Monday, September 18, 2017

Grand Marais and Naniboujou

About a month ago we packed up our old Honda Odyssey- the one with 230,000+ miles on it, lovingly referred to as "Goldie"- and everything we'd need for two nights of camping (1 gigantic tent, 6 sleeping bags, 27 extra pairs of shoes, 2 coolers, 13 hats, 4 kids, 2 parents) and drove 250 miles NE through Duluth to Grand Marais, MN. There we were transported into sea life on the coast of Lake Superior. Colorful cafes on the water and sailboats in the marina give an instant homey feeling, welcoming you to slow down and breathe the fresh water air. The weather was whispering its autumn chill that effects the lakes and late nights. I'm not the most excited tent camper, in case my computer personality has not revealed that yet. But for some reason the calm spirit of the place hypnotized me into believing this might not suck. We had two nights reserved in the municipal campground which is part of a bay that wraps around a small piece of our great Lake. The pebble beach there is across from the rest of the little city, and we spent so much time skipping rocks, the second day Andrew and I both looked at each other like, "I think my arm might fall off but I can't stop!" So. Many. Rocks to skip! And besides that bit of entertainment, there was a baseball diamond a few tents down from ours and the kids took full advantage of it!

I know you're wondering what/where we ate because you're my friends. We had coffee and ice cream at Moose Jaw a couple of times, doughnuts from World's Best Donuts (they aren't kidding!), chowder from Dockside Deli, and Andrew cooked over the fire for the rest (he loves campfire cooking- like steak, potatoes, pancakes kind of thing...the kids and I voted him best campfire chef in America).

The second morning, after visiting Stone Harbor Outfitters, we hit the road north again. Andrew's parents brought Oliver on a trip to Grand Marais last year, and Oliver couldn't stop talking about breakfast at Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant. You guys. Click on the link, read the history of the lodge on their site- it's amazing! We just went for lunch...but during that experience- it was an experience- decided to stay the night! The rooms are small, so we got two- one for the girls and one for the boys. The mesmerizing atmosphere followed us from Grand Marais and with the addition of no cell phone use, we were able to completely relax. The lodge is on Superior too, and the rocks on the shore there are gray and blue and charcoal, and the sand is nearly black! It's such a unique beach, we fell in love... and gathered so many rocks I started to feel bad for poor Goldie having to carry them all home for us. The Bruel River meets the lake just south of the lodge, so the girls and Winzy swam in the river and made sand castles. Oliver made cairns and took pictures. Andrew and I sat there in near coma relaxation and awe of God's creation. And on that topic- the topic of creation- I'm telling you the vast shores of a great lake declare the glory of God. We sang the doxology while rock hunting and Georgi (our most spiritually sensitive one) said, "It's so much prettier singing that song while in nature, than in our bedroom at home." You get it, girl.

Georgianna initiated the making of this 'ship' around an old campfire spot on the beach. By ship she meant laying out flat rocks. Sometimes I don't know where her imagination and language skills get their information. Anyway, Andrew's parents went to Naniboujou the next weekend and our ship was still there. ;)

Your takeaway? Go. Go to the north shores of Lake Superior. Hike up the Pincushion Mt. overlook. Stay at Naniboujou. Drink coffee at Moose Jaw. Bask in the glory of God's great world in its rawest form. Throw all the rocks back in the lake. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Girls' Bedroom

Hi guys! Today I've got a real treat with my daughters' - Georgianna, 7 and Margot, 5.5- bedroom reveal!..I type that with a side smile because this particular room in the house has been revealed multiple times. And some of them are pert near freaky. I feel proud and embarrassed that I've come so far..and had so far to go.

These are higher quality photos than we're used to seeing on Must Have Moxie, but my photographer/assistant stylist and I are still trying to figure out camera settings and editing. You read that right- camera. Move over iPhone, there's a new picture taker in town. My dear Megan diversified her 'creative genius' portfolio to include photographer, along with interior designer... and artist...and bicycle mechanic... and speech pathologist.

It's always been tricky to communicate color through the screen in this room. I'm sorry for that, as the wall color is one of the loveliest I've found- Benjamin Moore's "Wild Rice"..not too pink, not too purple- as enchanting as fairy's wings.

