December 31, 2014

Dog Mountain & Resolutions

Dog Mountain
Elevation 2949', 7.4 mile loop, rated difficult
Open all seasons, but known for wildflowers and views of the Gorge

Sir Bradley thinks I can survive the hike if we leave very early in the morning and plan plenty of breaks. If I can make it up, coming down is no problem - the legs and knees are strong. 

Perhaps it's time to see if sheer willpower and thoughtful planning can overcome a weak heart.  In regards to Dog Mountain, it's literal.  But as I ponder goals and resolutions for the new year, figuratively, it probably fits just about everything.

It may be time to dream the possible!

December 26, 2014

Moving On

At the risk of sounding completely ungrateful, I am happy to say there were moments of sweetness this Christmas season.  But soon I will sit down to work on next year's planner and think through 1000 ways to make this frenzied, crazy season more simple and meaningful...with backup plans in case things start heading the wrong way!!

The final hit to an already rocky season was when something came out of the oven Christmas morning that was supposed to resemble whole wheat cherry scones.  Not only were they unevenly baked AND uglier than anything, but one bite and we all knew there must have been a serious soda vs. baking powder mixup.

I swallowed my pride for the 800,000th time and brought my offering out to the coop.


But even the girls turned their backs and took off.  You should have heard the howls from the house.

December 17, 2014

Lights and Boughs

The neighbor has tens of thousands of lights on his house and in his front yard - no exaggeration.  He loves it, and we always smile.

But our place?  Well, the simple bough on the front deck is just right this year.


December 15, 2014

A Pig

It was a new tree farm, owned by an old friend.  It was there I met a new friend.  Not particularly cuddly or soft, but certainly curious, friendly, and chatty!


December 9, 2014

Angels

Two Thanksgiving dinners, multiple gatherings, a wedding, a memorial service, a Christmas party, a Festival of Trees...

And the angels surpassed them all.

It happened again during the Christmas concert - the lights were low and shining all around us, and the singers around the concert hall began "Silent Night".  The pure voices sung back and forth antiphonally, randomly and yet so perfectly timed as if their voices were echoing off all of the hills around Bethlehem and into the heavens.

It was a breathtaking moment of utter beauty and awe.


December 2, 2014

Wedding Bells

It was a Christmas wedding, a grand celebration amongst friends and family. The night was cold and the car was prepared.

But behind those balloons?  The minions felt their presence should be known.

December 1, 2014

An Imperfect Advent

The pressure of Christmas.  It is almost superseded by the pressure of Advent.  Now a New York Times best-selling author has introduced us mothers to a whole new set of expectations - a pre-Advent celebration, complete with lights, cards, meaningful ornaments, treats, and beautiful children. Nothing short of inspired!  At the same time, we're encourage not to make Christmas, but to let Christmas hold us.  I'm still trying to figure that one out. How does Christmas happen without time and energy to carry on our traditions, even the simplest of them?

Mental plans for a simple and deeply meaningful Advent season began months ago for me.  Still thinking that homemade is always more meaningful, I bypassed the free printables.  I planned and sketched and drew and painted and cut for days and nights on end, finishing up with 24 individual Advent cards to read each day until Christmas.  None turned out perfectly, and only a few attained the folk art(ish) idea in my head.  But I reminded myself they are full of character with a wonderful message. Perfection is a myth! My time will be felt as love! 

All is good, right? Unfortunately, the entire project is currently sitting at the print shop, which unexpectedly remained closed the entire Thanksgiving weekend!!! There will be no official start to Advent today for the families I was hoping share with.  At least not the way I had in mind.

So I ponder the subtle lessons:

*Perhaps those printables aren't such a bad idea.

*Perhaps it's time to write the next best seller.  Rethinking Christmas: A Humble Guide For Perfectionists Who Can't Do It All.

*Perhaps this is exactly what the real Christmas thing is all about...that we can't achieve perfection? That we fall short?  That when we come to the end of ourselves there is Hope in the Christ Child?

November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Busy - every second of every hour of every day.

So today I am thankful for a day of rest.  No cooking!  No cleaning! Time! Time to sit, time to talk, time to rejuvenate, time to ponder the many blessings in our lives, and even time to think about Indian corn and those pilgrims.

