. Some things have a unique twist to them, but some, like his hummus, falafel, baba ghanoush, mejadara – are just like my childhood.

(ka’ach bilmalch)

Favorite recipes: (the asterisks are the “best of the best”)
*Roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs (pg 26). Fresh figs are delicious but not necessary. Oddly enough, they were easier to find *in Japan than in Cali!
Baby spinach salad with dates and almonds (page 30).
Roasted butternut and red onion with tahini and za’atar (page 36) – one we’ve made about 3 times!
Lemony leek meatballs (page 44).
*Pureed beets with yogurt & za’atar (page 53).
Fried cauliflower with tahini (60).
*Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad (page 62)
*Butternut squash & tahini spread (page 69).
spicy beet, leek, and walnut salad (73).
roasted potatoes with caramel and prunes (page 86).
sabih (page 91) – but DON’T fry the eggplant! Eggplant just soaks up the oil and it’s gross. Much better grilled!
*balilah (page 102)
basmati and wild rice with chickpeas, currants, and herbs (106)
hummus with lamb neck (page 118)
*burnt eggplant and mograbieh soup (page 141)
spicy freekeh soup with meatballs (page 148)
*lamb stuffed quince with pomegranate (page 155)
*turnip and veal cake (page 156)
*stuffed onions (page 157)
kubbeh hamusta (page 162)
*stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts (page 166)
*chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice (page 184). One of Ezra’s top recipes!
*chicken sofrito (page 190). I think our favorite! We have plans to combine this with the veal cake recipe, using the veal cake one but subbing chicken for veal and adding whole cloves of garlic.
*lamb meatballs with barberries, yogurt, and herbs (page 199)
*turkey and zucchini burgers (page 200) – quick for Ottolenghi!
*slow-cooked veal with prunes and leek (page 206) probably my favorite meat one aside from sofrito.
fricassee salad (page 227).
prawns, scallops, and clams with tomato and feta (page 233).
marinated sweet and sour fish (page 238). I didn’t love this, but Ezra did, mostly for how unique it is.
ka’ach bilmalch (page 248)
burekas (page 254)

And we’ll just say ALL of the desserts because I would be listing practically all of them.
We also did all the condiments, and our only issue there was that we’re not big fans of his pickles. The dukkah (page 300) is absolutely delicious and great on salad with dates.

Our Favorite Things: Wedding & Home

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As I have more and more friends and relatives getting married and starting to have kids, I wanted to do a post with some of my favorite things and biggest things learned from the last few years. I’ll probably update this from time to time and link back to it in my monthly post whenever I do.

Think big but also practical! I think I was a little too practical. I didn’t want us to be given all the fun stuff and have to go get the practical stuff ourselves, but I also didn’t want to have to choose between things we weren’t given. But it’s amazing how much people want to give you. So don’t worry about registering for that BlendTec (especially because it can be blender, food processor, and ice cream maker all in one)!
Think about what you want your home to be like – what it looks like, how it functions, what sort of things you want to use it for, what you want on your counters… and that will help a lot. I had registered for a stand mixer, hand blender, blender, and hand mixer, and we ended up returning the hand mixer because I figured I just wouldn’t use it – and I haven’t missed it and am glad for less stuff.

Speaking of hand/immersion blenders, make sure you have one on your registry! I use mine more than I ever thought I would, mostly since we don’t have a lot of counter space and our food processor is an attachment on our mixer and it’s a pain to get it all out for one thing (see above note about what you want on your counters!), so I use the hand blender a lot: soups, smoothies, sauces, dressings, eggs, batters… I probably use it almost every day. And they also make them with mini food processor and whisk attachments, which would be even more useful and multi-purpose. For $20-40 bucks it’s hard to beat!

My other favorite things in the kitchen:
– canning funnel (I buy a lot in bulk, so this is almost a necessity to transfer things from the bag to the jar)
– custard cups (for holding snacks, sauces, etc)
– shot glass measuring cup (for small amounts of liquid)

Prioritize your top 3 things and work the rest around it. This is especially true regarding the budget, but really goes for everything. We really only had two things, the people and the photography. We were willing to cut corners in other areas if needed to have what we wanted there, even to fly people out (which we didn’t end up having to do).

Delegate! I learned this before planning my own wedding from watching my sister plan hers. People were telling Cait to not have anything to do the week before the wedding, and while she was still doing odds and ends, most of what was left to do had been delegated to others, so she could relax and enjoy her wedding day. I did this as much as I could, though I only flew into the US the week before so I did have some things left to do. But thanks in large part to my aunts, cousins, bridesmaids, and few other friends, I was able to not worry about anything on the day of.