I'm sure I've told you about my grandmother and her twin sister shooting archery in college..? This is my mom's mother, who died when mom was young, so I've got to wait until we're united in glory to ask: how were you so extraordinary, Grandma?!

We Toftnesses are most devoted rock collectors. Freshly back from a trip up the North Shore- where we sang The Doxology on the beach, skipped rocks until our arms hurt, and made sand castles along the river- we added to our stony numbers tenfold. (I will dedicate a post to that trip- Lake Superior brings a special feel to your soul.) The fuzziness in the frame beyond is the first page from a vintage copy of Boxcar Children. Before you shame me for ripping it out, let me say it was in shambles. Like yellowed scotch tape. Forgive? 

I racked my brain thinking of what color to paint the bed surrounds (there were painted stripes before), a friend suggested wallpaper overhead and wall color the rest. Duh. And this hand drawn wallpaper from KateZarembaCompany is the hallelujah chorus.

I mean c'mon. My girls are ballerinas, so channeling Swan Lake in their dreams is..dreamy.

Andrew solved the 'where do I get long enough/strong enough/pretty enough rod for curtains to span this entire wall?' question. Brass railing material is the exact look I wanted! The cost of the project was balanced by the Ikea curtains- they were even the right length! The curtains came in pairs (unheard of!), so three packs later, two beds + two closets are covered.

My thrifted pot and beloved Z plant with their friends Horse and Bell.

I had to spice up the classic army blanket with Jenny Komenda's poms!

Okay basically we collect nature.

And statues of liberty.

This little loveseat's cover was the drabbest tan ever, so I dyed it using many shades of Rit. I don't even know what I was going for, so this must be it. The window curtains are from West Elm. The little side table was $5 at a flea market, I just painted it green to refresh. 

Megan said photographing the floor was challenging. I think it looks great, but I'm sure she'd accept suggestions. I had mentioned this top rug in an earlier post on the subject of rugs. I got it while on the east coast at one of my favorite of all time flea markets. You guys. Stuff in New England is cool. All of it. The bottom of this dynamic duo is from Ikea, and it just helped fill the size/space gap..and I really like it. 

The vanity was an heirloom that had seen better days. The veneer was pealing and pulling away, so Anj filled, glued, and painted. The mirror was a $5 (my lucky number apparently) garage sale buy and could probably go for a good paint job too. Get in line, mirror. Storage ottoman from Target.

Cleopatra and G's 'My Generation' doll wear the same prescription lenses. Huh, what a deal.

Another fabric dyeing project from Jenny K.on these white linen pillow covers from Ikea- 'shibori'.

So yeah, there are little closets at the foot of both beds. When we bought our house there were two bedrooms upstairs- in classic old farmhouse style, you walked through one to get to the other. The sloped ceiling was walled off for (tricky access) storage. Andrew had the vision to put an honest to goodness hallway in (he also added a dormer to make room for a bathroom that I'll write about soon), which ends at Georgi and Margot's bedroom door. All of their clothing is held in the closets and drawers under their beds where the inconvenient storage situation was before. This frees up floor space for a loveseat and vanity/desk, and still have room to spread out every doll and pillow and book and stuffed thing and pajamas and toys from the basement and stray socks and contraband food item...etc.

I got this precious piece of art from Ruth Simons at Grace Laced Studio. You also see a picture of my mother in law in the Boundary Waters. That same Nana framed Georgi's name and verse (From Proverbs 31- 'She is dedicated and strong- a hard worker.') And from Parabo Press, a picture of the cowboy/girl biker gang we have in our neighborhood...and living in our house.

Margot, who loves cats, has a verse from Nana too.

Megan took these sweet pictures of the girls looking at Beatrix Potter and not arguing. Win win!

Goodnight room.

Goodnight babies sleeping in my old doll cradle.

There you have it! A huge thank you to my girl Megan who patiently photographed and arranged and tweaked and made magic. 

