Image via Schulmerich Handbells

I’m in the handbell choir at my church and our “season” just started with a technique clinic on Saturday. I realized that probably a lot of people have never heard handbell music and don’t know what it’s all about! I’ve literally grown up with handbells… my mom took me to practice with her when I was an infant. I think I was pretty much destined to play when I was older.

As you can see from the picture above, handbells come in all sizes. Each bell corresponds to a note. The higher the note, the smaller the bell. They’re typically made of brass, but the really big bass bells – which we don’t have – are made of aluminum because they’re so big you couldn’t lift them if they were made of brass. We have a five octave choir, which is on the larger end for a church choir. I play the very highest treble bells – the itty-bitty ones! My whole hand fits around the brass part, whereas I can barely pick up our largest bass bells.

You may think that bells can just be rung. Wrong! There are so many crazy techniques to produce different types of sounds, and even some fun ways to ring the high-bells. I play with a technique called four-in-hand. I have two bells in each hand – four different notes. Because handbells clappers can only swing one direction the bells are turned in opposite directions. I turn my hand a different way to ring each note. Some people play six-in-hand but I’m not sure how. I’d really love to learn!

At the bell clinic on Saturday, we learned a new technique we’ll be using this year. It is incredible. It’s called the singing bell technique and the sound it makes is so ethereal. I’m sure it’s easier explained by seeing and hearing it, so watch:

Oh my goodness, it is so cool! We actually don’t hit it to start the sound. You can just begin circling the bell rim with the dowel and it “sings” on its own. It doesn’t really work with the highest bells, so I won’t get to do it in any of our pieces but I got to try it out. If you have never heard bell music – or even if you have – please watch this video. It’s such a cool piece!

Handbell music is so beautiful. It’s just such a lovely experience for me. It’s really a great expression of the body of Christ. We each have charge of different bells… I play 4-in-hand with the high bells and my other treble-bell comrades often shelley ring (two in each hand – the same notes, octave apart – facing the same direction, played together). The bass bells are huge and heavy, quite a cool feat to watch and require strength and lots of coordination (my mom is awesome; our bass lady actually can’t lift them so she uses a mallet). The middle bells are neither small enough to play 4-in-hand nor huge, but they are the bulk of the melody and often have crazy handwork, switching sharps and flats. And all together, following our director, we can make a beautiful song of praise. Even without one person, it’s evident that there is something missing. If we don’t keep our eyes on the director, we do not play completely together. If one person picks up the wrong bell on a chord, you can tell. Isn’t it that way with the body of Christ?


Some beauty recommendations…

Sorry. I’ve been such a bad blogger. I did have an excuse last weekend… I went away last minute. But I’ll tell you about that later, once I upload some pictures from my phone. Gotta illustrate the story, you know.

Do you sometimes get creative log-jam? Not really writer’s block or a creative desert. It’s just so much ideas and potential swirling around that I get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. My mind’s like, “I want to tell you about my favorite beauty products! I want to write about self-deprecation and self-image! I want to post dreams for my future apartment decorating! I want to share some charities and causes that have touched my heart!” And then I don’t do anything and that is so not the best way to get it all out. Well, it’s the complete opposite of being creative. Hello Captain Obvious!

So today since I’m a bit headache-y and tired, I’m going to start with the silliest, easiest post… taking you through my beauty regimen, sort of, through the different products I love. Sound boring? Well, go visit another blog! I’m totally okay with that. I, however, love to read others’ opinions on products. I have been trying over the last couple years to really be careful about the ingredients in the stuff I put on my body. AND I have a budget. In this day and age, it’s easy to find healthy, environmental beauty products. It’s not so easy to find them at a normal girl’s price. So here’s some stuff I found that’s good for you and for your pocketbook!

Boots Expert Sensitive Gentle Eye Makeup Removal Lotion

I just got this a couple weeks ago from Target. At $4.99 it’s compatible with most other makeup removers. All the ingredients (and there aren’t many) are natural… the best part? This is the best stinkin’ makeup remover I’ve ever used! I dab a little on either side of a cotton ball and that’s enough to clean both eyes. Yeah BOTH. One side of the cotton ball per eye. And I have friend who hasn’t been able to find a makeup remover that doesn’t make her eyes sting. She was with me this weekend and borrowed it… and it doesn’t make her eyes sting. She was impressed. At night, I usually use just all-natural soap or mix a little baking soda and water to cleanse my face. Baking soda is an awesome beauty product. Keep reading…

I am a Curly Girl and proud of it!