Budget: we were slightly limited on how we could have a more budget-friendly wedding because we weren’t getting married in a town either of us were really from, so we couldn’t get friends or church family to do a whole lot as far as DIY, decor, food, etc. was concerned. And because it was a relatively small town there weren’t many venue options. But our reception venue provided a fair amount of decor and would do the decorating with their decor for you, which helped a lot, and my aunt did the rest of it (mostly putting out favors, picture frames, and the ivy wreaths that went around the mirror plates and tea light holders the venue provided). The downside was that we had to use their caterer, which was more expensive, but in the end both venues worked out to be around the same price but the one did the decorating for us so it won out. At the ceremony venue, we wanted to keep decor simple especially as we had a larger wedding party. But a few days before the wedding, the church called us and asked if we wanted them to leave up their Christmas trees, which were just decorated with white lights, and we said yes and it really added to the woodsy feel we wanted. We really couldn’t have made either venue work the way they did – perfectly – without the help of my mom’s sisters!
I considered using silk flowers as it would have been the cheapest option, but timewise it didn’t sound like a good plan, so we supported a local business and friend of my grandmother’s (since we were getting married in her town) to do dried flowers for our Winter wedding. Another friend of my grandmother’s loves to make cupcakes but didn’t want to do everything required to be an official business, so gave us a really good deal on our cupcakes, which were absolutely delicious, and made us a small cake we could cut.
My dress was tailor-made in Dubai, which is cheap in Dubai! But before I found a pattern I liked we were looking on Etsy since I knew I wanted something vintage-y and under $300 and something I could wear again. In the end fabric was about $50 and so was the tailoring!
Our invitations and bookmarks (favors) we designed ourselves, using a pattern Ezra had woodburned into a box for me, and a friend who had done a lot of graphic design in the past vectorized my pencil work and made it look professional, and then we looked at various places online to get a good deal for printing.
For a guestbook we got a nice box, 3×5 cards, and pens at Target, and people could put prewritten cards or what they wrote on our cards in the box. We also had some scrapbook cardstock with things like “Names for our future kids” “things we should do in our first year of marriage” “things we should learn how to cook” etc. written on them, which was really fun to look over later.

We kept an excel document with wedding gifts listed on it, with a separate column for cash and checks so we could add up that and use it for furniture and items from our registry we hadn’t been given.
Except for S’s crib and our electric piano, ALL of the furniture we have purchased since we’ve been married has been from Craigslist, and we’ve gotten some beautiful, solid wood pieces that way for a really good price. Our piano we bought new at Guitar Center, but scored a big discount because they only had the floor model left, so they priced it as if it had been damaged even though it wasn’t.

When unpacking, the first time I just put things where they fit best in cupboards, but found a few weeks later I was moving things around again. So when we moved into our second apartment, before I put anything away I thought about where I would be using what and tried to put things accordingly – so plates were closest to the table, cups by our water filter, mixing bowls by the pantry, pots by the stove, etc. Not everything fit where it made the most sense, but I was much happier.

Chores were not hard for me to divide up, but it was so easy to not keep up with them because with only two of us things didn’t get dirty very fast. But I did find it was so much nicer when I did at least a touch up on things when I was “supposed to,” having made a chart that meant all of the major places – floors, bathrooms, laundry – got done every week. I also have a monthly and yearly list I rotate through to get things that don’t need cleaning every week. But I haven’t been very good about that since we have never lived anywhere for more than a year yet and we’ve always known that and so since we have to deep clean when we move I don’t bother doing it in between moving in and moving out.

We mostly use cleaners that we make ourselves. The recipes for toilet cleaner and the all purpose cleaner I use come from this book, which I cannot recommend enough (my favorite essential oils are from Plant Therapy!). This website also has lots of good info on safe use of essential oils.
Window cleaner seems to be the trickiest one to get down, but I have found this works best. This or oxiclean free work well for bleach and getting stains out (Just don’t use essential oils in laundry unless you will wash on very hot before putting in the dryer). A soak in a bowl with oxiclean works wonders on most stains! For oil stains we’ve usually rubbed baking soda in and then after a little while sprayed with hydrogen peroxide and then washed a bit later. This is great for cleaning tubs, essential oil not necessary.
I used to use liquid castile, diluted, for dish soap but found it didn’t really get things sparkling clean, so we just use regular dish soap, but do use diluted castile in foaming dispensers for hand soap.
And did you know that cleaning your washing machine is a good idea?
We use this for our toothpaste, this if we want it to actually be paste. This is what has worked best for us for dishwasher detergent. I don’t recommend making your own laundry detergent.
Hand sanitizer.
Cleaning glass shower doors.

Since I’m talking hygiene and recipes for that sort of thing, for my hair I use a shampoo bar and rinse with ACV or kombucha. Ezra and S use a Kirk’s Castile soap bar, which is what we all use on our skin. Once or twice a week I use a sugar scrub on my skin, mixing grapeseed oil and sugar into a paste and then adding essential oils based on various needs – the book mentioned above helps with knowing what to use. I oil cleanse 2x a week if I remember. See here and here.

One of our favorite healthy food resources is Azure Standard.

Book Recommendations:
Let me be a Woman (Elisabeth Elliot)
When Sinners Say I Do
This Momentary Marriage (John Piper)
The Hidden Art of Homemaking (Edith Schaeffer)