Saturday, July 31, 2010

And now...breathe

We are back from camp, which is the event that culminates our crazy summer. It was an amazing time, and I'll post about it later. For now, I am going to ignore the laundry that needs to be done, the house that's been neglected, that dishes that are crying out to be put away...

I will instead sit with my cat, eat pizza (once Rob gets back with it), and then snuggle up in my own bed which, incidentally, contains a real mattress and not those things they call mattresses at camp. Good night!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My New Website!

As most of you know, I will not be teaching in the fall. This decision has come from much prayer and thought, and I feel at peace about it. I am looking forward to so many things about this change in my life, one of which is getting to be more involved in music. To help me do this, my sweet husband worked on creating a website for me, and I've begun a separate blog to coincide with it. Please check it out! I would love any feedback you could give. Feel free to write it in the comments or send me an e-mail: Click here to head to

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Plate Wall

Since our walls in our kitchen are very high, we haven't been able to paint. I decided to add a little color by starting a plate wall. These are some favorite finds from Anthropologie I've picked up over the last year. If you shop their clearance, their fun plates always go on sale for a couple of dollars a piece. What a deal!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bird Lady

I'm not sure exactly when the bird obsession began, but I have been slowly collecting birdies over the last few years. My sisters joke with me and say I need to stop already, but other friends say to just embrace the bird in me. Below are a few of my favorites. The owl tea set was a gift from Jessica, and the other neat things were special finds in some of my favorite stores (at wonderful prices, of course!)

Even my blog has birds on it! With all these winged creatures, it makes perfect sense that my blog is now called our "fresh nest."

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Master" DIY

Before Robby and I moved to Visalia, our bedroom furniture consisted of whatever anyone would give us, plus a couple of inexpensive wicker side tables from Target. So when we moved into our new home, we were thrilled to finally get to purchase furniture for our bedroom. Although our bedroom furniture is lovely, I realized that the master bedroom needed a little more attention. This began a few DIY projects that...are you ready for this?...cost me nothing! Part of my DIY challenge was to see if I could use only left-over materials to spruce things up.

The first thing I did was freshen up a couple of plain brown toss pillows. Because I have done this before, I had lots of felt handy. I made white flowers with green leaves and found some old buttons to be the flower centers. Cute!

The next thing was something I've been wanting to try for awhile. I took a few empty wine bottles, cleaned them, and then fixed them up. A roll of thick twine and hot glue turned one of them into a cool nautical-ish vase. The other one got dressed up with a couple extra felt flowers.
I'm most proud of my final project. There is a lot of empty space on our bedroom walls, and I wanted something tall to fill part of it. I wandered through our garage looking for anything that could inspire and found some bamboo that Robby had used to stake our trees. When he came home, I got him to work turning that old bamboo into a decorative ladder. I used a string of outdoor lights I had on hand to create some light.
DIY success! A few hours (okay a lot of hours) and a few items around the house added warmth and texture to our room without taking anything out of our pockets.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Blog posts, that is. I'm getting old!

We're headed off to camp, but I've scheduled a few things to post while I'm gone. I don't like being too far behind!

Carlsbad: A History

Although I don't have the exact number, we have been going to Carlsbad every summer for at least ten years. I love this vacation, and we owe this great tradition to my cousin Kara's family. Her family began going to Carlsbad long before we did, and one year, in good Verwey fashion, they invited us. The neat thing about their family is they have four kids, just like mine, and we all line up in age. That first year, the six of us crammed into the two bedroom condo with the six of them. Twelve of us! We were literally pouring out the door. (Seriously, the girls slept outside on the balcony.) I'm not sure how many times we crashed their vacation, but finally, my parents were able to purchase a week in Carlsbad, too. Since then, the whole group has been growing. Now not a year goes by that at least half of all the Vander Kooi clan (and any friends we invite) make it to Carlsbad for a day or two.

This year, we ended up with our rooms next door and didn't know it until the first morning when my parents walked out to see my aunt having coffee on her balcony right beside them. The little ledge that separated the two balconies was (of course) nonexistent for a whole week.

Proof we are growing: Here's Kara's oldest son Kase climbing from his balcony to ours
Uncle John and Aunt Ann...the initiators of the great tradition
Mom and Dad...the providers of our wonderful trip
(Way to sport the Carlsbad attire, Dad!)
Gathered together for a big family meal, one of the many highlights of the week
Biding our time on the balcony
Kara, Jonothan, and Kase (Kody was already in bed)
Uncle Bill and Aunt Janet
Johnny and Katie
There are always many friends who come to visit us in Carlsbad. Although John couldn't make it to us, we were able to go to him and had a great dinner with the deGrassie's at BJ's.
Emily, Camille's good friend, was able to join us this time. You may have noticed that we are missing two of our family members. Carly and Chelsea are still in New York (and no doubt heart-broken to miss out) and were missed terribly. Emily kindly kept Camille company.
I suppose I will have to admit that although the weather was comfortable, it was definitely on the cool side all week. In fact, we only saw the sun once, and that was the last night. It came out to show itself for a sunset, then hid again.
But who needs the sun for fun?
This year, we braved the traffic and crowds and attended the opening day at the Del Mar horse races. What an experience! Hats, horses, and tons of people. Jonathon and Robby are in front of the winner's circle waiting for the race to begin. It should be noted that both of these boys were brought to Carlsbad with Kara and me before we were married, and soon after, they proposed. There must be something magical about Carlsbad!
Camille and Emily post for a photo. Notice the big hat lady behind them? That's just a tiny taste of all the hats!
Excited to win!
Kelly and Anna were able to make the short drive from their home to visit one morning. Anna had only been to the beach one other time, and this trip was significantly better than the last. Can I assume it was the company?
Other friends who visited...dolphins! (See them behind the surfers?)
It was once again a wonderful week filled with amazing food, lots of laughter, grand times, and wonderful rest. Until next year!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

New Look

For some time now, I have been wanting to freshen up my blog. I thought a new title would be nice, a new look, a new feel, and at the very least, a few new photos. Although that idea was rattling around in my mind, I did not appreciate Cutest Blog on the Block (the website from which I had my recent blog look) stealing back my blog layout from me without a word's notice! If I had paid anything for it, I would definitely be requesting a full refund! Alas, that is how it goes when one receives things for free. The good part of it is that it forced me to sit down and do a little blog make-over. (What do you think?) The bad part is I've spent all of my time making over my blog instead of posting about all the recent fun in my life! DIY's, visits with friends, a new website, Carlsbad, family events...