It's a day to enjoy.  Happy Thanksgiving!


November 21, 2014

Refugee Resettlement

After waiting more than 20 years to follow a dream, I signed up as a volunteer with a local service agency to work with their refugee resettlement program!!  And so after an interview, a background check, another meeting, and weeks of waiting, yesterday it happened.  I met my assigned family!

Walking into their apartment and meeting them for the first time was admittedly a bit awkward for all of us, but it didn't take long to get over that. I found them to be a wonderful couple, so happy to be here.  For their own safety it would not be wise to post pictures or even name their county. But they left "a place with no dreams," a place plagued with bombings, shootings, kidnappings, changing political factions, and death threats. They could only say goodbye to their family and a few of their very closest friends, because if word got out they left for America, their remaining family members would be in danger.

They arrived 3 weeks ago with 7 bags, including food and a few pans, as they were worried they might not be able to find what they needed here.

The case worker advised that it is customary to be served tea and food and that I should expect it. This is a good thing, no?! Imagine my confusion when I was greeted with smiles, open hearts, a giant glass of orange drink, and chocolate fudge cake at 10:30 in the morning. 90 minutes later I was getting ready to leave when they implored me to stay - the plan was for lunch! "Lunch" meant a "simple" spread complete with halal roasted chicken; a rice dish; a vegetable dish with shredded beets, lemon, lettuce, carrots, and an olive; homemade chicken soup; a baguette of bread each; and no drink. Homemade pickled beets were brought out after the meal. The dishes and portions were handed to me and I watched carefully, wondering if I was going to have to eat the rice with my fingers. But - glory hallelujah! - spoons were given out! There was no serving knife or utensil for the chicken, however, and my host tore off a piece with his fingers and handed it to me.

They thought I hardly ate anything, but actually I was so full I couldn't swallow another bite.  I ate twice as much as I normally would so as not to offend them.  I couldn't eat the rest of the day.  Or night.  And I wasn't eager to jump into breakfast.

I am returning to their apartment tomorrow morning to meet the children, who were in school when I came yesterday.  And I am to stay for lunch! (Perhaps I should stop eating now?!)

New friends, new opportunities, goodwill, spoons...treasures, indeed.

November 14, 2014

Bad Hair Days!

Molting is so inconvenient.

With the wind, snow, ice pellets, sleet, and freezing rain, the girls have been content to stay put under the heat lamp.

Sorry, Mildred!  Better days are ahead!




November 13, 2014

Fishmonger

Fish • mon • ger:  a person or store that sells fish


Crab feeds, scallops at 10:30 pm, and pounds of shrimp. When the daughter works at a fish market, we are often met with surprises. =)

November 11, 2014

Friends

Two of the very finest. =)


November 10, 2014

Back Home

There was no swimming to be had in Arizona.  Every minute was scheduled.  But I did manage to get outside for a quick walk and enjoy the warm air and cactus plants - very cool.

It's good to be home, rain and all!

November 5, 2014

Arizona!

Today's the day...

I'm jumping on a plane to head on down to Arizona for a national conference.  The weather is predicted to hover in the 80s.  How nice is that?!

Did I mention there is a swimming pool on the rooftop of the hotel?  My swimsuit is packed.  =)


October 30, 2014

Swedish Sans

The Swedes have been busy.  They have just released their own font, Swedish Sans, and it is part of a new global branding effort.  It is described by typesetters as very slick, edgy, open, and modern, with the S just right, the Q very cool with the little tail pointing downward, and a stroke through the 0.

They say it has lagom - not too much, not too little, but just the right amount.

Now that, I like.  =)


October 27, 2014

Camel Races

Now this is the life, watching camel races in Oman! What I wouldn't give to be there.  Bring on the heat, the dust, the culture, the sites, the food, family, and perhaps even new friends.

Alyssa and Chris, some day I'm coming see you!


October 25, 2014

Water Kefir

Water kefir is a healthy drink that contains 80,000 times more probiotics than yogurt and cures you of every disease and illness.  Or at least that's the way people make it sound.

It is healthy for you and it tastes surprisingly good.  It does, however, make you feel bit hippyish with the stuff brewing on the counter.  Expect a few raised eyebrows. Can't say I didn't warn you.  =)

Basic Water Kefir Directions
Find a reliable source of kefir grains.  Mine have multiplied, so, my local friends, I'm happy to share! Here's a close up:


Pour 1/4 c. organic sugar into a bit of hot water and stir to dissolve.