This book literally changed my hair’s life. I had discovered a few of the suggestions on my own but once I plunged in to the CG method full-steam, my hair went from a frizzy, hot mess to silky ringlets (okay, most of the time – I still have bad hair days). Really. I wish I had a good comparison shot. Shampoo hasn’t touched my scalp since January 9, 2005 and my hair couldn’t be happier. Before you freak out, yes I do wash my hair! Curly hair is very dry and delicate and most shampoos are far too harsh. Right now, I’m on an every other pattern. One day I cleanse my scalp with conditioner, the next with a baking soda paste, a brown sugar + baking soda paste, or just brown sugar. My hair loves baking products!


Smells so good!

Keeps mosquitoes away!

Grr… I wish I knew how to get the photos on one line. Anyway, I use Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition conditioner because a) it smells good, b) it’s cheap, and c) it’s silicone-free and full of natural, real ingredients! I just started using the Garnier Fructis Pure Clean gel… my hair likes it! Plus, it’s got citronella in it. I swear it helps keep the mosquitoes away. Seriously – I was in the pool with friends a few weeks ago. Normally I get eaten up. Several of them were struggling to keep the skeeters away and I wasn’t bothered at all!


I bought the Physician’s Formula Organicwear Jumbo Lash Mascara after reading a review in InStyle. Let me say… it is SO worth it! One of the things I love best about it – besides the natural ingredients – is that it doesn’t clump or dry “stiff!” You know how most mascaras make your lashes feel stiff and crunchy? When this dries, your lashes are springy and soft, almost like you don’t have anything on! This is about the only really healthy makeup I use. Currently I use some Cover Girl mineral foundation. I don’t love it but it works and I had it on hand (remember, unemployed = no money). I was using ELF’s mineral foundation and sheer powder, which are AMAZING and $5 each. Seriously… worked like BareMinerals. But Target stopped carrying them – Boo! I need to order from the site. When I have money.

A must-have lotion

Couldn’t live without this lotion – okay yes I can but I’d rather not. It’s very light but moisturizes longer and better than any other lotion I’ve tried. It’s very natural. And it lasts forever. I bought it probably almost two years ago and still have a lot left. It’s only $10-15 at Whole Foods, or on their website. I just saw they have conditioner, too! Must try it out.

So there you go. A long, and perhaps boring, post on some of my favorite beauty products! What are some of your must-haves?


Happy Birthday to Brenda!

Oh, drat. I did it wrong - L's on the left, and C on the right.

 A new week has begun and the page has turned on My Birthday Week. Tragic. However… it means it is now Elvis’s Death Week, my dear friend Brenda‘s Birthday Week! Today is her special day and I want to write a post celebrating her because she is an amazing lady and friend.

A little history: this is not my actual first blog. Gasp. For seven-and-a-half years I have kept a private journal on the old-school social networking site, LiveJournal. For those of you unfamiliar with this platform, it’s kind of like a combination of a blog and Facebook, but predates either concept. My journal is only viewable to my “friends list,” those users to whom I have chosen to grant access (a great privilege, I know). Back in early Spring 2008 – which in Memphis terms is probably February – my sister, also an LJ user – suggested I add her friend Brenda, who also lived in Memphis (I had moved about six months earlier). Well that April I took the scary step of Meeting an Internet Friend for the first time. Except it actually was not scary at all. Brenda and I met up at the now defunct Atlanta Bread Company. Not only did we unwittingly park next to each other and wear the exact same sunglasses, on our way out an older man asked if we were twins. We’re the same height, same build, and have dark curly hair (at that time, the same length, too).

The rest, as they say, is history. Over the past three-and-a-half years, Brenda has become one of my dearest and closest friends. I consider her a big sister and feel truly blessed to know her. In some ways we have different personalities, but in other ways we are so similar! And we have pretty identical tastes… movies, clothes, food, pets, etc. We even both have two cats, a boy and a girl, who have very similar personalities (social girl kitty and neurotic boy kitty). Only thing where we diverge is music, although some overlaps. Brenda is one of the strongest women I know. I’ve been privileged to walk with her through some pretty dark terms and I have been amazed to see her hang on with determination, even when all she wanted to do was let go. God’s given her a faith that cuts straight through the shadows. Over the past year I’ve watched her blossom even further. She’s strong and capable, sensitive and caring, stylish and beautiful. She’s been a great support to me in my own personal difficulties the past year or two.

Brenda, I love you and thank God that you’re a part of my life! You’re one of the reasons I know that God has made Memphis a part of my life journey. I can say wholeheartedly my life is better for knowing you.