Goodnight world.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Life vs. Mountain Biking

Mountain biking here in our neck of the woods means hitting the world class single track through the old mining land of Cuyuna. The dirt is red iron ore, so a ride in the Cuyuna Recreation Area is referred to as "shredding the red." Bless. The deep lakes (made decades ago by mining iron ore) are clear as glass, surrounded by evergreens, making the water look like a magical fairy land. And naturally, moving the dirt formed great hills beside these plunges, creating a unique landscape. It's a fearsome thing to behold. (You can read more about the rich history and a community revived here.) Every time I'm in those woods feeling that rush of balance and speed and presence of mind, I can't help but think of the parallel between biking and life. Here:

  • Come prepared with the proper gear for safety and survival. There are specifics for biking (helmet, padded shorts, water bottle, tools), and life (Jesus). But there's also the common necessity: a group of friends who know where you are and will encourage you, helping you back up when you crash (the crash is inevitable). 
  • Remember the past/what you've passed, but DON'T LOOK BACK. Looking back can mean instant disaster for you and the friend following you. The friend in front of you will have to stop their own progress, back-track, all because you weren't attentive to the right thing. But don't feel bad! Your friends have messed up too. But hopefully you're all learning and leaning in.
  • Look ahead- but NOT TOO FAR AHEAD. Have an idea of what lies farther up the path, but don't focus on it. Pay closest attention to the here and now.
  • Learn from other riders/life-livers, but don't expect your bike/life to take the same bounce as the next person. Your own particular path won't be exactly the same as anyone else's, but that's fine! It's necessary, actually, and will make for the most interesting ride. 
  • Train expectantly. Your training will help guide your thoughts and actions in a smooth, methodical way. Not to say there won't be unplanned difficulties, but if you expect the unexpected, you won't be surprised when it's tricky. Or when it's fun.
  • Recognize and appreciate mercy. There will be danger, but there will also be piles of close calls that, in hind-site, have your guardian angel's finger prints all over. Be in awe of those moments. Grace is amazing.
  • Be teachable. Hearing advice or correction with openness, humility, and discernment will grow your character- after all, God uses people to be his voice so often, it'd be a shame to form a critical response habit and miss solid tips on magnifying your adventure.
  • Rest reverently. Even if you're on a mission to shred the red, stop at the top of Yawkee trail, look out over the water, reflect long enough to be awe-struck by our huge God. There are many moments in our daily living that we often miss because we're on a get more done, to read one more chapter, to watch one more episode. Rest is SO DIFFICULT for me. I am a doer. But I want to learn to be a rester too. Using rest to refocus is a way to sharpen our senses, make us grateful, and ultimately draw out reverence for our Savior, Creator of the Universe.
Happy Trails!

Monday, January 30, 2017


Oh Friends. So many subjects flashing through my brain these days. I tried to have a conversation with Andrew about current events, but it was a fragmented and confusing monologue (sorry dearest).

I deleted Facebook from my phone (not to be dramatic! to make room for more photos! Look out world- more iPhotography coming your way soon). But I don't know that I'll go back to FB-- let me tell you about my social media feeds lately. They're the worst. If I see one more post of belief declaration- mama gonna lose ho mind. Though I do love a set of strong beliefs, I don't necessarily want to see them flaunted all over the WWW. While rallies and marches are empowering for the people present, the people who didn't go and didn't hear the real words and tones and feels aren't necessarily motivated by it. Not that that's true for everyone, but when it comes to controversial issues the internet is typically not the best outlet. "I'm marching for my daughter, nieces, etc." Explain. What I've heard and seen is so disturbing I can't imagine you had a child in mind while you were holding that sign or wearing that hat. I think what gets me the most is the underlying angst behind so many people's soap boxes. I hear equality while people are holding signs glorifying vulgar language that pushes them further out in left field. My kids can read and if they see your poster I'm going to have to remove their eyes. Can our beliefs come out publicly through our actions more and our words less? Because the words that are being used...tell me you're angry at people who don't think the way you do. But I bet that's not the message you're trying to convey. We want to empower and be ambassadors for ourselves and our causes, but sometimes the trade off is further segregation. I understand not having the right words to match your passion. E'r day sister. Even now... So let's shut up and ACT. By act I mean actually do a good deed, not get high on a feeling while walking with strangers.

On the subject of womanhood: A beautiful movement I've been able to be a part of that encourages and empowers me to be the best and do the best is a book club called Well-Read Mom. A book club? Be serious. I am! The mission of this organization is to provoke and encourage deep thinking and searching while adhering to Christian values and the truths of Scripture. You guys. I have been challenged and stretched and humbled and found such confidence in my calling as a woman through the books that we read and the women I've been able to grow closer to through our monthly discussions. The group's founder started with a vision of seeing mothers be able to reach a depth of relationship and imagination through the theme of Pope John Paul II's letter to women in which he encourages us to be better wives, friends, daughters, sisters, workers. Our most recent book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, has been eye-opening for me. Have you read it? The character that is built through hardship is so moving and makes me wonder if I take advantage of hardships in my life as a means to deepen my faith, or do I hold my breath until it's over?