After filling the jar with about 5 c. of cold water, check to make sure it is room temp.  Add in the kefir grains.


Make a breathable lid...coffee filters work quite well!  Leave on the counter at room temp to "brew" for 2-3 days.

((This pic)) is missing, so pretend to see the one where you strain out the grains.  Add fruit and flavorings to the liquid.... lemon peels, ginger, strawberries, blueberries, juice, you name it.  Leave it out on the counter for another 24 hrs and then strain again.

The finished pink drink here turned out very tasty! I used the 3-berry frozen mix from Costco.

I'm convinced I'm a lot healthier now. =)

October 24, 2014

Advent Project

Oh, yes, with a little space in my head and time on my hands, the creative ideas are overflowing!

Step 1 of my Advent calendar project:  festive clothespins to hang up the 24 envelopes.  The big question is how many sets am I up for??


They are not intended as accessories, but I sure found a good hands-free spot for pics by the window!

October 16, 2014

First Fire

The temperature dropped.

And so it was time for the First Fire, a household tradition of lighting the wood stove to celebrate a new season.  It involved wood, newspaper, a match, frequent monitoring, smiles, feeling the familiar warmth and glow, reading the newspaper while sitting on the floor, and one happy little puppers who felt it necessary to interrupt the reading.

Life is good. =)

October 15, 2014

A New Dutch Oven

It arrived!!  There's just something about finding a package on the doorstep that makes the heart do a little skip.  Especially when you know what's in it.  And you've been waiting.

It's a steal from Costco.
It's big.
It's cast iron.
It's enameled.
It's self-basting with a lid that has bumps and ridges.
It's red.
It's made in France.

What's not to love about this???!!!

My days are rarely defined by things, but when they land right in front of me, it's time to enjoy. =)





October 13, 2014

Child's Play

One of the many cool things about having a little one in the house is all of the imagination that goes on.  How great to have things down low...not just decorations high up on the shelf, but things to feel and play with and talk about!

I didn't hear the entire conversation, but it appears these guys are just about ready to find greener pastures.  =)


October 9, 2014

A Woman's Favorite Cookbook

This 1905 gem was passed down to me, and oh, is it ever a good read!  578 pages of fascination!  All of the recipes are in paragraph form, and there are even a a few pictures for the reader's viewing pleasure.   There are also other topics of interest discussed such as Dyeing and Coloring, Happiness of Children, Helpful Laundry Recipes, Ventilation, Arranging the Table -- Up-to-Date Methods, and Table Etiquette...

,

FRENCH TOAST.
Beat two eggs, salt, and a cupful of milk and dip thin slices of bread into this, and then plunge into hot butter; fry to a golden brown and serve hot.  Mrs. P. LaPoint.

MACAROONS OF NUTS.
Pound the meats of hickory nuts and add nutmeg and allspice.  Make a frosting as if for a cake, stirring in the nuts and spices.  Butter the hands and work into little balls the size of hickory nuts; place them on buttered tins and bake in a hot oven.  They will spread a little on the tins.  Pearl Butler.

BANNOCKS.
Two teacupfuls of oatmeal or barley meal sifted with two teaspoonfuls of baking-power; add to two beaten eggs one tablespoonful of sugar and one pint of milk with a little salt, sifting in the oatmeal. Bake on a griddle.  M.V.M.

RABBIT PIE.
Cut a rabbit into eight pieces, soak in salted water on-half hour and stew until half done in enough water to cover it.  Lay slices of pork in the bottom of a pi-dish and upon these a layer of the rabbit. Then follow slices of hard-boiled egg, peppered and bettered.  Proceed until the dish is full, the top layer being bacon.  Pour in the water in which the rabbit was stewed, and adding a little flour, cover with puff paste, cut a slit in the middle, and bake one hour, laying paper over the top should it brown too fast.  Mrs. M. Mausley.



October 8, 2014

Autumn Has Arrived

It's so unusually warm that the trees haven't decided what season to belong to.  The fall season is coming on slowly, more subtly, but the days are getting shorter and the nights, longer.