Stole this from Brenda... us at her 4th of July party this year.

Not About Missoni for Target

This is not a post about Missoni for Target. Because y’all can read about that one everyone and their mom’s blogs and Missoni for Target when I am unemployed = cruel and unusual punishment. 😦 However, I still tortured myself and clicked through the whole collection. Sigh.

In other news, I have had another shop sale – from someone I don’t know! It’s a friend of a friend, but still… exciting. And I made two deliveries at church today. I have some new styles (the church deliveries were based on requests and turned out great!) I need to make again and photograph! Plus I saved my wrapping paper from my birthday… going to have some pretty, colorful new earrings in the shop soon! One of the great things about delivering the purchases in person this morning was that I got to see the ladies’ faces when they opened them (plus I had them in brown lunch bags tied with twine and it was adorable). One of my biggest inspirations creating and baking is to do it for someone. I just love to delight people and make them excited and pleased.  Of course, being a people pleaser has its own set of issues, but I do so enjoy the fact that I can be creative and then share it with someone else, bringing them joy as well as the joy I get from the creation process. That was not exactly the most well-constructed sentence, but y’all knew what I meant, right? I wish I could travel with each thing I sell and watch the purchaser open it up.

I’ve just got connected on Facebook with my daddy’s cousin in Alabama. Although I myself am a transplant to the South, my grandpa’s family is a very Southern, Alabama family, so I’m at least a quarter Southern-blooded! We’ve just been chatting and she’s teaching me how to be a good Southern belle. I’d been thinking of sharing the little ways I’ve been assimilating the Southern culture, and this was another motivation. So, in the past four years I’ve come to:

  • Hate going out in public without dressing up a little and certainly not without at least lipgloss, but preferably some lipstick.
  • I don’t think it was even a year before I was back in full swing saying “y’all.” We lived in Richmond, VA, when I was little – being a child I picked up on it easily and it never quite left my vocab.
  • Have a definite taste for sweet tea, fried pickles and fried green tomatoes, strawberry cake, BBQ… now I’m salivating!
  • Use at least occasionally the following phrases: pitch a fit, fix/make a plate, love me some…
  • Stroll… you don’t understand the leisurely pace of the South until you’ve lived through a Summer. Then you know you have to go slowly!
  • Love me some Vera Bradley! I know VB is loved in the North, too… but whoooo, boy, is she all over the South!
Well, that’s a good list for now. My cousin (I am too confused to figure out the whole how-many-removed) is encouraging me to pick an SEC team… leaning towards UT because I like their bold, bright color, and simple logo. That’s why you pick a team, right? Plus, I don’t know as many UT fans as fans of other teams and the imp in me does love to tease and trash talk.


3… 2… 1…

It’s birthday week! Two days! *throws confetti* Yes, Wednesday is my 26th birthday – I love birthdays and believe in Birthday Week, versus just a day of celebration. Today I’ve decided to put together a little birthday wishlist. I love to see other bloggers’ collections of pretty finds, so I figured my birthday is an excellent opportunity to create my own. So here goes, in no particular order (pictures are links to the items)…

Is this poster from The Literary Gift Company not the coolest? It’s got the names of famous authors all arranged where they wrote and lived. There’s one for the UK, too. And once I move into my own apartment, I’ll need a lot more art for the walls.

Yep… I want a Kitchenaid Mixer. I used the image of the brushed nickel one because ultimately I think it would be best to get something to match a lot of different colors (still don’t know what colors I’ll use in my kitchen). But isn’t this one divine?

My sister had a set of the Flower Fairies books – little hardcovers. I would love the whole collection!

I think this ring is incredible. It’s so gorgeous! I love sort of woodsy/elven jewelry.

I love her voice! She seems so sweet, too. I hope her innocence is protected.

If you have not seen the documentary Born Into Brothels, YOU MUST. It is the story of how the Kids with Cameras organization was founded. It’s so beautiful but bittersweet. This is a book containing the kids’ photographs.

Last, but not least… an Instax camera! I love seeing other bloggers’ post their Instax photos and it seems like so much fun!

Well… I really could go on, but at the risk of seeming greedy and materialistic, I’ll stop. Oh… if you need my mailing info to send any or all presents, just email me: charlieandlu at gmail dot com. 😀


Where Children Sleep

A friend of mine posted a link to a photography project by James Mollison. It’s a preview of his new book, “Where Children Sleep.” It’s a beautiful but sometimes heartbreaking collection of photos of children and the places they sleep (okay, so that’s probably self-explanatory). I won’t say much because the photos tell their own stories…

When Children Sleep