On the subject of others: The other day Oliver started memorizing a poem for school written from the perspective of a former slave, right after the Civil War. When he got done with his first reading, Georgi said, "I'm glad there's not slavery anymore." Oh baby girl. I told her that there are a great number of slaves today. Her response was, "I wish there was something we could do about it." There is! We're not going to any rallies or marches- though I don't think those things are bad. I grew up going to a Pro-life march every January and I get why being with your people while speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves is an awesome thing. But we're going to do some research (painful as that is to a hair stylist) and find a cause we want to get behind. Sort of put our money where our mouths are. My sister in law used to work for the International Justice Mission, and I think that's where we'll start. When words don't come out right, act. They say actions speak louder than words anyway.

On the subject of race: I grew up with racial diversity. Something that speaks for those without a voice, caring for orphans and marginalized is the act of adoption. I have 3 beautiful siblings and a nephew who were brought into our family through adoption. I can't think of a more direct way to impact a life than folding one into the love of a forever family.

This may sound prideful..but I don't mean for that. I'm proud of the causes we've been able to get behind. One of the books we've read in the club with my homies this year is I Believe in Love which is a compilation of teachings from St. Therese. She spoke of humble confidence. I'm confident that through power bigger than us, we can make a difference. I pray for humility as we work toward unity in the body of Christ. These aren't the perfect or only solutions. Truthfully there is no complete solution this side of glory. But as the saying goes, "we're all just walking each other home." Let's go together.

Most of the siblings and spouses celebrating a birthday last summer. These are some of my closest companions on this journey.

Monday, January 9, 2017

One Life

Andrew's one gift request for Christmas this year was that I hand-letter a quote from a man named C.T. Studd--

I have little to no experience with watercolor painting but it was super fun.

But about this quote- can you even? It's hanging in our bedroom, so every morning it speaks to me. Unfortunately its voice is quiet, and the voices of my children (AKA the four horsemen of the apocalypse) are L O U D. And my voice becomes louder than all others when: we're in the middle of school and I hear glass shatter in the other room or I'm trying to read with Georgi and the younger two are fighting (over something we have two of) or we're having 'quiet time' and it sounds like elephants are on the loose in the girls' bedroom (you should hear me shout-whisper)  or I'm trying to think..or not think. There are many times throughout the day that mama's voice is like a fog horn. Oh that I would stop to think of Mr. Studd's poem more often. The glass breaking would be no thing but a chicken wing. Winston waking up early from his nap wouldn't mean my death, but would mean more opportunity for me to show him love that day...or patience, joy, self-control, etc. If I considered what lasts more often, I would calmly use the children's fighting as a chance to talk to them about grace, peace, and putting others first.

Our home school journey has been stressful and tiring as of late. I'm worried I'm not teaching them enough- like if they went to public school tomorrow they'd be 2 grades behind. Or I worry they're too sheltered- like if they went to public school tomorrow they wouldn't know what to do with people who are different than them. I'm worried we spend too much time together- like if they went to public school tomorrow they wouldn't want to come back home. When we started home schooling 5 years ago, I wanted to do it because it was familiar. I was home schooled, so it felt natural. Every year that we choose this for our family it gets harder to feel am I doing this because I'm not being brave? Lots of people tell me I'm brave and doing the right thing, but is it bravery just because not many are doing it? Or is it cowardice because I'm used to being the minority in this situation and I'm completely comfortable with it? What makes it 'right'? Because we're christians? I wrestle with these thoughts on the daily. Ask Andrew. He's starting to think mama's gone cray zee. He hardly gets a toe in the door in the evening and I'm rolling my eyes and sighing deeply about 'his children'. We spend late nights talking about our calling- where/how/what?

But then I read this incredible work of poetry, and all else seems to shift into place. No matter what we choose, may it be with our eyes on the prize for the joy set before us. We've been given this little tribe to love and lead and let go, we hope to do so with zealous certainty.