Time for candles.  =)


October 2, 2014

China in the Cupboard

I was on a mission to find more dish soap, opening every cupboard possible in my sister's kitchen. I never found it, but I did discover some lovelies(!) that took my breath away.


September 30, 2014

Happy Girl

Wheaton is a great little town, made greater by family.  =)  That would include Miss Lilly.


September 29, 2014

Big Game

Family.  Nephew.  Freshman games.  Gotta love it.

Go #19!


September 26, 2014

Chicago!

The good thing about ridiculously cheap airline tickets is the price, as well as the challenge to bring nothing to avoid extra charges.  No rolling carryon, just a big purse bag.  I brought one pair of everything.  I figure it's good practice for Europe, no??!  (Hmmm…still too heavy, so perhaps I need to fine tune my packing list even further.)

The midnight flight worked well, starting with an airline friend who managed to work a miracle and assign me an entire empty row of seats!  Woohoo!  Sleep, however, was elusive.  Hot, cold, hot, cold, funny smells, crying babies, excitement and anticipation, exhaustion, and some significant air turbulence…but I made it.  And I kept my dinner down.

I even managed to hail my assigned limo at the curbside without looking like a complete fool.

And so here I am with my favorite sister and her fabulous family.  Yes, she is my only sister, but she's still my fav!

September 24, 2014

Lessons in Shoveling Dirt

  1. When wearing boots, do NOT tuck your pants in.  This prevents gallons of stray dirt falling in over the top.
  2. When wearing tall boots, wear taller socks.  This prevents hot, sticky sweat from glueing your skin to the inside of your boots.
  3. Push vanity aside and wear the hat.  Remind yourself that those neighbors won't notice, and are actually jealous of your grit, determination, and amazing muscles. =)

September 23, 2014

Learning To Sew

We email and talk all the time over the phone for work, yet we've never met face to face. And she's a favorite.

Yesterday?  She provided both of our offices the best laugh of the day.  It seems Miss CurlySue is learning how to sew and she made her first pair of pajama bottoms.

It won't be long now until she's mastered the art!

September 22, 2014

Apple Cider

A friend arrived home bearing a surprise - an entire pickup load of apples which he picked from someone who said to take as many as he wanted.

And so the Great Apple Cider Press Event began in the garage, and went on for days.  Neighbors and friends all arrived to watch the spectacle, which was truly mind-boggling.  It left everyone inspired, awed, and a little closer, having shared a good laugh at what seemed preposterous in this day and age.

It was kinda like Little House on the Prairie.

And everyone loved it.


September 17, 2014

Bushwick

While I am more comfortable in suburban settings with plenty of space and neighboring woods, the boy still loves New York and all it has to offer.  A studio space in Bushwick is today's possibility for a new business. It's newly renovated. =)


Mrs. Dove, Revisited

So a second dove suddenly appeared.  At first we thought it to be Mr. Dove.  But this one was smaller. Oddly enough, we heard no peeps, saw no extra movement, and definitely did not see any baby birds grow up.  And certainly not in a week's time. Maybe she was hiding this little one all along.

The both flew off within a day.


September 16, 2014

Southern Oregon Coast

It was a long way down to the southern Oregon coast.  The fog rolled in as soon as we got there, but it cleared for the rest of the weekend.  Just for us, no doubt.  =)

We laughed at a sea lion playing in the surf and were amazed to see so many whales.  Very cool.

September 15, 2014

In Remembrance

It was a a precious time remembering her life.  We laughed, we cried, we shared great memories, and we renewed bonds of kinship.  Her life and faith blessed so many, and she shall be missed.

Aunt Roberta
July 2, 1926 - August 25, 2014

September 9, 2014

A Cushion and a Frog

We inherited a wicker chair that is over 100 years old.  While we didn't find time to repaint it this summer, we did buy a new cushion.

It seems to be a popular place these days.  Mr. Frog has been under that cushion for weeks now.


September 4, 2014

Peanut Butter Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

It was a another magic afternoon in the kitchen, taking a chance on a regular recipe and making it a lot healthier.  Oh, wonders!  The dough, I might add, was as good as the baked cookies - but I won't share exactly how much of it I enjoyed.  That's between me and the mixer.



