Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Garden notes and drying tomatoes

I knew when we planted our garden this spring that I didn't want to do a lot of canning.  It's just a lot of work, and I was tired and wanted rest

Ahem.  I did NO canning.  Oh, wait.  That's not true.  I think I did up two batches of freezer jam: one strawberry and one peach.  But still.  That's not a lot.  I imagine I'll regret that come fall and winter.  But when it's 80-something degrees in the kitchen, I just cannot get motivated to can.  No way.

I froze a lot of berries- strawberries and raspberries from our yard.  We made several batches of fruit leather.  We ate beans fresh and roasted them up for a few dinners.  We made a lot of tomato-and-cucumber-and-garlic-and-basil-and-feta salads.  YUM.  


I still have tomatoes and basil coming out my ears.  So this morning I was up early in the garden and picked a huge bowl of Sun Gold tomatoes (my favorite), and decided to try drying them.  I just sliced them in half (quartering the larger ones), and then in a food processor, blended about 10 leaves of basil and a couple of garlic cloves and olive oil, and drizzled it all over the top of them.  Sprinkled salt and pepper over the top and we'll see how it goes.  But I cannot WAIT to try them.  They look and smell delicious.  :) 

I'm contemplating doing this with my rhubarb.  Has anyone ever tried this?  And I'm definitely making some more rhubarb syrup just as soon as I can get ahold of some cheesecloth. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

On Duct Tape and Really Awful Mornings

The digital clock in the van read 10:00 and even though there were six of us in there, it was silent.  When I looked for my kids' eyes in the rear view mirror I could see their hurt even through my own tears.

It was one of those hard mornings.  A lot of grumbling and bickering.  An impatient, irritable, hurried mama.  We were supposed to leave the house at 9:30, but between the bickering and the shower nozzle that broke and the duct tape we couldn't find because the last child who used it just a couple of days ago had forgotten to return it and it was now nowhere.  And the child who used said tape and has been dispatched to look for it is now sullen and crabby at me, of course, because ...why?  Apparently it's unfair that he should find the tape he last had.  But no tape is found, so I shower while holding the nozzle above my head which isn't super handy and every time the nozzle slips from my hands water sprays out of the shower and onto the floor and I am crabby.  And we're already late.  The duct tape search is called off but where are my brown sandals?  The strappy ones that aren't in my closet or beneath the bed or by the shoes near the door or in the living room closet or on the back porch.  So I decide on the black shoes but now I can't find my black t-shirt OR my black tank.  And while I'm on my hands and knees looking beneath the bed, again, for my brown sandals, my boy comes in to offer help and I am near tears and then I scrape my arm on the bed frame and snap at him and now my arm is wounded and my son is, too.  That's when I hear more bickering coming from the living room.  So I get up and position myself in the hallway so that I can see and holler at the child causing trouble.  And I tell her to go sit on the porch until we're ready to go.  While I'm in the hallway directing her I see my other little one, sitting on her bed with her hand pressed over her mouth.  Because minutes before she'd been whining for the umpteenth time and I'd told her to put her hand over her mouth.   She had done so and then run to her room in tears, and I had forgotten about her in my shoe/shirt/tank search.  I tell her she can remove her hand and on my way to try to soothe her, the child who is supposed to be on the front porch is making her way back in so I open my mouth again and harsh words tumble out.  And the son I've just wounded is there, standing, and I need to make things right with him, too.  And on our morning goes.

So by the time we're all settled in the van... oh, except that no one is really feeling settled at all because how settled can any child feel when their mommy is on the verge of a full-on sob session?  In my mind I'm blaming PMS and I'm blaming them, the bickering kids and the one who never puts things away where they belong and the one who won't obey and I am feeling sorry for myself, of course.  And the time glares at me, reminding me of our tardiness.  We're leaving the house a half-hour late, and our destination is still 30 minutes away.  It's just some girlfriends and their kids-- but still.  I try to text my friends to let them know how late we'll be and lo and behold, my phone will not text.  Lovely.  So I begin to drive.  All is quiet in the van.  So I fill the van with my words-- words of accusation.  Could you just say sorry, maybe, for losing the tape? And while you're at it, why don't you tell me why you're angry at ME?  How does that make any sense at all?  And you, the whiny one: can you imagine if we all opened our mouths and screeched like that every time something didn't go our way?  And on I went because--ughh- all the ugliness surfaced right there in the van.  And then the child who lost the tape tried to apologize and somehow ended up making it all so much worse because you know, he isn't sorry, really, he's just saying that because I told him he should say it and so I cut his apology off.  And those kids I glance at in the rear-view mirror?  Still silent and now shrinking.  I finally stopped talking, kept right on with the crying, and added prayer. 