First day 2015-16 school year
First day 2016-17 school year

The rest of the story..poem..

Only One Life
By C.T. Studd
Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Room of Two Stooges

[This post title could mean Georgi and Margot's bedroom, but I'm talking the boys' combined/compiled bedroom.]

It's been about 3 months now that Oliver and Winston have been in the same bedroom (there's a peek when the room was just Winston's here. Oliver was on the landing area. I'm not totally proud of all my past design choices...but they're there) The boys are 7 years apart, Oliver will be 10 at the end of the month and Winnie will be 3 next week, so I wasn't sure how it would go. So far it's been fun to see them bond as brothers, not just a baby and a big boy. Little Winnie in that bed...looks like one of the seven dwarves crossed into Jack and the Beanstalk's story and took a nap in the giant's bed. P. S. he has only fallen out once.
{there's a light dusting of Christmas spread through these photos, like the beads across the window.}
Okay, I gave the curtains to the boys (remember my attachment? I re-dyed my old DIY panel in my bedroom and said see ya on the other floor to this pair). This curtain rod is some sort of pipe from Home Depot that was black already, hung by some wooden brackets that I spray painted. The beds. I saw them at the Habitat ReStore on a Saturday and bought one for a boy's (not mine) bedroom redesign I was doing. I didn't love it in the space, but I loved the beds so much I wanted them for my very own...but I only had one. Do you know how difficult it is on Sunday to wait for Wednesday when ReStore will be open?! Time stood still, friends. Alas, the twin of the twin bed was still resting comfortably at the store 4 days later! Sconce lights are from our favorite vendor at our favorite east coast flea market (I feel like I can say that because we actually did go to a few). The nightstand was a $7 garage sale find. I got one army blanket at a flea market and one from Ebay (is that gross? I didn't think it was until I wrote it..) The rest of the bedding is from Ikea.

That glorious vintage orange faux leather (too many oxymorons?) ottoman was also from Habitat. I am certainly not an expert at styling photos (I can't be an expert at everything, and I'm already pretty spectacular at iPhotography) plus I'm always trying to hustle before a kid streaks through the shot or throws something into it, so I notice annoying things in the pictures as I'm putting them on the blog. Like woof, wish I would have ditched that pillow or decluttered those shelves a little... But that's all treasure. That giant Chewbacca Pez dispenser? Treasure. Copper faced bread box? Filled with magical treasure. There's also a small collection of found things that I maybe talked about in Winnie's bedroom post. When we were remodeling our house we found lots of funny little cars maybe from the 50's, a baby-sized pipe (?), a little clock, some marbles, an airplane hood ornament from an old car. The horseshoes were in our barn. I also see Oliver's favorite children's book series on the shelf- Imagination Station from Adventures in Odyssey. I wish I would've taken a close up of the silver you see him in front of the wooden trees (irony)? Oliver made that when he was so little- from 3 Styrofoam balls coated in glue and glitter, thin cardboard formed a hat, small screws for eyes, the lead of an orange colored pencil for his nose, maybe wire for his arms? The yellow frame has a picture of my dad when he was little. Obviously we're also featuring the O's little league baseball team.

Oh this poor ceiling fixture! There were two of these girls in the house when we bought it, but only enough unbroken glass shades to complete one fixture. I rewired it (!) and painted it and loved it. Then one day when my brother was so kindly getting Winnie out of his crib...he overestimated the distance between Win's head and the light. I don't think the baby dude felt it as much as the antique glass.
I didn't know how much I loved the new wall color until I looked back at the old. I can't remember what that wretched tan was called, but I never liked it. I painted it when I was 8.5 mos. pregnant with Winston- Christmas Eve 2013. The new paint is 'Moonshine' by Benjamin Moore. I've used it on a few bedrooms including my own. 

Oh my. My skillz pay the billz. General Mills called- they want their grain back. This is an attempt to feature the boys' built in closet and drawer situation. I took these photos a while ago intending to write a post about small space storage solutions. I know I'll win you with these cunningly professional pics. 
When we realized we couldn't do a conventional swinging door because of a light switch on one side of the doorway and closet on the other, Andrew built and installed  this sliding door. I had him do a vertical ship lap.

My other dynamic duo (Mo and Larry...I mean Georgi and Marg) will have a bedroom feature next week.