Peanut Butter Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 c. unsalted butter, mostly melted
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
Heaping 3/4 c. chunky peanut butter (natural, not hydrogenated, no added sugar)
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 c. oats (organic, thick cut worked great)
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Mix well.  Using cookie scoop, place on parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Smash down slightly, as they hardly spread.  Bake @ 350° x 12-15 mins until set and slightly browned.  Makes ~2 doz.

September 3, 2014

True Love

Late-night musings:

1.  Gluing covers onto 120 composition notebooks = TRUE LOVE!
2.  Rubber cement should be a controlled substance.

September 2, 2014

Vacation, Dreams, Laundry, and Goats

I did not show up for work.  And I won't tomorrow, either.  Or the next day, or the next.  I'm on vacation, you see! It's such a marvelous invention.

Almost every single person asks where I am going, which makes me laugh, because the only place I'm going is the laundry room.  With so many work and life responsibilities, my sense of control over the past year has drifted in every direction.  The law of entropy - the tendency towards randomness - has been in full effect around here! This week, therefore, is a time to regain control, pull it all back in, reorganize, clean, and sort. I don't need a perfect home or life, but I do need order and control! Starting with the laundry.

So my dreams begin with a clean pantry, a full night's rest, and the idea of something clean to wear in the morning.  By week's end, it will also include rhymes and loaves of bread and maybe even a new business plan or two.

I need to start dreaming again. The thought of someday having a few of these sweet ladies is also a good place to start.  You just never know...


August 27, 2014

End of Summer

And so it is official.  Time for teachers to report to work.

We always wonder what the year will hold.  Will the kids arrive knowing how to be respectful, how to be kind, how to work hard, and how to work together?  Will they come to school well fed?  Can they read?  How many kids will have a parent in prison this year? Will they go home at the end of the day to warmth and love, or chaos and screaming? Will there be someone at home to cook them dinner and monitor their homework?

Another year begins.

My aim is to make our own home a place of peace and comfort, a place of solace and good food and laughter and dreams to fill our souls to meet the intensity and demands of each new day.

August 26, 2014

Dried Herbs For Our Potatoes

I couldn't stand it any longer.  The herb garden beneath the front window was completely overgrown and a total embarrassment!  We've just been too busy this summer!

So I dug in and pulled weeds and cut back.  And sweated like crazy.

I did crack a smile in that dusty, scalding heat, finding several nice bunches of parsley.  Into the dehydrator they went, along with several more trays of rosemary and oregano.

THE BEST PART: roasted potatoes this winter!  A pile of red potatoes, olive oil, dried parsley, rosemary, and oregano, and the tiniest dash of sugar...all mixed up and baked at 425° for 45 mins until browned...very good, indeed.


August 25, 2014

Off to the Coop

The girls heard me step outside, and for the first time they didn't come running - they took off for the coop!  They had treats on their minds!  They are such creatures of habit.


But then in the next second, there was a quick about-face as they realized my steps were a bit delayed.

They let me know I was to pick up the pace, please and thank you.

August 22, 2014

Sitting on Cows

County fairs are just the best - animals, animals, more animals, kids that love animals, and kids that sit on cows.

I am always amazed and just a bit jealous.

August 21, 2014

Peace

It's been one of those weeks, with too much going on at home and at work. I think I might show up to work in the exact same clothes I wore yesterday.  Ugh.

But we discovered a gift, a tiny spot of peace in the midst of everything.  The hanging basket hasn't done so well but it is home now to a beautiful mourning dove.  She is sitting on 3 little eggs and is the quietest, most content bird I've ever seen.


August 15, 2014

Dinner is Served

We have a young man in our youth group who likes to cook.  I do not.  And so it didn't take me long to figure out a win-win opportunity. (I'm a quick one!)

We bought the groceries. He brought his chef's hat and coat, and pans and seasonings.  As I stood and watched the washing and chopping begin, there was a brief moment when I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.  But as soon as he started flipping those potatoes, I knew this was going to be a good thing. It was quite impressive (as was his willingness to do it about 87 extra times so I could try to get a good shot).  Before long we were asked to sit down, and plates heaped with potatoes, onions, and fish were served with style and ease. And then bananas foster.  It doesn't get much better than that! But then it did get better - he cleaned up.

As my father always used to say, "We'll put you on steady!"