Suddenly I knew we had no business going.  I knew we would not settle all of this on the drive there, and I knew it wasn't fair to ask them to go from this awful morning to smiling and playing with their friends.  I also knew it wasn't wise for me to go in my emotional state and sit with a group of  friends and likely sin MORE with my tongue about my kids.  So I announced that we weren't going and reversed direction.  I kept praying.  I kept crying.  (I was still feeling quite sorry for myself and I was also feeling sorry for my words; for the accusations that are so quick to fly out of my mouth and for the ways I had wounded every single one of them and how I knew I needed to mend things with each of them but where to even begin?  And also, I didn't feel especially like saying sorry and I was definitely still crabby at some of them.  So I kept quiet and kept praying. 

I knew we needed to be together.  But I didn't want to get home and have everyone scatter and hide.  I knew I needed to make a public confession, because I had sinned against them in front of each other.  So as we parked the van back in front of our house fifteen minutes later, I asked them to stay in their seats, and then I turned around and met their eyes.  And irregardless of how I felt-- I did the right thing.  I apologized.  I looked each of them in the eye and said that I was sorry and I detailed what I was sorry for.  I made sure things were right with each of them. 

Then I offered to take them to the library.  They love the library, and I thought it might soften the blow of not getting to go play with friends.  I also thought it would be a good place where I could settle my own emotions.  The thought of sitting cross-legged in the children's section and pulling books from the shelves onto my lap with my kids scattered around me doing the same peaceful thing?  Yes.  We all needed the distraction of something else.  Something quieting.  And then after a bit of that, we could go home and then we would be ready to pile onto the couch, all of us, with a stack of books, and I could read aloud.  And that would be the coming together that we all so desperately needed.  So we did.  They each chose a book from the stack, grabbed a homemade chocolate chip cookie, and tucked themselves around me on the couch.  And we read stories. 

I'd like to say all is well, and it is, ultimately.  The ugly of my sinfulness stands in such stark contrast to the holiness of the One who paid it all.  Where I excel in harsh words, He is kind.  Where I am quick to accuse, He is merciful.  Where I am full of anger, He is compassionate and slow to anger.  Where I am impatient, He is long-suffering. Where I am full of self, He is full of love for others.  Where I care for control and everything to go my way, He is far more concerned about my heart and His glory.

I am reminded of how desperately I need a Savior and I am all over again grateful for His mercy. 

I am heartened by the truth that He is not done with me, and that He is gentle in His love and instruction.  He is patient with me and will continue to grow me in love for these He has entrusted to me.  He is present with all of us in the mess of our morning and He will tenderly mend hearts where mending is needed.  (Chocolate chip cookies and new library books went a long way in that mending process, but I trust He will provide more opportunities this day and this evening for me to choose love and be a gracious mama.) 

Blessings to you and yours,

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: The Waiting


I just finished reading The Waiting (Cathy LaGrow, Cindy Coloma).  This is a beautifully rendered story that is a true one, and aren't those always the best types of stories?

In this book we meet Minka, a hard-working young Dutch girl belonging to a family who owns a dairy farm.  On a rare day off at the lake with friends from church, Minka is raped.  She becomes pregnant, and Minka makes the heart-breaking decision to give her baby up for adoption.  The rest of the book details the remarkable story of her life and the way God worked beauty and redemption through that difficult decision.

I loved this book, and highly recommend it.

This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Picture Books We've Loved in July

The library has beckoned us several times over the course of the summer.  Here are three of our favorite picture books:

The King of Little Things | Bil Lepp, illustrated by David T. Wenzel

I wish I could remember who recommended this book, because I'd like to thank them!  The first page reads: Long ago, on the far side of a mountain, lived the King of Little Things.  While other kings busied themselves with the big things of this world, he happily ruled over all things small.  The story goes on to tell of all the little things the king has charge of and affection for: things like ants and buttons and petals and bees.

Can you imagine what might happen when another king wants to destroy all the other kings so that he can be king of the whole world?   Read this one to find out!  This is a captivating story for children, complete with beautiful illustrations, some rhymes, and all sorts of little things throughout the pages of this book to peer at.

* * *

My Name Is Sangoel | Karen Lynn Williams with Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock

Sangoel has come with his mother and sister from the country of Sudan. 
His father was killed in the war, and he holds the name given him by his father with pride.  When he arrives in America, everyone pronounces his name wrong and it is suggested that he choose a American name.  This is especially frustrating when he goes to school, until Sangoel thinks of a clever way to teach his classmates his name.

I love stories like this that open my kids' eyes to the difficulties and challenges others might face.  This story has a delightful ending and it's been a pleasure to read aloud, over and over again.

* * *
The Circus Ship | Chris Van Dusen

What happens when a ship carrying circus animals crashes into a rock?  The animals swim to shore, surprising an entire village.  The villagers are all quite alarmed at the bother of all these circus animals until something happens to win their affections.

When the villagers discover that the circus boss is on his way to find his animals, they rally around their newfound friends and hide them.

With lively, rhyming cadence, Van Dusen tells and illustrates a delightful story.  This one makes a perfect read-aloud.  Guaranteed giggles.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

June & July Book List


I am ever-so-happily reading again, after a 6-month hiatus!  And I am so enraptured with words (how I love them!) and sentences and thoughts and descriptions and characters and stories and good writing all over again.  I love to read.