I'll try to find some time to post before Robby and I head off to summer camp.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

VBS 2010: Saddle Ridge Ranch!

This week has been the blur that is VBS. It's always an amazing week, but at the same time, it's one of the most exhausting things we do at church all year. For the second year in a row, I and another girl from church were the music leaders. We began each evening singing a few songs in the Worship Rally with the kids. After that, each class rotates through our room every twenty-five minutes, and there we teach them the hand motions to the songs and have a good time singing together. In other words, it's about two and a half hours straight of singing and dancing! And since this year was a cowboy theme, we had a lot of fun doing a little "two-steppin'" and the like. A great workout! The excitement and joy the kids have make the week completely worth it and leave me feeling more excited about my faith and the things God is doing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chris and Elizabeth Wedding

This past weekend we attended a wedding of one of Robby's good friends, Chris, who happened to be his next door neighbor when they were growing up. The wedding was lovely, but what made it special for us was that Robby was asked to officiate the ceremony. I'll admit I was nervous for him! I know if I had been in his shoes, I would have been sick. Luckily, his stomach is stronger than mine, and he married them quite well. I wish I would have taken a picture of him, but I had left my camera in the car. I'll have to track one down.

Congratulations, Chris and Elizabeth!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sweet and Crunchy

I know that candied nuts are typically a winter time treat, but a favorite summer salad of mine calls for them. There are hundreds of recipes to choose from, but I got mine from my good ole red and white checkered cookbook. I like it because it's fast - you can make them right on the stove in a couple of minutes. Here's the super simple steps in case you want to try:

1 1/2 cups nuts
1/2 cup sugar
2 T butter
1/2 t vanilla

Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with Pam. Set aside. In a skillet, combine ingredients. Cook over medium-high heat, shaking skillet occasionally, until sugar begins to melt. Do not stir. (This is key! You'll be tempted to, but don't give in!) Reduce heat to low. Continue cooking until sugar is golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and pour nut mixture onto baking sheet. Cool completely. Enjoy!

If you want to spice things up, add in some cayenne. This is my mom's little trick, and they are so good!

By the way, my go-to summer salad consists of lettuce (arugula or another spicy lettuce is yummy), dried cranberries, crumbled feta, apples, walnuts, and a good balsamic dressing. Try it out!

Blogger Bug

Blogger is annoying me today. It is hiding my friends' comments from me. I know they wrote them because they were sent to my e-mail, but they're not showing up.

Has anyone ever had this problem? Help!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

The celebration of our nation's independence began a night early this year. We had heard that you could see the nearby Country Club fireworks (which take place on July 3rd) from our neighborhood, but last year, we didn't make it for some reason. This year, we were happily surprised to see a great firework show from our backyard! Robby and I took out a blanket and watched the display from the comfort of our kind of night!
On the fourth, we went to church, then had a barbecue and swimming at my parents' house. It was nice but definitely low key as all of my sisters were gone. After an afternoon of eating and lounging, we came back to our house and met Robby's family for dinner and fireworks. I suppose I'm becoming a one-trick pony because I was on for dessert and guessed it...strawberry shortcake. I just can't help myself! It's so easy and so good!
Hope your 4th was great!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Go Team!

This past week, there were some very important teams I chose to support. No, I'm not talking about the World Cup. (That is still going on, right?) I'm talking about things that are waaay more important, such as babies, computers, and...Twilight.

Go Team Edward! Honestly, is there really even another team out there? Sure, Jacob's adorable, but how could you choose him over Edward? Here is Kelly and me waiting in line for Eclipse and supporting our Cullen team with all of our hearts...and our clothing. I'm sporting my Edward shirt, and Kelly's wearing an Alice necklace. (Before you judge me, just know that Robby bought me the shirt, so he's okay with me wearing something with a cute guy on it.)
Go Team Pink! Last night, we celebrated with our friends Ben and Stephanie as they found out what the gender of their baby will be. It is a girl, so we are, in fact, the winners. Both mom and dad-to-be were hoping for a little one in pink, so this was a fantastic surprise.
Finally, go Team Mac! I don't have a picture for this one, but I'm using the very item to write my post. Yes, I've officially crossed the line from PC to Mac, and I'm loving it! I suppose it was sort of a "retirement" gift for me, but really my other computer was on its last leg, so something had to be done.

I guess I'm good at choosing teams because my teams have all won so far! That's right you Jacob-lovers; in the end, Edward wins.

Sights and Seals

The rest of my visit at the deGrassie's was just fantastic. On Wednesday, Kelly, Anna, and I went to the Children's Beach at La Jolla and saw seals! I haven't seen that many seals together in any place except the aquarium, so it was really fun being there. Anna seemed to enjoy it, too, although I'm not sure she ever really registered what the seals were. Still, she knew something exciting was going on. Later that day we went to the mall and did some minor shopping, then ended the evening watching Eclipse, which was amazing. It was such a great trip! Now that I know how (relatively) easy it is to make the drive, it will definitely be one I do often.