So.  Let's start with July, shall we?  The photo above shows the books I discovered in my room today that I've been reading.  We'll work from the top down, and then I'll get to any others I've read that aren't pictured here, then we'll move on to the books I read in June.

Daily Light on the Daily Path - I struggled early in the summer to find a Bible study and selected this off our shelf "in the meantime", until I settled on a study.  But this treasure has remained by my bedside.  It is a collection of daily readings: one for each morning and one for each evening, so each morning before I get out of bed I read the morning entry, and each evening before I turn out the light I try to read the evening entry.  This is purely Scripture and I am loving it.

(The Bible study I settled on is Stone Soup for Five's Colossians study.  I am writing all of Colossians out in my journal and slowly making my way through it, also using commentaries found here and studying key words and all of that fun study business.  I love it.)

Anne of Avonlea -  {happy sigh}  Ella began and finished the whole delightful Anne series a couple of months ago, and as she was reading, she often mentioned characters or places that I had entirely forgotten. (*gasp*)  I am usually not fond of reading books over again-- or, at least not until it's been a good long time, so that the story still feels somewhat fresh to me.  But last week I picked up this second book in the series and plan to read my whole way through.  Dear friends, I am enchanted all over again with L.M. Montgomery's characters, words and descriptions.  I just love her.  I have always said she is my all-time favorite author and she is reminding me why.

Own Your Life - Sally Clarkson's newest book.  I admire Sally, and consider her a mentor of sorts as I have read and gleaned from her books and blog over the past several years.  This may be my favorite book yet. The copy I have is a library copy, and I keep on renewing it so that I can slowly read through it and glean all I can, copying down portions into my journal, thoughtfully journaling through the questions she provides at the end of each chapter, thinking and dreaming and reflecting on how I can be intentional in the life God has given me.  An excellent read.

The Help - This book by Kathryn Stockett is a re-read for me, and this time I am reading it aloud to my Ella, so we have a little Thursday date set aside where we will settle somewhere together-- out in the yard in the sunshine, or on my bed.  I put on my best Southern drawl, and read aloud a couple of chapters, editing as I go.  We plan to have a movie night when we get to the end of the book and watch the movie together! 

Water from My Heart - This is Charles Martin's newest book, and while it wasn't my favorite book of his, I love the way he tells a story, and I will read every single thing he writes.  This is a story about Charlie Finn, a man who has an isolated existence, working in the dangerous and very lucrative field of drug running.  He has very few attachments and even fewer regrets in life, no matter his line of work.  When he travels to Nicaragua and witnesses the fall-out of one of his early business deals,   Charlie is for the first time affected by the choices he has made and the devastation he has helped to cause in the lives of others.  Read it to find out how it changes him.

What Katie Ate -I found this one as I perused the cookbook shelf at our local library.  I love cookbooks and find great inspiration from them in my own meal-planning and meal-making endeavors.  Although I was not familiar with Katie or her blog, her photographs of food wooed me, as well as the fact that she's Irish-born and lives in Australia and was formerly a graphic designer.  That all makes for a fine looking cookbook complete with good recipes of good comfort food.

Another book I read this month that is not in the above photo:

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet -by Jamie Ford.  From my Goodreads review:

"A very good novel about Japanese families from the Seattle area who were sent to internment camps during World War II.

The story centers around a Chinese boy named Henry and Keiko, his Japanese friend. Both children were sent to school by their parents and subsequently treated poorly by their peers, so a unique friendship is forged. Henry proves to be a loyal friend to Keiko, even though Henry's father is particularly hateful towards the Japanese."

*This is a good living history book for an older child studying this time period.  It's very clean.

For the month of June, these are the books I read:

The Secret of Pembrooke Park -by Julie Klassen, another author whose books I usually read.  This was a satisfying summer read. 

Wonder - by  R. J. Palacio.  I forget where I saw this book recommended, and then again.  Then again. So I decided I would check it out at the library and see what all the fuss was about.  This is not really my genre, but I did enjoy this story of a boy growing up with a severely disfigured face and how he and his family copes with that.  I think stories like this have the opportunity to grow compassion in us for those who have been created differently than we are.  As I was reading it, one of Ella's friends recommended it to her, so I passed it on to her when I was finished with it. 

And.  I doggedly worked my way through this book:

The Sword in the Stone - by T.E. White.  That's some sort of classic, apparently, and is on the Ambleside Year 7 list for two of my kids for next year, so I wanted to pre-read it.  Let me just say that I am genuinely proud of myself for finishing this book. It is very well written and imaginative and descriptive, it's just not at all my genre. ;) So there were some days I had to tell myself, "Okay, 10 minutes of this book and then you can read whatever you want to read." 

That said, I loved the character of Wart, and Merlyn is a kind and lovable old wizard. The last several pages were excellent.


Do tell: what are you reading?

This post contains affiliate links.  (Which basically means that I've linked these book titles to Amazon, and if you happen to click on those links, I get some sort of a kickback, as in approximately four cents each click ;), that all adds up to about eight or eleven dollars once per year or something, truly.  While it's not much, I'll take it to support my love of reading.